“Rummage around in the past of the Netherlands,” the tourist brochure reads. “Every reed stem, paving brick or water drop here is soaked with blood, sweat and tears.”

Well, doesn’t THAT sound like fun? Who could resist?

There are storks in that nest! Storks are symbols of good luck in Holland.

Not wanting to go anywhere near the boating chaos that is Giethoorn, the Navigator and I decided to rent a boat in The National Park Weerribben-Wieden, not far from Giethoorn geographically, but light-years away in population. This peat-bog is an uninhabited landscape of lakes, waterways, reeds, peat forests and quaking bogs. Not exactly sure what a quaking big is, but at least it sounds more like Wizard of Oz than Disneyland – just a titch less civilized.

The Navigator in his element.

We rented a so-called whisper-boat (with an electric motor) from http://www.hetrietershuijs.nl in the village of Kalenberg, and spent a very pleasant morning enjoying the park and nearby village of Ossenzijl by boat. The pamphlet said we would have a fat chance of seeing otters, roe deer, and other animals, by which I think they were translating literally from “een dikke kans” – a GOOD chance. We did see lots of dragonflies, a snake, and even swans and a stork in full flight! I adore storks.

Lots of peace and quiet and dragonflies in the bog. And no mosquitoes due to its anaerobic nature.

We had to lie flat on the seats to make it under this bridge.

We had a terrific morning, but all too soon it was time to drive to Rotterdam to meet my sister and her husband, and friends Cathy and Elisa, who are joining us on the next leg of the journey.

The Erasmus Bridge, iconic symbol of Rotterdam.
Ms Rotterdam enters the harbour.

We stayed at the Hotel New York, built in 1900, and the former office building of Holland America. Now it’s the cruise ship terminal, and it’s also the place from where my parents emigrated a week after their wedding. The hotel makes a great business out of emigration memorabilia, and we heard there will soon be a museum built here devoted to Dutch migration.

Central staircase

Wind vane on the hotel

The hotel itself has many nautical features, and I felt eerily like I was a guest on the Titanic. As our room overlooked the harbour, we could watch our ship, The Rotterdam, sail in.