August 14 – 15, 2017
I think this was my best day of cycling, even considering I was on my period and the trend I start wherein I stop to eat in a bland place right before a really cute town or cafe comes up. But I did still have a decent lunch at the last town in Belgium even if I’m not entirely sure they understand the concept of hamburger. But the weather was nice but not too hot; I had a huge box of Belgian chocolates that I made my way through in an impressive fashion; I saw several miniature ponies including ones pulling a small carriage of people. I really tried to snap a pic of that one while riding but it didn’t take. My other pony pics are t that impressive either but I am including several to at least try and give you an idea of how cute and small they were.
And when I reached my next hosts’ home it turned out to be a magical garden in the countryside. The Vijverberg Garden was a cacophony of colors surrounding a pond full of bright green lily pads and frogs. A greenhouse growing grapes, tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants and. Ore sat next to it with a landscaped sitting area just behind. I will be including several pictures below but you can see more, along with a full layout, on their website.
When I arrived Ans greeted me with fruit from their and their neighbors gardens and Kees gave me a tour. Both are retried and incredibly sweet, as well as talented gardeners. I opted to pay just a few extra Euro to eat dinner with them and it was the absolutely best choice I made all day. Ans made dinner from eggplants and other things they had grown themselves and it was absolutely scrumptious. She also kept bringing out dessert after dessert, I think because she knew there might be a lot of Dutch things I hadn’t tried, or maybe just because continuous desserts is just a grandma thing to do. Boy it made me miss mine, but in a very sweet way.
In the morning the rain returned and they urged me to wait until at least the worst of the morning showers had passed. So I ate breakfast and then drank coffee with them for quite awhile chatting about exchange students, family, traditions, and language faux pas. But I was stopping in Gouda that night so it didn’t seem like such a long ride I couldn’t linger.
When I finally did ride off into the sunset the rain hadn’t really stopped but it had slowed and it was almost noon already. I endeavored to mostly not use my GPS and just try to use the good Dutch long route system. I was mostly just following the LF2 Stedenroute, although the alternate, and signage is usually quite good in the Netherlands. Still, it could be better and I was glad of the paper map that Vrienden had sent me with my info packet, as it had all the intersection numbers. Getting over Hollands Diep, a wide estuary that followed a bridge high above the windy river was simple if unnerving but I still managed to get lost a couple times after that in Dordrecht, and I wonder if signage isn’t as well maintained as they prepare for the huge overhaul of the LF routes starting this year. Unfortunately though, if you miss (or more often misunderstand) one tiny little intersection it can through you way off and you do consult the Google, which isn’t necessarily the route you want to be on. I took a slightly too direct version at one point and almost missed the Kinderdijk, probably what I was looking forward to most on my route.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site features many 18th century traditional windmills as well as an interpretive center and the usual wooden shoe touristy stuff. I wandered through a lot of them, had a snack, took a million pictures. It would have been nice to spend a little time with a tour but it was getting late and I still had quite a ways to Gouda. However I wasted a lot of that time waiting for the wrong ferry and then promptly getting on another incorrect ferry. Luckily though a sofisticated woman in heels with a fashionable bicycle spoke perfect English and helped me get where I was going. This second ferry at least got me on the right side of the water and was really only a couple miles off my intended target.
The rest of the ride wasn’t too eventful although I did become a bit obsessed with all the spotted sheep I found and swans just lazing about in every canal, which were directly on either side of me. The bike paths were mere paths through snaking waterways. I even had to share these narrow “streets” with tractors, and had to move out of the way when once I lingered too long watching some swans eat algae off the top of the water. The sound especially became mesmerizing. I would share a video but haven’t been able to upload them to WordPress. But I have them, some wild flowers, and other pastoral scenes on my Instagram so you can check them out there.
I arrived in Gouda to be pleasantly surprised by an historical house in an equally historical town. The host reminded me of many of my favorite high school teachers and recommend a perfect Dutch cafe for dinner with a patio facing the square perfectly for people watching. As I sipped my Afligem Trippel I knew I would have to stay here another day.