Several months ago my kids’ school started offering free Dutch lessons to parents. I jumped at the chance, not only to help reinforce to my kids that learning the language is important, but because I actually do want to learn Dutch. Juf Ricky, who teaches the lessons, also teaches the kids Dutch as a second language. She’s not only a great teacher, but also a really nice person. Today she took us on a tour of her hometown, Gouda.
Yes. Gouda, as in the cheese. What a delightful little town! We all met up at the Amstel train station and took the train there together. It’s about 45 minutes by train.
Juf Ricky met us at the station, and we set off together for a little tour of the town.
Like most Dutch towns, Gouda has some lovely canals, with flower boxes on the bridges, of course.
Juf Ricky explained something about this tower to us, but my Dutch isn’t good enough yet to know what it was. I think it had something to do with a women’s church.
Gouda is part of the “Bible belt” of the Netherlands, with more churches (and churchgoers) than cities like Amsterdam.
It also seems to have more than its fair share of quaint little narrow streets and typical Dutch houses.
Including this especially striking (and old) example.
We kept getting caught in downpours, which only heightened how green and lush the place felt.
When we saw an artisanal chocolate shop called Puur, we wasted no time popping inside to sneakily buy a gift for Juf Ricky.
Yes, those are chocolate lips in the background. There was also some gold-plated chocolate.
One of the most darling things about Gouda was seeing all the little details people used to decorate, both inside and outside. Like this tree covered in bird houses.
Juf Ricky was kind enough to invite us to her house for coffee. And stroopwafels, a typical Dutch treat that originates in Gouda.
She also took us to meet her neighbours down the street, whose house is a sort of private museum full of colourful Dutch antiques.
Their most dramatic piece is this bed stee, or bed built into a box, which is the traditional way Dutch people used to sleep.
The dark wood panelled cupboards beneath hide both a television and the couple’s washing machine. They said only their cat sleeps in the bed, though.
The outside of the house is just as picturesque, and boasts its own matching little free library.
Next we passed on to the shopping area of town, where we visited a flower shop with a surprise antique shop inside.
And the stroopwafel shop, which also made its own impressively artistic sweets.
And finally the cheese shop.
There was a most delicious smell of fresh cheese when we walked in, and the pleasant woman in the shop invited us to taste all different kind of cheese. I brought home some aged goat Gouda, and a bright blue cheese infused with lavender.
It’s easy to find your way in Gouda, thanks to the detailed street signage.
From the narrow brick-laid streets, all of a sudden we emerged into what felt like a proper piazza, complete with a confection of a church.
It looked small by itself in the middle of the open space, but when you actually walk up to it, the thing is quite big. Especially for such a little town.
And then this happened:
We wandered a bit more. Many of the canals are full of tiny duckweed plants, which lends a sort of magical air, as if you might be able to walk on them.
We also saw some very pretty gardens.
Some of them were hidden away within courtyards.
Sometime I will have to go back to Gouda for a peek inside Sint Janskerk, which is on the UNESCO list for its stained glass windows, including some moved from a monestary where Erasmus once lived.
I’m not positive what this intriguing shop specialises in, but they look like variations on the Tower of Babel.
We finished up with tea (yes, it came with brownies).
Thank you to Juf Ricky and all my classmates for such a fun day out (and for putting up with my very halting efforts at speaking Dutch). And to everyone else, I highly recommend a day out in Gouda!