June 26, 2017 – Netherlands – Adventure by the seat of my pants … is quickly becoming the standard method of travel on these tours.
Rode the jet stream from Detroit into Amsterdam and landed an hour early. Cobbled together my bike, which included repair to a broken spoke and a flat tire, and I was off. Don’t ask me “where to” as I had no maps and, yes, I can see your eye rolls all the way in Europe.
Met storekeep Dirk Smits at his corner grocery “Smits Traiteur” in the old part of Hoofddorp.
“You’re in Holland,” said Smits.
It seemed an educated head nod to my lack of direction.
Smits was a third generation grocer.
“My grandfather started the store in 1885. His name was Jaap Langareis. “Brothers Langareis” was the name of the store,” said Smits.
At 46 years old, Smits had a knack for multitasking – blending casual conversation with the art of stocking shelves and filling customer orders.
“We originally started as an old-fashioned green grocer selling vegetables and now we have Dutch strawberries and other items from Mexico and Peru,” said Smits, “Nothing but the best.”
His glass display counters carried a vista of gorgeous olives, prepared meats and tables of fresh colorful fruits.
An elderly lady sat in a cozy, high-backed wicker chair and placed her order.
“Many of the older generation still only know Dutch,” said Smits. “Their English is limited to ‘Yes, no and bye bye.'”
Smits prepared a plate of noodles for me. It had a hint of hot spice with a peanut sauce base.
The neighborhood grocery was open six days a week. “Sunday is closed,” said Smits. “We’re Christians. If you give me a million we wouldn’t open the store. We see the Bible as the holy book of God.” Smits printed out a map for me on his computer – 12km to Leiden.