Saturday, April 30, 2011

De fiets / the bike - Part 5 (farewell old friend)

I need to take a moment to say farewell to my trusty green Gazelle :-)

We've been through many adventures together over the last year - from biking along the dijk a million times...

To riding through forests and cities...

Transporting a variety of tricky goods (if only I could count the number of things I've strapped to the back of my bike!!!) - including a wii and cheesecake fresh out of the oven...

And even narrowly avoiding a thieving incident...

But, it's time to say goodbye to my old friend - not because my fiets went missing (as many bikes do over here!) but because it was time for an upgrade (we've taken out insurance on these bikes, it's just too risky over here not to!). To cut a long story short: Mitch gets 8 weeks of holidays per year here (crazy huh - we actually thought it was a typo the first time we saw his contract!!!!) and if he doesn't use them, he loses them. He had the option of trading in some hours for a brand new bike which we decided was definitely worthwhile - there was no way he could use up all his holidays between now and next April, even with bub on the way... So, Mitch upgrading his bike = Lu upgrading her bike too :-) We've been looking into international moving options and the plan is to ship our bikes back when we move to Australia next year - the ultimate Dutch souvenir.

We've been doing some research and test driving and got a great deal on 2 new Gazelles at a local fietsenwinkel today - meet Gigi, my pretty blue Gazelle! It's a bike like driving a 4WD in comparison to my current bike and I think it'll take some getting used to the handlebars and weight in the basket so until then, I won't be pulling up too close to anyone at traffic lights hehe....

I can see there are lots of adventures with our new wheels in the land of bikes - now all we need is a fietskar for Stroopy!!!!!

Friday, April 29, 2011

La petite bump - 24 weeks

The weeks have flown by even more quickly then usual this past month - somehow, it's almost May and I've reached 24 weeks already!!!!

Stroopy is an extremely active little bubba who is forever giving me (and Mitch!) whopper kicks - it seems that play time is more fun then sleep time for this baby :-) Not that I mind - it's pretty amazing seeing this little being moving around in my belly!!!!! The bump has definitely grown in recent weeks but I'm still riding my bike everywhere and doing everything as per normal. In fact, I'm determined to keep riding my bike until the day little Stroopy arrives!!!!

The last month has been a hectic one in general but also started off with a few appointments - including the much anticipated 20 week echo. The sonographer didn't speak much English but thankfully there was a student practicing measurements on board who kindly translated for us. This came in handy as they momentarily scared us, saying that they were concerned that 'baby is too small'.... After re-doing measurements and much consultation among themselves, the conclusion was that Stroopy is totally fine - my due date was slightly out and we just have a rather small baby on board. Hearing that confirmation (and believe me, I asked and asked and asked over again to make sure everything was ok!!!) was such a relief as it was a stressful few moments not knowing what was going on. Otherwise, the scan went perfectly - a happy, healthy little baby whom the sonographer kept referring to as a kleine boef... Translation = little rascal. This was because the Stroopster wasn't feeling particularly cooperative when it came to the legs department and the sonographer was determined for us to be able to find out the sex.... Which, after much poking and prodding, we did get a peek!!! And are trying ever so hard to keep it a secret - so far, so good.... Of course, being a 50/50 chance, some friends & family have guessed correctly, others haven't and I'm trying to keep a straight face and not give it away but it's a challenge!!!! We got a whole envelope full of pictures from the scan but these are my favourites - profile shot and a nice little thumbs up :-)

I was lucky enough to be able to go back for a second scan - not because it was medically required, but because I was asked if I would like to be a volunteer. Apparently there was a heart specialist teaching students how to scan babies hearts visiting in a couple of days and they needed a volunteer 'without much belly fat' (that made me feel soooooooooooooo good hehehe) for the practical session. I gladly gave up my time to go back in - another whole hour of Stroopy viewing, yes please!!! It was actually a really great experience, the specialist and students spoke in English (even to each other most of the time) so that I could understand what was going on. Stroopy was being a very cooperative little bubba that day and flipping over right when they needed him/her to - no poking and prodding required!!!! They even gave me some more photos, including the cutest pose - 'the thinker' where bub had his/her hand up under the chin and was looking veryyyy serious.... Apparently we have a poser on our hands :-)

24 weeks down, 16 to go :-)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Giethoorn - the 'Venice of the North'

Giethoorn has been on our Holland travel to-do list for quite some time. We had originally planned to head up there with the family last year but as their visit coincided with a week of torrential & generally miserable weather, we never quite made it.

After driving the tulip route around the Noordoostpolder on Monday morning, it seemed like perfect timing to head inland a little to the little village of Giethoorn - known as the 'Venice of the North'. As it was such beautiful weather, Giethoorn was crazily busy. We stopped for some frites speciaal along the main canal leading into town and it was amusing to see the number of people not only heading down the waterway in their boat, but laying on the side of the canal enjoying the sun. We parked the car and walked into the car-free village and although we had been thinking of hiring a boat for the afternoon, seeing the crowds on the canals and then (one of many) boat companies offering 1hr tour of the village for 5 euros made our decision easy: organised tour it was. The boat we were on wasn't too crowded which was nice and we enjoyed a leisurely tour of the village by water. I had read that you can't see Giethoorn by foot which was so not true - there were walkways and bridges (both really crowded, people had to walk single file everywhere, I was pleased we were in a boat!) leading everywhere. However, I still think that a boat trip is the best way to experience the village. Giethoorn was beautiful but didn't quite meet either of our expectations to be honest, but all in all - still a lovely spot to visit on a sunny day.

More tulips - a tour of the Noordoostpolder bloembollenroute

Despite the vast amount & variety of tulips that we saw on Saturday, on Monday we decided to make the most of the beautiful weather and head up north to the Noordoostpolder. This area is also known for it's tulips and features the 'bloembollenroute' - another driving route amongst the tulip fields. As soon as we got off the motorway, the fields of colour appeared once again and I have to say, although we didn't take anywhere near as many photos (they all do tend to look a little the same after awhile), it was still really impressive despite what we saw a couple of days earlier. The fields here seemed to be larger and they were closer together. There were windmills everywhere (the big white modern ones) and we could see the masts of sailboats peeking over the top of the dijk.

It was another gorgeous day out which was topped off perfectly with a visit to Holland's version of Venice - more to come on that one....

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Touring the 'bollenstreek'

Ever since arriving in Holland last year, Mitch and I had been dying to see some tulips - not just the bunches of flowers for sale at our local markets, but the postcard images of rows and rows of brightly coloured tulip fields... We had planned to do this last year but our first month here (tulip season) was so insanely busy with work and settling in, plus with our lack of car at that point, it never quite happened - we made up for it this year however :-)

On Saturday we drove the 'bollenstreek' - the dune & tulip region between Leiden and Haarlem. We were a bit confused as to where to go but discovered that the ANWB (basically the same as RACQ) has a great feature - driving routes downloadable for your GPS. We made use of their recommended bollenstreek route and set off early Saturday morning to Katwijk aan Zee where our tour began. It was a glorious day - the sun was shining, the weather was HOT (got up to about 28 deg!!!) and the beach was busy with people sunbathing, swimming, flying kites, riding horses and even some taking their horse & carriage out for a spin.

After enjoying the beach, we continued on our tour and the fields of spectacular colour began...

Our drive ended in Leiden which was a pretty little town. We had a short walk around the city centre and canals before heading home...

It was a beautiful day out - now I truly understand why Holland is known for its tulips...


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