En route to Kinderdijk and the legend of the Cat and the Cradle

Wooden clogs.  Cheese.  Canals.  Tulips.  Windmills.  The very first images that spring to mind when contemplating a holiday in the Netherlands.

Having previously vacationed in this part of northern Europe over the course of my thirty plus years of traipsing the globe, my pink-sneaker clad feet had had ample opportunity to stomp around in hand-painted footwear and gawk in appreciative wonder at those iconic wind propelling turbines.
Or, had they?

It was the simplest of questions, yet, when my travel buddy casually inquired, “What do you think of the windmills?” I was forced to come clean and sheepishly admit that, despite my occasional sojourns to Holland, I had never actually seen a windmill up close and personal.  Nope.  Instead, my time was spent languishing the day away scribbling in caf├ęs, vino in one hand, quill and paper in the other, penning the next best seller.  When writer’s cramp set on in, the remainder of my time was devoted (and some would say squandered) to scouring the shops and markets in search of that one of a kind designer satchel whilst indulging on wheels of Brie and Gouda.  Sad-but true.  Oh, and frequenting the museums, of course.

So, it was on a slightly chilly but sunny day that we journeyed from our digs in Delft to Kinderdijk in hopes of capturing that National Geographic digital worthy snapshot of the windmill of the day.  Or, so we thought.  The trek itself was worthy of extensive documentation, a monumental undertaking that involved hopscotching from train to tram to bus and then hoofing it to our destination.  Yikes!!   I’m tuckered out already!!

Located some 15 kilometers east of Rotterdam, the village of Kinderdijk sits below sea level  (as does most of Holland) and is home to 19 windmills, all of which date back to the early 1600s.  A UNESCO listed Heritage Site; Kinderdijk translates to “children’s dyke”, its name originating from the Saint Elizabeth Flood of 1421, when a cradle with a baby snuggled securely inside, washed up on the shores of the village.   What is even more astonishing is that the cradle was miraculously kept dry and afloat primarily due to the frantic efforts of a cat jumping to and fro atop the vessel, navigating its precious cargo through the tempestuous waters to eventual safety. 

Whether this tale is indeed fact or legend, “The Cat and the Cradle” is a much-beloved Dutch fairy tale that has enamoured the hearts of generations of children worldwide.

Fortunately for my travel companion and I, neither torrential floods nor hurricane storms loomed on the horizon - our only obstacles and roadblocks were those that related to my irrational fear of riding in metros and underground train tunnels.  Hence, an hour-long journey would no longer whisk you there lickety-split but would be end up being quite the ordeal, taking upwards of several hours and then some – oftentimes, days, if you must know.

Just another travel adventure in the life of Miss Pink Sneakers on the Go…

Yikes!!   Will we ever get there?   Perhaps there’s a reason I’ve never seen the windmills.  Stay tuned for the continuation of our trek to Kinderdijk.

Come trek through all of Holland with us as we navigate our way around the country by cleverly avoiding metros, train tunnels, bridges, schooners, parachutes, helicopters and airplanes.  I’ve always stood by the saying that getting there is half the fun!!   It’s always an adventure of the pink-sneaker inspired kind!!

In two weeks – Next post – Catch up on Wednesday, March 4th.  Stay tuned!!

Stairs, stares and stairs!!

Stairs.  They’re everywhere.  It’s like I’ve never even noticed. The.  Dreaded.  Stairs.  It’s only when schlepping wheelbarrows of over-loaded luggage onto planes and trains (no automobiles, only buses) does the issue of staircases present quite the problematic conundrum, throwing a wrench into sprinting efficiently from Point A to Point B.  And let’s not even get into the other type of stares that are frequently thrown my way, a few glares and snares, snickers and giggles from gaggles on onlookers doubled over in hysterics at the sight of a middle-aged Auntie huffing and puffing, lugging a truck-load of baggage along the cobblestone rues and avenues, a trail of socks and shawls haphazardly spilling along the way. 

The other half of my luggage ran away on a train

YIPPEE!!  Escalator!!

Schlepping!! The picture says it all!

If you must know, my misery commences several minutes before the locomotive pulls into the station, my knapsacks and suitcases meticulously lined up by the exit door, so as to quicker facilitate kicking my luggage to the curb (down the steps actually) and exit the train lickety-split.  In reality however, woe is I, for obstacles and hurdles await, as an inevitable struggle ensues - with pink sneakers versus baggage in a showdown to beat the clock and extricate said bags from the train - all within a two minute time frame!  European trains are notoriously punctual and wait for no one, not even you know who, to quickly extrapolate all belongings from the carriage; and it pains me to reveal that on more than one occasion I’ve watched in stunned disbelief as my luggage journeys off without me to destinations unknown.  Sad-but true.  On the bright side, at least that’s one less piece of baggage to lug!!  Yikes!!

Baggage lined up by the door, ready to be kicked to the curb!!

Wait! Wait!  There go my bags!!

The.  Dreaded.  Stairs.

Having now successfully circumvented the first hurdle, a second one anxiously waits in the wings, eager to challenge my resolve and trip me up.  A mantra of please let there be no stairs, please let there be no stairs plays incessantly over and over in my mind, silently pleading with the deities to spare me from having to endure a Mount Kilimanjaro trek onward and upwards upon arrival at my rented digs.  And so here I stood, in the lobby of my hotel in picture perfect Delft, mouth agape, staring at what could only be accurately described as the staircase from hell.   Numbering at least 15 steps, the stairway to heaven was narrow and steep, the only way of entrance to the attic and my bunk, located somewhere in the upper stratosphere of the inn.

This is the second staircase! Almost at the top!

Short of having to resort to the tedious and time-consuming task of unpacking in the hotel lobby, unglamorously carting fistfuls of clothing up and down the stairs for hours on end, my options were limited, leaving me no choice but to valiantly attempt to forge on and scale that impassible mountain range, one pink sneaker at a time.

Now, to be perfectly honest, the hotel brochure had specifically stated that the steps were treacherous and steep, cautioning one to tread carefully, as the ascent could prove to be a tad challenging for the faint of heart.  And, since we’re on the subject of coming clean, I had absentmindedly skimmed over the fine print when booking my accommodation, jubilant at scoring a four star hotel for the price of a one star, paying scant attention to the warning at hand.

After all, time was not to be squandered on figuring out on how to navigate a vertical ladder that doubled as stairs, as there were other more pressing issues at hand – vino to be appreciated, bistros to be frequented and boutiques to be visited.  Oh, and let’s not forget about the museums.

Bistro dining in postcard perfect Delft

Vino, anyone?

 Cheese, anyone?


Back in the day, with space at a premium, the medieval edifices were taxed based upon their width, so in order to avoid having to pay even a fraction more of the exorbitant tax, the most logical and ingenious solution was to build tall and narrow skinny houses.  Hence, those treacherous staircases!  It’s no wonder then that the Dutch word for stairs is literally “trap”!!  Like, trip?  Trap?  Trip? 

Come climb steps upon steps upon endless steps…one, two, three and four and five.  Six.  Seven.  Eight and so on and so on – the undeniable charm of Delft’s canal houses – Nine, ten and eleven.  Yikes.  Still climbing!!

Next post – In two weeks!!  Stay tuned for more of the fabulous adventures of cuckoo ol’ Auntie Nora in the Netherlands.  What next?  Windmills, perhaps? 

Catch up on Wed, Feb 18th!!