Posted in Life, sewing, Travel

Belgium – Holland 2014

Now that I’ve got some of the sewing related stuff out. Here’s a final post on how the rest of the trip went.

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Before we started the bike and barge portion, we spent a day on a bike tour in Brussels. I’ve done bicycle tours in Minneapolis, Montreal and Shanghai. They really are a great way to cover a ton of ground and get an overview of the city.

Royal Palace in Brussels
Royal Palace in Brussels

The Royal Palace was open for about three weeks for tours for the year. But, we could not seem to get organized around things shutting down around 4 p.m. Thus, I missed my chance to tour the palace. A theme which continued on in the Netherlands.

The Liege waffle might be the best thing I’ve ever eaten.

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I’ll also just tell you now. We had a lot of frites. I’m not that in to chocolate. I don’t think we even bought any on this trip. But, I ate waffles and fries like they were being discontinued. They say the Liege waffle has sugar in the middle. I decided it’s not sugar. It’s crack inside of them. They were that additive.

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After a day in Brussels, we headed to Bruges. It’s SO BEAUTIFUL. All I really knew about Bruges was from the movie, In Bruges. Guess what? There’s a Bernina store there! If you think the prices are high for Berninas here, the feet there would cost me 30 percent more because of the exchange rate. Ouch.

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Right-o. The bike trip began in Bruges. Our barge would sail during the day while we biked and we’d get back on board in the evening. The crew was great and the food was awesome.

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The biking was fun! I wasn’t at all prepared for it training wise, but you didn’t really need to be. That said, it was a lot harder for me now than three years ago. Jordan on the other hand thought it was easy peasy.

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We  saw castles and windmills and ate lots of cheese.

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We also visited a working dairy farm and bought more cheese than a cardiologist would approve of.

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I gasped in this room. We brought back three Gouda cheeses. We have 1.5 left…

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When we got on board our guide immediately knew our names. I asked how he knew it was us. And he said, ‘Easy. You’re the youngest people on the tour.’ Isn’t that awesome? The next person in age to me was 20 years older and they rode hard. Do you see why I can’t moan about being out of shape?? This guy below is from Australia. He’s 75. Jordan is the same age as his oldest grandson. And, he kicked our butts going up hills. He’s got the legs of a 35 year old. He’s in a bike club in Australia and has two hip replacements.. He was awesome. I tried to hook him up with Jordan’s grandmother but I suspect the distance between Melbourne and Maryland is too far.

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Along the tour we stopped in Utrecht and Antwerp before getting in to Amsterdam. Once the bike and barge portion ended in Amsterdam, we rented a flat for a few days in the Jordaan neighborhood. I got a total kick out of the name. Jordan didn’t think it was as funny as I did. I never did find him a tee shirt that said Jordaan…

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Our first day in Amsterdam we took a really fun food tour of Jordaan, the neighborhood we were staying in. We sampled all kinds of Dutch specialties including herring, Surinamese food, Dutch food (bitterballen), licorice, and Dutch apple pie.

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Sunday we hit the Van Gogh Museum and the Jewish Quarter. In the Jewish Quarter we stopped by the Portuguese Synagogue and the Jewish History Museum. We didn’t have enough time for my favorite museum, the Dutch Resistance Museum.

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Sunday night we saw an English language improv show with all American actors at Boom Chicago. Isn’t that amazing? American comedy in Amsterdam. And, the place was full!

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When you walk around Amsterdam, you can see in almost everyone’s window.

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Imagine how tickled I was when I saw a dress form on a canal house boat and a woman working away on her sewing machine!

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And of course, I still can’t get over ALL THE BICYCLES.IMGP1223

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It was a tremendous vacation. We chose our honeymoon in the middle of what I can only describe as the most surreal time of my life. Traveling, especially in Europe, reminds me of my mom in all the best ways. She always took us on trips and suggested places to go. Traveling was really her passion. This trip felt like closing the chapter on an emotionally complicated period and opening a door to the next phase.  The last year I’ve literally felt like the walking wounded. I didn’t realize  just how much was weighing on me.  I knew I was sad. I didn’t know I was crippled. I am honestly starting to feel like me again.

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44 thoughts on “Belgium – Holland 2014

  1. I feel like a bit of a schmuck asking this because of your eloquent and very honest last paragraph – I’ve lost both of my parents and I can only say; you are never prepared for how the loss impacts you. Before losing them I thought natural life process and very sad; however, it is so much deeper than that and doesn’t feel like a natural part of life at all.
    Your trip; beyond envious for many reasons. Did you use a travel agent for all the amazing tours and bookings for the flats/hotels? Traveling to Europe next year (1st time abroad) and would like to know how to manage and arrange all that you did. You make your trip sound so seamless. Thanks for any help and/or tips (we are going to Italy, France and hopefully Greece over three weeks).

    1. Not a schmuck at all, lol! Totally and completely unprepared. A friend lost both her parents within three days of each other. One to pancreatic cancer and the other to a massive heart attack shortly after. She was devastated and I couldn’t even fathom what she was going through. I felt like a train ran over me. And continued to back up and do it daily for months. I also can’t grasp how this is just something that happens. It’s so unnatural that it’s like you’re not living your life. I felt it a great accomplishment when I could at least say my mother had passed away or have people ask how I’m doing without crying. And even that is just 50-50.

      We didn’t use a travel agent. I’d been on a cruise with this company before. And, I admit to using Air B and B to book our flat. But, Marta gave me suggestions on neighborhoods to look for in Amsterdam. I used a travel agent years ago for Australia and New Zealand and honestly, it was the best idea. I don’t find it fun to dither around and pick places to stay, etc. Plus, they got us some really good rates that weren’t available to us at the time. I highly suggest TripAdvisor.com. I got the best suggestions from them on restaurants and hotels in Italy (like ten years ago) and Trena uses them all the time now.

      1. i know everyone says it – but it gets easier. My dad died about 12 years ago, but it took about five years before I could just have a conversation about it. Take time and don’t feel like you have to be better because other people have moved on. I’m glad this helped you, and even on its own, it looks like an amazing trip.

        1. Wonderful support from everyone 🙂 My mom moved on twenty years ago. It is devastating. Glad that the clouds have begun to part. Your mom would want you to enjoy life and feel good again.

    2. I’m a tool. I had comments going to the wrong account. We used Air B and B for Amsterdam and stayed with a sewing blogger in Belgium. For the trip itself, we booked directly. But, I’ve been told if you book Cycletours through a travel agent, there is a discount. Sorry for the months late reply!

      On Thu, Sep 11, 2014 at 8:43 AM, Miss Celie's Pants wrote:

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  2. Isn’t grief a strange thing? It is an incredible burden, and I am so glad that it is lifting for you. Your mother would be pleased. This sounds like the best vacation! A terrific way to start a marriage!

  3. Beautiful! I admit to some distinct pangs of jealousy though… I love love the idea of bike tours.. but to say my hubby has no interest would be an understatement. So glad your trip was happy and healing.

  4. I’m glad the trip was somewhat cathartic for you. I know we’ve talked about losing parents, and I keep thinking of you and wondering how you’re doing. It looks like a beautiful time. Our next door neighbor (in the basement) took a job in Amsterdam almost 2 years ago and loved it so much she bought a flat there. I don’t think she’s coming back. 🙂

    And thanks for all the food pics – I think I gained a couple of pounds just from looking at the pictures. 🙂 Looks like a fantastic honeymoon.

  5. Thanks once more for these photos. My husband and I are hooked on European river cruises (although no biking, which I would love to do). We’re getting ready for another–Amsterdam to Basel in a couple of weeks. I’m always looking for sewing-related stuff too; glad I’m not the only one!

    1. I just talked to my dad this morning about maybe doing on over Christmas together (2015). He wouldn’t be into the biking. On this trip other people talked about European river cruises. I didn’t even know they were a thing!

    1. I didn’t know that I did. And, I also learned it’s pronounced ‘HOW-dah’. And Gouda and Edam refer to the size. Not the kind of cheese. Anywhoo, it was all delicious.

  6. I love hearing your stories and seeing a little bit of Europe through your eyes. I actually thought of your mom while I was reading your honeymoon posts, thinking about how much she might have loved hearing about your trip and seeing your photos. In any case, I am glad that you are on the next step of the healing journey, but give yourself kindness and time.

  7. Thank you for the great photos–reminds me of the time my brother and I went to Amsterdam and the wonderful exciting experience we had! May God bless you as you start the next chapter…
    For me you, Celie, are a total treat!

  8. What a wonderful trip. I felt like I was there with you. That cheese room was AWESOME! And super, duper cool to see the woman sewing. 😀

    I’m sorry for your loss. While no one ever has the same experience, the feelings we experience are nonetheless the same. I understand the process of healing from deep emotions and sadness. It’s taken me years to process some of what I’ve been through. Be gentle with yourself. It’s ok to be right where you are. The feelings of loss and sadness are more debilitating than we know until we begin to see the other side. I’m glad this trip helped you find lovely soul self again. You’re a pretty amazing human, you know?

  9. I’m glad to hear that you’re feeling a little better. Grief can really affect you in ways that you don’t realize until much, much later. But I’m so glad you are feeling some healing now.

    Can we all just agree that having a sewing machine on a houseboat is basically the peak of living? I fell in love with the idea of a houseboat when I went to Paris a few years ago, and we saw them again in Stockholm and I was ready to renounce my U.S. citizenship to stow away on one! But I’d never even DREAMED it was possible to have a sewing machine on one! Wow!

  10. Your trip really seems wonderful! The getting away is important for the healing process. My dad died suddenly of a heart attack last year, just before your mom passed & I’ve still got that run-over-by-a-train feeling. I feel like I need some time away & by myself too, but there’s no chance of that happening, with the rest of my life where it is. Not that I’m complaining about that, mind you. I’m finally getting interested in picking up my knitting & a bit of sewing again, so maybe that’s my way of starting to come back to life.

  11. What a terrific post. For starters, I LOVE the Netherlands and Belgium. I LOVE food posts. I LOVE travel posts and it seems like you truly had the most wonderful time. But how wonderful, also, that you were able to find closure on this trip and (perhaps) to connect with grief and memories in a new way. That’s a wonderful tribute to your mother.

  12. I lost my mom 8 years ago. It was brutal, but it has gotten better. There are still days, though, that are pretty rough. I have also suffered miscarriages, and the death of a dream is the same. Just as I assumed I would grow old with my children, I assumed my mom would grow old with me. Seeing people my age (I’m 44) with their moms occasionally brings me to tears. I hope this makes some sense. It hasn’t really gotten easier, just different. I know it will for you too. You are strong, and many people care for you.

    Amy in SC

    1. This. Seriously. I just figured she’d be around for another 20 years no problem. It never crossed my mind I’d spend most of my adult life without her. I totally get weepy (even now typing) when I see people my age doing things with their mom. I can’t even imagine if I have children how I’m going to feel (my mom harped the heck out of me about being a grandmother some day). Thank you, Amy. I always feel a little better knowing I’m not crazy or taking too long to handle things.

      On Thu, Sep 11, 2014 at 12:33 PM, Miss Celie's Pants wrote:

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  13. Your photo reminds me of a cheese farm we visited near Haastrecht a couple of years ago. The FLAVOUR of that wonderful cheese, in all its herbed varieties…well, there’s gotta be Gouda in heaven. Nothing like it. Glad you had a wonderful and healing time. Dawn

  14. Oh, Miss Celie, honey, thank you so much for sharing your honeymoon with us! My only question for you is this: Did you try any of the many, many varieties of licorice that are so beloved by the Dutch, or only the “normal” kind that most U.S. citizens know? My own dear husband brought back a bag of salt-flavored licorice from the Frankfort, Ger. airport. We used it for horrible, horrible practical jokes on my middle-school-aged daughter and her friends. He said he even saw a fish-flavored licorice one, but could not bring himself to pay actual money for it.

    1. That was kind of the worst! I tried a very mild one and wasn’t feeling it. So, when they sampled the saltier one, I just passed. Jordan tasted it, turned to me and said, ‘don’t try this. you are going to hate it.’ You are so mean! LOL

      On Thu, Sep 11, 2014 at 1:26 PM, Miss Celie's Pants wrote:

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        1. Dear Husband corrected me: he bought the licorice in Amsterdam. And I realize that there are all sorts of confections for all sorts of palates, but you can always have my share of the salty licorice, K-Line! It did produce hilarious results in the unsuspecting children onto whom we foisted the candy. They thought they were getting chocolate when they stuck their greedy hands into the bag and shoved multiple pieces into their mouths. Makes your saliva turn really purply-black when you spit it out, ha ha.

  15. Thank you for a wonderful post. It gives me a glimmer of what my mum felt when my grandma died. She was 93, but as you’ve just told us, its never something you’re ready for. Thank you.

  16. Wonderful post and pictures ! They brought back sweet memories of the few times I’ve been to Brussels and Holland. My all time favorite Belgian dish is Moules Frites. Too bad you don’t care for chocolate but you’re right about Gouda!!!
    I too share your feelings about loosing a loved one. My dad passed 10 years ago on Christmas Day and it’s still hard.
    Blessings to you and your hubby!

  17. Hi, my dad died on Christmas morning 2006 and I think I went a little crazy for a couple of years after that. I got through it but I am not the same person I was before that experience (he had Stage 4 lung cancer and I was his caregiver for about a month before he passed). Since then, loss has been very hard for me to get through. My dog died this past August 20 and I still find myself crying over her. So you are not odd or not handling this well, you are handling this probably the best you can and I think the best thing you can do is remember the love she had for you and allowing yourself to have it by celebrating your love with your husband and enjoying your life bicycling through new places. When you are a mother you will also have that love to pass on. I have always enjoyed your posts and your reviews on Pattern Review.

  18. Thanks for your posts on your adventure with Jordan! Sending Light to you and your family for the highest good of all concerned.

  19. What a beautiful post! I haven’t visited your blog in quite some time, and am reminded how much I love your delightful storytelling style. I have also spent some time in the Netherlands, and truly loved it. My favorite spots are the Ann Frank House, the outdoor ice skating rink in a place I can’t remember how to spell (sounded like “Lightsa-plaschke”), and I really fell in love with Edam cheese! So happy for you and your new marriage and your climbing out of that dark place after your mother’s passing. This post really lifted my spirits today.

  20. Reading the last part choked me up. Having lived in Germany stationed with my husband in the Army we also have fond memories of traveling with our children all over Europe. They were small but I hope to go back one day so we can have more adventures to share with them. I’m glad you had those sweet memories of those special times with your mom.
    On another note, I happened to be reading this as I exercised on my stationary bike and reading about the 75 year old did make me petal a little harder!!!
    Wow, amazing!!

  21. I’m thrilled to hear that you are starting to feel like “you” again. When my father died it took me the better part of a year to begin to feel normal again. Then I got pregnant, and my oldest is named Eddie, after my dad. The healing process takes a long time, and though they are gone from our everyday lives, our loved ones are always in our hearts. I still feel my dad’s presence once in a while, and while I still miss him terribly, the sorrow has mellowed and fond memories remind me of what a wonderful dad he was. Hopefully you’ll find that, too.

  22. Dear Cidell, Thank you for sharing all these wonderful travel posts with us. I had never considered Amsterdam as a destination, but now, maybe I will, because you make it look awesome. How do you locate your own bike in such a crowd? I have enough trouble finding my car in a car park.

    It does take a long time to find a new normal after the death of a parent. My mother died of cancer when I was 22, and it was years before I felt like I could even speak of it without dissolving into tears. It was the same for my younger brothers and sisters; it was the major event of our lives and I don’t think anyone else can understand the impact of a premature death on a child. My father died two years ago at the age of 93, and the two passings could not have been much more different. It must be very hard for Jordan; I know it was for my new husband as well. It will get easier; you will remember your mother without the gasp of pain you initially felt when she died. She is always with you.

  23. I’ve had this page open for a day wanting to write a comment but trying to think of something that didn’t sound trite or condescending… I’m just glad for you that you’re starting to be able to associate memories of your mother with happiness and good things rather than just the grief.

    Anyway, cheese! And spotting fellow seamstresses on boats! And your husband’s expression of “I’ll just pretend she’s not doing this” as you’re making him pose by the Jordaan sign: brilliant – and he’s wrong about it not being funny 😉

  24. Cidell, I am so sorry to hear you are grieving, but happy for your recent honeymoon. I am so far behind on blog reading but am thrilled to have caught up with you. Your trip looks absolutely delightful.

  25. I really reading enjoyed this, thank you so much for sharing with us.

    This made me smile a smile of hope “….I am honestly starting to feel like me again”. I lost a parent last year and my eyes still get teary when the memories and loss overwhelm me. One day at a time, I guess 🙂

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