We’ve been having a fabulous summer so far. The weather has been unusually warm and sunny. We’ve been out enjoying it as much as possible — I actually have a tan this year! This post will be in a rough timeline format to catch up from my last blog post.
June 10 – Hike in the Vallee de la Hoegne, Belgium
This was a beautiful hike mostly along a stream with pretty waterfalls and through woods that were very, very green! This area is in the Eifel Nature Park on the Belgium side, about an hour from our house.
This is the only Trappist brewery in Nederland and the first Trappist monastery located outside of France. A very entertaining guide gave us a tour of the brewery and told us all about the history of the monastery. We had lunch with our choice of La Trappe beer on a nice outdoor terrace. After lunch, we drove into Tilburg and did some shopping at the market. Tilburg is where the King celebrated his birthday this past year.
They came in by train from Amsterdam in the afternoon. They were fighting jetlag, as we all do on arrival day. After they had some rest, we caught up over a dinner of croquettes (our Dutch food offering). Then we gave them the walking tour of Oirsbeek.
June 24 – Local sights
We started the day with a European breakfast, which is more like a brunch. After a little walk up to the windmill, we drove to Brunssum to see what can be seen of JFCBS from the gate and then to the big market in Eygelsoven. We had a German version of apple pancakes and Matt was brave enough to try herring (niewe haring) with me. We also stocked up on fruit and veggies. After a short nap back at the house, we biked to Hoensbroek Castle. We had to take a zigzag route because of construction and a carnival in the center of town. My co-worker Ioana joined us for dinner later and we went into town for the annual Oirsbeek music festival — Har Rock Cafe (that’s not a typo :-)). So we listened to one band and that was enough. 😀
June 25 – Maastricht
It’s always fun for us to show off “our” city, one of our favorite Dutch cities. We started with a tour of the limestone caves and I discovered that different tour guides show different parts with different stories. Nice! A 100 meter section of the tour that was in total darkness, which was kinda freaky. I held onto Jasmine’s jacket for bearing. 😬 Frites in town staved off our hunger (Jasmine later declared them the best frites during their entire trip) and then we walked to the sites in the old city. This was the first time I had a chance to see Roman ruins that are located in the basement of a hotel.
We did a little road trip to Germany to do some sightseeing. First up was Eltz Castle. It’s impressive! We had to wait for a tour initially and then a second time because we weren’t given tickets when we paid to get in. This delayed our timeline a bit, but we had a coffee break and then finally a nice tour of the castle. There was a group of nuns ahead of us and we realized later that the owner of the castle was their tour guide. Our plan was to drive to Koblenz, have lunch, and then pick up a 2pm boat for a ride on the Rhine River. We were a bit pressed for time, but we made it there in time to get on the boat and ended up having a relaxing lunch on board the boat. The weather was perfect and we had an awesome 4.5 hr ride on the river. We passed by lots of castles, vineyards and picturesque German towns. We disembarked at Bacharach, which is looks like something out of a storybook. Jasmine remarked that it was like being at Disneyland instead of real town. We strolled around the streets of half-timbered houses and walked a path along a vineyard before finding our restaurant for dinner. The restaurant had a scenic courtyard, great Riesling and yummy German food. We had to wait awhile for the next train back to Koblenz, so it ended up being a late drive home — so worth it though. What a perfect day!
June 27 – Chill day and so long for now
We all slept in to recover from the Germany trip and had a late breakfast. Jasmine & Matt did some prep and packing for the next leg of their trip. We drove them to Liege in the afternoon to catch a train to Bruges. It was good to know that we would see them again at the end of their trip in Amsterdam!
July 1 – Family Party
We were invited to a birthday/anniversary party by Dick’s cousin Frank and wife Ans. It was a 60th birthday for Ans and their 30th wedding anniversary. The party was in Zeewolde, a 2 hr drive away, so we made a day of it and stopped at the Airborne Museum in Oosterbeek on the way. I was a little nervous about being at a party where I didn’t know anyone (except Frans!), but we had a really nice time. The venue was at a marina and it was a nice evening to be outside. Everyone we talked to accommodated me by speaking in English. 🙂 Dick was able to reconnect with several cousins and meet their adult children. They are all very educated and interesting people! I hope we are able to spend more time with them before we leave NL.
July 2 – Tour de France
Dick got very excited when he learned that this year’s Tour de France was starting in Düsseldorf and the route of the second stage was through Aachen, just 28 km away. He has watched the tour on TV for years and the chance to see even a glimpse of it in person was irresistible! We made plans to take the bus into Aachen (to avoid traffic closures) and find a spot near the main square to see the riders. We ended up just off the square where we had a good view on the street after a sharp turn. After about a hour of waiting, the mood became festive as the sponsors paraded through, honking horns, blaring music and throwing out swag and free samples. Shortly after that, the team’s lead cars came through. It started to rain about then and we knew it was going to be a wet view of the riders. Even with the rain, sharp turn and slight uphill, they were fast! I’m glad I caught it on video so we could relive the moment. When we watched the stage later on TV, there was no footage of the Aachen stretch.
We picked up Kathryn at Schiphol in the morning and then met Jasmine and Matt in Zaanse Schans. This was the final full day of their European vacation; they flew back to Amsterdam after spending five days in Paris. It was great to spend more time with them and see an old Dutch village. We went through the clog shop, cheese shop, bakery, chocolate shop, first Dutch grocery store, walked by the windmills and got a interesting education about barrel making. We wrapped up our visit with lunch at the pannekoeken restaurant. The ferry port was on our way back, so we dropped Jasmine and Matt off there to catch a ride back to Amsterdam. It was a bittersweet goodbye. I’m so glad that Jasmine loves The Netherlands and we had such an awesome visit with her and Matt. But it will be another six months before we see them again and a lot can change in that amount of time! 😉 Kathryn is with us until August 2nd and we have lots planned. Stay tuned!