On our last Sunday of the trip, we had a real early morning! We woke up, and walked to the Amsterdam central train station. We had hope to be able to take a tram but we didn't have the correct change and they wouldn't take our credit cards, so they kicked us out on the next stop. Oops! Turns out that a brisk walk on an early Sunday morning through central Amsterdam was one of our time there. There was no one on the streets and it was beautiful and quiet. I wish we hadn't been in such a hurry because I would have loved to take more photos of the still, Dutch morning. Greg was pretty taken with the bike race that was happening in town. Now, everyone has at least one bike in Amsterdam but they don't wear helmets and they don't go superbly fast. But they had blocked off several roads that morning for a road bike race- everyone was wearing the right gear, had a road bike for competitive racing, and were wearing helmets! It was pretty neat to see them rushing through town.
We finally made it to the train station and took a couple trains to get to the town of Hilversum. Greg served at a branch here that he really loved. We walked in and thought we were 30 min late, but lucky us- we were 30 min early! Greg chatted with a few members and some of them recognized him as soon as he walked in. It was pretty fun for me to see. They talked about old memories and got updates about people who had moved out, etc.
The building was just in a normal looking neighborhood of houses. That big bay window is the pulpit of the chapel. It's crazy how different it looks from churches in Utah, but the inside looked just like a chapel you would see here! We sang Dutch hymns loudly and heard some of the current missionaries speak. I snapped this picture of Greg in front of the church. It's one of my favorite pictures of him. He was so at home in The Netherlands and I loved seeing where he spent so much time on his mission.
After church, we walked around Hilversum a bit. We found Greg's old apartment and walked through the city center. Everything was shut down for Sunday, which I really appreciated. It seems that even though the Dutch aren't superbly devout in religion, they seem to have a great appreciation for the weekend and free time.
Next up, we headed back to Amsterdam! The trains were packed because there was a big marathon happening in the city. They call it "Dam to Dam," a race from Rotterdam to Amsterdam. We avoided the crowds by hopping on the next canal boat tour. It was absolutely exquisite!
We were purposely sat in the very back, because it had a window that opened. Greg kindly gave me the window seat. :)
It was fascinating to go all over the city by boat. There didn't seem to be any rules about traffic or turns. We would just have to wait on the side until other boats went under the bridges. And of course, there were so many bridges! It actually felt a lot like being in a taxi in New York City. Lots of honking and crazy drivers on the boats.
A couple things I loved seeing along the canals:
First, it was pretty much a parking lot the whole way through. You couldn't even see the walls on the canal because there is a boat in every free space and they have to have permits for wherever they tie up.
Second, probably a quarter of the boats on the canals are house boats. (It's just like Crosby on Parenthood!) It was really neat to see people drinking their morning coffee on the back porch or tending to their plants on the house boat roof. Such brave souls to have a house on the water!
Third, lots of the boats had just a few people enjoying European picnics. If we ever make it back to Amsterdam, I would love to rent a boat, grab some baguettes, cheese, and grapes and enjoy a quaint meal.
This final picture is a shot of the bike garage next door to Amsterdam Centraal Station. It is filled to the absolute brim with bicycles! Crazy stuff!