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Chris & Carol Hockey flew into Schiphol for the long May bank holiday and took a taxi to our mooring nearby. We cruised that afternoon round the ringvaart to Hillegom. The weather changed with the Hockeys arrival. It stayed bright but with a biting cold strong northerly wind which caused us no end of problems on the exposed canal sections, driving us aground several times.
The next day we hired a taxi to take us to the Keukenhof gardens which were very spectacular and at their very best.
From the gardems there were lovely vistas of the bulb fields round about and we overdosed on bulbs, orchids and Japanese cherry blossom. The indoor displays ranged from stunning to Unbelievable!
We took hundreds of pictures and the difficulty here is selecting which ones I should put on the web site! The Hockeys camera batteries were exhausted as were we after several hours exposure to such floral displays.
The next day dawned sunny and the wind had dropped. We cruised back down the the ringvaart and across the Kaag lake to Lieden where we moored up near the centre of the town next to some hotel boats.
It was the Dutch Queens birthday weekend , the flags were out, as were the local populous, taking the sun in the canalside cafes and boating round the tiny canals. We wandered around this lovely old city and decided that the best way to explore it would be to do so in our dinghy next day. The next day the heavens opened so we abandoned Leiden and spent the day cruising down to Den Haag when the sun came out again.
A short tram ride into the city and Chris treated us all to a Thai meal that surpassed anything any of us had eaten in Thailand. The next day was spent in the Muuritshuis admiring Vermeer's Girl with the pearl earing and Rembrandt's rather gory work of doctors dissecting a corpse, then by tram to Delft to admire the porcelain and the prices!
The next day the Hockeys were due to fly home so the weather was at its best, a sunny 22 degrees and it has stayed like that ever since! We cruised round to Alphen, narrowly avoiding a collision with a large kamikazi trip boat, where we saw them onto a train back to Schiphol and home.
Our next stop was Gouda where we refilled our water tanks. You can moor right in the middle of the city at really pleasant moorings but we had visited the city before so we continued through the lock onto the River Ijssel. We knew Harmonie had been through here before but it was a tight squeeze with the lock gates just touching fore and aft.
A splendid cruise along this narrow meandering waterway, parting with the odd few euroles when the bridge man lowered his clog for the "geld", through fields of buttercups and weeping willows brought us to Montfoort, a quaint little town you might only find by boat.
Our route then took us down the Merwede canal to Gorinchem, out onto the fast flowing Waal, as the Dutch call the Rhine, and up the Andelse Maas to the River Maas proper and Heusden. Here we thought we might stop for lunch but could find no spaces. On our way out of the harbour onto the river another totally imbecile trip boat skipper came steaming round the corner on my starboard (wrong) side resulting in emergency astern manouvers by both of us to avoid a collision. At times like these it would be useful to speak a few obscene words of Dutch on the VHF but for the second time in a week, two professional skippers, licensed to carry hundreds of passengers, behaved like idiots and failed even to acknowledge their mistakes.
On then, slightly shaken but not stirred, up the river Maas to Cuik and a windy night on a busy lake, then to Leukermeer where we discovered De Lange Muir Chinese restaurant a short cycle ride away in Well which describes how we ate that night. They asked us if we would like to "Wok"? Never having "Wokked" before we decided to try it. You pick out the raw ingredients from a huge selection and give it to the chef who cooks it in front of you. We had spicy garlicky frogs legs, beef steak, pork and chicken satay to start then returned and selected, jumbo prawns, pork, bean sprouts, water chestnuts and leeks plus a load of other vegetables we didn't know the names of. They steamed everything for a few minutes then you selected one of nine sauces graded according to spicyness and the chef turned the gas up full belt under the wok and cooked your selection in the sauce for about 20 seconds, onto the plate, down the gullet, delicious, 27 euros for the whole meal plus 13 for the wine thank you very mutch. If you are ever in Well...
Onwards and upwards to Roermond and a good mooring on another windy lake but the sun continues to shine and we cycle into the Outlet Centre (we were here last year) where we bought Helly Hansen gear for very small amounts of euroles. The next day we returned to Bree in dear old Belgium.