Time to Ride!
Other than our cabins, we spent most of our time in the salon.
Today’s destination: Gouda. I’ve heard of the cheese…now I get to see where it comes from. It was supposed to be 28-30 miles riding today, but ended up being 33.5
We had a sort of continental breakfast and then got organized to ride.
It was a fun day. We started out by riding through the small town of Uithoorn.
We hadn’t ridden very far when Marcel detoured into a farmyard. I never quite got the explanation for why we stopped, but we did get to see some baby cows. We went up the stairs and into a room with a viewing window and could see inside the barn. There weren’t any cows in there at the time though. As we left the little dirt drive to get back on the bike path, one of our group tipped over as she was trying to get going. Later she said, “At least I didn’t fall in cow poo!”
As we rode along a bike path next to the Amstel River, we were excited to see the Anna Antal passing by on her way to Gouda.
We passed through small neighborhoods, by canals, a windmill, roads, paths, a kitchen sink. Toward the end there was a stop at a lake with a little beach. Some of the group went swimming.
We had two incidents of lost/far behind people where Marcel had to go back to look for them. Even so, we managed to play “follow the leader” pretty well. We all have bright yellow panniers on our bikes and I pictured us as little ducklings all following mama duck Marcel down the road.
We came to another drawbridge just as two boats were getting ready to pass through. It was self-operated and while the boaters were getting organized, we finished crossing just in time! They were very friendly and chatted with us as they waited for the bridge to go up.
As we rode along the narrow path -we could see a windmill. We ended up riding right up to it and taking a break so we could have a closer look.
Back on our bikes, we continued to twist and turn. It was somewhat unexpected to come around the curve and see sailboats coming down the canal we were by.
At breakfast Marcel promised us that we’d be stopping at a place where we could get apple pie. I think everyone was looking forward to that! Our stop was at a place that used to be an active farm, but the new owners are trying to create a small business with a cafe, garden, and art gallery.
The owner was very happy to see us stop and I loved her energy as she explained all of her plans for the property. We walked around the garden (a work in progress) behind the building in the picture. What caught my eye the most was the wine bottle art.
This art installation was in front of the cafe and next to the road:
We were invited into a room with a long wooden table that easily sat all 18 of us and were offered coffee/tea and apple pie. As you can see it doesn’t look like an American apple pie, but it was actually pretty good!
The next thing that caught our eye as we we rode past it was a big water tower. I felt like I wouldn’t be surprised if Rapunzel was leaning out one of the windows up high!
What seemed to be the perfect size for a bike trail was actually a very narrow road!
Our route was somewhat shaped by water; rivers, canals, ditches. Sometimes we rode in one direction, crossed a bridge and seemed to go back the way we’d come on the other side of the water we’d crossed.
We arrived alongside this river and I was surprised when Marcel said that this was the Rhine river.
The Rhine, or Rijn as it is called in the Netherlands, actually has it’s source in Switzerland and flows about 766 miles, mainly through Germany, before reaching it’s delta in the Netherlands. By the time it gets there it has been divided and split into many smaller channels.
I didn’t get the name of this city. I found the Dutch names and how to pronounce them quite mystifying. We were only passing through, but Marcel pulled over near a church where this concrete cheese monument was displayed. I confess to missing the exact story because I was taking the picture and couldn’t hear him speaking!
We finally made it to Gouda –a very pretty little town with a lovely plaza in the center.
There was a nice cheese shop/museum in the old weigh house.
There was an old city hall type building in the center of the square.
Marcel told us that at 5:00 the clock would chime and there would be a small show of mechanical puppets –almost like a big cuckoo clock. I was dutifully waiting, on time, with camera pointed at the front of the church…hearing the chimes and wondering where the animatronic display was…only to realize it was on the SIDE of the building.
While other members of the group were wandering around the square, Mike and I sat down and had a drink at an outdoor restaurant with a few others from our group. Then, we hopped on the bikes again and finished the last ½ mile to the barge.
Our pace all day never got much above 10 mph. The group’s experience ranged from hardly been on a bike in 20 years to regular bicyclists. Those who haven’t been riding much in recent years should be very proud of themselves because hopping on a bike the first day and going 30+ miles is really not that easy! Mike and I decided we liked the slower pace –more time to see things.
When the trip started, Marcel mentioned that if we had any food issues that we should let the chef know. I didn’t realize we’d be away from the barge nearly until supper so I didn’t get a chance to speak to Hans, our chef. I wasn’t that worried -it was really only the first day. What could go wrong? So, imagine my excitement to see tonight’s salad was a bed of lettuce with a piece of herring on a skewer! OK, I thought…I can skip the salad. Then the main course was brought to the table… salmon! How lucky can a girl get?
Later, after dinner, Marcel took us on a walk around town. We started at the windmill, which we could see from our dock. It had been part of the city walls at one time.
We walked down a very quiet street, which led to a garden at the back of the church (St. John’s).
In the small garden behind the church they have a statue of Erasmus. Erasmus is well-known in history as an independent scholar, thinker and writer; particularly on religious topics. No one seems to know exactly when he was born – other than some time in the late 1460’s. He was the illegitimate son of a priest. It is believed he was born in Rotterdam, but spent his childhood in Gouda. He was well educated for the time and he ended up studying to be a priest. He didn’t follow a typical priest’s path though. He was a contemporary of Martin Luther but remained neutral in the debates regarding the beginnings of Protestantism. He led such an interesting life it is hard to reduce it to a few sentences. Here is the Wickipedia link if there’s any interest in reading more about him: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desiderius_Erasmus
The churches are so hard to get in one picture – so I took “glimpses” of different aspects of the building.
We wandered past a cheese shop that Marcel hoped to stop at on our way out of town tomorrow.
He told us about Gouda (How-da as he called it) cheese. Someone did some research and found out that the earliest mention they could find of Gouda cheese was in 1184, making it one of the oldest cheeses still being made. There are 7 categories of Gouda cheese – ranging from “young” to “very old”. The taste of the cheese is influenced by how long it has been aged. While much of the modern Gouda cheese is made in factories now, there still is a tradition of “farmer’s cheese” – Gouda made by hand, the old fashioned way. It is often served in cubes with a side of Dutch mustard.
As the group circled back to the town square, Mike and I dropped out of the walk-about to see if we could get a snack for me at one of the restaurants since I really didn’t eat much at dinner. It was too late and they were closing, so no luck with that. The group had already moved on so we couldn’t rejoin them. We found our way back to the Anna Antal thinking that we’d probably meet up with the group there, but we actually beat them back to the barge.
It was late enough by then for everyone to begin preparing for the next day and getting ready to settle down for the night.