I love to see new places and have an ambition to visit every European country – something which may or may not become more challenging in the near future thanks to the ‘Brexit’ referendum result in June 2016 (A hot topic of conversation for Nadine’s family!).
In this trip I managed to visit or pass through 5 countries in 7 days. Some of these countries I have visited before but for The Netherlands and Luxembourg it was a first time. The first of many, I’m sure!
The trip was eventful and busy initially, followed by a few days of recovery in the Limburg region of the southern Netherlands.
I quickly noted that there was far more to this city than the popular misguided preconceptions would suggest. It’s not all ‘sex, drugs and rock and roll’ but a relaxing, beautiful, busy and interesting capital unlike any European city I’d visited before, which I had started to believe were much the same. Following a gloomy, drizzly start we grabbed some popular Dutch snacks – Kaassoufflé (deep fried cheese) and Bamischijf (deep fried noodle spring rolls) before checking into our Hotel for a siesta so we were ready to head back out to pound the streets of Amsterdam (for 31km no less!) The weather had improved and we felt refreshed.
As dusk began to fall on our first day in Amsterdam we made our way towards the infamous Red Light District of the city. We strolled through narrow shady streets and past Amsterdam’s famous coffee shops, which disappointingly didn’t appear to have a broad selection of frappés or ‘skinny soya espresso macchiato’s’ on their menu, come to think of it – their coffee smelled a little unusual. Despite it’s reputation, I found the Red Light District to be an equally beautiful part of town, especially in the daytime but with night came the bright neon lights which give the area a ‘special’ atmosphere. I have tried to capture this in my photographs.
The following morning we took a canal boat trip around the city. It was bright and sunny but our early departure meant that the temperature was still cool. The trip was educational and allowed us to view the city from a different perspective – at water level. We were embracing the tourist within (well, I was anyway!)
This flying visit to Amsterdam left both Nadine and I eager to see more in the future.
Our next stop was the village I had heard to much about; Landgraaf in the Limburg region of Netherlands, near the German and Belgian borders. Now, when Nadine referred to her homeland as ‘The Village’ – I have to admit that these were the images that sprung to mind:
However, Landgraaf was far more modern than this. We took the train from Amsterdam to Nadine’s hometown. This was the first time I was to meet Nadine’s Dad. A nerve-wracking time for any man, exaggerated further by living in a different country. However, I was immediately made to feel welcome and a part of the ‘Smeets Gang’. It was a short visit before making our way to nearby Cologne in Germany.
It was no happy coincidence that one of my favourite bands; Thrice were playing that night in the boiling hot ‘Live Music Hall’ on the outskirts of the city. I dragged Nadine along as I knew I would be missing the 4 year hiatus return show in London. It was a more subdued setlist than I had previously seen from the band and despite the heat and lead singer Dustin Kensrue’s recent sickness was executed brilliantly:
The German theme continues into the next day as we started our road trip to Luxembourg. On the way we stopped by Monschau in the Eifel region of Western Germany – I can honestly say one of the most beautiful locations I have experienced in my life.
It had become incredibly hot by the time we reached Monschau and the trees surrounding the gently flowing stream provided a welcome respite from the heat and relentless sun.
Earlier, I used the term ‘experience’ for the visit because not only was Monschau a feast for the eyes, it catered for all of the senses in an indescribable way; The views were stunning, this square with its boundaries of bakeries, cafés and restaurants emitted the sweet scent of pastries and cinnamon, the sound of the stream and range of languages being spoken and the contrasting temperatures of sun and shade and furthermore, the cooling apfelschorle and sweet cinnamon and apple ‘printen’ made this place a true delight.
The next stop on our trip was Luxembourg, one of Europe’s smallest countries. The city was quiet, relaxed and very hot! Having walked around the Netherlands practicing my basic Dutch skills, being introduced to the Limburg dialect (a mixture of Dutch and German) as well as Nadine’s fluent German speaking, I was now immersed in another language; French – One that I feel more confident to use and Luxembourg proved to have me repeatedly commenting “Ahhh trés beau!”
Following our trip to Luxembourg we returned to Landgraaf via Belgium for a few chilled days in Nadines family home and to celebrate her Dad’s 60th birthday. I met a lot of Nadine’s family and friends who unanimously believed, for some reason that baked beans are a British staple.