Belgium: History and War

Brugge 2

Brugge, Belgium

We got out of Brussels early and headed for Brugge; about and hour away. This is where we should have went in the first place instead of Brussels. Absolutely gorgeous. Brugge is also know as the Venice of the North, and once you see it you’ll know why. As soon as you enter the centre you are transported back in time. As you wander the streets and turn the corners, the place seems to just go on and on. Canal tours and horse drawn carriages a very popular here.

We visited the Basilica of the Holy Blood which is a 12th century chapel which houses a venerated relic of the Holy Blood which we were able to see.

A few other facts about Belgium you may not know….It is illegal not to have at least 5 euros on you at all time for emergency. They speak either Dutch or French….depending where you are. There are over 800 different beers made there….not bad for such a small country.

We finished of here at a small cafe and then headed toward Passchendaele. Once we arrive we needed to find a place to stay for the night and stopped in the Passchendaele Pub for a coffee and to ask if there were any hotels around. Great coffee…..no hotels. The owners were super helpful and phoned around to some B&B’s in the area and we were able to find one not far away. Before we left the pub, the owners gave us notes, a map, and a bunch of other information on the area. They were fantastic. We head to the B&B and were greeted again with open arms in a sense. The owners who did not have any room in there regular bed & breakfast took us down the street to “The Loft” where they are letting us stay for the night. You have to see this place to believe it. We basically have our own house along with a small farm area with miniature horses, potbellied pigs, rabbits, bird, dog, and more. Post-card perfect. :)

We unloaded our luggage and headed to Ieper for “The Last Post.”  This is done here at the Menin Gate, at 8:00 sharp, every night, since November 11th, 1929. The only time The Last Post was not held here is during the 2nd World War where the daily ceremony was moved to England; it returned once the war was over. Lucky for us, the night we were here a Canadian battalion touring through Europe was here taking part in the ceremony. At the end they loudly sang our national anthem and were applauded by hundreds as the left. What a great experience.

We went into Ieper and had dinner, then headed back to our “home for the night.” We have a big day ahead of us tomorrow.

Brugge 1

Brugge, Belgium

Holy Blood

Basilica of the Holy Blood

Menin Gate

The Menin Gate

Ieper

Ieper

Wreath

Canada – Menin Gate

 

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Brussels

Manneken Pis

Manneken Pis

We said goodbye this morning to family and Holland…for now, and headed to Brussels, Belgium. It was just a quick 2 hour drive. We arrived at our hotel; The Bedford Hotel & Congress Centre. This post could take a while as the Wi-Fi is painfully slow. We had to wait a while for our room so we checked our bags and went for a stroll. It’s is nice the hotel is right in the centre and close to everything.

Find the large group of people and you’ll find the famous statue Manneken Pis. This small peeing statue is probably the biggest attraction for tourists.You can find copies, key chains, chocolate, magnets,…anything you can think of shaped like this little guy. When we first saw him he had a little outfit on. Apparently he has had hundreds of different outfits; it’s kind of a tradition to give him new cloths.

The next thing we wanted to see was the large square not far away. The architecture here is wonderful and is the main reason that I wanted to see it. He had a small snack with beer and wine. I couldn’t decide on which beer, so they made it easy on me and gave me a “sampler” plate with 6 different local beers. PERFECT!!!

We finish our lunch and headed back to the hotel to get our room. We both must have been tired because we both crashed hard after laying on the bed.

We went to dinner just across from Manneken Pis at a pub called….(my sister will love this) “PoechenelleKelder“. One thing about the food here in Brussels, we find it very, very rich, and mostly high calorie. (Obviously we are in the tourist area, but still.) Afterwards we did a little more strolling, had a coffee, then headed back to our hotel. Honestly, we are both a little disappointed with Brussels. After being in Amsterdam, the atmosphere here is completely different, not as welcoming, and really quite dirty with garbage everywhere. That being said, we did get to see the things that we wanted and the city is very active with lots going on.

Square 2

The Square

Waffels

Belgium Waffles

PoechenelleKelder

PoechenelleKelder

Galleries

The Galleries

 

 

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A visit in Wijk en Aalburg

The Pub

The old pub…. 

It’s fantastic being able to see a bunch of family again…even some for the first time. Today we went to Wijk en Aalburg to Henriette (second-cousin) & Bas’ home to visit some more cousins on my dads side of the family. My cousin John and his wife Luus plus my other cousin Trude and her husband Gerrit also came by. Also my second-cousin Corinda and her son stopped by. These are all the family of my Aunt Henny & Uncle Martin. Don’t worry…Pamela is also having a hard time of keeping track.

We sat and talk for a while, then Gerrit ran to the local Chinese restaurant and picked of some won-ton soup for lunch. Very good. We also browsed through some more old photos, including one to my surprise, which showed my mother with a cigarette in her mouth….MY MOTHER!!!!

Afterwards we headed out for a walk along the canal, through the field, and over to the old pub my Aunt Henny & Uncle Martin had. This is one place I had to go see again as it is one of my fondest memories here, staying above the pub during our visits and going down and watching Uncle Martin work the bar. This time I could have a beer instead of a cola. We continued to walk looking at a few more place before heading back.

We stayed for a wonderful dinner and more visiting with Henriette & Bas before heading back to Hedel around 8:30. (We have also worked out a good system so Bas can get his beef jerky and I can get my salt licorice.)

It was nice to see you all again. We are headed off the Belgium tomorrow morning.

John & Luus

John & Luus

Trude & Gerrit

Trude & Gerrit

Corinda & Thymo

Corinda & Thymo

Henriette & Bas

Henriette, Bas, Thomas, & Floris

Wijk en Aalburg 1

Wijk en Aalburg

Wijk en Aalburg 2

Windmill at Wijk en Aalburg

 

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A day in Den Bosch

Bikes

Bikes in Den Bosch

Well….to start out I have to say that it has been an extremely HOT HUMID day here in Holland. I don’t ever remember sweating so much in my whole life!!

We went in to Den Bosch today with Ray’s cousins and a couple of the kids to do three things. Hit the town square market and look around take a tour on the canal and to do a tower tour in the big cathedral.

Our first stop at the market was very exciting. Many cheese shops, hats, purses, linens, fruits vegetables flowers and of course the “stroopwafel” vendor. Too many to see and a lot of people. Like I said at the beginning….it was very hot and humid. We wanted some shade. We made our way through the very quaint winding cobble stone streets to the canal to purchase out ticket for the tours. it’s really amazing to see all the beautiful old architecture and little shops. You just want to stay and explore all of them. So cool….love it!!

When it was time to get on the boat it was a nice change from the sun and the heat to enter the canals. The tour was about 45 minutes long as we wound our way through the town on the water. Many tunnels were low and very narrow. Only wide enough to fit the boat. No arms out of the boat!! Our tour guide (Captain) was an old Dutch man that only spoke Dutch. Thank goodness we had a few of Ray’s family with us to help translate otherwise I may have lost an arm. :) It was a great  journey into the past with many interesting things to see.

Before our next tour we stopped for a coffee and a  treat at the cafe De Stip for a “Chocolade Bol.” It is a special dessert that has made Den Bosch famous. Think of a giant chocolate eclair filled with lots of fresh whipping cream and covered in dark chocolate. OMG….so delicious!!  Yes….I only had one… :) After our snack we walked about 10 minutes to the Beklimming Sint Janstoren Cathedral (Cathedral of Saint John) for our tour of the bell tower and church. It was built in 1220 and completed in 1530. We started by climbing up a very narrow and very steep stair case up about 2 flights. Feels more like 6 flights because the stairs are so close together and steep. We ended up seeing how the church was built and seeing the inner workings of the clock and many bells of all sizes. The clock was extremely large and very loud. by the end of the tour we were approx. 200 feet up and overlooking the city and the surrounding Holland. Next we went into the church. Walking over the stone floor where many of the remains of the church priests were buried was very surreal. All of them done with inscriptions and carvings in the stone. It was a very beautiful church and very big. Stained glass window 3 stories high with many wood carvings and painting all over the walls. Breath taking! We were also able to see an exhibit that was at that church only for a few weeks which was the Shroud of Turin (The shroud of Jesus). They had a full size reproduction of the shroud there; as the real on is not allowed to leave Turin. they also had a 3D model there as well. We had a lady speak to us in English and she went through everything from how it came to be to where it went missing for hundreds of years. It was a very interesting and humbling thing to see for me and I’m not Catholic.

When we got back to Hedel we all met for dinner at the Herberg de Zwaan restaurant for a great meal and drinks. Ray and I tried the mustard soup for our appetizer. Delicious!! Who would have thought that you could make such a yummy soup from mustard?? Dinner with his cousins was so much fun. Great laughs, great people and great food! What else could we ask for…. :)

We have had a great couple of days here in Hedel with such warm and friendly people. It was sad to say goodbye to a few of them that we won’t see again this trip. Thank you for your kind and warm welcome. <3

Canal tour

Canal Tour in Den Bosch

Stroopwafel

Stroopwafel

Bell @ St. Johns

The bell at Saint Johns

Saint Johns

From the tower.

Den Bosch

Den Bosch

van der Woning

Tour de “van der Woning”

 

 

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Wind and Ocean

Delta 1

DeltaPark

We headed to the coast today to check out the Delta Works with Ron today. These are the very impressive water control system where the large rivers of the Netherlands are dumped into the ocean. These are use for flood control. Things have changed some since I was here last. Wind turbines are everywhere and the Delta Works now has the DeltaPark, which is a family oriented place with a water park and bunch of other stuff. Unfortunately the tour of the facility is also part of this so you must buy the complete entrance to the park just for the tour which made it way too expensive. We decided to skip this. We did walk around the dykes for a while.

Once we were done, we went for lunch at a seaside beach resort area. A typical tourist trap lunch at “Brasserie Zeelust.” Time to head back as we have another BBQ to go to tonight and it’s a 2 hour drive. The nice thing was Ron was driving this time….Pamela & I both fell asleep. This humid heat is getting to us. It has been above average temperature here as well. At least it’s not smokey. ;)

Back in Hedel, we headed to Marcel & Mendy’s place for a BBQ. We first started of sticking our feet in the kiddy-pool to cool down, had a couple of beers, and browsed through some old pictures. It’s amazing what you will find.

Dad

Frans

Pamela gathered a bunch of family information for the tree she has been working on as well. Once that was done the BBQ was fired up, we had a few more drinks, and ate a great meal.

After dinner, we headed to the old church where my uncle and aunt are laid. WOW….it’s been a long time already. We then went to a small animal park there, strolled around, took some picture, and then headed back home to Ron’s for the night. We are all meeting in the morning for another packed day of activities.

 

Delta 4

Delta Works

Delta 3

Pamela & Ron at a Wind Turbine

Ron

Ron and Ramon

Marcel

Marcel…Mr. BBQ

 

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The way to Hedel.

Kasteel De Haar 2

Kasteel De Haar

Well we waited for morning to do this post, but that’s OK….you’ll probably get 2 today.

We left Aalsmeer and started heading down to see some of the van der Woning part of the family in Hedel, more southern in Holland. As we have the day, we took some back-roads to get a more scenic trip down as it is only an hour away. We stopped at the Kasteel De Haar to do the touristy thing and take some more pictures. Quite the impressive place. Pamela mentioned how it reminded her of Downton Abby with all the different rooms. we were here for a good couple of hours.

Just down the road from the castle we stopped at a small little place for lunch…Kort-Jak Restaurant & Pannenkoeken. Yes, we had pannenkoeken (sooo tasty) for lunch with beer, wine, and coffee. The server was great, even asking if we wanted our picture taken. Now…off to Hedel.

We arrived at Ron’s place around 4:30. by 6:00 Marcel and his family showed up, and Andre and his by 7:00. Time for some Heineken and some BS. This is why there was no blog last night. This is definitely a van der Woning group. After a while with them, Pamela mentioned we are all the same; from dad, to me, to these three brothers. I guess I see it. ;)

Kasteel De Haar 3

Kasteel De Haar

Kasteel De Haar 1

Kasteel De Haar

Kort-Jak

Kort-Jak

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Haarlem

Molen De Eenhoorn

Molen De Eenhoorn – Haarlem

We…and when I say “we” I mean “I” went and picked up the rental car today.  Fortunately, I got a ride to the airport with my cousin Ferlin on his way to work (after he made us breakfast). :)

We decided to go to Haarlem to go see the place where I was born…Uyt Den Bosch (Out of the Forest) for a quick trip before our dinner plans later in the day. It was kind of weird walking around for me. The place is now an advertising agency building…a far change from the 17th century inn it used to be. It was converted into a maternity hospital in 1957, then a school for nurses in 1984. There are a few shots below.

Next, I decided it was time for Pamela to see a true Dutch windmill , so I took her to the “Molen De Eenhoorn” in Haarlem just cause it was close. It is a smaller one, but she need not worry; she will definitely see a few more. It was a nice little stroll along the canal to get to it and the scenery way fantastic with the old homes and boats sailing up and down. There are some amazing homes in the Haarlem area.

We also stopped for a quick snack and drink in this quaint little part of town. Of course with all the shops there, Pamela jumped out of the car and did some shopping first. Bitterballen and beer were on the menu at “Bij Bomans Eten & Drinken” and were damn good. Time to head back to Aalsmeer to get ready for the BBQ.

We were invited to my cousin Evelien & Roberts for a BBQ. We got to visit some more with them, Farah & Fransas, Uncle Cor & Aunt Sicilia, Marlon, Ferlin, and all the kids. We had a great time and Pamela loved finally getting to know some of my family here. (FYI – I’m getting the spelling of some of the names from Ferlin now, so if they are wrong, blame him…haha). Tomorrow we are off to Hedel.

Uyt Den Bosch

Uyt Den Bosch

Uyt Den Bosch

Uyt Den Bosch

Pamela

Pamela in Haarlem

Evelien

Evelien, Robert, and family.

 

 

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History and Heineken

Anne Frank House

Anne Frank House

Today’s main feature was the Anne Frank House. (Unfortunately there is absolutely no photography, so we cannot show you more.) This is a must see if you ever go to Amsterdam, but expect to wait in line.  After our 2 hours, we finally got in. So worth it. We took the time to watch the movie as a refresher before coming which was a good idea. Once seeing the story and then seeing the actual place and writings the emotions you can feel are amazing. I cannot say enough about this place. And remember…this is the history of only one person…of millions of people.

Just a quick note on the Anne Frank House compared to my dads home. His place is literally right across the canal from where the Frank family was in hiding. I personally find that amazing.

Once we were done with the Anne Frank tour we were starving so we got hot panini’s and coffee to get a kick start. Off to the next attraction on our (more my) list…the Heineken Brewery!

On the way there, we stopped in one of the many churches to take few pictures….De Krijtberg Church.

Once we made it over the to brewery, Pamela decided she did not to go through and ended up waiting a cafe on the corner. Jokingly I said “See you in an hour!”  Well…after and hour-and-a-half, made my way out finding her waiting outside of the doors. I was doing pretty good after the beers and earning my “Heineken Draught Certificate”, and Pamela was also fine after her snack and glasses of wine while waiting. By now we were both wiped. We decided to cut the day short and catch the bus back to Aalsmeer, have a cup of tea, and relax for the evening.

De Krijtberg Church

De Krijtberg Church

Heineken Brewery

Heineken Brewery

Heineken Brewery

Heineken Brewery

 

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Beer, wine, and culture.

Dads House

Dad’s

So after a great much needed 12 hour sleep session we got a late start to the third day. I think we are all caught up on the time change now….feeling rested. We began our day as many of the locals…catching the bus to downtown Amsterdam. We had a plan to spend the day people watching and checking out the pubs and sampling a few spirits and some food. Our first stop was Heineken Hoek for a beer for Ray and an espresso for me. We also had a snack of french fries and maynonnaise. We sat outside on the sidewalk and watched the people pass by. All kinds of people. it’s amazing with all the people there and all the traffic with bikes, scooters, cars, buses there is a an amazing flow that goes on with everyone. No accidents and no honking. Just a tinkle of a bicycle bell to let you know they are coming.

Next we found our way to Ray’s fathers old house that he used to live in about 65 years ago. It is just down the street from the Anne Frank House……really a walk of about 4 minutes or less. You can see her house from his front door. We took a lot of pictures as it was really in a beautiful spot. Another very famous landmark is the Westerkerk Church where the queen was married. The Dutch queen….:) We weren’t allowed inside to see because of a wedding taking place at that time. The Anne Frank House was also very busy. There was about a 2 hour wait outside to get in. We are going back tomorrow to look at that. All that made us very thirsty again so we went across the street to de Oude Wester restaurant and had a cheese sandwich and another beer for Ray and a wine for me. Rays dad always talks about the cheese sandwiches.

Then we headed for the center of it all…..on to Dam Square. About a 20 minute walk through the wonderful cobble stone streets, shops and canals. It was a bustling center for sure. So many people and so many pigeons. We had been looking on the internet at the central via web cam and kept seeing the Euro Pub, so that was a spot we wanted to go. Sooo we headed for the pub… :) …another beer for Ray and another wine for me. Heading back to where we got off the bus was a bit of a walk so we headed out….not before we stopped to take additional pictures of Sofie for Haydens album.

Walking the streets can be a bit dangerous. Keeping an eye on the bicycles, scooters, buses and cars requires some skill. Knowing which lane is for walking can sometimes be tricky. I guess it made Ray hungry because before I knew it he had ducked into a coffee shop for a piece of Dutch Apple Pie. It was called the Luna Cafe and it had free Wi fi which is what Ray was looking for. We continued walking and found ourselves in the red light district. Wrong direction completely. Another stop at the Cafe Heuvel. Beer for Ray and another wine for me. This time we had a tappa for a snack. Meatball and peanut sauce. YUM!! Very cool little spot.

We finally found our way back to the original first stop of the day so we were happy as we knew the bus home wasn’t far away. Our last stop was at the Sports Cafe for dinner. It was 8pm by now and we were actually hungry. Can you believe it?? This time it was water for both of us. We did have a very nice waitress names Nella. She was from Africa and from the moment I saw here I thought she was a model….so I asked. Yes, a runway model working in the restaurant part time. Time to catch the bus back to Rays cousins place. Its a 40 minute bus ride.

What a great day. The beer and wine was good too!

Canal

Canal

Tiny Car

The Tiny Car

Cheese

Cheese Please!!

Koninklijk Palace

Koninklijk Palace

Ugly Duck

Ugly Duckling

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A quick Amsterdam trip….7 hours later.

I amsterdam

I AMsterdam

After Pamela fried my power converter with her flat iron, we decided to do a quick run to Amsterdam to Media Market to pick up a new one. (Technically it was my fault for not reading the wattage). Low and behold, it’s right beside Amsterdam ArenA, home of AFC Ajax. SWEET, time for me to do some shopping!

Once I had my fun (an hour later), we actually got the power adapters needed plus a new battery for the camera Pamela left in Vancouver. Time for a snack; Febo kroket…mmmmmm. From this point on it was Pamelas time to shop. The “mall” we went to a basically dedicated to furniture; very expensive furniture. The cool part of this trip is we actually met a father & daughter for Kamloops! She now lives in Holland and her dad has since moved to Victoria.

Next…AMSTERDAM! This is Pamelas first encounter with the great city. We first off went for dinner at Roopram Roti Restaurant. I think it was a little spicier than Pamela thought it would be. Next we had a quick little tour of one of the main streets in the centre, had a coffee, and got to experience Ferlins interesting parking technique. We will be going back there tomorrow.

We finally got to meet up with Uncle Cor & Aunt Sicilia. We went right to their home, which is in a gorgeous little spot with a canal in the back with duck and all. We ended up looking through old photos of when they were in Canada in 1982 and pictures of their home in Suriname. It was great to see them again and look forward to our next visit on Wednesday at the BBQ.

I think that was the longest possible route for a power converter; but it only took 7 hours.

 

Tomorrow will just be Pamela, myself, and Amsterdam.

Amsterdam ArenA

Amsterdam ArenA

 

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