Archive for 2009
We headed for what may be our last weekend away without Sprocket before the little one comes. Sprocket was more than happy to spend time with Oma and Opa. We got caught in horrendous Friday afternoon rush hour traffic and the GPS, in an attempt to avoid one jam, routed me through most of the rest of the Netherlands, including two other jams it hadn’t known about. I left the Utrecht area at 3:30 or so and got to DutchBoy’s parents just before 8 – it should be about an hour and 20 minutes without traffic. Understandably Sprocket got a bit restive, but calmed down each time when I reminded him that we were going to see Oma and Opa and kept repeating their names. He was very happy to arrive.
After dropping him off, I drove on to Lier, where DutchBoy was to meet me. Of course, he ended up working late and didn’t get there until after midnight, so plans for a nice dinner on our own didn’t happen. Instead I had a pita back in the room. I was utterly exhausted anyway after that afternoon of driving. At least the B&B was really, really nice (and reasonable!) and we had it to ourselves.
Saturday morning, after a nice breakfast, we walked around Lier a bit and found it indeed to be a cute little medieval town, and then headed into Antwerp on the train, just a little trip. In Antwerp, we headed into the centre and, as pitiful as it sounds, went shopping, mostly for clothes for DutchBoy, which were sorely needed, and which requires both of us and is much easier without Sprocket. After that we headed for the Grote Markt, the central square, and happened on Sinterklaas‘ arrival speech – he’d just landed at the port (on his boat from Spain of course) with all his Zwarte Pieten. It was interesting for me to see – see photo comments for more. After some more wandering and getting some chocolate, we had a nice Indian dinner and then headed back to Lier.
Sunday, we took the car into the Art Nouveau area of Antwerp, Zurenborg and wandered around. The buildings are lovely and we enjoyed their variety and workmanship (workpersonship?). Then we headed to Herentals, because Ivo thought he remembered it was a cool old walled city, but no such luck – cute enough place, but nothing special. We wandered around anyway making sure.
Then we headed to Baarle-Nassau and Baarle-Hertog. This is an incredibly complex border area, with 20 Belgian enclaves in the Netherlands and then Dutch enclaves within the Belgian ones. Borders run zig-zagging through the town, and even through houses and buildings. According to a historical brochure we picked up, there have been all sorts of hijinks, especially relating to WWI (Belgium was occupied, but the Netherlands wasn’t because it was neutral, so the enclaves remained free and could broadcast radio), and smuggling after WWII – all sorts of stories of the games the locals and the customs agents played. Read the links above or here or here or the video halfway down the page of this NYT article.
After that, we headed back to DutchBoy’s parents’ for a lovely dinner and Sprocket’s first round of birthday presents. For photos of the weekend trip, click here or below.
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Again taking advantage of our museum memberships and a lovely late September afternoon, we headed off to the Zuiderzeemuseum in Enkhuisen. It’s another outdoor museum, a collection of old buildings and other heritage stuff. You take a boat from the parking lot to the museum and then get to wander around in buildings and such. I can see going back there when the kids are older as there was a lot of cool stuff for them, including dress up clothes so they could look like traditional Dutch children and traditional games.
We tried to time it so Sprocket would sleep in the car on the way there, but of course that didn’t work, so he was increasingly tired and hyper during our visit. And he was most resistant to actually spending any time in the stroller, and at first he was good about wandering around with us, pushing the stroller himself, but then as he got tireder, we had to force him into it just for safety’s (or was it sanity’s) sake. But I can tell a double stroller probably isn’t going to work so well.
For dinner, since Lelystad was on our way home, we’d planned to stop at the vegetarian Chinese place. But Sprocket fell asleep in the car almost as soon as we got in, so we did takeout there instead. Which may in the end have been better – it was still warm and yummy when we got home 40 minutes later, and we got a dinner without a tired toddler.
For photos, click here or below. Not so many this time, but some pretty ones.
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How could we not take advantage of the grandparents’ willingness, even eagerness, to take Sprocket for a weekend, his first away from both of us, so we could have a weekend away together? This first time, we planned on just one night of separation to see how it went. I went down with Sprocket on Friday afternoon, in order to spend a little time trying to get the motorbikes going – after many delays and traffic, I didn’t have enough time to do the whole job, just get a picture of what needs to be done, especially with the Honda. Both bikes still need to be officially imported, and the Honda needs to get into selling shape.
DutchBoy was to come down to join us after work on Friday, but train outages kept him in Utrecht for the night and he came down on Saturday morning, to take the lead. You see, I had no idea where we were going. He carefully turned the Garmin away from me so I wouldn’t have an idea, but as we entered the city of Hasselt it became clear. Hasselt is the closest city in Belgium to DutchBoy’s parents, who live fairly close to the border. He wanted to keep it close, just in case Sprocket had any problems, quite smartly. And it’s a cute little town, not really remarkable, but still fun for a weekend. Quite honestly, it doesn’t really matter to us as long as there are a few things to see in a new place.
We headed out to explore, finding a yummy bakery on the way and seeing most of the downtown area and picking up tons of brochures from the tourist info centre. Then back to the hotel to actually move our bags into our room, before heading to the train station to get to Tongeren, a place with supposedly much heritage. Using maps acquired at the tourist info centre, we headed off to find this heritage. Well, I’ll let the pictures tell the story, but the heritage was perhaps a bit overstated. It was a cute place though. Returning to Hasselt, we napped and then headed out for a real live adult dinner in a restaurant, one that didn’t involve appeasing and/or chasing an impatient toddler. Quite lovely to do so, in a green outside patio in a nicish restaurant, though I’d have to say the food was only OK.
Sunday morning we headed to the (free) City Museum before heading off in the car for a jaunt through Belgian Limburgh. We headed first to a museum we’d seen in another tourist publication. Again, advertising was a little overstated, but we enjoyed it since we’d set the Garmin to avoid freeways and I was having fun putting in random routepoints to ensure countryside exploration. After that we headed for a local produce place in another town, again with a randomly rural route. It’s great having the GPS leading us down roads that we’d never dare to assume went through and still getting fairly efficiently to our destination. Then another restaurant meal (mussels and frites, what else?) and back to fetch a tired Sprocket and rescue the tired grandparents.
Click on the picture for photos from the weekend:
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The Openluchtmuseum (literally “Open Air Museum”) is a collection of restored historic buildings, staffed by people in traditional costumes. They do traditional crafts (and naturally, sell the products) and have activities for the kids. But mostly, it’s just a very pleasant place to walk around in, with lots of interesting things to see.
We’d been meaning to get there for a while – we bought these museum year cards (free entrance to many museums for only €35 for the year – 3-4 museums and you’ve paid them off) when A was here in the spring, but haven’t used them too much. The cards also help because you can go to something like this for a couple hours in the afternoon and not feel like you’ve wasted money the way you would if you’d spent €14 each to be there.
We had a lovely afternoon wandering among the buildings and letting Sprocket play in the playground. But we didn’t see everything, so we’d love to go back with any visitors, at least any who visit between April 1 and November 1.
Photos from our afternoon can be seen here or by clicking the photo below.
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We had a wonderful three weeks in Canada seeing friends and family. Of course, there’s never enough time to see everyone or do everything that we’d like to do while we’re there, but we did the best we could and enjoyed ourselves immensely. Of course, my major regrets were that I couldn’t have sushi or the lovely microbrewed beer as I’m pregnant again, but I’ll just have to wait until next visit.
The first week we spent time with my family and recovered from jetlag – Sprocket did better than we did, especially me – jetlag in the first trimester is not a lot of fun. Sprocket had fun meeting and playing with his cousins. He and my niece G are only 9 months apart – last time we were home that was an eternity, now they play well together, well, as well as kids close to two can. My grandmother was also visiting from California so she could meet Sprocket and the newest grandkid, my nephew S. We also fit some visits with friends and their kids – everyone is multiplying! The next week we were down to Seattle to see my sister for a few days, and try and fit in mad shopping and visits with friends there. Another sister even surprised us with a visit and was finally able to meet her nephew – it was lovely to see them too. Then, in a three-ferry day, we went from Seattle over to the Olympic peninsula and then to Victoria before driving up-Island to my parents’ place on Gabriola, where the annual family reunion was in full swing. We stayed a few days after the reunion and just relaxed – it’s such a beautiful place to be, especially in the summer. Finally back to Langley to fit in a few more visits and shopping before we flew back here.
Most of the photos that I took are just family and friends, so not much interest for this travel-oriented blog. I will throw in one video of Sprocket on Gabriola – just because he’s such a daredevil:
It made us all extremely nervous the entire time, since he seemed to have little understanding of the dangers of the edge. Well at least until he fell off twice, which luckily enough just scared him enough without any injury.
I was quite sad to leave, for a number of reasons. Perhaps the most surprising one was how much I enjoyed the friendliness of Canadians and Americans. Just the ease with which we chat with strangers is something that I miss a lot here, and it’s not just the language, either. When DutchBoy first moved to Vancouver we went to the SuperValu together and I was chatting with the cashier – as we left, DutchBoy asked, “Do you know her?” and was quite surprised when I said no. Now my Dutch is to the point where I can chat fairly easily, but it’s just not done here. Of course, it was nice to know exactly what to do again too, to have things come naturally, without thinking what’s done here and what’s not and how things are said or what have you, to fit in without trying. I also enjoyed the restaurants (choice! cheap! yummy!), and found myself a bit overwhelmed by the supermarkets and stores – they’re so huge and have so much. I’ve gotten used to the size of the stores here.
But of course, the hardest part was leaving my friends and family again, especially my family, and especially my nephews and niece. As I was saying goodbye to them for the last time, my nephew J asked me when we’d see each other again. I said it would be quite a long time. He asked brightly, “Thursday?” I said, “Well, longer than that.” “Monday?” It brought tears to my eyes, also when both J and G said they’d miss me and DutchBoy and Sprocket. I do wish the cousins could see each other more.
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