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Published: June 29th 2017
Geo: 50.8498, 5.68726
18/7 Its been a huge week. Today was a fitting Grand Finale to our visit with the Struik family, I mean we're driving through Belgium right now. From Hendrik Ido Ambacht to Valkenberg, Maastrict, Antwerp and back, even touching briefly on German territory. We started early, around 8, and were getting back late, some 13-14 hours later. Not only has it been a long day, but also a scorcher by Dutch standards. Blue skies and 33C. Whew!It started in Valkenberg, about two hours from home, arriving around 10.30. By 11, we had joined a tour of the coal mine at Steenkolenmijn. It was a interesting and lengthy tour, taking you deep underground on an 80 minute circuit. Tragically, it was all in Dutch. Jan and Marielle helped translate bits and pieces, and an English pamplet also gave us some good information. The mine operated for around seventy years from 1912. We enjoyed seeing the old equipment and learning of the miners lifestyle. The mine also proved a welcome refuge from the heat, being around 15C underground.Out of the mine, time for a packed lunch and walk into central Valkenberg. We completed a loop through the city streets before a
coffee break and taste of a local delicacy from the Lindebergh region; Vlaai, a sweet pie, that comes in many flavours. Apple was my choice. Next to another underground place. This was the Velvet Cave. Once used for extracting sandstone, the sandy tunnels here contain much history. Its pitch dark, and colder than the coal mine, cold enough to see your breathing exertion. Again, the tour was in Dutch but wecould still see much, and learn from handouts and translations from our companions. There were many paintings on the walls, statue carvings and archeological finds of fossils from ages past. The caves also contain a secret chapel, served as a grim tomb for lost children in 1993, a secret passage from the nearby castle ruins, a refuge during World War 2 and home to many other stories. An hour or so later we emerged in daylight in the ruins of the Valkenberg castle. We explored the ruins before heading for the car. On the way, a stop at a wine tasting spot. Marielle, Nat and I tasting a few wines.Next, the Three Country point, the highest spot in Holland, towering over the countryside an amazing 300 metres above sea level!..
At this spot, the borders of Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands merge, so Nat took her first step in Belgium.Last but not least, to Maastrict, one of the oldest cities in the Neterlands. We arrived late afternoon, around 5.30. Again, we explored the city on foot, wandering the streets in a large circuit. We stopped for allegedly the best Frites (Chips) in Holland. A few hours later, we were on the freeway, passing Antwerp on the way back. Its been a great week and tonight sadly, is our last with Lina, Jan and Marielle. The last six days has seen us travel 1309km around the country. The good news is, we have another full week in Holland coming up, when we are delivered over to the Vonks tomorrow to stay with Jan and Joke.We had a last game of Wippen today. My win making it 4 out of 5 games, plus 1 out of 2 games of Sjoelen. Nat won the other games. Perhaps the hosts have been just letting us win!Regarding Natalie, her asthma has her breathing like a 97 year old, constantly coughing and spluttering and nearly out of ventalin. Only England so far allows you to buy
ventallin over the counter without prescription so it seems we will visit the doctor tomorrow.
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