SBP In Netherlands 2018: Off to a Great Start with Tasty Crepes and Ancient Ferns

I’ve waited 18 years for this trip.

Mrs. Michelle Tuorto H ‘16

Mr. David Rodriguez ’96 and I arrived at SBP in the fall of 2000.  We’ve clamored, in recent years, for the opportunity to travel with students.  We were very excited to be asked to take the second Benedict’s trip to the Netherlands, especially with our colleague and friend Jim Duffy H’16, and a group of fun, interesting, and enthusiastic kids. Our first school travel experience started with an on-time flight, plenty of seat room (sitting next to David Rahaman ’20, who also doesn’t take up a lot of room, helped), and lots of laughter and jokes.

SBP Dean of Faculty Michelle Tuorto tried to join the hordes of bike riders in Amsterdam but couldn’t get the knack. Instead, she ran the mile to the train station!

We adults had the weekend to sightsee while the students spent time with their host families. We decided to visit Haarlem and its windmill first.  Unfortunately, my optimism about being able to ride a bike after limited childhood experience ended in a fail, so I took a mile run to the train station instead (thank goodness for cross training!).  We found train travel here to be punctual, clean, and orderly — basically the antithesis of what’s back home.  Our new friend, the guide from our mill tour, sent us out into Haarlem with some great recommendations about places to eat and drink, and we found some of our own, too.  Crepes do indeed make one happy.

While SBP students visit host families, faculty members (from left) Mr. James Duffy, Mrs. Michelle Tuorto, and Mr. David Rodriguez start their tour of The Netherlands with a visit to a windmill in Haarlem.

My must-see spot in Amsterdam was Hortus Botanicus and its rare plant specimens, some of which are extinct in the wild.  There are several greenhouse-enclosed ecosystems, including a desert and tropical rainforest, through which you can walk and be close to the specimens.  Then there is the palm house, where we visited a 300-year-old male Eastern Cape Giant Cycad in a May-December romance with a 20-year-old female. Even though it’s still winter, and the Netherlands is experiencing below-normal temperatures, the outdoor gardens still had things to share; I was thrilled to add some new birds to my life list, like the rose-ringed parakeet.

A tour guide’s recommendation for tasty eats included a restaurant serving the sweet thin pastries known as crêpes.

As we had our adventures, the shared group chat with the kids lit up with photos and comments about the new experiences everyone was enjoying.  Seeing their authentic smiles made us smile as well.  I’m looking forward to discovering more of the Netherlands with them as we join up for the school week.

A 300-year-old fern is one of the main attractions at Amsterdam’s Hortus Botanicus, one of the oldest botanic gardens in the world.