Monday we made a short visit to Amsterdam. We hadn’t been able to plan much in advance (the lack of good internet where we're staying is quite inconvenient), so we mostly walked around downtown. We did walk past the Anne Frank House, but didn’t feel like standing in line for an hour or more in the rain just to get in.
Ironically, if I was recommending places to visit in the Netherlands, Amsterdam would not be one of my top sights. Sure, it's historic and has many famous attractions, but it's also overrun with tourists. At the same time, smaller cities like Utrecht, Haarlem, Gouda and Leiden are equally beautiful and filled with real Dutch people! No t-shirt shops or busloads of camera toting tourists. I think that our time outside Amsterdam has given us a much better understanding of the real Holland, and how people actually live today.
On Tuesday, we went to see a "miniature village" in The Hague called Madurodam. It shows most of the famous buildings in Holland, and as such, provides a good overview to visitors. We all enjoyed it more than expected and stayed abut 3 hours. Afterwards, we went downtown to the Maurtishaus Museum so Ursula could see Vermeer's famous "Girl with a Pearl Earring" painting. Interestingly enough, the kids and I liked the museum for another reason - it's small and can be viewed comfortably in an hour. (On a serious note, this is an important consideration. The Louvre in Paris or Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam are huge, and can overwhelm kids - and adults.)
On Wednesday, we got up at 6 am to drive to Aalsmeer (a suburb of Amsterdam) to visit FloraHolland - the world's largest flower auction house, which is also the world's larges building (as measured in area under one roof). Numbers don't really do this place justice - more than 60% of the world's fresh flowers are sold here. The colours and smells are wonderful, and the level of activity we could see from a catwalk above was really amazing.
After lunch back on the farm, we returned to Delft to sightsee and find a good cafe with internet access. For dinner we went to an Indonesian buffet in Zoetermeer. The kids loved the authentic rijstafel food, as well as the inauthentic chocolate fountain for dessert! For evening coffee, we returned to the van Leeuwen farm for one more visit before we leave on Friday.
On Thursday, Molly and Ursula wanted to have a quiet day, so George and I drove to the coast (20 km) for a final walk on the sand. The weather was drizzly, but nice for a walk if you have a good raincoat. When it started raining harder, George and I found a beach cafe and had a nice lunch. The girls didn't know what they were missing!
Overall, the week has been really nice. For me, it's like revisiting a movie I saw long ago. However, knowing I may not see some of the older people again is difficult to deal with.