Monday, August 31, 2015

Het Einde

And then I came to the end of my trip to Belgium and Amsterdam, something I haven't fully come to grips with since the craving for a street waffle bakes my brain and then covers it in sugar. I was able to bring some things home with me to tide me over but that's all gone. I did discover though that my local supermarket sells Orval! Wahoooo!

On our last day, we had booked an all day excursion to see windmills, cheese, clogs and the area just outside the city. It was a mission of mine to see at least one windmill before I left the land of windmills and no one ever needs to convince me of the virtues of trying cheese in foreign lands. This tour included the bus ride, a bunch of stops and lunch and it was what you would expect an organized tour in Europe would be like: a bus full of American and British tourists. Some highlights of this tour were the oil mill we got to tour. This mill was hundreds of years old and is still in use making peanut oil. We got a chance to climb inside it and watch it make the oil which was very cool. There was a man standing in front of me who was probably about 60 years old and he made a point to touch EVERYTHING. He was pretty much caressing all of the stuff, even the highly dangerous clampy type things and while that was weird, it was also giving me anxiety because why are you touching everything? You are a grown adult! Anyway, I was going to include a video I took of oil being made but after trying to upload it on here and failing a few times (compyoootors) I have given up. Just know that peanuts got all crushed and crap and it was powered by wind and had been for last few hundred years and it was cool. And then some dude molested all the equipment.

The mill was located in a little touristy town with lots of little cheese, chocolate and waffle shops. I'm going to repeat that: lots of cheese, chocolate and waffles. In fact there was a shop there that had some of the most delicious cheese I've ever eaten spread out all over the store for you to just taste. I'm pretty sure I had a cheese sandwich there with an appetizer of cheese dipped cheese. The cumin gouda is the stuff of legends.

I also, and here is a major surprise for everyone involved, ate a waffle here. So let's recap: cheese, cheese and waffle. We traveled a bit more by bus to a small factory where they made wooden clogs. What was fascinating about that process is that it has remained essentially unchanged, apart from the addition of a few mechanics, for hundreds of years. I did try on a pair but couldn't really see myself ever wearing them for anything other than gardening and I have never gardened anything in my life.

After the shoe making demonstration we stopped for lunch at a restaurant that overlooked water and had a lovely conversation with a couple from Pennsylvania. They seemed just as traumatized by being a pedestrian in Amsterdam as we were. The diet of champions continued here where I ate something fried and chased it with some beer.

After lunch, we boarded a ferry to Volendam, which, while very pretty and peaceful, is also very touristy with souvenir shops lining the streets mixed with beautiful cottages and picturesque facades. If weren't for the heavy tourist foot traffic, it could be called "sleepy"and I sort of wish I could visit in wintertime. We saw a cheese making demonstration and ate more cheese like the dairy savages we all are.

We then drove a bit more in the bus to Edam and strolled around for a bit. The sun had come out for this day and it was a lovely afternoon with postcard views.
 Here's a selection of photos from that day, with the order all random and not organized, really:

In front of our lunch spot.

View from a bridge.


We had a good lunch here with, what else? Beer.

Did you know that women want these clothes?

The view from the top of the windmill.

Peanut oil mill.

Little alleyway

We got back to Amsterdam feeling sleepy but also feeling the need to go out since it was our last night. The previous evening, we had passed a bar that was local to our apartment and decided to check it out. Turns out it was one of the chillest, hipster bars in the city...according to a few lists. Cafe Brecht had mismatched, vintage looking furniture everywhere and the vibe was very low key, a perfect place to spend our last evening in such an undeniably cool city. By the way, that bar is on a street called Weteringschans, a word I will never be able to pronounce properly, no matter how many cab drivers correct me.

The next day we took the train to the airport. I may have already mentioned this but Amsterdam has the best setup with the train and airport being connected. Genius. It was a Friday morning so we shared the train with commuters and schoolkids. I saw a child who was about five years old with the most stylish outfit I have ever seen and now I know how grown men in that region of the world are so stylish: they learn early. Our flight was smooth and we came back to NYC pretty seamlessly, visions of cheese and waffles and beer and bicycles and waffles and waffles and waffles and wafffff...

And now we arrive at the end of my blogs about this great trip. That only took me, what...two months? I recommend a visit to these cities and I really would love to return and live in Belgium, marry a well shoed man with a vague accent and unlimited access to Orval. By my own personal account, it is filled with lovely people and beautiful scenery, and did I mention the fucking WAFFLES yet???

I'm in the process of pinpointing a trip for a very big birthday I have coming up next year. I'm sure after I plan and get back from it, I'll write about it so look for my next travel blogs in 2076.

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