Tilburg then off to Alsace

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August 30th 2004
Published: December 1st 2007
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Back in Tilburg we needed a day to recover from our visit to Waganingen. Bianca can be a bit “busy” so it was good to have some peace! We spent the day repacking our bags and trying to work out how to fit the gifts that we had been given to take back to family in Australia.

For some reason we had umpteen video tapes of some Dutch daytime soapy to take back to Moeder, 6 tubs of some special shaving soap that Pa loves, plus some bottles of a particular brand of eggnog that we just had to take back with us ! With that done we wrote some emails and relaxed. Then realised we did not leave for another two days!

31st August 2004 - we drove to Eindhoven to get our rail tickets. Eindhoven is the home of the Phillips Company and a high tech city of sorts. We parked close by what we initially thought was the railway station (even though I did mention it looked a lot like a football stadium - but it is a much braver man than I that decides my wife is wrong !). When we asked a passerby if it was the railway station it indeed turned out to be a football stadium. The real station was a 15 minute walk from there.

We purchased our tickets without any problems and the service person assured us there was a dining car on the train so we would have no need to take any food and drinks with us. We then drove a short distance to Hellmond and met Guido for lunch. He took us to the street where Lorenza's father grew up. The houses had recently been demolished to make way for a new residential development. The whole area was being redeveloped, which was a much better idea than Sydney's endless urban sprawl.

Said our farewells to Guido and made the usual promises to keep in touch and see each other again much sooner than the last time. Back in Tilburg we had dinner with Oma Piet and Tante Nina. He insisted I try his three favorite beers, the last being a cherry beer from Belgium (interesting). From there we dropped in on Sylvia (Liesbeth sister) and her whacky family of girls - Loes, Sofie and Margarite. We had coffee and some fun talking with the girls, with me teaching them how to hop like a kangaroo and how to say “G'day” and “see ya later mate”. When we left the girls chased our car up the street, hopping and calling out “see ya later mate”.

We said more farewells back at Michel and Liesbeth's place. We had a great stay with them and they are very easy going. It is a shame we do not see more of them because we really enjoy their company.

During my short stay in Holland my Dutch has not improved much, except (all spelt phonetically) for Doiee, dunkyouwell, drempel (which I first thought was an animal but is actually a speed hump), links, snell, reckdor, reckedoff, moah, hail moah! One day I may buy a Dutch dictionary.

Alsace - some background info

Some background to why we visited Alsace - Rob's Great Grandfather, Gustavus, immigrated to Australia from Alsace back in the 1890's. Gustavus's brothers and sister remained in Alsace. So, we had written to some distant relatives in Paris and Alsace before leaving on our trip. The letter was a basic introduction to who we were and expressed the hope that we could catch up while we were in France, even for a coffee and to say hello.

By the time we had departed Australia, we had received no response from any of the contacts we had written to. So we decided we would try to track them down while traveling.

So, back to the trip .....

1st September 2004 - we waved Liesbeth off to work and Michel took us to the rail station in Tilburg. There we were fare welled by Bianca, Nina, Pet and Michel. Once on board our train trip took us via Antwerp, Russell’s, Luxembourg, Nancy and then into Strasbourg. The entire trip was about 6 hours.

In just a few hours on the train the landscape changed from flat Dutch farmland to rolling hills. Also, the language changed a few times along the way as we changed trains in Belgium. You can hear Dutch, Flemish and now French. The French train conductor that checked our tickets looks just like the Fat Controller from Thomas the Tank engine, except he is wearing a very french looking cap.

Once the train was making its way through the area around Metz, the countryside looked a lot like that around Bathurst or Orange in NSW. Sweeping hills, open farmland and an endless blue sky.

Oh, the Dutch train people were wrong; there was no dining car all the way to Alsace! We arrived in Strasbourg hungry, thirsty and feeling a bit lost in a new city. Now, rather than relying on Lorenza's excellent Dutch skills, it was my turn to do most of the talking in my broken schoolboy french.

We collected our next rental car and launched ourselves into the peak hour traffic. We found our hotel without too much trouble (ok we did a few laps around Strasbourg trying to navigate all the one way streets and caused a lot of drivers to curse at us in French with our bad driving, but we got there safely enough). Once our luggage was in our room we went to a supermarket to stock up, we were staying in an apartment hotel here in Strasbourg and again when we went to Bergheim, so we could do some of our own cooking.

At the supermarket I asked women if she knew where we could find some jam, she led us to the cold meat section and pointed to the ham, so I bought ham and then remembered the word “comfiture” and voila found the jam! Then we tried to figure out what was milk and what was not in the dairy section, until my addled brain remembered “lait”. This is going to be such fun!


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