Gouda. I will mostly remember the wide-open square, where the boys kicked around the soccer ball. I will also remember the bed and breakfast we stayed in; we had our own upper quarters, and a lovely, long conversation with one of the keepers, who is wrapping up his PhD in theology.
Gouda was restful, and quiet; we had nice dinners at an Italian and a Tapas restaurant, and snagged easy lunches from the Albert Heijn right on the town square. (Albert Heijn is the grocery store in Holland---they are everywhere. And I love them. And since I have been in quite a few, I am able to feel my way around them, picking out chocolate-studded chocolate cupcakes, peppered salami, Gouda cheese aged 48+, Fanta cassis soda and even knoflook boter---garlic butter). Not sure why this makes me gloriously happy... but it does.
We made sure to walk in circles about town, to get a good feel for it. James and I were strolling about when we encountered a fun segue. What a find: a genuine stroopwafel maker. We hopped into the shop and chatted with store owner. She responded kindly to our enthusiasm and actually brought us behind closed doors to watch the stroopwafels being made. We thanked her profusely and zoomed home to retrieve the boys.
They loved seeing the mechanics of stroopwafel-making (is it just me or is that a fun word to say?). A few fun facts: I had read about stroopwafels in my Dutch Food book, and we had serendipitously tried them a day before---and loved them. And later read that stroopwafels were originally made in Gouda... and that today there are only 4 of the original 100 makers left (the rest is up to individuals at open air markets and larger factories). And without realizing it, we had stumbled upon and witnessed 1 of those 4.
Besides a comfortable and proximate lodging, our good luck with wafels and a huge square for soccer, we spent 2 hours inside of the famous Saint John's Church. The church is famous for its stained glass windows, which were preserved through wars and threats and years (windows from other churches over history have also been integrated into Sint Janskirk). When not peering at the windows, the boys and James were on their hands and knees, making rubbings in their journals. (I succumbed to keeping all of my journaling online; but James and the boys are keeping separate journals as well. It is great: they draw sketches, write notes, paste in postcards and keep lists of cities we have ridden through or landed in).