Friday, January 1, 2010

Amsterdam and Den Haag, December 29 & 30

Not too much went on these two days. On Tuesday, December 29th, Bill and I along with Ed and Joy decided to go into Amsterdam. We just wanted to get out for a bit and spend some time just hanging out, exploring the city a bit. We saw a good amount of it back in 2006 when we were there, so this was going to be more of a people watching, walking around and some shopping type of trip. We drove about an hour to the train station in Weesp, then just took the train from there. It was just a short trip into Amsterdam from there, about 12 minutes I think. It’s just so much easier to take the train in rather than drive there, so that’s what we did. Once in Amsterdam, we just walked around, took photos of some of the old buildings like this church:

We also saw many of the famous Amsterdam "coffee shops" where you can buy treats like this:

And no, I did not sample one!

We had lunch in the city and looked around some of the souvenir shops as well. We only spent a few hours there and then headed back because our cousin Christian warned us that after it gets dark, the roads can be more dangerous because of the ice. It was another hour or so drive back to Elburg, and of course, I passed out in the car. Bill makes fun of me because I fall asleep in the car every time, like a baby! I can’t help it; I think the motion has the same effect on me! Needless to say, I am not the one you want to be with on long road trips! Which is kind of strange because I actually drove across the country way back in 1991 from California to Pennsylvania. It must have been my youth that enabled me to do that!

Once we got home, it was just time to hang out, get on Facebook and catch up on my blog. Of course I couldn’t get to sleep early, even though we were going to have to get up and drive off again on Wednesday, this time to Den Haag and then to Zaandam.
That was the plan for Wednesday. We were going to drive to Den Haag so Bill and I could visit with an old friend of my mother’s, a gentleman named Fred Kamphuis. Actually, she was the friend of this gentleman’s wife, who was my mother’s supervisor way back in 1959-1961 when my mother worked for the Department of Defense in the Netherlands. In 2008, Fred had sent a Christmas card to my parents, unaware that both had passed away. I ended up calling him after finding his name in my mother’s address book and told him about the loss of both of them. He was very shocked to hear this news, and very sad for us. His own wife had died in 2004 and he was now living alone. In October 2009 I wrote to him and told him we would be visiting Holland so we made arrangements to meet up while we were here so we could meet and so he could tell me about my mother and show me some pictures, letters and other things that his wife had saved all these years.

We made the drive to Den Haag which is about 1.5 hours away. It is a very large and busy city and thank goodness we have a GPS system in the car that my brother brought from home. Well, sort of. It did take us to the correct street that Fred lives on, however it didn’t take us exactly to the correct destination. Fred lives in a more modern apartment building than what you normally would find in Holland. In fact, the homes across the street from him were built in the early 1800’s whereas his building was built about ten years ago! It was odd to see the modern architecture vs. the old architecture across the street! Anyway, Bill and I got out where the GPS said to, but we later found out that we were still a good five minute walk away from where we really needed to be. Not fun when it’s cold and windy out and you have no idea where you are! But we made it to Fred’s apartment which is on the third floor of this building. I wish I had taken photos of the homes on both sides of the street, but I was too cold to take off my gloves and go digging for my camera.
Fred reminded me of a very proper British gentleman, except that he is Dutch. He was very kind and even at 77, is still in rather good physical shape and his mind is sharp as a tack. He remembered a great deal from when my mother lived in Holland and worked with his wife. I suspect this is because he worked as a museum curator in Den Haag for 47 years before retiring. He oversaw some sort of stamp collection at the museum. This also explains his meticulous organization. There wasn’t a thing out of place in his apartment! He also told us of his many travels all over Europe and to more exotic places like the Canary Islands. He said he has many photos and slides of these trips and he wasn’t kidding. He opened up this locked storage cabinet and inside were shelves upon shelves of photo albums all lined up neatly and labeled and organized. He also had boxes and boxes of slides, each lined up as well and labeled with a description of the contents! Yes, I am sure that is because he worked in a museum all those years!

He showed me some photos he had of my mother back at her old work place and then he showed me all of the correspondence his wife had saved over the years: letters, Christmas cards and believe it or not, she had saved the birth announcements that my mother had sent her when my brother Ed was born, when I was born and when our nephew Geoff was born! I had never seen them before and Fred was kind enough to give them to me as a keepsake for us. They were all in perfect condition as well! I was grateful that he gave those to us to keep.

The plan while Bill and I were visiting Fred was for Ed and Joy to go find some huge shopping mall in Den Haag. Unfortunately, they spent the entire time driving around the city because the traffic was so horrible there! I felt bad for them not being able to see anything else before they came to pick us up just after 4:00.
We had to make the drive to Zaandam to have dinner at my Oom (Uncle) Paul’s house with his family: his wife Mary, their son James, James’ wife Sandra, and their three little boys: Jayden who is 5 and 17 month old-twins Lyndon and Rodney.

My other cousins, Justin and Reza were there as well. I had never met Justin until he met us at the airport when we flew in. Justin is now 22! Reza is 25 and the last time I saw him, he was about 12 and he had come to Arizona with his parents (his mother is my mother’s younger sister). Now he’s all grown up! My other brother Andy was there with his family as well as my nephew and his girlfriend. It was a lot of fun visiting with them and of course, just like my father’s side of the family, they cook enough food for the entire neighborhood and aren’t satisfied until they stuff you full, which they did! We left there about 10:00 p.m. because we had the long drive back home. I think it was around 11:30 when we arrive back home. Of course, it was another late night for me, not turning in until about 2:30 a.m. again! I was grateful that New Year’s Eve would just be spent at home, not doing anything except waiting to ring in 2010!

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