|London Liverpool Street Station|
Within about 40 minutes we were walking up the gangplanks to the huge ferry that was to take us to the Hook of Holland. It was massive, Kyle actually saw it on a show about super boats because apparently it's one of the world's largest ferries of its type, a little more like a cruise ship that just happens to carry a lot of containers.
|Jack's first glimpse of the Hollandica|
|Jack on a gangplank...are they still called that when they are massive and air conditioned? Letting him ride his bike was a good idea as it made the hike a lot quicker.|
After the Curious George experience Jack was getting a little tired and Kyle and I were almost comatose, so we skipped the rest of the tour and headed to our room, which turned out to be a very comfortable cabin at the front and centre of the boat. It had two bunks with of crisp white bedding, a T.V. showing obscure subtitled movies and the world's hottest shower in a gleaming chrome filled bathroom. Overall we were pretty impressed as it cost us 51 pounds for the cabin, a required booking when travelling on the night ferry and a very good deal.
As soon as we set off I felt a little deceived by the advise we'd received about the ferry being too big to feel waves...it certainly wasn't! About halfway through what turned out to be a somewhat restless night I got up for a bathroom break and realized it was actually far worse when standing and jumped back in bed quickly, I don't think it was actually that bad, I might just be a wimp.
Our first glimpses of Holland came to us in the morning, an overcast, grey day with an industrial skyline of windmills and billowing chimneys, huge ships with masses of cargo and us, feeling very foreign. We left the ship, went through immigration, I walked outside with Jack and a few suitcases, and almost immediately a traditional omafiets shot across the empty parking lot.
It was about then that I really realized we had arrived in a foreign country and whilst the natives speak wonderfully clear English, the signs are all in Dutch. Getting a phrase book before departure would have been the normal thing to do, but Kyle and I love making things more difficult for ourselves...plus if we had a phrase book neither of us would know where it was.
|Double story trains, sleek and fast. They are to Amtrak what e-mail is to snail mail.|
We took a fast train (with tons of room for bikes) into Rotterdam where we changed trains and curved northwards to Hoofddorp, which is what can only be described as a cookie cutter town that could be anywhere in the world if you ignored the presence of bikes- everywhere! I realize now that I have greatly under-appreciated the importance of infrastructure in regards to bicycles. The Dutch cycle for the same reason the British and the Americans drive cars- it's easy. It's not so much the elevation- because let's face it many areas of other countries are flat but people still don't cycle everywhere. It's the design, the order, the ease of use that makes the Netherlands so easy to cycle, and it's not something that happened over night, the Dutch made a decision to have this lifestyle, and if they can incorporate it into a narrowly built city like Amsterdam, then there is no reason any Brit/Amer. town can't build it in too. It is really a thing of beauty to see empty-ish roads and bustling streets of pedestrians and cyclists, to see mums cycling past with 2 kids and groceries whilst chatting on a cell phone is a thing of awe!
|Oh to look that rested on a few hours sleep!|
We spent the next week in Hoofddorp, co-housing with another family with a 3 year old, so Jack has been having a great time and making up for the time spent without playdates. Just yesterday we moved to a temporary apartment, where we will stay for about 7 weeks, looking for work and trying to settle in. We're about 30 minutes by train to Amsterdam Centraal, in a town that I have literally only viewed through a plate glass window. I see bike lanes and a bus stop directly below, people busy on their way to work and school, cycling through the snow and wind.
Our apartment is basically perfect, it came furnished with everything from towels and linens, dishes and pans, a guitar and bicycles! To top it off, were getting an amazing deal on rent, it's centrally located and has a fancy glass lift that makes Jack happy. It's inside a renovated church which makes it pretty cool too, I will get a picture later, but until then you can view one here.
We've made a few trips to Amsterdam so far, and have taken a few photos which I will post in the next few days. It is great here, but I do miss my family and find the business of job hunting with only one language quite intimidating in a country where most people speak at least 2 languages and many 3 or 4.
The sun has just blasted though the snow, I have to do an exploratory trip around town and run out some of Jack's energy.
Thanks for reading!