Cruise Diary ~
& a Day at Sea
Cigars, More Chocolate & Good Friends
Our good friend (and local
resident) Bart De Boer collected us at the Amsterdam Passenger
Terminal after the morning "rush hour" slowed down a bit
and we headed for the countryside. Mel and I have both explored
Amsterdam and a good bit of Holland in the past so Bart showed us
As we drove through Spaarndam, Bart
pointed out the statue of the little boy who held back the sea water
beyond the dike by plugging the leak with his finger. This legend is
popular with visitors but the Dutch don't really know how it
originated; they only know that they didn't start it.
Reaching Haarlem, we walked through
the peaceful Grote Markt and stopped for coffee and an opportunity
to relax in the marketplace on a tranquil Friday morning. Across the
square is the imposing Grote Kerk (cathedral), begun in the 14th
century and completed in the 16th. Streets surrounding the market
square contain fashionable shops, tiny pubs, and chic restaurants.
There are flowers everywhere--even in hanging baskets over the
middle of some streets and in diminutive "gardens"
alongside front doors. The scene is enchanting.
Off we went through the very posh
Bloemendaal neighborhood where the locals were engaged in a spirited
challenge of field hockey, a favorite leisure time pursuit. Even
with only glimpses of the homes (mostly hidden behind lush hedges
and foliage) we knew they were special. In a small country where
land is treasured enough to be reclaimed from the sea, these houses
were surrounded by lavish grounds--a sure sign of the well-heeled.
After a drive past medieval
Brederode Castle, we stopped to examine the working windmills in the
Molenmuseum (windmill museum) on the river bank opposite Zaandijk.
The area is lovingly maintained and run by people who live in the
mills and wish to keep the old milling skills and traditions alive.
A spin through Bart's boyhood
neighborhood in Velsen-zuid revealed the origin of his love for
ships and the sea. A variety of vessels passed literally within feet
of his front yard and passengers liners caught his attention. Any
ocean liner/cruise ship enthusiast would appreciate the view from
his front door.
Bart dropped us off in Amsterdam
near Rembrandt Plein with instructions to "go right and follow
the signs to the Centraal Station" in order to find our way
back to the ship. He assured us we couldn't get lost and, sure
enough, we didn't.
To me, the presence of so many
bicycles gives Amsterdam an air of briskness and adds a moving
dimension that's missing in other cities. There's a palpable
youthfulness and vibrancy. Our brisk stroll from Rembrandt
Plein took us over canals and we dodged bikes and other tourists
until we reached the Dam Square where we paused to enjoy the
entertaining street musicians and performers. Mel found a
fascinating and elaborate cigar store where patrons have individual
storage units for their collections and gentlemen savor cigars and
conversation in a luxurious atmosphere.
While sailing to Norway, at
midnight there was still light on the horizon. At 4am sunlight was
streaming in our window (we'll have to remember to close the
drapes!) and it wasn't long before we saw land. Norway! My
grandparents homeland and the country I've been dying to see all my
We had an exceptionally beautiful
day in Oslo--warm and sunny. Perfect! More of the day in Oslo,
Norway in the next installment...
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