Today was going to be a cycle of the complete unknown – we had no idea where we were going. Last night the city of Haarlem had given us a live music concert, a much-needed hearty meal and a very comfy bed for the night.
At the time the question of ‘ Where to next?’ wasn’t required…
The following morning the entire Netherlands lay before us. Directions for far-flung places were waiting to guide us out of the city. It was a matter of close your eyes and like candy in a candy shop, take your pick and hope each morsel is full of wonderful surprises.
That is what we did. A postcard stand had a photo of a city called Gouda. The photo was of wheels of yellow cheese lying in row’s on cobbled pavements. Our curiosity made us decide to end our day there. Simple!
Our departure from Haarlem was slow as we got distracted by the sights, colours and smells of a busy outdoor market. A rainbow of flowers, pointy wooden clogs and fresh produce stacked in orderly piles were all attractive to the eye and had us mingling with the locals and purchasing tasty items to snack on later.
Back on our bicycles, we eventually followed a canal that lead us our of the city. The stark grey clouds hadn’t moved from the previous day and the landscape around us appeared grey and depressed.
The cycle paths allowed us a meeting of ways with motorised vehicles and showed us how clever the dutch are at planning to allow bicycles and vehicles to work alongside each other.
We pedalled under and over busy motorways, whizzed through curved tunnels and crossed roads with bicycle priority buttons. It all seemed so easy! Amsterdam was close, but we decided to stay on its outskirts and by-pass it.
We pedalled past a couple of random neon lit coffee shops ( where marijuana is readily available ) and away from the built up areas to enter a small rustic village with lily pad covered canals, lush gardens and a serenity that made you reflect on the true beauty of nature.
To continue our journey to Gouda we had to cycle aboard a tiny foot ferry to putt us across a wide canal. To my amazement the jolly-boat driver enthusiastically let me steer the boat. With me behind the wheel, Frank and the Boyfriend thought the short ferry ride was more frightening than relaxing!
The land was as flat as a piece of paper with the wobble of the water flowing through it. Our bicycle wheels were certainly in cruise control. The grassy pastures and tiny glimpses of sunshine made our journey all worth while even if we had no clue where we were exactly.
Time was on our side as we slowly pedalled onwards past docile farm animals, row upon row of onion fields and elegant farm houses. Gouda was waiting for us, eager to show us the beach ball sized wheels of yellow cheese just as we had seen in the postcard.
Our taste buds were treated to a variety of cheese flavours before exploring the cities cobbled streets, canals and interesting architecture. I would have to say Gouda was like picking the best sort of candy in the candy shop!