Monday, December 15, 2014

Amsterdam-France - day 3

19 September 2014

Today was going to be a jam-packed day! Our first stop was the tiny village of Zaanse Schans, a popular tourist spot on the banks of the Zaan river. It was literally a stone's throw away from Amsterdam. We took the Connexxion bus 391 from Amsterdam Central Station and got to Zaanse Schans in about 40 minutes. The drive was very scenic and our bus driver was very friendly and talkative.

A chirpy Xena in the bus

Xena with her Poppy

Zaanse Schans is most popular for its windmills from a bygone era, which are still functional, by the way. But it's also a charming place to walk around, and scattered all over it are tiny museum-factories for things such as clocks, clogs and chocolate.

As soon as we got off the bus, we were greeted by the sight of windmills everywhere. I'd read that these windmills were major contributors to the Dutch economy in the 17th and 18th century. There were literally thousands of them -- sawmills, dye mills, oil mills, etc. We literally felt like we had travelled back in time -- the village really does give a feel of what it must have been like in those days.

There was a museum at the entrance with interactive videos about the history of the village.

Viv and Xena enjoy the sight of these old-styled houses. 

The tourist buses had started arriving so the place was getting crowded.

Xena and me against the backdrop of the windmills

More windmills!

The weather was beautiful -- not too sunny and cool enough for us to do without jackets, but of course Xena wouldn't go of her favourite dragon jacket. 

We decided to take a tour of the windmill called 'De Zoekar', which means 'the seeker'.  The only working oil mill in the area, it has an incredible amount of history. It was built in 1672 in Zaandijk and was literally moved in 1968 to Zaanse Schans as it came under threat from urban development. The upper section of the windmill, which weighs a whopping 18 tonnes, was moved in its entirety. It took a day and a night to transport and install the windmill in its new home. During transportation, the mill was even lifted above the overhead lines of a railway!

Viv and Xena pose in front of De Zoekar.

Me too!
We entered the windmill and on the ground floor were the huge grindstones crushing the peanuts. These would be then roasted and prressed to extract the oil. The windmill drives both the grinding and pressing processes.

Can you spot the peanuts?

We had to climb this very narrow ladder to get to the top and view the upper section, including the cogs and the sails. 

Small doors lead out to the outer section where you can literally see the sails of the windmill go past you. There were signs marking areas that were out of bounds, unless you were in for a serious knock on the head by the strong sails. 

Viv and Xena admiring the sails

The roof of the windmill looked like it was made of something fine and relatively soft... 

...but closer inspection revealed them to be hollow cylinders made of dry stems. 

The outer area also provided a lovely view of the surroundings, including the other windmills. 

On our way out, we stopped to admire this tiny wooden replica of the windmill. 

A sample of the windmill's product - a bottle of peanut oil

Next, we went to the chocolate factory, where you could make your own chocolate milk. The ingredients and recipes were clearly laid out. 

Samples of different chocolates. I was blown away by the chocolates called 'rusty tools' because they really did look like rusty tools!

We took a break on the pier and admired the view. 

Xena is curious about the sudden appearance of this sheep. 

Next up was the clog museum. I was amazed at the different kinds of clogs. 

There were even wedding clogs!
And a diamond clog!

We watched the clog-making show. The guy literally took 5 minutes to produce a pair of beautiful clogs from a log of wood. 

Outside the museum was this giant clog and I just couldn't help popping Xena inside it for a photograph. 

There were more! I gave her a pumpkin and asked her to stand in the giant clog, holding it. She absolutely insisted that I do the same. When you're 3-something and you do this, you look cool. When you're 30-something and you do this, you look like a fool.

Soon, we were back in the bus, where Xena took her much-needed nap. 

We had lunch at 'Hasta La Pasta' around Centraal. It was a tiny place with two cooks, one of which was obviously a total newbie. He took our order, but the other cook came over to ask us which dish was for Xena so he could tone down the chilli. How cute. 

Viv tries to feed Xena, while she tries to dodge the spoon.

Xena needed to go to the toilet, but the restaurant didn't have one. The cook told us that the Japanese restaurant next door allowed non-customers to use their toilet for a fee. I found it hilarious, but took Xena there anyway. 

After the yummy lunch, we took a bus and went to Zandvoort beach. One of the ice-cream cafes there had Redbull gelato! It was superb!

A sand-sculpting competition was on at the beach. 

Xena mimicking the sculpture

Xena and her Poppy chilling on one of the brightly painted benches

It was still bright and sunny as we walked towards the beach. 

The beach and clean and the sky was a beautiful blue. Seagulls were everywhere.

Xena and I pose at the beach. 

It was quite warm, so off came the jackets!
Xena picking shells

This Food Express van with lots of snacks was going up and down the beach. 

We found a chair to sit on and relax.

Xena is all set to go back after playing at the beach.

And off we go!

We passed by an Indian restaurant on the way home and decided to have a snack there. We were horrified to see the price of one dosa listed as €14! We ordered a few snacks, but the manager (very obviously Indian) retorted rather rudely, "That's all? What's your other order? This is dinner time already." We were so put off by his attitude, we got up and left. These people are in customer service and they don't even know how to talk to people!

So we dodged more cyclists (I was amazed that not a single cyclist wore a helmet!) and made our way home. We saw two cyclists collide, but thankfully there was no finger-showing or showdown. No abuses, but also no apologies. I suppose in a city of cyclists, these must be so common they're not worth fighting over. 

Another tiny car! Love the red!
Xena gets ready for bed!

Click here for Amsterdam-France - day 4. 



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