Sun 19 Jul 2009
We were all up early for the one and a quarter hour drive to Alkmaar, traffic permitting. By Netherlands standards, it was light traffic on the roads heading north. Piet and Anita were dropping us at Alkmaar to visit Shirley's paternal cousins, aunts and uncles. It was a pleasant drive through farm land, past Schiphol airport, under a taxiway, spotting old and new windmills.
We were welcomed warmly by Nancy and Ruud. their house is about 80 years old and they have done a lot of work on it in the short time they have been there. Nancy is an artist, and used to run a shop. Now she runs courses for people learning to paint. Dennis, Herbert, Tante Ida, Tante Grad, Oom Piet, Oom Henk came for morning tea too, and it was lovely to see them all again. There was an exchange of gifts and lots of chatter. Nancy's daughter Laura arrived.
Front (L-R): Nancy, Ruud, Tante Ida, Rosemary, Laura, Oom Henk; Rear (L-R): Emma, Oom Piet, Shirley, Jennifer, Dennis, Tante Grad, Herbert
A chest painted by Nancy, showing her characteristic style featuring large bright flowers
The aunts and uncles did not stay long, and then it was time for lunch. Herbert's wife Margriet had made two delicious soups, bread rolls, cheese, meat and spreads on two tables joined to make on big table - gezellig!
Shirley, Herbert, Nancy, Rosemary and Emma enjoying a meal in Alkmaar
After lunch and coffee, we all walked into the centre of Alkmaar through paved streets and lanes, the Weigh House next to where the Cheese Market is demonstrated each Friday, to the square next to the church at its centre.
A typical street scene in the centre of Alkmaar
The weigh house for the cheese market in Alkmaar. On Friday, the square in front is full of cheese vendors and their cheeses
There was a skit 'Bedlam' being performed by five French actors. While we watched, Dennis' fiance Fiona arrived from work and we all had a drink after the performance. The girls enjoyed it and had a chocolate or fizzy drink as well. Then we strolled back to Nancy's past the chewing gum alley where people park their gum. The council cleaned the wall last year, but now the gum has all reappeared!!
"Bedlam", street theatre performed by five French actors in the city centre, Alkmaar
The wall of the chewing gum alley in Alkmaar
Dinner around the long table was nasi or fries and croquettes. Dennis, Fiona, Laura and Herbert left after lots of farewells. At 7:45pm we headed for the train station, a 25 minute walk away with Nancy and Ruud as our guides. Buying our tickets proved to be a challenge - the machine did not accept Visa, but had Maestro/MasterCard as a payment option. Ruud pinned to pay, and we reimbursed him.
More farewells on the station platform and then we stepped onto a double decker train. We took second class seats on the upper deck, and had good views of the countryside and setting sun. The trains are quiet and very smooth. They accelerate quickly and you don't hear the clackity-clack of the tracks, or clangs and bangs when the train starts and stops. We transferred at Amsterdam Sloterdijk station and within 20 minutes we were at Leiden Centraal station where we were met by Piet and Anita.
Emma and Chris on the top deck of the double-decker train from Alkmaar to Leiden
Jennifer, Shirley and Rosemary on the top deck of the double-decker train from Alkmaar to Leiden