August 16 – 17, 2017
I hadn’t planned on staying in Gouda 2 days. It was on a whim that I was even there as I just needed a place in between the last stop and Amsterdam because I knew I couldn’t make it in just one day. But the instant I saw it I knew it was a gem. I arrived late on a Tuesday to a beautiful room in an historic building and the weekly kaasmarkt (cheese market) is every Thursday morning. So I had to stay until then.
My host was a lovely lady who was a schoolteacher with four children who reminded me of many of my favorite high school teachers (especially one that has passed away who was my absolute favorite. Is this trip trying to tell me something about remembering my dead loved ones? I am still very much figuring out what this trip is supposed to teach me). Along with her husband she had taken the lot of them on a huge bike trip to the south of France many years before and I got to see an adorable picture of their whole crew. She also told me that in addition to the next day’s kaasmarkt there was also a flea market happening in the square that way as well.
It was a flea market both like and unlike home but the likes of which I had not seen in a long time. New plastic toys and tchotchkes mingled with fancy vintage items, wooden shoes, old books, cookware and more. I was truly mesmerized and probably stayed just a little too long because I also wanted to check out this lake that she had told me about.
In my own defense I also took the time to get a warm and freshly made stroopwaffel (if you don’t know what that is I highly recommend looking it up and, if you are in Portland, you can get a fresh once at Prince Coffee in Kenton) that was much bigger than the store bought versions I was used to as well as go to the cheese museum. There I learned all about the history of Gouda, which became the cheese capital of The Netherlands when they were given the right to weigh the cheese and, based on that, levy taxes. The museum itself had about 14 stations where each step of the process was laid out, with old style machinery. It also spoke of the deal making between the farmer and the buyer, whose bargaining was sealed with a series of claps. I would see a recreation of this process the next day by men dressed up as 19th century farmers.
We began, however, with a video that we surely from the 70s detailing the “modern” process. Both the Italian couple and I struggled to contain our laughter at various points and I did take particular note that they kept referring to the farmer’s wife saying that each had their own special recipe.
By afternoon I was tired and had to take a rest (still bleeding) but still wanted to check out the lakes, especially since the next day was not supposed to be as nice. Only about 3 miles outside of town there is a series of lakes where narrow streets wind between. Most water areas. Are nice for picnicking, although I suppose you could also swim off of some of the docks and surely good for boating. But there was one small sandy patch with a roped off area for swimming and I was kicking myself that I didn’t get it there until almost 6pm. There was still one family swimming but the clouds were beginning to loom and, indeed, the next day, a biking day, rained the whole day long…
But I still had fun to come before I set off again for Amsterdam. Though there was rain off and on I’m glad I stayed for the market, incredibly touristy as it was. The reproduction costumes were incredibly cute and just seeing wheel upon giant wheel of Gouda was gleeful. I ate tiny little pancakes, took a video of the weird little puppets that came out of the town hall on the half hour and bought more small wheels of cheese than was probably appropriate to carry in an already weighed down bike bag. I was in full tourist heaven.
So my spirit was hardly dampened as I set off in the rain though there was definitely no getting in that swimming hole, even though I did ride past and stop briefly, staring with longing at the beach that was so inviting just the day before. Aside from turning the wrong way once (I think I am finally getting the hang of this Dutch navigation) the ride today is pretty uneventful if pleasant despite the drizzle.
On that wrong turn, though, I did see a crazy house with a thatched roof and a million lawn ornaments that part of me thinks I may have seen on my last bike tour here in 2007, but I doubt we could have come this far east at the time. I also did that thing again that seems to be becoming a trend wherein I stop for a snack or rest at a particularly bland spot just before coming up on a really cute one. Man that hot dog was really bad too. I can’t guarantee the food would have been stellar but there were several little pubs that looked like yacht club places I do wish I would have waited it out for instead. Alas. I also crossed a couple cool looking bridges and a loch where you could see a boat would have to enter and let the water rise before it went out the other side (after paying the toll of course). I snapped a couple photos but I’m not sure the idea would even come across let alone do their cuteness justice.
Getting nearer to town I came to an area where the LF2 Stedenroute takes a ferry to the other side of a moderately sized canal (well big for a canal, many of which are tiny, but I suppose fairly small for a river, but even then not tiny) I saw the tiny boat just pulling away. Luckily there wasn’t really any compelling reason to be on the other side besides this particular long route and the side I was already on was a bit of a straighter shot to the western part of Amsterdam where my friend Amy lives. She is an amazing artist and you can see her work on her website.
I was getting pretty tired so instead of trying to find any particular or pretty route I just let Google find me the fastest way to the west end of town, a neighborhood called De Baarjses. When I arrived Amy, her partner Brett and their 2 adorable pups greeted me warmly and it was a relief to know I had several days of rest in front of me. I made it! I made it to Amsterdam! 300 miles later I was only a bit worse for wear and feeling very proud of myself for completing my first international bike tour.