Counting Windmills for Gramps

June 12, 2008 in Europe, Netherlands, Travelogue

< ![CDATA[  When I was a little girl and we would spend long hours, days, weeks, months in the van on trips my Dad had innovative ways of passing the time. He held contests of all sorts: .25 to the first person to spot an orange tree on the way to Florida, a saguaro cactus in Arizona, a palm tree after crossing into Mexico etc. Our most frequent trip was back and forth between Canada and Indiana to visit Grandma and on that trip we always counted windmills. There were quite a few at that time. Not so many now. Josh and I would strain our eyeballs to find a lonely, dilapidated mill in the back of a huge field by the highway. It served another purpose, I see now, it kept us quiet. In honor of Gramps (and out of sheer force of habit) we've been counting windmills. What better place to do it than Holland? There are rules, of course. We are only counting the "old" ones... not the new electricity generating ones. They have to be verified by two members of the family and they cannot be counted twice by an over eager five year old to up the count. We are up to ten so far. They are truly lovely. I keep looking for Don Quixote (I know, that was Spain, but I can't help myself!) Today we folded up camp under dubious skies. By the time we'd riden 5 km it was raining. Hard. We rolled through the fabulous arch into Leiden dripping and ate our lunch under a pavilion on a bridge over one of the canals, stalked by soggy sea gulls. We're getting used to it on this trip. By the time the Pilgrim Museum opened, at one, the rain had stopped. We stepped back in time through the door of the oldest house in Leiden, built in 1370, lovingly restored by the quiet docent who gave us his undivided attention for the better part of two hours for a mere three euros apiece. William Bradford once stood in the very room where our children squirreled about the edges asking questions and peering at maps made in the 16th Century. The boys, predictably, were most fascinated by the "facilities..." or lack there of! We learned the origin of the word curfew... it comes from "couvre feu" French for "cover the fire" which is what the night watch would cry out as they walked through town to remind people to reduce the risk of night fires. By the time the curfew was called for, all children had to be in the house. We learned why savings banks are in the shape of pigs: One way a farmer saved for the winter was by feeding his pig every day all spring and summer. Then, he reaped the benefit in the fall and winter as he ate the cured meat. Similarly, by feeding the piggy bank, we save for winter. Who knew?! That is just the tip of the iceberg. There were so many other interesting things to see. Like the 600 year old fish. A real one. No kidding. Here we sit. Drying out in the library. The kids love our library stops as they get to read for an hour while we use the internet. They inevitably make a bee line for the kids section. Today, Gabe was back in about fifteen minutes. He threw his hands to the sides and declared, "Mom, I can't read a thing. It's all in Dutch." Mom laughing, replies, "Well, you'd better find yourself a picture book then!" He grinned and nodded and headed back to the kids books. We haven't heard from him since. In fact, they're a little too quiet... maybe we'd better go check.]]>