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August 22nd 2004
Published: December 1st 2007
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time for a snooze
22nd August 2004 - So, after 10 minutes on the A2, I got a bit more relaxed about the driving (it was much easier on a divided road with all the traffic heading in the same direction). The A2 lead us toward Utrecht and then Breda, and on toward Tilburg. Our friend Michel met us at a petrol stop and led us into Tilburg, to the home he shares with Lorenza's cousin Liesbeth.

Michel took us on a scenic route to their place (no way could I find it again) via lush green fields, full of Friesian cows (you know the black & white ones).
It was so good to see Michel and Liesbeth again, last time we saw them was a few years before at our place. When they visited, they were sunburnt; sun struck and looking worse for wear, so they enjoyed some time on our mountain to recover.

Not long after our arrival Liesbeth's mum and dad dropped in, I had met Tante Nina before but not Oma Pete. He has a very good sense of humor so I am sure we will get on just fine.

That evening Michel and Liesbeth took us on
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Tante Nina, Lorenza & Liesbeth
a bicycle tour to the centre of Tilburg, past the street where Lorenza grew up (Kasteltwinkel Straat - great name). The ride took us via lovely forests, the local university, parks, the railway station and the town centre. We went back via some lovely streets lined with large homes (many with thatched style roofs).

We spent some time looking at photos and chatting after dinner. Liesbeth hit the hay about midnight, and Michel and I chatted on to about 2am. We had lots of news to catch up on, including how Michel's business was progressing.

23rd August 2004 - Tante Nina and Ome Piet took us to see the factory and home that once belonged to Lorenza's grandfather. He was in the marble business, kitchen bench tops, headstones, that kind of thing. We had seen photos of it before, so it was interesting to see it. We then paid a visit to the cemetery where both Lorenza's grandparents are buried.

From there we took a drive to Den Bosch, the oldest city in the Nord Brabant district. Some of the sights there include lovely cathedral, canals, and a very "Dutch" village feel in the back streets. While wandering around a guy noticed our Australian accents and told us he had moved from Den Bosch to Parramatta west of Sydney and was back to visit some family.

Oma Piet commented to me while we walked through the main street "do you notice anything about the signs on the shops Robert?” I had to admit that I did not notice anything unusual about them. He then said "They are all in English! You people are taking over the world, soon they will teach Dutch as a second language in our schools!” I had not noticed this until he pointed it out, as an ex-school teacher he explained that he genuinely felt that the Dutch language would one day contain so much English that it would be unrecognisable. We contemplated this over a beer while the ladies shopped!

Lorenza took her first turn at the driver’s wheel after we dropped Tante Nina and Oma Piet home. She had criticised my driving and lack of direction a few times, so I watched with a grin as the concentration showed in the creases on her brow! After a near miss on a round-a-bout I asked if she still thought my driving skills were so bad - no response.

I noted a few impressions of the Tilburg area before going to bed - mostly a mixture of townhouses, no buildings much more than 3 stories, the town centre itself is a bit drab, with a lot of concrete. The surrounding area is green, with a lot of parkland. Everything is very "neat" much like the homes of Dutch people I know in Australia.

24th August 2004 - Oma Piet and Tante Nina took us to the Efteling amusement park. The pictures tell the story. We really enjoyed our day; the park is mostly for kids but still has enough to keep adults like us interested for the day. Plus, as I remarked to Lorenza, we should make the most of days like this spent with her Uncle and Aunty as they are not getting any younger so there may not be a second chance to enjoy their company like this in the years to come.

Again we noticed while driving that it is hard to get any perspective on distance or your bearings because the country is so flat. For example driving from Sydney to the Blue Mountains you know exactly how far your destination is because you can see the mountains in the distance. There is nothing like that here.

25th August 2004 - went to Tilburg to get some rail tickets to Strasbourg. We ended up buying shoes instead, for some weird reason we have to go to Eindhoven to buy the tickets to France?!? I also made my first solo attempt at Dutch grocery shopping, interesting trying to make sense of the labels and I think the check-out girl thought I was an idiot when I could not understand that I had to pack the groceries in the bags not her (made me laugh anyway).

Back at Liesbeth and Michel's we watched the news to see the report on a world record attempt at the biggest pillow fight, which was being held at Tilburg University. They broke the record and looked very happy about it. Watched movies and chilled.

26th August 2004 - we set off by bicycles with Liesbeth to visit her brother. Mind you I have not been on a bicycle for any length of time for about 20 years, so the 10 kilometre trip into a headwind was a bit of a challenge (even if it was dead flat land). It was an enjoyable ride through farmlands, lush and green, with more cows per paddock than I have ever seen.
Arrived at Geert and Hennie's place for morning tea and definitely needed a rest before the return trip - thankfully on the way back we had a tail wind!

We then drove to Duerne, near Hellmond to catch up with Lorenza's paternal cousin, Guedo and his family. We had not seen Guedo since he visited Australia 16 years ago so we had a lot of catching up to do. We had fun meeting his wife Mariette and children Didi and Sjoerd.

They took us to a windmill at Lieselle, which was fun. The Dutch Miller, in charge of the Mill, which is run by the windmill, was only too pleased to show us around. He had an English speaking friend who acted as translator and explained all the workings to us. He also explained that the focus of Dutch villages was in past always the windmill and the church.

We did a tour of the surrounding countryside with Guedo as driver. We visited Didi at a horse riding complex where she was staying the night with about another 20 girls all the same age. Didi showed us her pony and introduced us to some of her friends. They found my lack of Dutch language skills very amusing! Then back to their place for pizza and beers.

Guedo made some calls for us to confirm that we had to buy the rail tickets to France in Eindhoven. We organised to return to Duerne on the Tuesday so that Guido could show us Hellmond and Eindhoven and point us to the railway ticket office. (Duerne is where Lorenza's father was born and he spent a lot of time living in Hellmond).

We left Guido's at about 10pm and miraculously found our way back to Tilburg and even Reesof (the suburb we were staying at). Got lost a few times finding the exact street and were happy to creep up to our beds at about 12.30am.

27th August 2004 - we drove to Waganingen with Tante Nina and Oma Piet., It rained most of the way and we had problems finding where Bert and Bianca lived (another Aunty of Lorenza's). We got directions form a few different motorists and finally made our way to their place (I was getting a bit frustrated that our local passengers had no idea where we were going even though they had visited here numerous times).

Conversation with Bert and Bianca was interesting, their English is almost zero, and while this is not a problem for Lorenza it is a challenge for me.
Bert I could understand because he talks slowly, with Bianca I had no hope!

We did a wet tour of an area called Bennekom, which is essentially a reclaimed swamp area which has been planted with forests and heath land plants. Stopped for proferjes and then went driving through the countryside.

It then became obvious to me that it was a Dutch tradition to be lost after being 10km from their hometown. Interesting!

Bert accidentally found his way to a fishing town called Hardiwijk. We took lots of photos as it was an interesting town, lots of fishing boats, new and old. Once we were back at Bert and Bianca's we spent another evening consuming large amounts of Dutch beer. My hand signals in place of Dutch words became a lot more animated as the night wore on as did Bert's in place of the English words he did not know.



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