Sat March 1
Flying KLM was a fantastic experience. We had a great veggie meal option and an excellent in-flight entertainment, including the option of an interactive Berlitz foreign language mini-course. I started trying to learn Dutch, which proved to be quite difficult. I decided to review my Japanese instead, and then returned to the Dutch lessons and learned a bit of useful vocabulary.
The flight went smoothly, except for a rough patch of about 30 minutes. Aubrey and I were each fighting with two kids to go to sleep when the cabin lights were finally turned off (they were “not tired at all” as you can imagine). Then, we had to referee while they fidgeted trying to find a comfortable position, a near impossible task, as they inevitably kicked their brothers. You get the drift. Finally, they did settle down, and got around one hour of sleep before the lights turned on for breakfast. Otherwise they were well behaved. Our flight arrived a full hour early. I have never experienced that before on an airline. Overall, KLM kicked Air Canada’s butt in most categories.
Even though we were early, our dear cousin Amira met us at the airport with bags full of groceries to stock up our fridge for breakfast and lunch. We were lucky that Aubrey’s cousin (second cousin once removed) happens to live in Amsterdam for the past twelve years! All 8 of us squished into the back seat of her repurposed municipal vehicle – a green van with a flashing yellow light on top. She calls her bus Pualena (yellow flower).
Amira and her partner Karin run a school here where they teach about Hawaiian culture, including Lomilomi (Hawaiian body work), Hula, and Ho’oponopono (Hawaiian Forgiveness Process). They are considered experts on Hawaiian culture, not only in the Netherlands, but throughout Europe. They teach many types of courses and workshops here in Amsterdam and around the world.
We arrived at our apartment at 8:30am, a full two hours before they were expecting us. It was a cool but humid 5 degrees, which felt positively balmy when we first stepped out of the airport. We spent time walking around the Vondelpark while they were cleaning up our place. Around 9 o’clock, the park came alive with running, walking, and exercise groups. Apparently a full 90% of Amsterdam residents visit Vondelpark at least once a year. It almost made me get my spandex on, and join them in their laps of the park, but then I remembered that I had been up all night travelling on a plane, and of course the fact that… I don’t run.
Our boys were hyper, exceptionally so. I mean, it was like they were on speed. I don’t know if it was adrenaline, or just the stimulation of being in a new place in the fresh air, after being cooped up for so long, but for two full hours, they ran and jumped and climbed – all on an hour of sleep and didn’t show any signs of tiring whatsoever. I found myself trying to predict when they might crash so I could plan for it accordingly.
Amira travels a lot and gave us some good advice: Drinks lots of the local water, take no longer than a three hour nap in the afternoon, then get up, do something outside and then go to bed at a decent hour. I’ll let you know tomorrow how successful it was.
Our place wasn’t ready until after 11:30, so while Aubrey, Michelle and Amira were checking us in, I took the boys to a great little place called the Kinderkookkafe for hot chocolate (the name alone made me want to go in)– a place where kids can bake and decorate their own cookies, cupcakes, or make their own pizza. The menu was filled with Kid-friendly items, often in the shape of smiling faces, or animals. That activity would have to be postponed for another time, as we already had plans for lunch.
Amira had stocked our kitchen with lots of food. She said she was in the grocery store thinking about what boys would want to eat. She treated them to some traditional Dutch Treats: Pastachoca – milk chocolate spread, Pindakaas – peanut butter, De Ruijter Chocoladevlokken Melk (a type of chocolate shavings, that you sprinkle on bread) and of course, stroopwafels – a delicious dutch cookie that I swear, kept me alive and moving today. We had wonderful soft fresh bread, cheeses, babaganoush, hummus, fresh salad fixings, muesli, yogurt – truly a feast!
Then we took Amira’s advice and went for a three hour nap.
Amira and Karin came to our place at five, we visited and then ventured out for dinner. We took public transportation and were fascinated by the tram-only streets, with only pedestrian streets branching off at every block. A few of the flower market stalls were still open, where you can buy bulk flower bulbs.
We also took visited a cheese shop. Noam is our family cheese connoisseur, and after tasting a few cheeses, we settled on two to take home to the apartment. Dinner was delicious – at a Movenpick style restaurant called La Place. Delicious. I am already planning how to get a gallon of their outstanding tomato soup on our stop-over on our way home to smuggle back to Canada.
I have a very good feeling about this trip, so far. I have a feeling that every day is going to be even better than the last.
Next installment: Van Gogh Museum, Canal Tour…