Tag Archives: Netherlands

Waterlinie, The Netherlands

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA large portion of the Netherlands is below sea level and the land has been reclaimed so that it is inhabitable. The Dutch have very innovative (in my opinion) canal systems, dijks and locks for managing the water. In war time, between 1815-1940 there was a section referred to as the Waterlinie (Water Line) which runs from North to South, and was able to be flooded at will as a defence mechanism, blocking enemies attempting to invade from the east.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAlong the Waterlinie forts, bunkers and castles were built. I spent a half day visiting a tiny portion of the Waterlinie with my cousin Quinty and her partner Adriaan. We started off at Fort Altena. Then visited the adorable little town of Woudrichem and ended with a visit to the castle, Slot Loevenstein.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn all of these places you can find the most adorable old architecture, it is well worth taking the time to wander around all of these sites. If the weather is good, it could be fun to pack a picnic, as there are many waterside spots to sit and relax. If you aren’t the picnicking type, then all of these sites have fantastic cafes and restaurants to stop for food and/or drink. We certainly enjoyed a beer in the sun outside Slot Loevenstein.
If you have the time, I would also suggest exploring additional sites along the Waterlinie.

Check out all my pics on Flickr!

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Walking tours in Rotterdam

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARotterdam is an interesting city, it got almost completely destroyed in the second world war through bombing (the city that lost it’s heart) and as a result is the most architecturally modern city in the Netherlands. It is a place that visited often, but only ever to shop; and despite my interest in architecture, I had never really bothered to look at the city, so it was about time to change that!

One way I really enjoy getting to know a city is through free walking tours. There are many cities that offer free walking tours, always offered by people who genuinely love their city and work for tips.

Surprisingly and disappointingly, it wasn’t so easy to find a free walking tour in Rotterdam in 2015, at the time of writing this post.

As Rotterdam has started to gain more tourist appeal, the walking tour options have improved, and inspired a revamp/rewrite of this post. My knowledge and interest of the city has also grown since I recently became a Rotterdam resident.

Rotterdam Free Walking Tour

On Saturday June 17th, 2017 Tim, Vincent and Hans started Free Walking Tour Rotterdam. Eager to see what the guys had to offer and coinciding with a visit from friends I went on their first tour.

Rotterdam Old Harbour

Tim and Vincent did a fantastic job of showing the city sights, explaining the city’s history and sharing with us what makes the city tick.

Since I now live in Rotterdam I can vouch for the fact that the tour hits all the highlights including my personal favourites: the Market hall, Cube houses, Old Harbour and the White House.

At this stage Free Walking Tours Rotterdam only operate on Saturdays at 1:30pm from the Market hall. Due to popularity they are investigating increasing the frequency of the tours.

A range of walking tour options

Ani & Haakien hostel have a broad range of free walking tours on offer within Rotterdam, as well as a few offerings for paid tours further afield (If I hadn’t already been – the tour to the UNESCO heritage listed Kinderdijk would be pretty high on priority list!).

I enjoyed the architectural walking tour of the city, which runs on Saturdays at 11am. The tour covers the history of the city’s architecture, the architectural styles over time and the city’s programs for renovations. The focus of the tour was definitely the older architecture, pre and post war, but with little attention paid to newer architectural structures such as the new Market hall.

The added bonus – you do not need to be a hostel guest to access their tours and the staff I spoke to were awesome, friendly and helpful! (If I had a need to stay in Rotterdam, I would definitely book a bed in this hostel)

Self Guided Walking Tours

If, like I was, you are stuck with the problem of not being in Rotterdam the day that a particular tour is offered then the next best option is a self guided walking tour – which is obviously free.

For this I have two recommendations. For architecture and the general sights of Rotterdam I would recommend the app from Rotterdam Tourist Information. If you prefer to check out street art then the Rewriters App is fabulous. (they do also offer a paid street art tour on the weekends when enough people are interested).

My self-guided street art tour

Cartoonised city sights of Rotterdam by Last PlakWith a keen interest in street art and the knowledge that Rotterdam had numerous hidden gems, I was pretty excited to hit the streets of Rotterdam. The best option I found was an app called Rewriters. The app costs a dollar but provides a fantastic interactive map through Rotterdam to a great number of interesting works of art from a variety of artists. The app contains audio and text to explain a bit about the artist of each piece, as well as some information about the piece itself.

I really had a fantastic time checking out all the art works, I was impressed by the quality of the work and range of styles and pieces visited on the route. It was also a great way for me to get to know my new city better.

The app offers two complete walking routes, one within central Rotterdam and the other in Capelle aan den Ijssel – this one is still on my ‘To Do’ list.

Note: Ani & Haakien offer a Graffiti and Bar Tour on Friday nights at 9pm. I was interested in checking out the street art in the middle of winter, so wasn’t prepared to walk for 1.5 hours in the dark and cold. Now that we have long daylight hours in Summer, I have already seen the majority of the art and as a result have not done this tour myself.

My self-guided architectural walking tour

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe app is really well designed and walks you from place to place, with pictures, maps, descriptions and audio. I went with my cousin Roel and his friend Sjoerd (they are both still students and require good english for their studies and future careers, so the outing was partly english practice for them and partly about seeing the city).

The tour has 46 places of interest to visit, but we had limited time and were easily distracted by shops, food and drinks, so only managed to visit about 9 of them.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe tour starts at the tourist information office on the Coolsingel of Rotterdam, a short walk from Rotterdam Blaak train station. From there it heads across to the Maritime museum, though I am not sure why. The third stop was the Museum of Rotterdam, which was a gorgeous old building. The only seventeenth century building in the city center that was left standing after the war.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAContinuing on was another old building, St Laurens Church, which was the only surviving late-gothic building from the original medieval city of Rotterdam. It was badly damaged in the war, but has since been restored.

Just a block or so from the cathedral the style of architecture is a drastic change, and switches from classic to extremely modern. The new markethall, the library, the pencil building and the cube houses are all very interesting designs.

Library, Cube Houses, Pencil Building & Blaak station
Library, Cube Houses, Pencil Building & Blaak station

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe markethall is the newest of these, having been opened in October 2014 (not even a year ago). It has an arch shape, through the arch are apartments, the two ends are capped with glass walls. Internally the center section is filled with market stalls, cafes and restaurants. The walls and ceiling of the hall are beautiful bright colours and are essentially an artwork representing the foods and flowers you might find in a market, as well as some depictions of neighbouring buildings, such as the Laurens Church. It’s a thoroughly fascinating piece of architecture, one that has drawn many people in the direction of Rotterdam, where previously Amsterdam was the big drawcard of the nation.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFrom this very modern area in the direction of the wharf, at least one older building can be found, The White House. The first Dutch “Skyscraper” standing a not so high 45 metres tall, with 11 storeys. It’s a gorgeous building by the water, but once again, provides such a contrast to the modern buildings nearby.

From here it is about a block to the river where you can see the iconic Erasmusbrug and Willemsbrug (bridges). These weren’t on the walking tour officially, but they were so close that I threw them in for my own interest. The last stop I made it to from the official list was the Red Apple building. It’s a very new building and has quite a large overhang. I noticed actually, that many of the modern buildings in Rotterdam has an overhanging component, which I find fascinating, not to mention and engineering wonder (that is, to me, who is not an engineer).

We finished up our afternoon with a beer in one of the many restaurants in the market hall. A fabulous end to an enjoyable afternoon!

Check out my pictures on Flickr!

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Some other tour options

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Franks Tours: Frank runs tours through Ani & Haakien, as well as independently. His city tour and graffiti tour both sound like they are worthy of investigation.

Urban Guides: Cost is between €17,50 – €25, tours take 2,5-3 hours and it is by bicycle – this one sounds pretty cool, but in September it only operates on the weekend and unfortunately my weekends are already all booked up.
Leijnse Stadtoers: Cost is €15, it takes 1,5 hours and is available on request.
Gilde Rotterdam: Cost is €5, it takes 1,5 to 2 hours and there is an agenda from which you can select a walk.
Rotterdam Roots: Cost is crazy expensive, tour lengths range from 1,5 to 4 hours.
City Walking Tours:  They offer a few tours, you need to call or email for bookings.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in December 2015, the walking tour options in Rotterdam have since greatly improved and this post has been revised and republished as a result. Happy Walking!

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The Netherlands

Schoolkaart_kleurSomething I have made no secret of, is the fact that I am dual citizen Dutch-Australian. My immediate family lives in Australia, but the remainder of my family lives in a small town in The Netherlands, called Sliedrecht. It is in the province of South Holland.

I find that when I visit the family I tend to stop blogging, because it is home to me. I have visited every 3 years since I was 3 months old and I don’t really see it as one of my adventures. However thinking about it, there’s no reason why I shouldn’t blog about it because it’s just as beautiful, interesting and history-rich as any other place I visit.

So, in addition to standard  home life, I have done a bit of sightseeing in my first week here. My cousin Roel and I made a day trip to The Hague, I visited the windmills of Kinderdijk and I went to a food truck festival in Dordrecht with a cousin and her family.

The Hague

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Hague (Den Haag) is in South Holland on the west coast of the country. It is the political capital of the nation, it’s where the government, the parliament and various homes of royal family members can be found. It is also where most foreign embassies can be found (I have personal experience with the Australian embassy, as a 16 year old I only had a Dutch passport and left Australia after my re-entry permit had expired. So I had to make a quick trip to the Aussie embassy to get a new permit so I could return home).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Hague isn’t a city where I have spent much time, but it is a pretty cool place to visit. The city center has some fantastic architecture, some very important and historical buildings and a lovely atmosphere. An interesting art gallery in the city center that is worth visiting is Panorama Mesdag. The gallery was created simply to house the enormous 14m by 40m cylindrical panorama painting. Even for someone who isn’t into art, the idea of this massive cylindrical panorama is really cool, as a 16 year old at my last visit I can assure you I didn’t appreciate it as much as it is worthy of. Entry costs 10 euros.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANearby The Hague is a place called Madurodam where much of the Netherlands has been re-created in miniatures. I used to love going as a kid, but haven’t returned since I was 18. Entry costs 13,50 euros. If you have never been to Madurodam, then I highly recommend it, it provides a fantastic insight into the country, the culture and the history.

Also, just a 2km walk/cycle from the city center is one of The Netherlands’ more famous beaches, Scheveningen. When you tease people about trying to pronounce crazy words from a different language, we use this beaches name. In my recent visit to The Hague, we had planned to cycle to Scheveningen, but ran out of time.

With some of those facts aside, my cousin Roel and I made a half day visit to The Hague. I really enjoyed wandering around the old city, stopping for coffee and simply enjoying the atmosphere. The contrast of old and new architecture is thoroughly fascinating. Mostly you see old buildings and new buildings, but every now and then you see old and new combined in one. The old government buildings are simply gorgeous and it’s almost worth visiting just to see them. The city has a really good vibe, I’m surely I only saw the tiniest portion of what it has to offer. I would highly recommend a visit if you are in the country.

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Kinderdijk

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAKinderdijk is the name of a town several kilometres up the highway from Sliedrecht. With the use of my auntie’s car with built-in GPS it took about 15 minutes to drive there.

Kinderdijk is a UNESCO World Heritage listed site that is well known for the windmills. The area has 19 windmills dating from the 1500s. The windmills were originally created to control the water level in the region, which is now done by diesel pumps. One of the windmills is open to the public as a museum, but the remaining ones can only be viewed from outside.

The area is a beautiful spot to go for a stroll or cycle, you could probably even take a picnic lunch. I have been many times, but my most recent visit was when the windmills were lit up with flood lights at night time, which happens every year in the second week of September. I have seen many windmills in my life, but the night time perspective was simply stunning. For the event, entry was free, but during the day the entry fee is 7,50 euros.

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Food Truck Festival

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADordrecht (often referred to as Dordt) is another town in the South Holland Province, the town where I lived and worked when in both my gap years. It’s a few kilometres from my home town of Sliedrecht, but is a slightly bigger town.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn September 12th I went to Dordt with a cousin and her family to a Food Truck Festival called Eterij op Wielen (Food on wheels). While the weather was overcast and drizzly which possibly affected the number of people visiting, it was still a fantastic and pleasant afternoon.

We shared some foods between the three adults: poffertjes (tiny dutch pancakes), pulled pork rolls, pulled chicken wraps, vegetarian pasta, hamburgers and of course a selection of wine. A fantastic afternoon/evening out!

Check out all my photos on Flickr!

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Family stuff in The Netherlands and another quick trip to Belgium

The Netherlands

After three short trips away, by the time we got back to The Netherlands it was time to take things easy for a few days.

I started off spending a day at home downloading the pictures of my camera, editing them and uploading them to my Facebook,  writing my blog, and doing the mundane stuff like catching up on some washing.

That afternoon I was already ready for some more excitement. My cousin Quinty had organised something for all the girl cousins to do…but it was a secret. So dressed casually, ready for anything and toddled over to Quinty’s place. I soon learned that the afternoon schedule involved a cake decorating workshop followed by dinner with all the cousins and partners.

Starting our workshop we all had the choice of what cake shape to work with: round with a flat top or a dome. Considering the lady told us a dome shape was easier I put my hand up for that! We started by cutting our cakes into layers, then putting flavours into the layers, covering the whole cake in buttercream icing and putting it in the fridge to cool. By covering the cake in buttercream icing, it would make it easier to smooth a layer of marzipan icing over the cake. From there we had to decide how to decorate our cakes, and true to my name I decided to make a duck cake. I started by colouring and rolling out a light blue to cover the whole cake. Then I drew a duck on paper as a template, cut out my duck and then used this template to cut out a bunch of little ducks. I added little orange beaks and teeny tiny blue dot eyes (the person running the workshop made me an awesome duck to put on the top of the cake). By the time I put my ducks on the cake we were starting to run short on time, so Quinty, having finished her cake, helped me out with the waves and the clouds to finish off the cake. Consider I am not at all artistic and I really suck at cakes..I was incredibly proud of my efforts!!
Quinty’s cake had branches, leaves, flowers and birds; Maricia made a cake about her and Jeroens upcoming wedding, with champagne glasses, rings, the wedding date and their names on it; and Lianne made a hot orange cake with a Dutch flag in support of the European Championship football competition due to start that week.

L-R Clockwise: Maricia, Quinty, Lianne, Duckie

Happy with our cakes we packed up, put the cakes in the fridge and headed out. With all the cousins together (most anyway, Pat and Anna were visiting Ann’s family) we went for dinner to an Italian restaurant in Papendrecht. We all ate delicious food and had a fabulous evening enjoying each others company.

Mum and I headed to Rotterdam the following day for a spot of shopping. I had been very restrained so far!! I got some awesome jeans, chinos, sneakers and few other odds and ends. With our bags full we jumped on the train back to Sliedrecht where my aunt Marjan collected us and we all headed to Ikea in Barendrecht. Ikea is totally my most favourite shop ever!!! So I bought a few bits and pieces but not too much..very aware of baggage limits when flying!

Boer Family

On Tuesday Anna was a little bit disappointed that I had gone to Rotterdam without her, so I went again, with Pat and Anna this time. The market happened to be on, so we ate some yummy hot chips, drank slushies and filled the last little gaps in our bellies with freshly made super stroop wafels. Anna had waited three years to finally try a fresh super stroop wafel, so she was pretty happy!! We also had a look at the cube houses, checked out a few shops and then realising the time quickly jumped ont he train back to Sliedrecht. That evening we had a family dinner with everyone on mum’s side of the family. We went to an all you can eat sushi restaurant called Shabu Shabu. It was actually pretty awesome. There were 4 rounds and each round each person could order 5 menu items. It was great fun, and so tasty! Also surprisingly filling, we all crashed and burned after round three!! At the end of the evening as we all waddled back to our cars, we grabbed a quick family photo. The first time in 20 years that we have had a full family photo! (Sorry it’s not actually the best quality picture in the world..but at least we are all in it!)

Some other things we crammed into that week included a guided tour of my uncle’s shackle factory. Mum, Anna and I had an afternoon in Dordrecht, eating poffertjes and checking out the shops. Pat went out on the boat in the Biesbos with the boys. We all checked out the local market for fresh bread, cheese, meat and of course….super stroop wafels! One night the Stam Clan and Ineke went to Quinty’s place for dinner.

Before we knew it, it was Friday June 8th. The big day for Maricia and Jeroen!
Maricia had spent her last night as an unmarried woman, in her family home (where Pat, Anna and I were staying). In the morning the make-up person and hair person arrived to make her look all pretty. Then Marjan and I helped her put on her STUNNING wedding dress! We laced up the back and then stepped back to look at the huge grin on her face. She looked amazing and was super excited and anxiously awaiting the moment when she would see her groom. She didn’t have to wait long before there was a knock on the door. Jeroen had turned up in a spunky white porsche to collect her.

They sped off to some stunning locations for their photos before returning to greet their guests. Together we all walked to town hall where we witnessed the official ceremony. The ceremony was really lovely and very personal, the celebrant had gotten to know them well and shared some great stories.

After they had exchanged rings and kissed…of course with much applause from us! We all walked down the street to restaurant Bellevue for the wedding cake/cupcakes and coffee. This was also the time we had for group and family photos.

Soon it was time to catch the party bus to the Hipper in Gorinchem, where we enjoyed a delicious BBQ buffet dinner. We were kept entertained by some nice poems about Maric and Jeroen as well as a powerpoint presentation with pictures. By the time our food had settled, the evening guests (everyone else who was invited) turned up to the reception to congratulate to the couple, celebrate their wedding and party on and have a boogie to the band’s great tunes!

A fabulous night was had by all…especially Maricia and Jeroen!

Group photo outside town hall

The day after the wedding there was no time for us Stam’s to relax, it was time for another family reunion. This time we caught up with the entire Stam clan (Dad’s side of the family) for the first time in 20 years!!

We started our Stam day at my aunt and uncles place for coffee where we met everyone. I think I had met almost everyone before; but for Pat and Anna it was a pretty steep learning curve trying to absorb so many new names and faces. After our coffee and introductions, we hopped onto our bus and headed out to a place called Hooghei. It is an activity centre, where they offer all sorts of activities for young and old, as well as offering buffet style meals. On arrival we started with some lunch, build up some energy stores before the games to come!

At hole 1, ready to start football-golf

The first game of the day was 18 holes of football-golf (by football, I mean soccer). It was pretty entertaining, there was such a huge variation in skills level. The young ones had completed all the holes before we were even halfway through! I accidentally kicked my ball into a small canal…luckily Patrick helped me fish it out without getting wet! Some of the other boys had less luck than I did, kicking their ball into a big canal, which required stripping down to their undies and going for a muddy, cold swim to retrieve it!

Stretching to fish the ball out of the canal

Unfortunately for us, the field where we were playing had about 10 centimetres of water on it, so by the end of the game we all had soggy, cold toes. This certainly didn’t stop the Stams! Off we went for some farmers games: team football, three people per team, tied to each other, playing as one…that got a bit messy!; wheelbarrow races; the thing where you throw horse shoes onto pegs, pitchfork throwing into bales of hay to pop the balloons and a few more. We calmed down from all this excitement with a horse and cart ride. We finished the day with a tasty buffet dinner while we watched the first Netherlands game in the European Championships football. Once the game was over, with a not-so-favourable result, we took the bus back home.

Before we did that, we did manage to get a quick snap of the whole family.

Stam Family

After so much busy-ness, Pat and Anna had no time to slow down, they packed their bags and took a train to Frankfurt to continue on the last leg of their round-the-world trip. Their final destination was a second honeymoon in the Maldives. Though I was sad to see them go, I knew it would only be a few short weeks till we were all back in Tassie together, so determined to make the most of my holiday, I packed my bags, collected mum and off we went to Belgium.

Belgium

Mum and I drove the short 1.5hours to Brussels, we found our hotel, parked the car, checked in, and set off to see the sights!

Brussels is cute little city, though I am sure we didn’t even see very much of what it has to offer. We wandered past some amazing old churches and watch towers, through the fish market, briefly checked out an outdoor concert/jazz festival and nibbled on some sugar dusted apple beignets. We continued our wandering and found the city center and the marketplace, with many cute cafes and beautiful old buildings, of course the streets were lined with chocolaterie’s offering so many tasty treats..this is where we had our first Belgian pralines. We wandered into a little store and asked “Which one is the best?” and that was the one we had. Using this method, I never got a dud!!

Before going too far, we sat down for some late lunch. What does one eat in Belgium?? Well, if you didn’t already know, I will tell you now, Belgium is known for several things: Chocolate, Waffles and Beer. Having already had chocolate, our lunch consisted of waffles and beer. I had waffles ‘mikado’ with ice cream, cream and chocolate sauce, I made sure to support the locals by selecting a local brew, Tongerlo.

Bellies full, off we went, exploring more streets at random, seeing more lovely old architecture. In our wanderings we of course tried some more chocolates and also visited one of the landmarks of Brussels: Manneke Pis. The statue of a pissing boy – who knows why that was ever famous, but the crowd surrounding the small fountain/statue was crazy!

Another thing that surprised me, were the Tin Tin murals I spotted on random buildings throughout the city. Very cool though!

After having explored many of the streets and soaking up some of the culture, also having walked off our food, it was time for dinner. We found a lovely little restaurant near the old fish market we had some amazing truffle ravioli with a fresh tomato sauce, and of course accompanying this meal was some beer. It was here that I found my most favourite ever, Pecheresse: peach beer. It was divine!!

The following day we had another bit of a wander around Brussels, enjoyed a few more chocolates and were even so generous as to buy some extra chocolates for friends back home. (Do you think those chocolates made it back to Tassie?)

By around 11am, we hopped back in the car and made the short 45 minute drive to Bruges. Again we found our hotel, checked in and set off to explore. Within a few minutes of leaving the hotel the rain started, it became a torrential downpour and we found a bridge/gate to shelter under. (The center of Bruges is a walled city, and this entire city centre is Unesco world heritage listed..it was under one of the gates to the city that we were sheltering) In the 10 minutes that we stood waiting for the rain to slow, I saw the water it the gutters build up and build up, until it was a third of the way across the road. The cars that passed slowed down and swerved to avoid the pooling water…all except for one… a range rover sped through the puddle, and we were showered in filthy street water! Soaked right through, we no longer had a need to shelter under the bridge and we continued our walk into town. Thankfully it was not too long before we found a nice dry cafe to sit, warm up, dry out and enjoy some lunch.

View from the top of the Belfry

Having sat in a cafe for close to an hour, we were still a little damp, but the rain had stopped and os spirits high we went off in search of pretty sights. The first thing we spotted was the Belfry. The big tower at the central marketplace. (this is the tower featured in the movie In Bruges). I’m always a fan of climbing towers and checking out the view. Mum decided to sit this one out and sat in a cafe for a cuppa. Off I went, climbed 366 steps to the top and even with the rainy-grey sky it still had a pretty good view. Just as I was about to head back down, it must have ticked over to the hour because the bells began to chime. It was insanely loud and a terrible tune, I assume/hope that those things sound good at a distance when they sound so bad close up. The last bell chime was more of a resounding ‘clang’ ..the kind that vibrates through your whole body and deafens you! I was definitely ready to head back down!

When I met up with mum we resumed our wandering, stopped for a chocolate or two along the way. We went for a boat ride through the canals and learned a bit about the city. Such a beautiful old city! In our stay in Bruges we saw many beautiful buildings and experienced many different things: We saw Church of Our Lady which housed Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child, one of his only works to leave Italy; we learned about the history of chocolate, and got a taste test at the Chocolate Museum; we tasted some interesting beer and learned about the brewing of beer at the Half Moon Brewery.

View of some old buildings and the Belfry, from a canal.

The Belgian people are very particular about the beers. You will never find a Belgian beer that is in a can. Also every beer (I do actually mean every beer) that is brewed also has a glass designed to match it. The brewmaster designs the glass to accentuate the flavour and smell of the beer, I assume he also factors in the look and the amount of head that the beer produces when poured into each different shape glass.Once the glass has been designed to match the beer, it is then also labelled with the name of the beer, so as not to confuse the drinker. No beer is ever served in the wrong glass!

After 3 days enjoying Belgium it was time to head back to Holland, pack our bags and head home. So I said “Proost” to a fantastic holiday!

Drinking the ‘Brugse Zot’ at the Half Moon Brewery.
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Time to explore the northern Netherlands

Sunday

After a rather uncomfortable and long flight we arrived in rainy Holland at 6:30am, thankfully for the family who love us and came to the airport to pick us up. It’s roughly a 90 minute drive to Sliedrecht from the airport, and when we arrived, we went straight to my cousins Maricia’s house for a cuppa (this was the first time we got to see her new house, and it is really beautiful!)

After a caffeine hit we dropped mum off at my aunt Inekes place and I went home with my aunt and uncle. We spent the day just chilling out, sitting around drinking coffee and chatting which was really good. By midday the weather was sunny and warm.

In the evening we had a family dinner which was great, with the aunts uncles, cousins and partners. To stay awake for the last part of the evening, I went for a ride on the tandem with my cousin Lianne. It was hilarious!!! It involved much squealing until we got the hang of it (which thankfully didn’t take too long).

Monday

Mum and I had a really chilled day, more coffee, more chatting, we also wandered around the neighbourhood and did a bit of sticky beaking in the shops. We weren’t particularly jet-lagged but had a chilled day anyway. The weather really took a turn for the good and we enjoyed mid 20s weather sitting outdoors.

Tuesday

In the morning mum and I headed off on a road trip to the north. I was pretty apprehensive to start with, driving on the highway on the right side of the road, but was feeling pretty good after only a short time. It is pretty crazy how people drive here. Flying down a 5 lane highway, I was doing 110km/h in a 100 zone, but being overtaken by EVERYONE!!! So the standard highway speed seems to be about 120-130km/h.

The days adventures mostly entailed seeing some of the older more traditional towns. we started with Marken, that has lots of old beautiful timber houses and a few people wandering around in traditional dress. After a few hours wandering around Marken we headed to Volendam, a similar old city along the water. We stopped for some lunch there and I took the time to enjoy a rose beer (delicious fruity pink beer!).

From there we headed to Edam where I was super keen to buy some Edam cheese. Sadly I discovered that Edam cheese is not actually made in Edam, so I had some locally made cheese instead. Still very tasty.

After Edam it was starting to get a bit late in the day and we decided to head to the island of Texel since it was fairly close by, and I had never been. We were pretty lucky that we got the ferry terminal perfectly in time to drive onto the boat and head off. It was about a 20 minute trip and then we headed to the ‘capital’ of Texel, which of course was a pretty small town but of course very cute with the paved streets and little houses with gabels. We drove around the whole island, checked out the beaches and lighthouses, had some delicious dinner and then found a place to stay the night.

Wednesday

After an early start and some brekky we jumped on the ferry back to the mainland, then drove across the Afsluitdijk.

The north sea used to flow into the zuiderzee, but this regularly flooded the area. So donkeys years ago they built a dam (its called a dijk, but its technically a dam because there is water on both sides), called the afsluitdijk which is 30km long.
After crossing from one side of the land to the other we ended up in a region called Friesland.
Friesland (Fryslan) is actually kinda weird because even though it is part of Holland they have their own language, which I can’t understand at all! We headed to the city of Leeuwaarden (I wanted to go there because I just love the name of the city). We didn’t really do a great deal here, wandered around the city, went to climb the church tower, but it was closed.
From there we went to a town in the middle of nowhere called Hegebeintum (the navigation system couldn’t even find it, it was so small). That was where we went to see Holland’s highest terp. A terp is basically a big mound of dirt which is a place you evacuate to when it floods (remember the afsluitdijk has now prevented flooding in this area). So the terp in hegebeintum is8.8m high. It has a church, graveyard and a few houses. It was interesting but only took a few minutes to see really.
We had a 4:30 appointment in Grootegast, so from there we hightailed it through lots of narrow little roads, following canals, through to the city (piss tiny) of Grootegast where we met some people regarding something mum does with the dutch australian society. There we had this meeting and chat, and they took us out for dinner. While I found it all pretty awkward to start with, it actually ended up being a really pleasant evening.
After that we zoofed straight through to Groningen. A bigger city. We crashed there the night.
Thursday
We started our day sitting in the sun with a tasty brekky and a coffee at the base of the Martini tower. After brekky, I went sticky beaking around the city, climbed the Martinitower and did a little bit of shopping. While I explored the city, mum had a meeting at a school regarding a student  exchange program. After that we headed back to Sliedrecht, we had some dinner then picked up Pat and Anna from the train station (first time we have seen them since late January, so it is pretty awesome to catch up!!).
So that’s the latest and greatest. Tomorrow morning we head off to the Ardennen in Belgium for an adventure weekend away with the whole family.
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