We've just climbed onto our rented 300cc Vespa in Zandaam!

Around the Netherlands and Belgium (2018)

Sunday, June 24, Bruges.

A lovely morning at the farm! We woke up at a B&B several kilometers from Veurne with the sun shining and had a wonderful breakfast. Our host declined my offer to fry my egg but provided two soft-boiled eggs which were a treat. We lazed around for a while getting a post off and choosing a hotel in Bruges for the night, finally getting off at noon for the short hop (56km). Once in Bruges we had a devil of a time negotiating the one-way streets to the hotel. When we got there, dead in the center of town, there was clearly no parking of any kind nearby. Deb consulted the friendly desk clerk who showed us the narrow alley next to the hotel (hidden from the street by a door) and said we could park there (white arrow). It was a very tight squeeze but we finally got the Vespa all the way in. It's clear that it will be of no use during our stay so there it'll sit until we leave.

When we saw our room we couldn't believe our good luck: giant space on the ground floor (with refrigerator), enormous modern bath, and a door leading directly to "the garden", a tiny space beautifully outfitted with tables and canopy. We were thrilled when we discovered that we could stay for four nights.

We unpacked and Deb went to case the neighborhood. Then off to the nearest bike rental place where the prices were 50% more than we'd found in April. When the young man refused my very reasonable offer for a discount we left and bought some krieks for the fridge at the beer seller (at least 200 beers on offer, most of them in the front window; very common sort of store in Bruges)

and some chocolates at the chocolatier. Then off to the local square to sit with our krieks and nuts until dinnertime. We looked forward to returning to a restaurant which was recommended by our Relais et Chateaux hotel in April which doesn't seem to get many tourists but was uniformly terrific. We had the 44 euro "menu of the month" which started with an amuse bouche of tiny North Sea shrimp, each about an inch long; we'd had these before but always peeled and ready-to-eat. These were do-it-yourself and it took some practice to be able to get the shell off such a tiny specimen without ripping the meat apart.

The starters were gratineed scallops

and burrata with serano ham (nice touch: pine nuts!), both very fine:

The main courses were baby lobster with garlic sauce

And veal cutlet with mustard sauce, also done well.

The lobster came with a bib which we took with us for future occasions.

A very satisfying day which left us feeling lucky indeed.

* * * *

Deb's take on the day: After a terrific breakfast at the B&B/farm and a nice chat with our congenial host, we packed up and drove off to Bruges, where we'd hoped to be able to spend 3-4 days. We both looked into places to stay in Bruges that looked attractive and I deferred to B's "find" instead of mine because it was such a good deal (78 euros/night). After we booked it, B asked me to call them to request a room on one of the lower floors if possible so that he doesn't have to walk up and down so many stairs. It turns out, not a surprise, that most of the places we're staying in the Netherlands and Belgium are these old structures with very steep staircases. I called and didn't get through, so I sent an e-mail and hoped for the best. We decided to book for only one night and to make a decision to stay longer after we viewed the room. We arrived in Bruges, found the hotel in an excellent location, and I went inside to check in while B waited with the scooter outside. I couldn't believe our good luck -- the room was on the ground level (no stairs!) with French doors that opened to the garden with tables and chairs. Everything was perfect -- great shower, huge and comfortable bed, refrigerator, nice work desk, good seating. We really lucked out, especially because I was skeptical of this place after looking at the limited photos on Booking.com and the price was relatively modest when comparing to other hotels. I showed B the room and we both looked at each other and agreed to ask whether the room was available for two nights, yes, it was, but then we asked about three nights, and ultimately, four nights. Our kind hostess checked and confirmed that we could book the room for all four nights. And, when we asked about where to park the scooter, she unlocked the door to the narrow alley where they stored the recycling/trash/ladder and we made space for B to drive in to park it securely during our stay, since we'll rent bicycles to ride around town.

We were in Bruges at the end of March before our tulip bicycle/boat tour and loved riding around on bicycles. The host at our last B&B, when he heard we were driving to Bruges this morning, said that it is a living museum. That is exactly right. Even with more tourists in June, it is still a lovely place to visit. Our hotel is near one of our favorite squares and the best restaurant we'd found for Belgian food in March. We headed out to the square, a short walk for B, to an outdoor cafe and ordered a beer and a kieik for me (the cherry beer), made a call to reserve a spot at our restaurant (De Koeste) and had a really terrific dinner.

Monday, June 25, Bruges.

Finally, a day with nothing to write home about, principally because on Monday all the museums are closed! We didn't set the alarm; woke up at 9:30am; Deb went to the laundromat; we caught up on the Times and New Yorker; we shared a lambburger for dinner.

[Deb here: We stopped at the Dumon chocolate shop and each picked out a few Belgian chocolates for tonight (B, a dark chocolate covered piece of candied ginger and a chocolate covered cherry; me, a dark chocolate covered buttercream with a bit of caramel inside). We've realized that because we're staying here for several days and not touring on the scooter, we can visit a chocolate shop each day without worrying about the chocolate melting as it does when we carry it with us on the road. (I'll never forget our first summer on the scooter in Greece in 2011. Temperatures were 104+ and one of us was carrying chocolate in his backpack. When we stopped for coffee, I discovered it and had to wash it out in the restroom at the cafe.)]

Tuesday, June 26, Bruges.

Up early this morning (to Deb's consternation) and out on the town. We were going to start with a canal boat tour but as we approached to embarkation point, 45 8-year old school kids passed us and trotted down the steps. So we diverted to the Groeningemuseum, the fine arts museum of Bruges with a dozen great Northern Renaissance works (and not much else). In van Eyck's The Madonna with Canon van der Paele the Madonna sits on a chair with woodcarvings on the arms. To the left, the carving is clearly Cain killing Abel but the one on the right is obscure (not cited in any description). I think it must be Samson killing the lion. (And you?)

After a couple of hours we departed for coffee and beer. While walking the streets we encountered an old woman in a doorway demonstrating lace making. What's not shown is the process of placing pins in strategic places to keep the design open.

In the afternoon, a visit to St John's Hospital museum with its Memlings. Here's Memling's portrait of a young woman; note the ability to show a very shear veil over the right portion of her face.

Wednesday, June 27, Bruges.

[Deb here: We rented bicycles on our last full day in Bruges and rode out to see the last functioning windmill on the outskirts of the city. The windmill was open and accessible to all who could climb the steep stairs.

B was looking forward to seeing an actual working windmill in action, so I carried his shoulder bag while he climbed and descended and he made it easily!!

Once inside the windmill, we climbed another set of steep stairs to watch the mill in action.

The wind had recently shifted so we had a chance to observe (from inside) how the entire building is manually rotated to capture the wind coming from a different direction, just like tacking on a sailboat.]

We had our final dinner in Bruges at our favorite place, De Koeste. A lovely meal with exceptional rack of lamb

and potato gratin.

One oversight from Monday: we discovered in March a wonderful cracker with lots of salt and just enough cheese flavor to make them addictive. They're "Vedettes", made in Belgium and not found elsewhere.

Thursday, June 28, Schoondijke.

A very productive final day in Bruges. A second visit to the St John's Hospital Museum which has six important Memling works. Three of these are triptychs which means that each has five separate panels. One is a large reliquary with eight panels and one a diptych; only the sixth is a simple portrait (pictured yesterday). So there's a tremendous amount to admire. (I'm hoping to be able to acquire a high-resolution scan of one panel of John the Baptist in order to make a same-size reproduction for the villa.) Here's the very large and very complicated altarpiece; the right wing has a very thorough depiction of Revelation behind John sitting at Patmos.

We also managed to take an (unremarkable) boat cruise on the canals without too much overhead, something that had foiled us earlier.

Then the final touristic must-do: a freshly-made Belgian waffle; I hadn't understood that they are made not with what we would consider waffle batter but with a very dense and sticky dough.

Finally, at 2pm we struggled to get the Vespa out of the narrow alley next to the hotel and soon were off northeast. In March we had bicycled 6km out to a small town called Damme and discovered a superb patisserie. Accordingly we could not pass it by and stopped for cappuccini. The most stunning sablé ever (circled) and a tiny serving of chocolate mousse with every cup. No wonder the place was overflowing with people at 3pm!

An uneventful ride to our B&B in the literal middle of nowhere. (Google failed to direct us properly to our great distress!) The energetic wife of the ninth-generation farmer had gone to great lengths to decorate; kitsch everywhere!

[Deb here: We arrived at our next B&B, a farm, (after two failed attempts by Google maps to direct us) to find the hostess out in the field walking toward us as we were slowly riding down the narrow road to the house. She set us up in a room on the ground level so that B would not have to climb stairs. After a discussion about when breakfast could be served (not as early as B would have liked) and how the eggs would be prepared (she declined B's offer to cook his own eggs) she gave us an excellent recommendation for dinner in the neighboring town. She called and made reservations for us in Dutch and asked whether they had young sole on the menu, which B wanted to have again before we returned home. Indeed, they had sole (off-menu), and we could order as many as we liked rather than having them serve us the standard three. We ordered three (two for B; one for me) and they were excellent.

We also had a terrific smoked salmon salad which included tuna fish salad, radishes, tomatoes, lettuce, avocado, tiny mushrooms, and more. The big hit, however, were the mojitos, which were absolutely the best we've ever had, so we had two rounds. We'll have to try to make those at home with white rum, sugar, lots of lime juice and lots of mottled mint.]

We also discovered a very flavorful pickled onion call "Amsterdam onions" as part of our amuse bouche. (The next day we bought some at the supermarket!)

Friday, June 29, Scharendijke.

We were a bit naive about our next leg, mainly because we clearly had several more days than expected and could linger. We spent the morning on posts and reading the Times. Deb has the story:

[Deb here: We left our farm B&B just after 1:00pm, a little on the late side. As we drove through the charming village of Veere, we stopped at the local tourist office just before its 5pm closing to try to find a place to stay.

Since the local tourist office was of no assistance in helping us find a place to stay (saying that everything was booked), we decided to find something on Booking.com. Once we secured a room at a seaside hotel on the island to the north, we decided to take a long bridge to the east, thinking that the bridge to the west and on the North Sea would have high winds and a much longer drive. Well, we were prepared for a windy bridge based on previous experiences crossing high bridges on the scooter, but even I was surprised at how strong the gusts were. B very handily managed the scooter and kept it upright (the bridge must have been 6km long) for the longest time. About 3/4 of the way over the bridge, the front end of the scooter and B's arms were shaking back and forth and I could tell that he was doing everything to keep it upright and to steady it. I sat as still as I could, bracing myself for the moment when we might lose it; however, much determination and perseverance on B's part kept us upright, although a bit unsteady, until we reached the end of the bridge and there was a place to finally pull over. There was no way that B could stop midway on the bridge because there was no side to the lane and there was a long line of trucks and cars following us. We HAD to stay upright or risk falling over with traffic behind us. After wobbling for some distance, we made it to the end of the bridge and immediately pulled over to a restaurant parking lot where we could disembark and relax.

We rested at the restaurant and ordered the asparagus soup in season and a couple of beers. When we returned to the Vespa, I checked the luggage on the front rack and noticed that the stiff winds had loosened the ropes that had secured the bag in place. This could have been one of the causes of the unsteadiness of the scooter in the high winds. Kudos to B for having struggled to keep us upright.

We eventually arrived at our dune-side motel to check in and quickly learned that there was an annual outdoor music festival on the beach for the long weekend. This is an event known as "Concert at Sea" and is set up on the dam, one of the Delta Works structures that acts as a barrier to the sea.]

With no other options, dinner was a hamburger at the local beach shack.

Saturday, June 30, The Hague.

We had no illusions about the quality of the breakfast at our take-it-or-leave-it motel out on the dunes; at least we'd brought some grapefruit juice and they'd been willing to stick it in the fridge.

It was an absolutely glorious day, clear blue sky, sun shining, and most important a very light wind off the sea. So we didn't dally and were off by 10:30am. We had only 65km to go to be in The Hague so it was a delightful ride: 15km, stop and have a beer (even at 11:30am), relax a bit, and repeat. The two long bridges which concerned us turned out not to be a problem and we avoided the need to loop way east to get on a bridge which was a superhighway by discovering that there was a little ferry making the 7-minute crossing 3 kilometers from our late-lunch spot.

We did have some trouble finding a reasonably-priced B&B. Sadly the stunningly-wonderful place we last stayed when in The Hague was booked. But one of the hosts remembered Deb's voice and asked us to come by for coffee if we could! We ended up at the aristocratic family home of a widow who now "ran" a B&B. She's a piece of work but it's a very convenient location and excellent price so we'll be here three nights. She didn't convey the address clearly and we spent an hour in unbelievably bad traffic before finally finding the place. (For some reason, Dutch traffic lights change very infrequently, often with a relatively short interval for the side streets. Very, very frustrating because the Vespa overheats unless it's moving; it's air-cooled.)

After a quick shower, we reserved at a restaurant highly-recommended by Lonely Planet; in fact, mediocre. Have you ever been served a starter with two (count 'em) scallops? They had a blizzard of tasteless summer truffles shaved over them with great ceremony.

Or dingy grey fresh tuna?

Only the sun-dried-tomato ravioli was acceptable and it was pretty good.

[Deb's take on the day: We left our seaside hotel in Scharendijke very early since there were no stiff winds and we did not want to find ourselves again on a bridge crossing a large body of water with strong wind gusts. As it turned out, the weather forecast was sunny and 80F, very hot by the local standards. We had a pleasant ride over the spit of land that formed a barrier from the sea to the next island, and stopped for coffee in the village of Ouddorp. It was already so warm that we quickly changed our order to two beers (after all, it was after 11:30am by this time). After an hour rest we pushed on to the mainland in the direction of Rotterdam on the local road. We had no intention of driving to Rotterdam and the local road ended at Rozenburg. Last night I'd checked the map and had seen what appeared to be a bridge or ferry near Rozenburg so that we could take a short cut over the water. We stopped in the center or Rozenburg and spotted a cafe where locals were having lunch, and decided to join them. After checking the map and seeing that a ferry line appeared about a mile away, we asked our waitress whether there was a ferry that we could take with the Vespa. She said that there was and confirmed that vehicles cross on the ferry, so we were thrilled to know that we'd be able to cross over the last water obstacle and get to the mainland quickly. After lunch, we drove off to the ferry dock and were super impressed with how quickly this would happen. We drove up, paid the fare of 3.35 euros for the scooter and two passengers and in a few minutes, we were approaching Maassluis on the other side, instead of driving around the waterways and Rotterdam to the east to head northwest.

We arrived at our bed and breakfast, and were greeted by our host and her dog. We unpacked the scooter and I climbed the steep stairs

with our bags to the third level of this townhouse which apparently has been in her family for some time. The bathroom was remodeled 20 years ago and still looked beautiful with a large leaded-glass window overlooking her city garden. She had asked us to agree to a "deal" on the phone before we arrived since her current guest requested sole use of the bathroom. We agreed not to use the bathroom until the following morning when she gave us the "all clear"; the bathroom would be ours alone for the following two days.

We made reservations at a Restaurant Allard, a few blocks away, after learning that all three of the restaurants that B had identified from the Lonely Planet guide book were either closed on Sunday or no longer in business. We had a table outside with lanterns on the street and the scene was quite charming. We made a few choices and the agony of waiting for 45 more minutes for something to eat started to wear on B and he had a conversation with the waiter while I walked around looking for a place to buy B's cigarettes. We eventually had our meal, a starter of scallops with freshly-shaved truffles, seared tuna, and sun-dried-tomato-filled ravioli. All were fine, as were the two glasses of wine we sampled; however, it was then that we decided that we were going to look for simple meals for the remainder of our three days in The Hague.]

Sunday, July 1, The Hague.

An almost perfect museum day. A bit thwarted by our hostess's announcement that she would be inconvenienced to make breakfast earlier than 9am, we got to the Mauritshuis just after 11am. What a jewel of a museum! Quite small because it's housed in a classic merchant’s mansion right next to the Parliament building.

It has a world-class collection (dozens of first-rate paintings, 3 Vermeers, 15 Rembrandts (including two self-portraits, the first and last) a bunch of Rubens, etc. If one were to choose the one best museum in the world based on presentation as well as collection, the Mauritshuis would be in the top few.

Of course, the museum's star is The Girl with a Pearl Earring.

We had a fine lunch at 2:30p in the museum restaurant; crayfish bisque soup, smoked trout salad

and Deb's favorite Croque Madame

We then went back for a quick sweep through the Rembrandts, leaving at 4:45p. Next stop, the very good Albert Heijn supermarket in our neighborhood, which provided us with breakfast items in addition to beer and nuts.

No explicit dinner tonight: last night's dinner soured us on restaurants at least until tomorrow; we have the strong recommendation of our lunch waitress to an Indonesian restaurant (apparently a strong presence in The Hague). She also recommend which beach to go to tomorrow!

Monday, July 2, The Hague.

Our final full day in The Hague. Another visit to Mauritshuis in the afternoon. The big deal was our first ristafel (rice table) meal at an Indonesian restaurant. The rice table was "invented" as a style of banquet by Dutch colonials who wanted to show off the 60 cuisines of the islands and, understandably, has been considered colonial decadence in Indonesia since independence from the Netherlands. As a result, it's now popular (and available) only in the Netherlands.

We started off with some terrific wontons and sauce:

The most startling dish was very crisp and meaty tiny fish:

This is the general idea: lots of small items with great variety:

Tuesday, July 3, Katwijk-am-Zee.

We went through the bureaucratic process of getting reservations for a tour of the Netherlands government buildings for our last morning in The Hague. We learned a great deal about the history (surprisingly, for the first time in living memory, the Netherlands has a king on the throne, following three queens) and saw the large Knight's Hall in which the sovereign announces the government's program for the coming year.

On the ceiling beams (which look like an overturned ship; the largest span in Europe for centuries) are carved some figures known as "eavesdroppers" who were said to know whether the witnesses at trials held in the hall were telling the truth.

We missed touring the new Senate building because the security personnel couldn't determine that I wasn't a threat (long story not worth telling). We did find a street seller with the most fabulous (and largest) cherries I've ever seen (and I thought the Italian cherries from Vignola were tops!):

We had three days available before returning to Haarlem so I googled "best beaches" and came up with Katwijk, about halfway between The Hague and Haarlem. We immediately found a terrific B&B with very low rates. Happily, it was perfectly located just off the seaside boulevard. The arrow shows the windows of our room; the curving structure on the dune is the exit from the large underground parking for the beach.

Our room was 9x12', barely bigger than the bed and two steep flights up but otherwise just fine.

We'd had such a good experience at the Greek restaurant in Den Bosch that we fell for the one in Katwijk. It was very busy and looked like a good bet but the service was unbelievably slow and the food just passible. Fried haloumi cheese

and paidakia:

[Deb here: We had planned to have a simple meal of gyros at a food truck but when we walked up and looked at the food being prepared we were not impressed. I remembered seeing a Greek restaurant nearby which was crowded and seemed very popular so we headed there for dinner. We were given complimentary glasses of ouzo and off to a good start with the appetizers of spanakopita and saganaki. The food was good but I had a clear shot of the kitchen and witnessed what was much confusion among the cooks with the orders to the extent that the owner and servers went back to the kitchen to try to sort everything out. I guessed that they'd missed several orders and I could see that a couple who had arrived before us still had not been served any food. If B hadn't made a special request to the waiter to tell him that we were awaiting the next course we probably would have been in the position of the other couple who never received their order and walked out paying only for an appetizer.]

Wednesday, July 4, Katwijk-aan-Zee.

Our first full day "at the beach" and the Fourth of July to boot! Our adequate breakfast was brought to our room in a wicker basket; there are no public spaces at this B&B! At least there is a small refrigerator for guests.

We explored the tourism-based town and had a sunbathing session on the sand. Here's a view of the housing along the seaside boulevard:

The beach is filled with rented cabanas designed to shield one from the North Sea wind.

Not much to report except that the large beach concession called "Key West" (run by a Dutch woman who lives in Key West in the winter) was advertising an all-you-can-eat BBQ and live music for this evening. Still not much to report beyond the nearly inedible food and comical "live" music (essentially a local karaoke session). Here's a panorama of the large beach cafe:

Thursday, July 5, Katwijk-aan-Zee.

Our second full day at the beach proved that we're not "beach people." We had a longer sunbathing session today but felt no attraction to staying on the beach. I had bought some pickled herring from the local fishmonger, Deb had bought some sour cream and some red onions, so we prepared herring in sour cream for lunch. It was just what I'd had in mind and Deb even ate more than she'd intended.

Tomorrow, the last "run" of 30km to Haarlem.

Friday, July 6, Haarlem.

We had to be out of our room at the beach by 10:30am so we were off early for the short trip (24km) to Haarlem. About halfway, on a back road, we found the cutest cafe yet; so we stopped for what would be a two-hour layover reading the Times and having lunch.

After unpacking in Haarlem at the super-corny "Hello, I'm Local" hostel (a few private rooms), we had just enough time for another zip through the Frans Hals museum. It's a fine small museum and is admirably trying to broaden its appeal beyond Hals. But once you've seen the six large group portraits of civic guard companies, there are only a half-dozen portraits of interest left. The hour before closing was enough. (We've now adopted a conscious policy to visit museums during the final 90 minutes of the day: far fewer people!)

Coming out of the museum we passed by what was clearly a very serious quilting store with perhaps forty feet of bolts of cotton fabric. We almost always find some fabric for a souvenir pillowcase in such a store and, sure enough, a beautiful red abstract Japanese print! The terrific pillowcase Deb made with fabric from our trip to Hawaii years ago is now falling apart when I iron it, so this was a timely discovery.

Here's what the houses opposite the museum look like (which is to say: just like the rest of Haarlem but more so):

For dinner we had a recommendation from Melle at the hostel for the best rijsttafel in Haarlem; having just realized that rijsttafel is to the Netherlands as pizza is to Naples, we decided to take advantage while we could. It was on a small side street near the center. Deb thinks it was the best of our three such meals.

Saturday, July 7, Haarlem.

This was our day for Amsterdam. It was very telling that when we considered whether to drive in (30km) or take the train it was no contest. The transportation system in the Netherlands is just superb, with the trains approaching perfection. We went to the Haarlem station not knowing when the next train to Amsterdam would leave but also knowing that it could not be more than 10 minutes after our arrival. A twenty-minute trip to Amsterdam Centraal station and transfer to a tram just outside for the short 15-minute trip to the museum neighborhood with all three museums.

We decided to start with the modern (1880 on) Stedelijk Museum which we’d seen for the first time in March and were very impressed with. It has a great (if not deep) collection of 20th century art and it is very carefully installed in easily digested groupings. They have the original of the gigantic Lichtenstein print we’ve hung over our bed.

The museum restaurant was clearly making an effort to serve good food and I had some excellent mustard soup which I show you so that I’ll remember to try to duplicate it at home.

After four hours we’d seen everything and headed home to bed without dinner (save for some beer and peanuts).

Sunday, July 8, Haarlem.

Well, it's our last day and also Sunday so we went to church! The Grote Kerk in Haarlem is enormous and, you may remember, has one of the largest organs in the world. We joined about 100 worshippers who were unfailingly generous and sat through the 60-minute service in Dutch. There were six hymns, unfortunately, also in Dutch! Nonetheless we got a good sense of Dutch style (very subtle and reserved) and heard the great organ for the second time. Could there really be only 100 people in a city the size of Haarlem willing to come out to a Sunday service?

Coming out of the church, we saw this one-off delivery motorcycle (by no means the only such DIY contraption in town); I wanted to record it to be inspired to remember that there's a good (and cheap) homemade solution to most problems.

We then headed for the train station for another day in Amsterdam. We started with the Van Gogh museum which I consider a ridiculous one. It would be impossible to project a more self-important image. There's a new "entrance" building next to the old building which is two-stories high and contains as much volume but nothing of use to the visitor. I'll stop here!

We did learn some things about Van Gogh we hadn't known (in his last year, Vincent produced a painting a day!) and saw perhaps six important canvases, making the visit barely worthwhile.

Then, after a rest at a café for beer and peanuts, we hiked over to the Rijksmuseum. In the large park adjoining the museums sits this sculpture along with an enormous wading pool for "hot" days like today (only mid-70s).

As you would guess, it has a superb collection of Rembrandts but nothing as remarkable as this painting done when he was 24! (I remember fondly how surprised and delighted I was to find three similar paintings, including a crucifixion, in Munich.)

We had a merry final dinner with Chris (who was invaluable in arranging the rental of the Vespa) at an Indonesian restaurant (Blauw) a bit out of the center. Our third rijsttafel of the trip and probably the best.

Monday, July 9, Camigliano(!).

Happy Birthday to Frances! We had plenty of time this morning to pack up and get ourselves 20km to Zaandam to return the Vespa (they didn't open until noon). We even took the time to visit our favorite kitchen store, Dille & Kamille, where we'd seen some things we wanted but didn't want to carry round-trip. Deb discovered a back-roads route which included this cute ferry across the main Amsterdam channel.

We turned in the Vespa and called a taxi. The Moroccan driver was quick-witted enough to offer to take us to the airport for only 14 euros more than the train would have cost, so we quickly agreed. This left plenty of time before our flight for beer and peanuts. Once on the plane, we were told we'd take off 40 minutes late!

We were happy to be on the autostrada in our little Fiat Panda (for the first time ever we could rent it for 24-hours; previously, a three-day minimum) and stopped at the Autogrill for pasta for dinner. Once at the villa, we spent some time admiring the sunset. Then to sleep.

B and Deb
Cocktail Hour at the villa

Some general reflections: 1) We were very lucky to be able to arrange the Vespa rental in Zaandam. Such a rental is simply not offered anywhere under normal circumstances. 2) In our 35 days on the road we slept in 24 places [Marjorie shutters!], only two of them lacking anything we considered important. The most consistent failing: no wastebasket in the room. We long ago gave up expecting reading lights by the bed; the iPad provides its own illumination. 3) We really didn't cover a lot of ground: 1612km (Boston to Chicago) at an average speed of 35mph. 4) The difference between the quality of roads in the Netherlands (impeccable) and Belgium (mostly ill-laid concrete) was a surprise. 5) We'll miss Vespa touring in future years but we look forward to being in France on our own Vespa for the next few weeks. 6) For visitors such as we, the Netherlands provides an unbeatable bargain (not to speak of the convenience): admission to virtually all 400 museums country-wide for 59 euros.