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Gelderland, Netherlands

Gelderland is home to a few of our favourite places in The Netherlands. First there is the far eastern, capital city of Arnhem, which we’ve explored with our local friends. Then, there is Apeldoorn, home to one of our favourite zoos, Apenheul, affectionately known as ‘the monkey park.’ We also spent an emotional Liberation Day in Apeldoorn and Holton (in Overijssel) and we were blown away by the outpouring of emotion and heartfelt thanks to Canadians. We’d like to return to Gelderland and visit the palaces in the region as well as spend more time in the forests of the east.

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If you haven’t already done so, read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5 of our European Adventure.

Saturday (April 15th) was the day that Mom and Dad’s trip had been planned around – our visit the Keukenhof Gardens in Lisse.

In the tulip show house at Keukenhof

If you are a gardener or just a lover of flowers and plants, Keukenhof is not to be missed. The gardens are only open for a month each year, and although there are many different kinds of plants, the stars of the show are the Dutch tulips.

At Keukenhof, you will see tulips of every size, shape and colour – many of which you will never see anywhere else. It is truly amazing.

My mother is a garden goddess (who unfortunately did not pass enough of her skills along to her only child. While I love to photograph flowers, if it’s not in a pot it doesn’t do well at my house). We had planned for her to visit when Keukenhof would be at its peak – Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans.

The long cold March had delayed the blooming season by a few weeks. Although we visited Keukenhof during the middle of the month, the tulips were still just coming out.

Fortunately there is a large indoor aspect to the gardens as well. Inside the show houses things were exploding with colour and Mom was able to get at least some of the Keukenhof experience.

Me and my peeps at Keukenhof.

We spent the better part of the day there and finished up just as things were getting way too crowded. We did a quick drive through the bulb fields but again the cold had slowed things down. The riot of colour we had experienced the year before just wasn’t there.

For supper that night we headed back into Amsterdam for an Indonesian feast. Amsterdam is known for great Indonesian food from the Dutch East Indies. We hit up one of our favorite places for a Rijstafel (rice table). It’s basically a ton of small dishes of different foods so each person can sample a bit of everything. If you’re going to have a rijstafel, don’t eat for a few days prior.

With full bellies we walked towards the museum quarter where we did the other Amsterdam ‘must do’ – a canal tour. Yes, yes, Amsterdam residents are sick of the canal tour boats, I do understand, you listen to them all summer. However, if you only have a brief time in A’dam, it is the best way to see the city. Our tour was at dusk so we also got to enjoy the city lit up at night. It really does look magical.

The next morning we went to our other favorite place in the Netherlands – Apenheul, the monkey park. This was our second trip to the monkey park and things have changed a bit. There are a few new exhibits and the staff has become stricter about touching the monkeys (apparently they were getting a bit too tame which puts a really damper on release programs).

Most of the monkeys are in enclosed areas but the best thing about the park is that some of the monkeys basically have free run of the place. The little spider monkeys and the Lemurs are free to roam their areas and investigate visitors. At one point, while I was busy photographing a lemur family, I felt a tap on my back. Thinking it was Andrew, I looked up in time to see a Lemur use my shoulder as a springboard for the nearest tree.

“This sun is great! Dude, pass me a beer!”

This time, it wasn’t raining and the monkeys were out to enjoy the sun. Like the people of Europe, the lemurs were sick of the long cold March and were out to enjoy the sun.

We spent quite a while with the monkeys and then it was time to head home to Everberg. The driving portion of Euro Tour was over, but that wasn’t the end of the trip.

Tune in to my next posts to read about travels in Ireland and see more ‘lemurs’ enjoying the sun.

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Our last four days here have been some of the most interesting, fun and emotional times that we have ever had in this country. I was ‘hailed,’ adopted and bitten… but I’m getting ahead of myself …

Wednesday night, I was waiting for Andrew to drive home from Brussels. I was watching my usual line-up of English TV, sub-titled in Dutch (I don’t know what I’m going to do in Belgium…). The program was interrupted by a Dutch, live newscast. I didn’t change the channel right away because I recognized Dam Square and wondered what was going on. There was a huge crowd of people and then I realized that it was a Remembrance Day ceremony. The Queen and crown Prince (and I think one of the Princesses), dressed in black, marched from the palace, across the square, and laid a wreath at the memorial statue, at the other side of Dam square. There was total silence as this was happening, followed by two minuets of silence.

Things that struck me: A) there were thousands of people, unlike home where we get a smattering. In addition, these people really wanted to be there; they didn’t look like they felt they had to. B) there was total silence, you could hear a pin drop. C) You could see the emotion on the faces in the crowd, and the face of the Queen. Eventually someone started to cry; a gut wrenching, pain-filled cry; that was when it hit me, that as a twenty-something Canadian… I have no idea. I have no idea what it’s like not to have freedom. I have no idea what it’s like to lose all of my loved ones. I have no idea what it’s like to go hungry because I don’t know when I’ll ever see food again. I have no idea what it is like to live in fear… fear that I can’t walk down the street without being killed or arrested; fear that my family may not come home; fear that keeps me from speaking my beliefs out loud. Of course, I didn’t have all of these revelations right away. It took the rest of the events of the weekend to do that, but it started the ball rolling.

Thursday, Andrew worked from home. Because of the holiday, the shops were closed so we couldn’t have our usual shopping day. I was catching up on the news on Canoe and saw an article about Canadians participating in the Liberation Day celebrations and how this year was special because it was the 60th anniversary and would probably be the last milestone that the soldiers would be able to participate in. There were extra special celebrations planned.

School children had been assigned soldiers and they researched their lives and then the soldiers stayed with the children’s families while they were in town. There had been a service on Wednesday, at the Canadian war cemetery in Holten and children had placed daffodils on all of the graves. Planes flew overhead and dropped poppies. It sounded like a very special ceremony and I was sorry we had missed it. I thought it might be nice to go and visit the cemetery anyway so that was what we planned for the afternoon. We got directions to the cemetery from the internet, but they weren’t necessary.

Once we got to Holten, we were in for a surprise. Nearly every house, business, street corner and sign post was decorated. There were Canadian flags everywhere. Huge signs in red and white saying ‘Thank you Boys!’ were in every window. It was unbelievable. We followed the signs to the cemetery. It was in a wooded park and the sand road out to the site was totally lined up with cars. We found a spot to park and walked in. There were hundreds of people there and I’m sure over the weekend there were thousands; young and old; Dutch, English, French…

The cemetery itself was beautifully maintained. The graves were gleaming white and the grounds were full of flowers and shrubs. Each grave had a Canadian flag and poppy. Some had provincial flags as well and a few that had obviously been visited by family had laminated stories about the people who were buried there. There was even a bagpiper playing. We spent some time there and then drove through Holten looking at all of the displays. Each street had coordinated something different. Take a look at the photos because it was really something to see.

We had supper at an odd restaurant outside of Apeldoorn, called Bud’s. It looked like a touristy spot, with wooden shoes all over the place, but we were starving. The food was actually quite good. It was all chicken, cooked in different sauces (kind of a Dutch Swiss Chalet). The owner was very interested in how we liked the food and assured us that he had lots of English customers because they ‘cook the chicken well.’

Friday was a bit quieter. It was our 5th anniversary. I will fess up and say that I forgot and Drew remembered. (Thanks to those of you who also remembered) In my defense, I’m lucky I know what day of the week it is, let alone the date. Anyway, Andrew worked until 2 and then we had some errands to run. We went to Praxis for kitty supplies and I bought 2 more orchids (on sale for 5.99). We then went to a little Asian grocery and picked up a couple of things. Andrew had to go home for a conference call so he dropped me off in Dam square. I was almost out of reading material so I hit Waterstones and the American book Centre. I got some paperbacks, magazines and a couple of cookbooks. I also went to an organic shop and found my favorite shampoo, so I was a happy girl. I met Drew at Los Pilones for supper and mango daiquiris. A better anniversary supper, I can not think of.

Saturday we took a walk into the city. We went to the World Press Photo exhibit at the Oude Kerk (old church). It was very good. Again, however, I was struck by the images of war. Of course, there were categories other than news; there were arts and entertainment and sports pictures as well. There were also some very striking portraits. The show is traveling (I’m not sure if it’s going to Canada at all, but there is a website,  and I encourage my fellow photogs to check it out.)

After that we went to my favorite Asian market. It’s a crazy store that has everything Asian you could think of, from sushi stuff to Chinese veggies, to Thai curry mixes. I LOVE this place. I could spend hours there looking at everything. Downstairs they have anything you could possibly want to outfit your Asian restaurant; from dishes and utensils to HUGE rice cookers. Upstairs is everything decorative. Need a Giant Buddha or lucky cat… This is your place. I stocked up on fun things to cook and then we were off. We had some yummy pizza from our spot next door and watched Brigit Jones 2.

Sunday was actually the day that ‘I was ‘hailed,’ adopted and bitten.’ We got up early and headed back to Apeldoorn to go to Apenheul, the monkey zoo. This is a wonderful zoo. It is actually a rescue facility that takes in monkeys that are confiscated from circuses and private owners. They get the monkeys that people try to illegally import into the country. It is open air, no fences and many of the smaller monkeys have the run of the place. You get ‘monkey proof bags,’ to put your belongings in because they are nosy and quick.

The first monkeys we saw were the squirrel monkeys. They are small and yellow and have the cutest faces. There were dozens of them. They are all through the trees and will come right up to you and look in your pockets. This is where the biting comes in… one overzealous little bugger thought my thumb would make a good snack. I had visions of the movie ‘Outbreak’ but I seem to be fine today. Actually he just broke the skin and it reminded me of getting bitten by my hamster when I was a kid.

We saw lemurs and gorillas and orangutans. We spent the morning with the monkeys and could have really spent longer. There were tones of babies which was really neat. I hope I got some good pictures. We left at 1 because we wanted to get to the parade in the city.

We followed the crowds to the parade site. It was unusually cold and it was intermittently raining. The weather didn’t keep people in though. There were thousands lining the streets. Again, they were all ages. There were Canadian flags lining the parade route and a lot of people had their own small flag. We saw the Queen’s sister, Princess Margriet, and Princess Maxima, who is Argentinean and married the Queen’s son, drive by. We waited in the rain for the parade to begin. A nice Dutch man took pity on soggy me and loaned me his extra umbrella. He also explained who the people who drove by were.

When the parade started people were cheering and clapping for the Vets. Lots of people in the crowd were shaking the vets’ hands and thanking them. It rained, it hailed, the weather was terrible but people kept on clapping and cheering.

While I was taking pictures and trying to keep my camera as dry as possible, Andrew struck up a conversation with an elderly couple. Eventually, nearing the end of the parade, they invited us to their home for tea. What an experience. We were cold and wet and tired, they had no idea who we even were. But they opened their home to two soggy Canadians and we came even closer to understanding what true gratitude is.

Ton and Fennie van der Veld are in their eighties. They have two daughters and two sons and some grandkids as well. They live in a beautiful condo in Apeldoorn that they have been in for a year and a half. They have lived all over the country. They have traveled all over Europe, and they both lived through WWII. Fennie was a teenager and remembers hiding underground for several weeks, when a neighbor came running in saying ‘We are free, the Canadians are here.’ She said all the farmers took their milk to the pasteurizing plant and they offered milk to the soldiers. That was the first time anyone had fresh milk in a long time.

Ton was arrested by the Germans and put to work in Hamburg for 2 years. He lived though the fire-bombing of the city. He says, a lot of Dutch people hate the Germans, but he doesn’t because it was Dutch people who arrested him. He has even written a book about his life up to 1945. We spent a few hours with these incredibly kind people, drank tea, ate cookies and talked. We took their address and they ours and we left with an understanding of why Canada is so celebrated here.

When I think about Remembrance Day at home, and how little we do for our vets, it makes me sad. I wish, as a child in school, someone made me research the life of one soldier, or told me the story of one person who survived the war. It is the individual stories that make it real. It brings home the importance of our Peace-keepers. I wish every young Canadian soldier could see the gratitude on the faces of the people here. It also drives home the senseless destruction of war. The pain and suffering that we case in the name of God, or money. It was a weekend I will never forget and I hope it will always make me remember…

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