This is the seventh in a series of posts describing my recent trip to England, Ireland, the Netherlands and Wales, from writing course to school reunion and more.

It couldn’t have been more different. In one short flight, I went from a hilly country to a flat one, from not many bicycles to a multitude of them, from coolish temperatures to nights so hot it was hard to sleep, from one language (I did hear only one, and it wasn’t Irish) to another, from people I’d only just met to ones I’ve known all or most of my life.

One thing remained the same: the currency. It was hard to believe I could take out the coins I’d collected in Ireland and hand them over to shopkeepers here in Amsterdam.

During the four days I spent in Holland, I visited the newly-renovated Rijksmuseum and cycled through the Amsterdam Bos to a lake where (as if my legs weren’t aching enough from cycling) we went out on what they called a water bicycle and what I’d call a pedal boat.

Cycling in Amsterdam

Cycling in Amsterdam

We also joined a coach tour to Rotterdam, Delft and the Hague. Delft is a fascinating old town with plenty to see all around the central cobbled square.

At the Royal Delft pottery factory, while the guide spoke to us, I took the photo below. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the story behind the tiled picture behind her and neither can my brother. I do remember that it was sold, but the factory is allowed to keep it for now. If you know any more about the picture, please let me know in the comments. (The comment button is at the top.)

Royal Delft Pottery Works

Royal Delft Pottery Works

I hope to return to Delft one day for a longer visit.

There had been threats of thunderstorms every day, but these didn’t materialise until the last day, when my brother and I went out for a short walk around the Vondelpark, decided there was no need to take rainwear and of course got caught in a thunderstorm. Oh well, I lived to tell the tale.

Oops, I missed out yesterday. I was too bogged down. In my WIP, that is; the bogs of Scotland are all but forgotten.

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Three lovely days in Amsterdam. On the first, we visit an art exhibition: From Matisse to Malevich, the Royal Palace and the Historical Museum. All are very interesting, especially the historical museum.

On the second day, we walk 16 km from Castricum to Egmond-on-See. The terrain is flat. Flat! So different from Scotland. On the way, we see a group of children on bikes. “Probably a school trip,” my brother says. “What happens if a child doesn’t know how to ride a bike?” I ask. “All Dutch children know how to ride a bike,” he says.

The walk ends at a beach. I’m interested in the seat cabins people have brought with them.

On the third day, we hire a bike and go for a 35-km ride through the Amsterdam Bos to Waver and along the river Amstel back to Amsterdam. It’s fun and I’m proud of myself – I haven’t ridden a bike for a long time. But, when in Rome….

I hop on another plane back to the familiar south of England. Cheap flights are good, although I don’t enjoy standing for over half an hour to wait for the plane to arrive and unload its passengers, especially as my legs are aching from all that exercise.

M2’s house is always busy. People are in and out all the time, phones ring constantly. Despite all that, M2 manages to organize food and other things and can even keep up with my activities. I don’t know how she does it. M2’s house becomes my base for the rest of my stay in Europe. It’s convenient to have a place to leave some of my stuff. She apologises for dragging me to the supermarket, but really even that is fun with her. And I buy things I have to take home, like salt and vinegar crisps.

M2’s husband tends to ask interesting questions. That’s not to say that M2 doesn’t. I suppose his questions are more thought-provoking. He asks me what I learned in my life that I wish I’d known earlier. I don’t answer. I say I have to think about that.

One day, I go to visit P in Windsor. We’re joined by someone I haven’t seen since uni, and later P takes me for a walk round Windsor, where I see the theatre where I enjoyed watching several plays while at uni. All is in keeping with this trip back to the past.

After three days at M2’s house, I hop over to Amsterdam where my brother lives.