happy birthday James, in Alkmaar

Today was James’ birthday. What do you want to do today? Tour Alkmaar? Go to a cheese market? Spend holiday with your family in Holland? Go out for Greek food?

We went to the Alkmaar cheese festival, an impressive and nearly timeless ritual of cheese makers and cheese buyers who come together to negotiate, buy and sell cheese. They put up barriers so the event can proceed uninterrupted by the enthralled bystanders, and put on traditional garb to proceed with ‘business as usual.’

It was great to see, and a notch in our culinary and traveling, belts. One thing we hope to gain from this adventure is exposure to---and developing taste buds for---cheese. And chocolate (hello Belgium is famous for chocolate and beer), and wine (especially whites in the southern parts of Holland and Germany), oh and pastries (we really must compare and contrast pasty specialties from one country to another).

The cheese market was quite official, with gouda cheese all lined up by age, official tasters, cheese-makers, scales, racks for carrying and wagons for, well, carting these large rounds of cheese from market to market.

Other vendors were at the market as well, selling their wares. We heard street organs, sat in front of a cafe drinking coffee, were tempted by the poffrijtes (mini Dutch pancakes), I bought my first handkerchief (I plan to buy a few along the way) and Anthony bought James a birthday gift: a wooden Dutch shoe can opener with his name engraved. It was sunny and beautiful and we are falling in love with Alkmaar.

A side note on cheese: we tasted the Mei cheese (May cheese), which is the young spring cheese, a result of cows being let out after winter to eat the spring grasses… and cheese made and turned around accordingly. You can taste the grass, they say, and it is so creamy. And we did taste some, both in Alkmaar and in Edam: and it was so soft and creamy and young. We also learned from a cheese shop in Amsterdam: Edam and Gouda are not specific cheese but are actually shapes of cheeses. Edam cheese is spherical and Gouda cheese round but flat (disks).

Cheese aside, James birthday was today and beyond the cheese market we also had a pastry break, bought kick-stands for our bikes, found a grassy spot for juggling the soccer ball, ate sandwiches on sun-lit benches, James searched for wi-fi solutions and we ate dinner at a fabulous Greek restaurant (Greek 2 nights in a row, we were glad for the fresh vegetables)---where they served us shots of ouzo just for showing up. Our kind of restaurant.

And now, as I write this, we are wrapping up his big day. All four of us lounging in our hotel, listening to tunes on our i-pods-with-speakers and reading, journaling, mapping tomorrow’s ride and quite plainly: relaxing. Nice to know, we remember how.

1 comment:

  1. HAPPY BIRTHDAY JAMES! I was thinking about you all day. I can't imagine a better way to spend your b-day than what Janelle described!


we love hearing feedback!


Related Posts with Thumbnails