The weekend was very very hectic; yesterday even more so! let me see if i can backtrack some..

Friday: as i said in my soundbite, we spent the day at Michiel’s parent’s home, alone, except for the trip to the shops to get some food for dinner. It was a lovely day, we didn’t do much, just rested up because we knew the weekend would be heavy on us both.

Saturday: a small family party was held for Michiel’s dad at Oma (Michiel’s grandmother)’s house. Basically various people would visit during the day for coffee & apple pie, or stay for a proper meal – various aunts and uncles of Michiel, on both his parents sides*, Michiel’s sister & her husband.. it was a lovely day, as i said in the soundbite, very tiring but a good day for all that.

Sunday: another family day, although this one didn’t start till afternoon: Michiel’s sister and husband brought their two girls round to visit. they were very taken with their “Tantie Kethie ALL the way from ENGLAND!” (or at least, the older one was, the younger one doesn’t care about England at this point, but boy, she’s cute). The older one, S**, was very shy at first, but we swapped presents (we gave S some children’s makeup, and F, her 18 month old sister, a bracelet on stretchy elastic – apparently she loves them, loves wearing ropes of necklaces at the moment! – and they gave us a Dutch apron, and a dutch teatowel – apron for me, since i do the cooking, teatowel for Michiel, who does the cleaning!) and S put some sparkly stickons on me, and proudly counted to 10 in English. that and a good play session with lego broke the ice, even though i don’t speak much Dutch and she doesn’t speak any English, we got on okay and she wanted to sit next to me at dinner (wasn’t so interested in Michiel, he’s just boring old Uncle Michiel, she’s met him before, she likes the sparkling new Tante.. !!!). F on the other hand was much bolder, and until S claimed me, was quite happy to toddle around – we toddled to the end of the drive (she’s still none too steady on her feet and prefers to walk around holding to things – either a table/chair or the hands of the nearest grownup) where i picked her up and we pointed at the dog (honje, or “ruff ruff”) and various other things, then went allll the way back where we sat on a bench and we looked at the motifs of animals on the back of the benches and i made the appropriate animal noises. I loved spending time with them and its reinforced the desire to have children of my own, i don’t know when or if, that will ever happen. ah well. We also spent time chatting with the rest of the family, catching up with Michiel’s sister, and the aunt / uncle who we visited last week also came with their two teenagers, so it was a big family gathering that sat down to eat a large chinese takeout meal in the evening – gorgeous food though!

Monday: we were up very early to visit another member of Michiel’s family. Events meant we could only visit them at a very early hour, so we were up at 5.45 after just 5 hours sleep (at least i had that, Michiel didn’t even get that). After the visit Michiel’s mum dropped us at the main station in Den Haag (or The Hague, to English people) where we caught the train to Dordrecht. Michiel had lived there when he was younger, before he moved to the UK, so he knew the town quite well. When we got there it was quite early still and so i suggested that we go to McDonalds for breakfast, killing two birds with one stone – i’ve always been curious as to whether the McDonalds tastes different in different countries. This was a huge mistake: we had an egg mcmuffin each, and it was vile. really, really vile. i love egg muffins in England, so what was different about it, i don’t know, there was less salt and the cheese tasted different, but that won’t be an experience i’ll be repeating, i think. I don’t know whether it was just a bad restaurant or whether it’s like that in all the Netherlands, but … i’m not keen to find out. After that we walked around Dordrecht for a bit.

Dordrecht sits on the banks of 2 rivers, which combine into one very large one, and as such as a little harbour (or series of harbours) of its own. Its an old town, with lots of old architecture – bridges, merchant houses, and a church – the Groet Kerk (Great Church) with an incomplete spire. i told Michiel i thought it was either incomplete or had been damaged, and not fully repaired and he shrugged – i looked it up on wikipedia when we got home and turns out i was right. (WIN!) There were lots of boats too, including a couple of steam boats (yes, dad, i got photos) which were lovely to see. We stopped for Koffie (coffee) and apple pie on the banks of the river, and ate outside. Lovely apple pie – the Dutch make it deeper than the English do, i think, and put in cinnamon and raisins too, which is lovely (I have the recipe from Michiel’s mom – a closely guarded secret!). After Koffie we walked around Dordrecht some more, got some postcards, then headed for the train station and decided to go elsewhere – we changed at Tieborg – where i had my first experience of public toilets in the Netherlands, i wasn’t too impressed. they’re kind of metal boxes, you put a 50 cent coin in, its dark when you open the door, you have to go in and shut the door (and if you don’t do your business in 15 minutes the door is locked and the police called. i suppose it stops vagrants using it to sleep in). the light comes on, and the toilet and floor is invariably wet. I thought it was very bad housekeeping, but turns out after each person has visited the whole thing is disinfected – something Michiel neglected to tell me! i tried to …. do the business, as it were, without touching the seat, shuddering the whole time (and if i hadn’t been truly desperate i would’n’t have used it) then got out of there, toute suite (as delboy would say). only afterwards did Michiel explain about them. Don’t like them, i think.

After Tieborg we settled on Arnhem first, but decided to get off at Nijmegen. Shortly after we got off the train though i started limping badly – we’d sat down momentarily on a marble wall at Dordrecht, which was slightly higher than my legs, and i think when i got down i banged my knee or something, it was fine then, but after sitting for half an hour on the train it had seized up. Michiel wanted to go home but i convinced him to stay – if nothing else i was hungry! – and we found a kebab shop.

I can’t say much about Nijmegen – i only saw the station and a bit of the centre – but i do want to tell you about this kebab shop! If you’re ever in Nijmegen, go there – the guy in there saw us alright, he did us a shwarma kebab each, which is a kebab where the meat is cut up quite small, with a garlic sauce, in pita bread, with fries and salad on the side.. he gave Michiel a beer too, and by then it was really warm, so we were both grateful for the cold drinks (I got a coke). Unhealthy, maybe, but by god, it tasted gorgeous, and the whole thing came to 17 Euros, which is pretty good going. Its called Istanbul Doner, on Molenstraat, and their website is – definetly not to be missed if you’re ever there!

After the kebab shop we walked slowly back to the station – or rather, Michiel walked, i hobbled/limped, then got the train back to Arnhem. Turns out the train was late so we had to run/limp to another platform, where we boarded the train and flomped into a carriage. we were hoping that train would take us all the way to Utrecht, but it stopped at Arnhem and we had to get a rather crowded commuter train the rest of the way instead of the nice non crowded, with large open windows train we had boarded at Nijmegen. ah well. At Utrecht we rehobbled through the station (Utrecht is a large station) and boarded the train to Alphen aan den Rijn, then caught the bus home, where we staggered through the door, made a cup of tea, and collapsed on the couch. we were both extremely tired, and we’d both fallen asleep on the train on the way home. We had a quiet evening then collapsed into bed around midnight.

Today: has been a day off! we slept late, had breakfast around midday, i walked up to the shops (where i posted my postcards) and did a little food shopping for Michiel’s Mum, and Michiel’s mum cooked us courgette soup (which was gorgeous and is definetly going to be made by me at home) followed by cheese fondue – which was so much fun and really tasty as well.

Tomorrow: Amersfoort, to look around and possibly visit Oma, if she’s home, and then to Amsterdam in the evening, if my knee holds out, to visit some of the guys from the geek linux chat channel we hang out in, then home again. Thursday, shopping for presents, packing and stuff, and more relaxing. Friday we’re home.. where i’m faced with the prospect of sorting out and uploading rather a lot of photos – 401 so far, and there’s some on Michiel’s mum’s camera that i borrowed when my own memory card got full one day, and there’s other photos on Michiel’s Mum’s camera that i want, of family events and so on… and a couple of photos from Michiel’s sister!!! this weekend is going to be heavy with the uploads i think.. !! Anyway, will try to blog tomorrow night or thursday…

* maybe its unique to my family but in Holland, the families of a married couple seem to mix a lot more than my family.. i really can’t see my dad’s mom sitting down with my mom’s brother or something, unless it was a wedding or a christening, or a really big birthday/wedding anniversary, those kind of big events, whereas in the Netherlands, it seems to happen a lot more. Don’t get me wrong, i really like it, the interaction, this feeling that family comes first, but it takes time to get used to.

** astute readers will have noticed that i’ve avoided mentioning anyone’s names in my blog. It seems only fair, i won’t name people unless they’ve given consent to be named. About as far as i will go is initials, no one ever got identified from an initial! You also won’t see photos of other people on this blog unless they’ve consented for it to go on there.