Lier, Antwerp, Herentals and Baarle-Nassau/Baarle-Hertog, Oh My!
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 DutchBoy 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.