In May I virtually “met” the Garden Artist Roos Zwart when she commented on my blog that I was staying in her neighborhood. She had read my blog about our trip to the Kinderdijk (here) and commented that we had paddled past their boat. I was interested and so went over to her site DABE ART to learn more. Their site explained they had just purchased a beautiful wood boat out of Haarlem and now had it moored next to the first windmill we passed on our way to Kinderdijk.
Roos and I started exchanging chat mails and then phone numbers and we made a coffee date. That is a huge step here in The Netherlands being invited for coffee, the Dutch are very private people and mostly (in my view) closed to striking up new friendships. So for me getting invited for coffee into a Dutch home as a non-Dutch person is almost like getting an invitation to see the Queen.
The date for our coffee was set the first week of June and I planned on attending until my life seemed to shatter into a million pieces with my mother’s illness in the states and then my car accident while I was there.
Finally, once I returned in late June, I was able to reschedule my coffee appointment with Roos and had a wonderful time learning about Roos and the art she creates.
On 12 July, I travelled by train then cycled through the city of Dordrecht took the water bus to the landing at Alblasserdam where Roos was waiting in bright red pants. Her and I had been texting all morning, I was informed as to how I could identify her.
It was nearly noon when I finally pulled up to the landing to meet my blog friend in person. I had made a very Dutch 10 am coffee appointment. Rule number one in The Netherlands is be on time for coffee appointments! Being late had me already a bit nervous about our meeting.
Meeting new people is always awkward and in a culture where the Dutch kiss family and friends on the cheeks three times as a greeting I am never sure what is expected. I usually follow what everyone else is doing (I guess I am a sheep when it comes to that). In the situations like this I was unsure, I had no other sheep to follow, what am I to do? Shake her hand? Kiss three times (I mean we had been blog friends for three months now and exchanged several messages and even talked on the phone), maybe it was too soon for kisses? Will we talk Dutch or English? She had told me that she spent several years in England. I was calm but was a little on unstable uncomfortable ground.
So I waved from the boat, she waved back and when the gate of the water bus opened, I rushed off in my normal friendly way and quickly grabbed her and gave her three kisses on the cheeks. Who could go wrong? But, maybe I surprised her a bit? I know most English or American’s are not that comfortable with the Dutch way of greeting so closely.
She was smaller than I imagined but thin and spindle like in frame. I could “feel” artist right away. She pointed to her older bike and stated that we would head along the dike to a restaurant overlooking the water of the Lek River.
“Is it close to Kinderdijk?” I asked
“Very, close and a very good restaurant.” Roos replied. “Are you hungry?”
“I really am as I haven’t eaten much today.” I answered as we rode along the dike dodging traffic and talking while we rode.
Roos explained where she lived, and how long she had been living in Alblasserdam. She recently had returned after living in Wales for 18 years.
“Wow” I thought “How cool and interesting.”
As when sat at the restaurant and talked about her art projects, I found that she was more than just an artist. She and her German husband had worked piloting ships. Her father was a ship owner who was contracted with Unilever (one of the largest companies in the world) transporting oil products (sunflower, olive, and flax oil up and down the Noord River we now viewed as we had our meal). She was constantly busy with her wood boat, working in a small rented garden, and attended art shows on most weekends. Roos is one very busy and very interesting gal.
As we finished up our meal and we prepared to part ways. I was not looking forward to going on to our campsite to be welcomed to the blistering heat of our camper. Roos asked what bike route I planned on taking.
“Right through Kinderdijk and the gobs of tourists. I love to see the deer in the headlight look on their faces as I ride as fast as I can through them.” I said laughing at the thought of the tourists as I went flying by and they jumped out-of-the-way.
She laughed and added that she could ride with me and if I had time we could stop at her rental garden and the boat.
“Sure, I would love to see them.” I replied and also thought, thank goodness I can put off that darn heat of the camper a few more mintues.
She smiled. The kindness in that smile instantly melted my heart and made me very happy that I had answered Roos’s initial comment on my blog.
We rode fast through the tourists, over the bridge packed with scared looking camera laden wishful windmill photographers. All snapping pictures and blocking the pathway. They are all going to have the best pictures ever of blurry windmills as most of them moved quickly as we came through the crowd and disturb their perfect picture.
Sorry, to those of you who were there that day for blurry windmill photos of your perfect vacation.
NOTE: to future Kinderdijk tourists, stay out-of-the-way and keep the bridges clear for local bike traffic.
We first visited her rental garden. The place was like what I would imagine Eden to be like. Quite, beautiful small gardens containing every sort of plant, flower, and veggie you could imagine. Men and women moved around in the other gardens located next to the outskirts of Alblasserdam in hushed murmurs talking about plants. It was the Histortisch Tuin but only more personal.
We finally stopped and parked the bike and then walked to her small rental spot. Just acquired this season by Roos. She had a hodgepodge of wonderful natural planting and self seeding plants from prior garden owners. It was great fun to walk through and find tomato plants mixed in with beans, and wild flowers. Then a pumpkin vine appeared with the start of a small pumpkin.
“I know where I will get my Jack for Halloween this year!” I thought to myself with a huge smile on my face at this new experience.
Roos spent a bit of time explaining her future plans for her garden and then it was time to head off to see the wood boat.
“It is in a bit of a shape.” she said in her clear English accent.
“So, I guess that means you have some work going on with it?” I wanted to make sure I understood correctly as English spoken in Europe is not always the English I understand.
She had already shared a story of how they purchased the boat and in it was in need of more repair than they initially thought.
“Isn’t that always the case with used items.” I had mentioned as she talked.
“Oh, you have no idea.” she said, not really expanding on it much further.
After seeing the boat we parted ways and I headed off in the heat to the campground in Oud-Alblas to swelter until the cool of the evening.
I returned this last weekend to get some pictures of Roos’s garden and to my surprise she was there watering her plants. I learned so much in just the short visit, Dutch names of plants I know in English, how to make dandelion jelly (really!), and how she makes bowls from gords. I was rewarded with two items from her garden a cucumber and a zucchini.
I never would have thought prior to November of last year when I started my blog that I would be having success in people following my stories. I couldn’t have imagined making a new friend and sharing gardening interests with someone who I met through this blog process. I feel lucky that my journey has led me to this wonderful new world.
Thank you Roos for being a wonderful host and for teaching me something new.
Have you ever “met” one of your fellow bloggers in person? If so please share your experiences with me.
If not have you ever thought of a blogger you subscribe to and wanted to “meet”, do you think it would be different or the same from the blogger you know online?
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