Friday, November 18, 2011

The Netherlands

I arrived in the Amsterdam area airport with 24 hours to spend before conference time.  My conference was providing free shuttles from the airport to the conference town (Egmond aan Zee), so I opted for an airport-based tour of Amsterdam.  Best 50 euros I've ever spent.  

The tour lasted 2.5 hours and was given by a fabulous guide in a small van.  It was nearly a personal tour, as there were only two patrons.  We made several stops in and around the city, including by the I amsterdam sign (get it?  I [am] AMsterdam?)
 Amsterdam is full of canals, such as the one below.  Indeed, the whole country is full of canals.  Did you know that if it weren't for enormous pumps operating 24/7, nearly half of the country would be under water?  The famous Dutch windmills used to be the primary water-expelling mechanism for the country, but now they have some impressive technologies to do the job.  The Dutch are hydraulic experts; New Orleans should give them a call.
We also drove past Anne Frank's house, the royal palace, the harbor, and the red light district.  I saw three ladies in windows.  But the highlight of the tour was stopping at a small farm to see how they made cheese and wooden shoes.
The Netherlands is a flat and agricultural country, and very picturesque.  I saw many different types of crops and livestock.  The occasional windmill dotted the landscape.  According to Fabulous Tour Guide, only about 100 of the classic Dutch windmills remain, and although they are not operational they are preserved.  The strategy for upkeep is to let people live in them rent-free as long as they take care of them.  I saw a man out tending his windmill's lawn on a Sunday afternoon.  A clever solution to a historical preservation problem, but bizarre nonetheless.    
Immediately upon arrival in Egmond aan zee I headed for the beach.  It was less than a block from my hotel and visible from my room.  The sun was setting and I just couldn't wait to take it all in.

  video


The view of the town from the beach.
In the morning, I still had a few hours before the conference was to start.  So I decided to rent a bike and explore the area.  Finding the bike shop pretty much introduced me to the whole town, so I was more interested in a country ride.  I found a few maps, mostly in Dutch, and was nearly dissuaded from the seemingly complicated navigation of a country ride.  Instead I tucked the maps in my backpack and just started riding.  What a marvelous choice!  There are bike lanes or paths along every road, and it turns out that my chosen route was the Prince's Route (or something) and therefore clearly marked.  It was very beautiful, even in the slight fog.
The route paralleled a national forest/sand dune preserve.  I was lucky to see so much nature in a small country of 15 million people.
And then the fog lifted as I rolled into Bergen aan zee, the town just north of Egmond aan zee on the coast.  

So of course I had to park the bicycle and explore this beach as well.
I pedaled back to Egmond aan zee, returned the bike, and was only 20 minutes late to the conference.  Nice!  The rest of the time I worked very, very hard and took virtually no more pictures.  Save one.  Across from my hotel I realized that there was a tall dune with a path leading up it.  So during one of the conference breaks I scurried up to explore.  Below is a panoramic of the town.  Notable landmarks from the left:  my hotel, the lighthouse, the church in the town square, and the church by the bike shop.
A fast trip, but a great trip.  

4 comments:

  1. Beautiful pictures and what a great trip! I'm impressed at all that you managed to do and see despite it being such a short (work) trip! You know you have to submit this to my Bike Dates Series now :) Can't wait to talk to you more about the trip in person, see you tonight!!

    S.

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  2. Great to see you having fun! Jealous of the proximity to the beach! Can't wait to read the article:)

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  3. Great trip indeed! The pictures and the video (especially the video!) are so cool - what an opportunity. Glad it was a good jaunt.

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  4. Looks like an excellent trip! You have a gorgeous photographic eye, I am loving your pictures :-)
    Jay said to me that some lighthouses in North America will do a similar rent free thing. It is a brilliant idea isn't it?

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