This wasn’t exactly My Dinner with Andre. My coffee with Irma consisted of eight of us guests from Avalon Waterways. And Irma.
I’ve done this sort of “meet the locals” once before several years ago in Osijek, Croatia on a lower Danube river cruise. It’s a great way to get to know “real” people, listen to their stories and learn about life and history of the area.
About an hour after breakfast, six female home-hosts boarded the Avalon Artistry II. One by one our names were called. “Cabin 309, (that’s me!) you go with Irma.” Off I went to meet Irma.
Sporting a bright red wool coat and lipstick that matched, Irma was tall with wispy short blond hair that contrasted against her black-framed glasses. We left the ship amid a slow and steady drizzle. Not so much to dampen our spirits though.
Despite the rain, it was quite a pleasant walk.
Irma led us on a sort of scenic walk, first along one of the canals where colorful spring flowers were beginning to bloom.
Then through sleepy downtown Enkhuizen. Shops and cafés were open for business.
I don’t know when her townhouse was built but she did say it was on a protected street because of historical significance. Irma’s home was a tall and narrow brick building as are many Dutch apartments throughout Holland. A modest entrance opened to a small foyer.
The living room’s white walls were decorated with brightly colored, modern-looking tulip paintings, created by Irma’s very talented nephew.
Family photos graced the shelves and small empty wall areas. Whimsical and artsy best described Irma’s home decor – like a personal mini modern art museum.
A neatly-set table covered in a turquoise tablecloth with white polka dots and we eagerly took our places. Everyone was anxious to get to know Irma, sip a cup of hot coffee and try whatever baked goods she had in store for us.
At the table were several plates of store-bought packaged cookies, neatly arranged on small plates.
Seated next to the huge window that looked out onto the enclosed, paved patio, everyone fell in love Irma’s adorable backyard.
Once we all settled in, we learned that as a free-spirited 20-something, she and her boyfriend drove from Holland to Israel to work on a kibbutz. Older and slightly wiser now, Irma is a doting grandmother, volunteers in the community and hosts small groups for coffee twice a month for only Avalon.
Coffee poured, cookies polished off, we thought were about ready for the walk back to the river ship. But wait! Irma had a surprise.
She handed each of us a small glass cup that contained a yellow-colored Dutch treat: Kind of an alcohol-infused custard with whipped cream on top. Advocaat.
Too early for a tipple? Nah! Thank you, Irma and Avalon Waterways for this really unique morning in Holland.
Before I embarked on a week-long river cruise through Holland, I thought…”what could we possibly do for a week”? Plenty! I’d do this itinerary again without a minute’s hesitation.
Here’s a recap of my week aboard Avalon Artistry II, from Haarlem, Holland to Amsterdam.
Sherry is editor and creator of CruiseMaven.com. An expert on ocean and river cruises plus trains in the US and Europe, Sherry’s goal is to share her experiences to entertain, inform and inspire readers to travel the world.