Sunday, August 2 to Tuesday, August 4
We left Groningen on a quiet Sunday morning, making our way out of town by following the amazing bike routing system of ‘knooppunten’ (node points). It was sunny, quiet and the country side pretty. Still flat, but lots of beautiful farmhouses, country estates and country roads. Roy even found a unique bench for a rest; unfortunately the beer was missing, so we carried on.
Our destination that day was Joure, a town in the province of Friesland and gateway to the Friesian lakes area. Friesland is popular for its lakes and canals and is a boaters mecca. Several times we had to wait for open bridges to let sailboats and yachts go through. This part of the country is littered with small towns and cafes, often right by a canal. Boats pull up and moor right in front of a cafe for a coffee or snack. Very civilized. I do love the wilderness and nature in Canada, but there is something to be said for being able to stop at a cafe and enjoy an ice cream sundae while boating.
Coming to this part of the Netherlands makes me think about my Dad and his side of the family. Both my paternal grandparents are from here. We visited Makkum, where my grandmother was from, and ended the day in Harlingen, a beautiful port town on the Waddenzee, where my grandfather was from. We celebrated Roy’s birthday in Harlingen with a dinner on a patio on the Noorderhaven, right by the canal.
Today we rode the Afsluitdijk–a 30km long dike built around 1932, that closed off what was known as the Zuiderzee (now called the IJsselmeer) from the North sea. I sincerely hoped we wouldn’t have strong headwinds, because 30km is a long way to go! But we were lucky; the winds weren’t strong and for most part the dike sheltered us (the road and bike path run behind the tall part of the dike.) I recalled stories from my Dad about him cycling that same dike as a teenager during the war to visit relatives on the other side. That would have been quite a different experience in those circumstances.
Tonight we’re in the town of Den Helder, my Dad’s birth place. It’s at the very tip of this part Holland and very much a port town. It has a very different, more transcient feel than most towns in Holland. Shipping, oil and the navy seem the main industries. While out for dinner, we overheard several conversations of shipping and oil crew members in English.
Despite its lack of charm, finding accommodation was difficult here. The only room we could find was a room for people with mobility problems or in wheel chairs. Not really a problem I thought, and it isn’t. The room is actually a small suite, which is nice–but with the wide spaces, high beds, lazy-boy electric chairs, and support bars in the bathroom, it does feel a bit weird, especially to Roy who just celebrated a milestone birthday yesterday.
Tomorrow night we are in Den Helder as well, although in a different hotel due to the lack of available accommodation. During the day we’re planning a day trip to the island of Texel, a 20 minute ferry ride from here. Texel is where the my dad’s clan originates, so the plan is to visit ‘new’ relatives. We’ll keep you posted.