It's always a joy to be welcomed to my home country, especially when Hanny, my sister, is there to greet us at the airport. Flying in over the polders Maaike already concluded that it is indeed flat and there are canals everywhere.
It was great to see Hanny and her family again and of course we were also very excited to catch up with Joshua and Kaitlin who had arrived in Someren from New Zealand two days earlier. "Hotel Claessens" was as always absolutely formidable. The luxury of our own room ( we felt a bit sorry for Wilmer en Max who had to give up their rooms once again) and a beautiful barbecue in the back yard that evening kicked our visit to the Netherlands of with a highlight indeed. The forecast of a heat wave hitting the country for the next few days was simply a bonus.
Josh and Max decided to make the most of the warm weather and went night fishing in one of the local ponds. Max showed He knows his stuff and they both caught some pretty impressive fish. Unfortunately they had to go back in the pond; something Deborah really struggled with .
The first week of our stay was filled with late nights, catching up with friends and family over a drink and of course biking the wonderful Brabants country side with its hundreds of kilometres of dedicated single track bicycle tracks through forests, moors and old small farming towns. It's an absolute must do for anybody visiting the Netherlands to get on a bicycle and explore the "knoop punten routes".
In addition to meeting up with Max and Wilmer, our kids also had the opportunity to meet some of their "Vendrig Cousins" for the first time. It was great to seeing them in person to add to the Facebook chatter of recent years. A big thank you to Hanny and Hans for organising this!
Another highlight was catching up with our friends. They had organised a camping weekend with a variety of activities including mountain biking, a walk over "the peel", lots of volleyball and a great barbecue. A delight to be able to catch up with everybody in such a relaxed atmosphere and to get to know some of the kids as well. We thoroughly enjoyed the weekend!
We stuffed in a lot more activities during the two weeks in holland including a visit to the Efteling ( amusement park similar too, some say better than, Disneyland Paris), the Beekse Bergen (wonderful zoo with large open enclosures and a great bird of prey show), Maastricht, Bokrijk (museum town displaying farming life in the early 1900's), the prehistoric open air museum that Wilmer works at in Eindhoven, Kinderdijk (polder landscape with lots of windmills) and of-course a visit to Amsterdam.
Garmt en Germie kindly offered us the use of their house in Amsterdam while they were away on holiday. It was really cool to spend a couple of days as a family with the five of us before Kate and Josh had to leave us again for New Zealand.
To top it off, we had a big surprise The final morning because Rijk and Willem arrived from Canada unexpected, just in time to still have breakfast with us at the airport before Josh and Kate had to fly out. Deborah, Maaike and I had the opportunity to spend some more time with them at Hanny's place in the next few days before we all had to go our separate ways.
Between our time with Hanny en Hans in Someren, our visit to Cecile, E-J, Marleen en Jurgen in Berkel Enschot, our Camping weekend with friends and our stay in Garmt and Germie's house in Amsterdam our kids did get a really good taste of the Dutch life and as far as I can tell they really enjoyed every minute of it.
Thank you soo much to every one for your hospitality and friendship. I already look forward to the next time I have the opportunity to pop-in and until that time I certainly welcome you to come and visit us in our neck of the woods down under.
PS. Some of the Dutch toilets are craftily designed to fit in small corners of older houses. Some have decorated walls with niknaks and family photos - on the photo below try and spot the little bit of "kiwiness" Deborah added to Garmt and Germie's throne of clogs in their house Amsterdam.