Thursday, September 16, 2010

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 151

The current cast of characters:
Paul Howley: age 45
Mal Howley: my wife
Adam Howley: my son, age 20
Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 15

“Our trip to Holland.”

Our daughter, Cassy, had been invited (along with two senior girls) to visit Anika, a former foreign exchange student, at her parents home in Holland. Cassy was only a sophomore in high school and since we were not comfortable with her traveling such a long way away from home with the two older girls, we arranged to travel with them. We’d stay in a hotel nearby while the girls would enjoy the hospitality of Anika’s parents.

So, during their winter vacation in February of 2000, we left for Logan Airport (in Boston) five hours before our scheduled flight to Holland. The trip to Boston should have taken no more than two hours but as we left New Hampshire the weather changed to sleet and freezing rain. The driving was slow and treacherous and as we neared the city of Boston we got stuck in traffic that brought us to a complete stop. If we missed our flight we would probably have to cancel our trip and the girls were not happy about that. After dealing with barely moving traffic for over an hour we finally arrived at the airport with barely enough time to make our flight. Once we were seated on the plane, we relaxed and began to be excited about this vacation.

As our plane was descending, we could see a hint of red and yellow in the fields where the world-famous Dutch tulips were beginning to bloom. When we arrived in Holland, we rented a car and drove directly to Anika’s parents’ home. It was a comfortable home in a nice neighborhood where most of the homes were attached to each other, much like the condo-townhouses in the United States. After we met the parents and visited for a short time, Mal and I left to check into our hotel. The hotel was about two miles away and it was conveniently located a few blocks away from a bus station. Even though we had rented a car we ended up using buses and trains for most of our exploring around Holland. It was a surprisingly easy system to use for our travel. We did notice, however, that most of the local people used bicycles to get around and there were thousands of bikes parked at the local train stations.

Mal and I traveled by train to Amsterdam to ride the water-taxis along the canals and we spent a couple of hours in the Vincent Van Gogh Museum. Although we enjoyed spending time with them, it was very relaxing to travel without the kids. We could stop to eat anywhere we wanted and could just sit and “people-watch.” We didn’t have to keep the kids entertained because they were having a nice time with Anika.

A few days later, Anika’s mother, Tina, decided to take some time off from work to show us all some of the “highlights” of the country. We made sure that Cassy, Kendra, and Lindsay were okay with us tagging along and they assured us that would be fine. We all went to Delft, a rural town famous for the production of fine china and pottery. We all went out to lunch at a local restaurant and Tina recommended that we try “poffertjes.” These were small, fluffy, round, pancake-type treats that are covered in butter. These were a big hit with all of us! After lunch we headed to a large flea market and shopped for an hour or two. We were surprised to see that high-quality leather coats could be bought for $20 but after looking through several dozen booths, none could be found to fit us because we were just too short. We later learned that The Netherlands had the second tallest population in the world so not much is available for little people like us.

Anika’s mother had invited us to their home for a great home-cooked meal that night. When we arrived there we learned that because of the small size of most refrigerators in The Netherlands, it was common for people to go to the market or grocery store several times each week to buy fresh produce, meats, and baked goods. Conveniently, their home was located just minutes from a market. (Now, years later, Mal and I have adopted this kind of grocery shopping.)

Cassy enjoyed her time in Holland but she did have a few difficult moments when her eighteen-year old friends tried to encourage her to have an alcoholic drink. It was legal for them but not for Cassy so she passed but her friends kept pressuring her to try it. She held firm but it made her uncomfortable. It was clear that the two other girls really wanted to party while they were there but they were probably intimidated by Mal and I being there even though we weren’t there to chaperone them. Overall, they behaved themselves and we all had a good time. We hope to revisit Holland again someday.

Next Chapter: My anger.

Pictures: Our Holland trip

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