Two Dutch Girls on a Road Trip to Wiltshire

Road Trip 2017 (2) - Richmond to Chawton to Salisbury.

Good afternoon! Would you like to join me for the second part of my road trip in the South-West of England? A long time wish of my daughter...

Saturday, 4 October 2014

In the Wetlands We Celebrate Animal Day Today.

October 4th used to be a magical day!

We would buy treats for our dog and cats, and as a girl I used to put a ribbon around the neck of my favourite cat Bobbie (we had 3 at the time), which he would graciously allow to be there for a while, until he'd had enough and got rid of it.
Our other animals would get treats as well; we gave the 7 goats water crackers, which they adored, and the chickens would get endive.

Nowadays I only have one cat and one dog around the house.
But today still is a special day for the cat, as we got our Viggo from the shelter exactly four years ago.

He has the best life imaginable, with a large garden, plenty of food, loving people and personnel to open doors for him. Not bad eh, for an alley cat?

So, to celebrate today, I'll leave you with some of my favourite animal photos.

Thank you for caring for your animals.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Rotterdam Is In My Genes...Through No Fault Of My Own.

Do you know the feeling that you are woven into the fabric of a city against your will?

I've told you before that I was born in Rotterdam, at a time when it was still licking its wounds from WWII.
The Wetlands were at the threshold of a new era, wrestling with the legacy of war, of betrayal, of shame, but also with the breathtaking opportunity to make things better.
My parents couldn't find a home of their own in the bombed-out city, so they lived with my grandparents around the corner of Blijdorp Zoo. They shared their tiny room with a large cat.
I was begat with this red tomcat keeping an eye on the proceedings, and was born with the same red tomcat watching my birth from a distance of 2 feet. For me, this is the most logical explanation of my life-long fascination and identification with cats. In fact, I believe I am part cat myself. (And if you don't believe me, that's your problem)

Later on, I used to take the bus from the village my Mum had moved to towards Rotterdam (a journey of 1 1/2 hours), and wander the streets of the city centre. It made me feel very grown up (I was 13).
Then, when I was 17, I found a job in Amsterdam and Rotterdam was moved to second best. After Amsterdam I moved to London, and Rotterdam only became important again when I was forced to move back to my home country. It was the city where I had to travel to to work, nothing more. I stopped work there when I found a job closer to home and that was that.


Now that I am in my late fifties, and my aging brain starts to deteriorate to the point where 'old' memories come easier than 'new', and since I am once again working in Rotterdam, a certain pride has snuck up on me. 
When I stand on the quay of the Lloyd Island, looking out across the river, I  feel this deep connection to Rotterdam.

This is my workplace, believe it or not (better do!). Do you see the building right at the edge on the right, with the funny asymmetrical top? That is where I work, the STC, school for all things to do with the harbour, shipping and transport. 

And this is my view, when I have the time to look out my classroom window...which isn't often.

Okay, not quite this view, this is a selfie. But look at the river Maas behind us, and that ship! The Oasis of the Seas, she is called. She stayed one day in Rotterdam before moving herself to the docks. And hundreds of people streamed to the water's edge to see her pass. And we all loved it.

Just as we loved the opening of the Central Station last May, and the opening of the huge Market Hall for Fresh Food yesterday.

Now, do not make the mistake of thinking that Rotterdam is all huge brand new buildings! For just around the corner of my school, there is this:

Mooooooooove over, Amsterdam!!!

This is old Delfshaven, now part of Rotterdam-West, and it's the old port of Delft. Delft, being more inland, didn't have access to the river itself, so founded a port of her own. It is hard to imagine, but Delfshaven used to be more important than Rotterdam.

And when I walk around these streets, I have a certainty deep in my bones. This city is in my genes. I may not live there, and I make fun of its slang and pronunciation, but it is part of me.
Oude Maasweg This is the ultimate Maas song!

(Photographs were originally posted by Gers! Magazine on FB - except for the selfie, of course. You will recognise that they are wonderful, so do look up their FB page and feast your eyes some more)

Monday, 29 September 2014

Have Spent a Wonderful Weekend Spotting Deer!

One of the precious things for a small country is its surviving wilderness! One of ours in the Wetlands is called 'De Hoge Veluwe', and it is situated roughly in the middle of my country.

Last weekend my friends and I trekked to Otterlo, where we had rented a woodland cottage. Our aim was to spot red deer, 'edelherten', our largest kind in the Wetlands.
Did we spot them? We most certainly did!

Photograph by Martin van Es

The weather was wonderful, and we had left early, so by 11 am we were making coffee and getting acquainted with the resident squirrels at our cottage.

Rina took this by balancing her camera onto the worked!
We knew that the red deer were supposed to be in a particular area of de Hoge Veluwe by the end of the afternoon, so we entered the national park and took the free bikes that are included in the entrance fee. Theo and I had brought our own; one of the advantages of having a Volkswagen van.
It took only half an hour cycling to reach the area where the red deer were almost certain to make their appearance, but we had hours to spend, so we cycled all around the lower part of the national park. where are those red deer? I can hear you mumble. Well: here they are!

Photographs by Martin van Es

Aren't they magnificent?!
The males were putting up a show of strength. 
Unfortunately the wind was the other way, so they kept 
their distance and we couldn't hear their 'burling' very clearly, 
but luckily all those present had brought their little lenses...

Seriously, folks, just look at that!
I didn't dare take out my Samsung...
Mind you, some of the photos shown here 
were taken by me with this little Samsung mobile, so yay Korea!
We, and approx. 200 others, watched the deer
 until they got bored and ambled off. 
Then we took our bikes back to the compound and had
 a great meal in Otterlo.

All that tracking makes a person very thirsty!
The next morning we again entered the national park and 
this time cycled the other way. This part of the Hoge Veluwe 
is more wet, with little waterways and drinking ponds.

The park commission has put up boardwalks, to help people keep their feet dry. The vegetation showed that there was water; there were plenty of little ferns, and a lot of toadstools and other fungi.

Now, I don't know about you, but I am one of those people who needs a regular wee. Obviously there are no toilets in the middle of this wilderness, so the accepted thing to do is find yourself a quiet spot and do your thing. As long as you do not leave anything behind (like toilet paper!), it is tolerated.
So, after one of my sanitary stops I had just walked back out of this copse of firs, and had put my left foot onto the sandy track, when I almost jumped out of my skin. Underneath my right foot, which I had almost but not quite put down, there coiled an adder. The only poisonous snake we have in the Wetlands.

Theo and Rina immediately started filming it, whilst I kept warning them not to agitate it. It showed its fangs once, but decided to flee instead of attacking.

We saw some red deer prints, but no more red deer. Although we did hear them roar in the distance. 
All too soon it was time to pack up and drive back to the congested West...

It was a wonderful weekend, and I cannot wait to go back there!
Okay, one more then!