Thursday, November 13, 2014

Amersfoort, Netherlands

Despite crashing straight away the night before, I was still wide awake at 5am. I rested a few more hours then got up and showered, then moved my stuff back up into Anne’s apartment.  Anne cooked another fabulous breakfast – tomatoes, herbs and eggs – it was a great start to the day!

Gordon and Anne then went and pick up a new sofa for Anne’s apartment, then we all jumped into the rental car and took it back to Hertz - the rental car that is, not the sofa!  It took some time finding a petrol station due to road works, but we eventually found the way.  We then caught the bus back to Utrecht central station, then a train down to Amersfoort.

Amersfoort is a municipality and the second largest city of the province of Utrecht in central Netherlands. The city is growing quickly but has a well-preserved and protected medieval centre. Amersfoort is one of the largest railway junctions in the country, because of its location on two of the Netherlands' main east-west and north-south rail lines. The city celebrated its 750th birthday in 2009.

We wandered around stopping for apple cake and coffee, taking photos, and enjoying the atmosphere.  Beautiful town, and old, gorgeous buidings.

The old cathedral door was amazing...

Lovely outdoor cafes....

I asked the three musketeers to line up against the wall for a shoot.  This is what they did!  I shot them! 

The houses along the canals were interesting - some looked like they had little studios. Many had little boats...

The wildlife was fenced in to stop them attacking the tourists...

 The old castle walls still had medieval doors and shutters...

 Remains of settlements in the Amersfoort area from around 1000 BC have been found, but the name Amersfoort, after a ford in the Amer River, today called the Eem, did not appear until the 11th century. The city grew around what is now known as the central square, the Hof, where the Bishops of Utrecht established a court in order to control the "Gelderse Vallei (nl)" area. It was granted city rights in 1259 by the bishop of Utrecht, Henry I van Vianden. A first defensive wall, made out of brick, was finished around 1300. Soon after, the need for enlargement of the city became apparent and around 1380 the construction of a new wall was begun and completed around 1450. The famous Koppelpoort, a combined land and water gate, is part of this second wall.

we wandered into the main centre as well which was very modern in comparison...

On the way back to the station we went under a bridge that had a very interesting chandelier in the niddle!

The main entrance to the old town.

We stumbled upon a a craft beer brewery and decided we were up for a tasting!

When we came out we saw the weather was changing and the clouds were really interesting...

To me this image sums up the Netherlands.  Old buildings, and bikes, cobblestone roads and pathways, and simply gorgeous landscapes!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Kinderdijk and Gouda, Netherlands

I fell asleep immediately the night before, and woke up thinking I had had 8 hours – felt so refreshed – to only find it was only 1.24am! Gah. Fell asleep again and woke at 5.00am. No getting back to sleep after that so gave up and worked on my photos.

Anne cooked an amazing breakfast of French toast stuffed with berries and yoghurt for all of us. We then got a taxi to the Hertz Rental car place and hired a car and set off to the Kinderdijk.

The Netherlands put on a stunning day for us to see the Windmills at Kinderdijk!   

The boat cruise I wanted to do wasn't running that day, so instead we walked along the canal..  We even found some fungi. Kicking myself I wasn't carrying my macro lens!

At the end of the canal, we hopped onto one of the boats that was working and hitched a ride back to the visitors centre. 

I got Anne, Jay and Gordon to pose for me...

Such a beautiful place...

Back into the car and we then went to Gouda.
Gouda is another very old town and very beautiful.

We also stopped for lunch and I ordered the eggs.  It was huge – 3 huge slices of bread, lots of cheese slices and 3 eggs.  I ate the eggs and cheese and felt my arteries harden with every bite!  The bread - I couldn't eat!

We stuffed ourselves trying all the cheeses too - so many cheese, so little time!

Cheese was even hanging on the power lines...

After wandering around gouda, we drove back to Utrecht, parked the car near Anne's apartment, then wandered into town for a beer.  Michel met us, and I was taken to this great beer place that is a converted church. I tried a Berry Beer – it was amazing – 3 types of berries-  and the beer was red.  Best beer I’ve ever had.

I could only fit in one though and I was getting chilly so ordered a hot chocolate.

We then walked through Utrecht and went to a Surinam restaurant for dinner.  More Surinam beers and beautiful food – I had a chicken satay starter only, but I was not hungry so that’s all I could manage.  Although weakened and had some ice-cream floating in advocaat and mint liqueur – yum!

I was having trouble keeping my eyes open so headed back home to bed, while the others went out for a few more beers elsewhere. I was asleep before my head touched the pillow!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014


The flight got in a bit early, and getting through passport control took some time, which was a first in the Netherlands – usually it’s quite quick.  While waiting to get through, I could see my luggage going round and round the carousel.  First time my luggage has arrived before I was able to get there to pick it up!

I got through, and went over to the meeting point, as Anne couldn’t get there before the first train! I had only been there a couple of minutes though when she arrived.

Back to Utrecht – I chose to walk to her house because I had been cooped up in a plane for so long and wanted to stretch my legs.  The station is about a 15 minute walk from her place, but it’s a really pretty walk along the canals and past interesting shops.

After emptying my suitcase with all the gifts, Anne went off to work, and I had the best shower I ever had, before hopping in my PJ’s and going to bed for some much needed sleep.  I didn't think I would sleep but I woke up 4 hours later much more refreshed.

Got dressed and wandered into Utrecht at 1.00pm.  It’s beautiful, historic and old.  Utrecht was founded by the Romans in AD50, and the Dom was built in the 10th century and took 266 years to build.  It was huge.  Originally the Dom and the tower were joined, but a tornado about 200 years ago destroyed the building, so they are now separated by a square.

Metal grates with steam arising mark the original city walls (and here I thought it was a gas leak!) The fog in front of this image is the steam from the metal grates...

I grabbed lunch – chicken curry sandwich from a carribean eatery, before finding the shopping area.  Every second shop was a shoe shop and boots were everywhere – I was in heaven!  

Little art galleries dotted the area, some with amazing work.  I particularly liked the work in this gallery, not far from Anne, from a Belgian artist. He did a lot of fantasy art and sculpture... I can just imagine these sitting on my bench, however at 1500 euros each, they get to stay in the art gallery for now...

Wandered around and got lost, and eventually found myself in a wine shop buying a bottle of wine for the evening.  

I hadn't noticed how quickly the sun was going down but it cast a lovely glow on the buildings and the canals...

Anne met up with me after work (she found me in the wine shop!) and we popped into the supermarket to buy the ingredients for smoked salmon and salad for tea.  3 euros for a pack of smoked salmon – that’s $4.50!!!!  

At 10pm Anne cycled to the station to meet with Jay and Gordon who arrived from London, and we sat around eating cheese and drinking wine having a catch up. When I started having trouble staying awake, I decided to hit the sack as I wanted to get into the correct time zones quickly!

Auckland to Guangzhou, China

The first leg of the flight was lovely - new plane, plenty of leg room and it was empty!  I was able to stretch out over 3 seats and get some sleep, but I didn't sleep as well as I usually do on the plane, as I had forgotten to pack my sleeping pills.  Usually I have one of those and sleep like a baby on the plane and arrive refreshed.  This time it was not refreshing at all when I woke up - I don't think I really went to sleep at all.

Arrival in Guangzhou - was very confusing. Hordes of people and long queues everywhere.  I thought the lines in Singapore were bad when I was there last-year, but this took the prize of the most people and longest queues!  I finally managed to get into the right queue and got an exit visa for 72 hours and went out the doors. I was quite nervous doing this because I didn't want to miss my plane connection to the Netherlands. But I had 7 hours and this beat sitting around in an airport for that length of time.
Kitto met me outside and together we caught the train into the centre of Guangzhou. It took about 45 minutes and with one change. I would never have been able to do it on my own. What I saw of Guangzhou was vry beautiful. We walked along the Pearl river then got some Vietnamese French food for dinner.   Then we wandered along the river again up over the bridge. All the lights were continually changing color and it was very beautiful. It was really hot too - about 32 degrees C and humid. Unfotunately, because it was going to be cool when I arrived in the Netherlands I was wearing jeans and consequently was sweltering!

There were some market stalls along the side of the road, and a few people fishing, but generally it was quite quiet. Much quieter than I had imagined it would be.

After a few hours, I started feeling really jetlagged. Probably the heat as well - it just hit me. So it was back to the train station and back to the airport although the trains were busier this time around.

I said goodbye to Kitto - hopefully we wil be able to do this on the way back as well as I have another 7 hour layover to get through!  At the airport there were more long queues to get through to the departure lounge. I was beginning to get really tired. Watched Muslims pray facing mecca in my departure lounge on their prayer mats, not once but several times. I wondered why it was so important to do this so many times!

The flght to the Netherlands was awful - no leg room and very uncomfortable seats.  It was one of those planes built to get as many people in as possible.  The flight was also completely full so there was no chance to stretch out and sleep. I did manage a few hours sleeping sitting up, but the rest of the flight was a very long haul (12 hour flight)!

I was extremely pleased to finally land!