Saturday, September 12, 2015

Wonderful Weekends in Western Europe

Mark arrived in Belgium, stayed three pleasant weeks, and left again. We had arranged three four day weekends ahead of time, with friends and family, and realized abruptly that this meant there were only three weekdays in between. Duh! The math is not that hard, but somehow, we assumed weeks contained more than seven days…

During those short “weeks”, we hung out with my parents, saw other people, had a few health related appointments and caught up on things. Just like everywhere else in the world and at any other time in the past six years, Mark needed to take care of Wirie business as well. Usually (in French Polynesia and New Zealand), our days would start very early, to take the time difference into account. In Belgium, however, his main work hours were between 3pm and 11pm, to coincide with office hours on the East Coast of the States. Fridays and Mondays were a bit difficult with those commitments and the need for WiFi and a “quiet office”, but in general, our weekends were a blast!

The first destination was Holland, where my cousin Griet and her husband Wim lead us throughout Zeeland (with its tasty mussels and oysters) to Dordrecht, where we stayed in a vacation bungalow for three nights. The objective was to explore National Park De Biesbosch, stroll through the historic center of Dordrecht, visit the impressive and oh so typically Dutch “Kinderdijk” with its picturesque windmills, taste some of Wim and his two friends’ homebrewed beers and chill out in good company. We succeeded on all fronts and had a wonderful time with beautiful weather.

During our second weekend, Mark and I borrowed my mum’s car to drive to the Ardennes, in the southeast of Belgium. Our friends Rosy and Peter had arranged a rental house for a group of eight adults and four children. We happened to be in the country at the right time and were invited along. What followed was a very relaxed weekend with interesting, multicultural people, some hikes and perfect, sunny weather. We split cooking and other duties and had a very nice time. On the last day, two of the families had left, but Rosy, Peter, Yanou, Mark and I made a little trip to the pretty town of La Roche, where we visited the castle and had lunch, before the long, traffic ridden drive back “home”.

The weekend before Mark left again, we were welcomed by Sabine and Michael, German friends we met many years ago while camping in Mexico. Since the last time we saw them, three years ago, they had moved from Munich to a cute town in the German countryside, where they are happily settled in a very unique, historic and charming cottage. They showed us around the area, introduced their horses and cars to us, took us out to dinner, let us savor their amazing artistic creations (photographs, movies and pottery), and joined us to Bonn for a not so impressive Africa Festival. As always, we had a really good time with them, exchanging travel stories and future plans. Thanks to my parents again for lending us their only car for another four days, a car I have been using much more than they have the past seven weeks!!
Yerseke in Zeeland is famous for its oysters and "Zeeuwse mossels"

Mark, Griet and Wim... still drawn to boats, in Yerseke

Oyster farm in Yerseke, Zeeland

Going for our first walk in National Park De Biesbosch

Exploring the historic town of Dordrecht

Moored boats in Dordrecht

Tourist photo: in a Dutch clog

One of the many, pretty windmills in Kinderdijk

Kinderdijk with all its windmills is spectacular, charming and picturesque!

In front of a "working" windmill we could visit inside - very interesting!

Typical Holland: windmills and water!

A game of petanque (bocce ball) on a rainy morning

Guided tour to a restored duck catching farm in De Biesbosch NP

The wild ducks' final destination

Boat tour with my family and handsome husband in De Biesbosch

Walking with friends and their families in the Ardennes

The house we rented and shared in the Ardennes

Yummy Sunday BBQ in gorgeous weather, the Ardennes

Going for a hike, crossing the river Ourthe

Passing fields, horses and forests...

...and a cute, little high water bridge

With Rosy, Peter and Yanou, we made a day trip to La Roche

Visit of the castle in La Roche

View from the castle

An eye pleasing castle visit, and we were the only tourists!

Michael and Sabine's charming house in the countryside of Drinsahl

Art exhibit, where Sabine had some of her pottery masks on display...

... and "farmer" Michael some of his amazing Africa photographs

Sabine let me ride her gentle horse Mona in the arena

And, we went for a fun drive in Sabine's "duck" (2 chevaux) - no key is needed, just two people to push her down the hill and start! :-)

Another lovely evening with amazing friends!

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