Saturday, May 8, 2010

To the boat, day in Haarlem, first ride with tour mates

Dropped off our stuff this morning at the boat -- the Wending, a canal boat built in 1913, worked for 80 years hauling cargo, converted to present life about 20 years ago. Nice solid boat, roomy, great common room and private cabin. Cabin surprisingly deluxe... two beds (not bunks), private bathroom, heater, even a writing desk... though compact.

Then went to Haarlem for the day. Visited Frans Hals museum: terrific! When you get close enough to see the brushwork on those big gloomy formal portraits, they are actually astonishingly cool. My painting never got much beyond house-painting or finger-painting, so I'm not the most informed critic, but enjoyed them nonetheless.

Had frites with Katie. We checked out a few stands, but at K's suggestion went back to the same place I tried last week -- it looked best to her. K had frites with tomato ketchup, I tried the garlic sauce. Katie's review as I remember it: "excellent fries, crispy, very genuine, even have the skin left on them."

Returned to the boat around 4:00. Good mix of people -- 4 crew (captain, cook, engineer, bike guide), plus 14 riders. Riders are from all over. About half are German or Austrian; 2 are Canadian; one other American, married to one of the Canadians; 3 Italians (two sisters plus one's best friend). Good chemistry. Wish I spoke German.

Went for first 'shakedown' ride, basically so guide can figure out who is likely to fall off, who are the wild cards, etc. Nice ride, maybe 10k, through redeveloped old warehouse district along the Ij.

Nice bikes: Gazelle Medeo's. Easy riders for touring I think, a bit less responsive (twitchy if you prefer) than the Tikit, which is staying at C&G's this week. Thought about bringing it for ride, but I'll take a break and ride something new. Per tour guide "Gazelle is kind of Mercedes of Dutch tour bikes... no shakes, brakes well, solid and reliable". We'll see.

No connectivity from the boat, so I walked over to public library. Tried to piggy-back onto wireless, but no go... so using public terminal.

Will post again, with pix, next time I find a public hot-spot.

Weather promising for tomorrow. Should be a nice day, and a nice ride.

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