Holland and London

After leaving the noise and heat of Naples, arriving in Amsterdam was a pleasant change. We took a train to Utrecht and then changed to a local train to Bilthoven. Paul had already called ahead and Ivo was waiting at the station. Christine (who is an old university friend of Paul's) was at home to greet us and showed us to the small guest room which adjoins the room of their (teenage) son Tim. As we had to pass through his room to get to the bathroom, I'm afraid we must have disturbed his sleep many times during our stay.  Sorry, Tim ! Christine and Ivo live in an old traditional thatched house which is not unusual for the area, but novel for us.

We stayed up late talking and catching up on our lives life since we last saw them in Orlando about two years ago. We didn't get to bed until almost midnight.

Next day, we were up early to head out to their sailboat, which they keep about an hour north of Bilthoven in a Marina at Enkhuizen, a very pretty town right on the water.

Christine had already bought enough provisions for a week and we were only planning on being gone for four days, so the boat was quickly readied and we headed out across what amounts to a man made lake although the Dutch call it a "sea" (The Zuiderzee).

Christine and Ivo's boat, Stephen, named after Christine's brother 

Paul surveys the waterway and keeps watch while Kristine hides from the sun

Captain Ivo takes us out of the marina while Christine works on her tan (she IS a little pale !)

We spent our first night in Harlingen, another picturesque little town. Unlike most marinas, this was a canal running through the very centre of the town, so we were right in the heart of the shops and  restaurants. We had a wander around the town after we had arrived. Holland was playing in the World Cup that night so the bars were filled with rowdy supporters.


Harlingen and a traditional local boat with the distinctive side mounted keels, used when the boat is sailing.

After spending a quiet night in Harlingen, we moved on next to day (June 25) to another village, Terschelling. To get to Terschelling, we passed through a lock from the freshwater Zuiderzee to the salt water North Sea.

Fortunately, the sea was very calm and smooth which made for an easy day of sailing, although there wasn't a lot of wind. Paul made the acquaintance of the family dog, Sammy.

Terschelling sits on an island and Christine and Ivo wanted us to see the other side of the island, which has broad, unspoiled beaches, so Ivo rented bikes for us all and we rode across the island.

That night, for once, we ate dinner in a restaurant at the marina and spared Christine the task of preparing dinner and washing up, which I'm sure was a nice change for her.

Just a glimpse of Terschelling's broad and long beaches we saw after crossing the island.

The next day (June 26), we moved on again to another island, this time Vlieland, which was very different from Terschelling. This time we went for a walk along the beach with Sammy providing the entertainment as he would repeatedly lose his ball, sending us all searching the beach while he watched us in amusement.

 Timmy and Sammy playing on the beach and Ivo relaxing after a hard day of sailing

The next morning, before we left Terschelling, Christine, Kris and Paul took a walk through the village. It was Sunday and being a god-fearing community, most the of the shops were closed, but (with the exception of the Spar supermarket) it was a very pretty and traditional village sheltered from the sea by a high dike at it's back,

 Moving on once more and still in the North sea, Ivo persuaded Paul and Tim to go for a swim off the back of the boat - swimsuits optional. The two ladies had more sense and Tim is still too modest to follow his dad's example, but Paul is always game for a challenge. The water was VERY cold and a couple of minutes was enough, although it was very refreshing on a hot day.

Tim and Ivo are pulled along the behind the boat

Paul has had enough and is on his way out (Ivo is still in the water at the left)

Our last stop and our last night on the boat was spent in Texel - another island just off the Dutch coast. Christine had a business meeting in Texel the following day and was planning to leave us early the next morning, so we ate dinner on the boat and had a quick look around the small town nearby, but after Vlieland and Harlingen, it wasn't quite as picturesque. 

The next morning, Paul stuck his head through the hatch in his stateroom and saw a beautiful sunrise. Everyone else was still asleep.

The two Ch(K)ristines about to re-board

 Texel church safely behind the dike

 The two Ch(K)ristine's preparing dinner (or at least the wine)

Captain Ivo in charge with his lazy passenger watching and giving advice.

Christine left us around 8:00 am for her meeting and soon after she had left, we set off back to our starting point in Enkhuizen, from where we returned to Bilthoven. 

That night, Paul and Kristine went into Amsterdam to see a performance by Mark Knofler (of "Dire Straits" fame) and although we had to stand for a couple of hours, the performance was wonderful, with a tremendous range of music and musical styles played by a band who were all masters of their art. A great show by any measure.

Mark Knofler and some of the members of his band

 The Heineken Hall, Amsterdam

The next day, our last day in Holland (June 29) turned out to be a "chores and relaxing" day. Actually, we both had our hair cut and spent the afternoon driving to an Art Museum but by the time we arrived, it was almost closing time and we didn't want to pay 38 Euros for about an hour of viewing, so we left. That evening, Ivo prepared BBQ for us and we sat in the garden discussing life and drinking wine until it was too dark to see


 We left Bilthoven by train the next day (June 30) and with changes in Utrecht, Rotterdam and finally Brussels, we took the Eurostar through the Channel Tunnel to London. Although the train was on time, after some of the newer trains we had seen in Europe (The TGV and ICE for example) the train itself was rather disappointing, but we have now been through "The Chunnel" so we can cross that off our "to do" list.

Our first evening was spent with Paul's nephew, Thomas and his girl friend Fiona at the Oxford and Cambridge University Club. Both Thomas and Fiona went to Oxford and Thomas is a member, so we dressed up properly (jackets and ties for the men, dresses for the ladies). The Club was exactly what one would expect of what is a Men's Club which now (rather reluctantly) accepts women members - rather stuffy and old fashioned with a menu which looked a lot like a fancy version of school dinners.  However, we thoroughly enjoyed the evening BECAUSE it was a little unusual and both Thomas and Fiona were delightful dinner companions. I think we were both a bit intimidated by the club and neither of us took any pictures, so I'm afraid you will just have to use your imagination !

 Next day (July 1) we started by jumping on the tube and headed to the TKTS booth at Leicester Square, where we bought tickets for a show the following day (of which more later).

Even though this was a brand new train, the Tube has no air-conditioning, so by the time we reached Leicester Square, we were already hot and sweaty. 

That afternoon, we attended a National Theatre production called "War Horse" about a horse and it's treatment during the First World War. The story was told with a mixture of puppetry, music, poetry and special effects. Of course, we couldn't take pictures so here are a few from the program. I'm sure The National Theatre would have a fit if they knew I was using their photos, but I assume they probably won't be viewing this blog - or at least I hope not.

The next day (July 2) we went to Waterloo to meet up with my old school friend Peter, who recently celebrated his 60th birthday. We were supposed to be meeting Peter in Italy at the start of our trip, in Montecarlo, but his circumstances changed and he couldn't make it, so we had to meet him in London. We took the tube and the DLR (Dockland Light Railway) deep into the old docklands of London and after a walk to the river, settled down for lunch and a couple of pints, while we discussed old times and old friends.

That evening, we went to a lighthearted show called "Dreamboats and Petticoats" set in the early sixties, with music from the era. I managed to get a picture of the interior of the theatre before I was caught. 

 The exterior and the interior of the The Playhouse Theatre 

 The show was an unashamed piece of nostalgia aimed squarely at the baby boomers who are reliving their earlier days and as such, it was fine. The music and the performers were excellent although the theatre was VERY hot (no airconditioning) and the lead female character was replaced by her understudy during the interval. No idea why - perhaps the heat was too much for her. Anyway, it was forgettable fun.

After the show, we took a stroll across the  nesrby Jubilee Bridge and enjoyed the London sights at night before returning to our hotel.

And that ended our short stay in London. Next morning, we headed off to our next destination, Nice in the South of France.