What a shame, having to leave our nice, comfy room in our nice, friendly hotel, but…needs must. After checking out, the lady at reception met us at the bike shed, to gather our steeds. When she met us there, it seemed she and Steve were still sharing a chuckle at his attempts to say “goodmorning” in Dutch. Steve has been having trouble mastering the Dutch, guttural /h/ sound, the one that comes from the back of the throat, a bit like a gargle. Try as he might, he just struggles to get it. As we stood at the bike shed, he tried again to gurgle and gargle the Dutch “goodmorning” “Goedemorgen” with the “g’s” as the /h/ sound. The lady was so nice and so patient and helpful, as she helped us practise.
“Just think of spitting,” she laughed. “It’s that first sound you make before you spit,” and then she demonstrated spitting on the ground, with the hhhhhaaarrrk…ppt sound and gesture! (Without actually spitting of course – she was too nice for that!). We all had a laugh and then she let us practise our Dutch with a few different phrases, while she gave corrections or encouragement for our efforts. We learnt some more language and had a laugh along the way, thanks to that lovely lady.
We hopped on the bikes and pedalled off into the cool, grey morning. We called in to the supermarket to gather elevenses for the road and I went in to navigate the aisles and the checkout. The girl at the checkout spoke Dutch to me and I managed to understand enough to be able to answer her. Then, she said something else in Dutch, so she must have thought my first attempt meant I could understand her, which obviously I couldn’t! I apologised and she said, “You speak English?”
“Yes,” I said. She then repeated herself in English and we understood each other perfectly and I was able to hand over the correct amount for our supplies. I am so impressed with the multilingual people we meet and constantly embarrassed at our monolingual limitations. I will learn another language!
The ride was again, simply delightful. The scenery was beautiful, the houses and villages were gorgeous and I uttered many times, “Beautiful” and “It’s just lovely” as we pedalled along. The only down side was the darn wind, which blew something fierce and of course, it was a full on head wind.
We were again following the cycle network, with the numbers we needed written down in order, so we just followed the numbers and the directions at different junctions in the network. We rode back into Schoonhoven, where we caught the ferry for the short hop across the river, then set off again.
We hit our first hurdle on the other side of the river. Road works. We’ve come across quite a few road works, with diversion signs for cyclists, but of course we can’t read the signs, so we aren’t always too sure where to go or what to do. We tried one way this morning, only to hit a barrier, so turned around and then had to rely on “Dodgy Dave” again, to get us on track, until we could rejoin our original network route. We still had paths off the road, which was good, but that wind was starting to get to us. We stopped to check directions and make a move to rejoin the original path.
“I’m over this wind,” I commented to Steve.
“Me too,” he said.
The scenery is so beautiful, we want to enjoy it and it’s so much harder to enjoy things when we’re battling a gale in our face. It was starting to take some gloss off the day and we really didn’t want that to happen in this beautiful country.
We made it back onto our original route and resumed following our numbers along the network. We passed more charming cottages, open farmland, windmills and the beautiful, wide expanse of green. We are really liking Holland, it’s just beautiful. As we rode along, we had many people pass us on bikes and wave or smile or say hello. I rode along with a grin on my face again, thanks to those lovely friendly people.
As we rode along a river, we felt the first spots of rain hit our heads. We stopped for elevenses, put on our coats and prepared ourselves for the wet. The place we chose to sit, was simply gorgeous, beside a river, with bullrushes and a small boat, lily pads and lovely houses resting right on the river’s edge.
“I’m really liking Holland,” Steve said again.
“Me too,” I agreed, “it’s beautiful and the people are so friendly. It’s all lovely.”
As we sat, the rain started to make its presence felt a little more strongly, so we hopped on the bikes and pedalled off, trying to make up some ground before things got too soggy.
We had planned to ride to Tiel, but it soon became clear we weren’t going to make it that far today. As we rode on, the elements began to conspire against us. The temperature dropped, the rain got heavier and was blowing into us horizontally in the strong wind. The riding conditions were becoming less and less pleasant. We were about 12km from Gorinchem, so we decided to pedal on and stop there, seek shelter and make a decision about riding or stopping.
We still passed some lovely scenery, it was just getting harder to see it, with heads bowed against the rain and wind and a hood up. I thought I nearly had lift off at one point, because with my hood up and the wind blowing into it, it was like wearing a wind sock that kept filling up! Forget Mary Poppins and her umbrella, I nearly managed to take flight with a wind filled hood. Air traffic control would have seen a strange blip on their radar and wouldn’t have known it was just a low flying Ira with me attached!
We rode into Gorinchem, with the rain and wind still partying hard at our expense, so we went in search of a cafe to seek shelter. After some walking around in the rain, looking for a suitable place that could take us, and with a spot outside where we could watch the bikes, we finally settled on a nice looking place and took our wet and bedraggled selves into its warm and dry interior.
We were greeted by a waitress with a beaming smile, who told us to take a seat wherever we liked, so we nabbed the spot we had seen, near a window beside the bikes and underneath one of their overhead heaters. Yes, they had the overhead heaters on and I’d seen a cafe across the road with a fire going, so it was actually quite chilly! We sat ourselves down and a waitress came to ask if we wanted drinks. We began to apologise for not understanding what she said, when she said, “You speak English?” and we said we did, so she quickly switched to English, with a beaming smile and took our order for drinks. When my tea arrived, it was perfect! Leaves!… in an infuser!… on the side, so I could dunk it myself to my own desired strength! That’s the way to do tea!
A different waitress arrived and asked if we wanted to see the menu, to which we said we did. She apologised, saying, “I’m sorry, I don’t know if you’ll be able to understand it, it’s in Dutch.”
“That’s alright,” I said, “it will be good practise for us.”
She laughed, “Well, that’s true, but I’m happy to translate anything for you.”
We thanked her and then began scrutinising the menu and trying to decipher it. We could understand some words, but I couldn’t see anything that didn’t include meat or dairy or eggs in some combination or other. The waitress returned and began to hover. I looked at her and said, “Help!”
She grinned, “Yes, I help.”
I asked if it was possible to have one of the sandwiches, with no meat or cheese and just have salad.
“Of course, of course,” she said.
“No meat, or cheese or butter,” I said again, “just salad.”
“Yes,” she said, “no cheese, no chicken, no ham.”
“Thank you very much,” I said, “just plants.”
She laughed. “Yes, just salad, no problem.”
“Thank you very much,” I said again.
“You’re welcome!” she beamed. She was so nice!
Steve ordered a burger, which she was happy about, “Oh, that’s a good one, a big one, but a good one!”
When she arrived with our food, she said, “I put a bit of dressing there for you, but put it on the side, so you can decide if you want it or not.” How thoughtful.
I said “thank you” in Dutch, “dankjewel” and she gave me a smile and a wink at my efforts with the language, “You’re welcome,” she replied. My sandwich was another moment of learning. It was on a delicious brown and crusty roll, but it was filled with salad leaves. That’s it. Just leaves. So my understanding of a salad sandwich, being a few different salad ingredients like onion, tomato and so on, was clearly not what salad means here. Salad was just that, leaves. It was still a really nice sandwich, because simple food is fine with me and I had been given exactly what I asked for, it just wasn’t what I thought I’d asked for. It was good learning and a reminder to be more specific in future. These are the things I love, you can’t learn these things from a book, the learning happens with every new experience, on the fly. The best sort of learning – full immersion learning! I’ll now know next time, what I need to do.
We ate lunch and watched the rain come down, so researched some accommodation options and decided to pull the pin early on the day’s ride. We found a place nearby, which was part of a hotel chain that we always try and avoid, because the places always look a bit dodgy, but necessity won the day today, so we booked a room. We gathered up our things, slipped back into our wet coats and prepared to venture out into the wet again. When Steve went to pay, he returned with a smile on his face and, it turned out, some more learning under his belt. A different girl had served him when paying and when she said “good day” – “goede dag”, Steve tried to repeat it to her, but it meant articulating those tricky “spitting” /h’s/ again! He started, then stopped and just said, “I can’t say it!” Well, that nice girl then set about helping him practise and told him some phrases to get by on, and even gave him an alternative word for “goodbye” that avoided the /h/, which Steve was most pleased about. That little cafe was absolutely wonderful, the waiting staff were delightful, friendly, helpful, patient and accommodating of our limitations and encouraging with our bumbling efforts at communication. It was the nicest way to sit out some rain for a while.
We rode on, with the rain still there, but not quite as heavy as it had been and soon arrived at our chosen hotel. I waited outside with the bikes and Steve went to check in. He tried again to use some Dutch, had a bit of trouble and then said to the girl at reception, “I’m trying!”
“That’s kind,” she replied with a smile.
That’s why we try so hard to speak the language of whatever country we’re in, we try and do it as a gesture of courtesy, to try and communicate in the people’s language. It’s usually appreciated, as this girl showed, it’s just a shame we tend to butcher the languages so badly! We do try though! If nothing else, it gives the locals a good natured chuckle at our attempts!
The hotel gave us a nice spot inside for the bikes and we settled into our room, got out of our soaking gear and had a warming cuppa. As we sat, we replayed some of the experiences of the day and started laughing again as Steve kept trying to master the /h/! All he needed was some mouth wash and he’d have been gargling perfectly! He just can’t seem to attach the rest of the word to that sound, he just gargles and gurgles! We had yet another good laugh for the day, as I repeated words slowly, then he practised them bit by bit, then we’d crack up laughing again at our efforts. We’re learning all the time…with some laughing accompanying that learning! We did learn things today – some language and some menu ordering techniques and it was all good fun!
We only rode 36km, but it was tough going again with the elements. It wasn’t much fun being windblown and soaking wet and cold, but everything else was most definitely super fun! We were blessed again with lovely, friendly, helpful people who were so kind. We also had that beautiful scenery again, we just needed the conditions to be a little better, for enjoying it. We didn’t make it as far as Tiel, so we’ll keep heading in that direction tomorrow. Our unfortunate superpowers of turning all weather wild and woolly, might have kicked in again today, but nevertheless we are loving Holland and it’s giving us some wonderful and memorable experiences. Once again, the people we meet often become the highlight of the day, but couple this with some beautiful scenery, villages and towns and we are again being presented with fantastic days! Today was another one of those days. Day after day, we’re having fun, we’re loving it, we’re learning and we’re having a laugh too. Fun…love…learn…laugh. A recipe for life!