This morning, we woke up to spend the morning at the cheese market. We had recently watched a PBS special about what it is, so I had some idea of what to expect, but it’s always amazing to see how a town square can fill up and transform over night! The cheese was there. Laid out in long piles, with farmers in traditional dress there to do the bargaining. According to the tv show, the farmers will hold hands as though shaking right hands and then pat their left hands over the right as they negotiate a price for the lot. The gratuitous girls in their wooden shoes and traditional dress wandered around holding giant wheels of cheese. I don’t know why.

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We watched for a while, and suprisingly, saw two farmers NOT reach a deal. Got pretty heated. Cool.

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Then we went to check out the market. They had an appropriate cheese making display.

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And there were tables of cheese for sale.

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And oh thank goodness, Olie Bolen and waffles! (not cheese)

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We perused the stalls. Bought some fruit for later, looked at hats for G but couldn’t find a good one, and ultimately, Geert got bored. We had walked into town the same way as on our tour the last night, so I had a surprise: I knew where the Lego store was. This was appreciated much more than the market stalls, and we spent at least an hour here. First, looking at a car to buy (he settled on the exact some one that Malachi had bought), then just spending time at the table playing. It was much needed downtime.

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We had to be back at the boat to ride before lunch, so headed back with a snack stop for mom.

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We rode through town, and like all Dutch towns, it was darling. It opened up on the “other side” and turned a bit more of what looked like metropolitan Europe. Neat apartments, tiny yards. We rode next to a small canal in the shade for a while, through a relatively busy part of town. A small green dingy with a mom and three girls in it puttered by. The oldest girl was navigating while the others ate sandwiches. I wanted to do that.

A bit of construction slowed us down, but we hit the next town to eat lunch at the canal. We sat and watched the drawbridge (that we had just ridden over) go up and down to let boats through. It didn’t wait to go up and down at particular intervals, like I oftentimes see in the states, it just went every time a boat came through, which was OFTEN. We sat eating sandwiches and feeding ducks for 30min and it must have gone up 5 times. Fun also to see all the different types of bridges – the one went up with counterweights.

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Not much longer and we arrived at the dairy farm Kaasboerderij Lena’s Hoeve (I think). We were there to sample, and apparently, hopefully buy, cheese, and so the kids could play. They had fresh milk and cheese (delicious) in the courtyard, and ran to play in the barns.

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Loads of fun. Then it was time to play “Dutch golf”, where the golf club is a wooden shoe. I wasn’t sure how this was supposed to work, but had been given warning the night before to bring a change of clothes and perhaps even shoes. This I promptly forgot in the morning and had brought neither with me. But it looked okay. The kids got these ridiculous sticks with wooden shoe carvings on them, and were supposed to whack these rubber balls around between holes on this picturesque green field, wind turbines turning in the background. Bucolic and idyllic.

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So the field was surrounded by a little moat or waterway. No idea how deep it was, but if the ball went in the water or across to the other side, the children were expected to retrieve it. They hop on a “float” which may or may not have a guideline to pull to get across. They looked pretty stable and I wasn’t too worried. Aine lost a ball across the way and went to get it, seated on the boat, gently pulling herself across, no problem.

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Next, Geert lost a ball, and I thought it would be fun for he and Aine to go get it together. Look how pretty:

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Except that right after I took this picture, the float began to drift towards Aine, pulling Geert closer to the line. As it did so, he got pulled until the best decision he could make was to just jump right off the float and into water almost up to his waist, feet deep in sticky muck. It literally looked like he just hopped off and into the water for no reason. This was not good. I sort of freaked. “Geert! What are you doing?!” He waded through the thick, sucky muck to the edge and I pulled him out, dripping and muddy, and confused.

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We stomped back to the barn where the farmer’s wife and kids were still playing and talking to Rita and asked if she had an extra towel I could use to help clean him off. No. A hose? No. Rita piquantly added that this is why they told us to bring things “just in case”. Grrrrr. Okay fine. I took him into the little bathroom with a little tiny tiny sink and a little tiny tiny cloth towel, stripped him naked below the waist and rinsed him off. Fully aware that I’m wrecking the bathroom, but grumpy that I can’t get any help and grumpy that I didn’t know or remember enough to bring what would have helped. I sort of got mud every where, but ultimately, he was wet and shiny and mudless, and his socks, and shoes, and underwear and shorts ran with clean water. I wrung them out, put his shorts on him commando and we walked out. Here the farmer’s wife helped a bit. I laid his socks and underwear in the sun to dry on the warm pavement and she gave me newspaper to change in and out of the shoes and they dried in the sun. He played happily, oblivious, without underwear, while everything dried.

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The other kids came back from playing and added to the fun.

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I cooled off a bit and decided that I would, in fact, like to buy cheese. They could vacuum seal it so we could take it home without refrigeration. I chose an aged cheese and one with cumin in it, which was surprisingly good. I even took a picture of the farmer’s wife and her cheese store. Harumph.

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And a really big cheese pot.

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Geert’s clothes and shoes were quite dry by the time it was time to go, and we went back to the bikes and mused at the cows, all lined up with colossal udders, waiting to be let in to be milked.

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A short, but pretty ride to the next town.

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The kid with the big muscles helped bring the bags in,

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And took in his surroundings for the night.

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