ZEELAND 2004 (14 august 2004)
Saturday 24 July
While the family was preparing for their annual holidays in Zeeland, one worry was on their mind: would pussycat Siep meekly undergo the trip?
When the daughters attempted to provide Siep with a harness, the little creature resisted violently. "Now there'll be trouble!" it was thought.
But to the surprise of all, Siep remained quiet during the whole of the itinerary. Even Charlie -– a rather docile cat when alive – never kept so quiet during the trip.
* * *
After the car had stopped before the house and we'd got out, Siep ducked under the vehicle and refused to come along. After a tug-of-war that lasted for some time, Siep finally gave in and entered the house with the rest of the family.
Hardly had she got in when every square inch of the house was being sniffed.
By half past seven, the family set off for a bite at Oostburg, a small town some five miles away. They descended on the terrace of restaurant In Den Tol. Apparently, the sign that read Unlimited Mussels for € 12.95 had attracted a host of greedy people. When after more than fifteen minutes no staff had been around, it was decided to leave and resort to the Hotel Du Commerce, where the children ate Dutch food and their parents had a Thai dish.
Sunday 25 July
Both Siep and the daughters appear to be having a good time. Siep continues her thorough exploration of De Platluus (the name of the house).
The daughters play a self-invented game. Time and again, De Platluus seems to inspire them to such creativity. This time they organize a tasting session.
In the afternoon, Knokke is visited. Notwithstanding the overcast weather, cars are parked all over the town, even as far as the outskirts. Luckily, they find a parking-place that's not so far removed from the beach. The GRV (Garish Red Volvo) is left behind wedged between a removal lift and the driveway of a villa.
During the weekend, Siep has explored every nook and cranny of the house. But now she finally seems to feel at home. No longer does she deem it necessary to spend the night on the top floor. She can now sleep downstairs, in an easy chair.
Monday 26 July
In the early afternoon, the children visit the Oostburg library. With the books they've got they can spend the afternoon reading in the garden.
When the family withdraw to the garden, Siep can be allowed to go outside as well. Very cautiously, she ventures outdoors. Every square inch is being sniffed. Any unexpected sound makes her run back to the kitchen.
She leaves more and more distance between her and the kitchen door.
Eventually, she stays away for more than an hour and a half.
About half past five, Siep returns and falls asleep, exhausted but satisfied.
Tuesday 27 July
In the morning, the daughters decide few things are as much fun as throwing water balloons, a commodity they don't have in the house.
So soon the girls are seen pumping up the tyres of a red bicycle.
... and a few moments later they're riding towards Oostburg.
Half an hour later they return with the desired balloons. Two sorts have been purchased: one bag of regular water balloons and another one containing long, narrow and much more expensive specimens, which are actually meant to be blown up and shaped into figures. They look nice, but prove to be less suitable for water balloons. They burst almost immediately after being blown up.
No earlier than in the late afternoon they move to Knokke, where Lea buys herself a Knack Magazine, probably because it comes with a free sun visor. Later that day, Lea is spotted on the beach with the aforementioned visor.
Wednesday 28 July
The sun is shining radiantly. In the afternoon, they visit Knokke, where the traditional photo before the "children's house" is made.
While making the photo Tom inadvertently drops a book from his bag -- which he notices no earlier than when he's on the beach. When he goes looking for it, it becomes clear how civilized the Belgians are: the book has neatly been put at the side of the road. In less than ten minutes Tom returns with his lost book.
On the beach another typically Belgian custom is seen: a boy selling icecream from two big boxes hanging on his shoulders. It may be wondered if the EC labour regulations won't also make this quaint custom a thing of the past.
Thursday 29 July
In the afternoon, the family once again move to Knokke. Even on the beach, the temperatures are almost tropical.
Once again, they avoid the "betalende strand" (literally " paying beach" – as if the beach pays you). Here and there, pretty flowers made of paper can be admired, another typically Belgian beach custom.
Friday 30 July
The sky is somewhat cloudy. They decide to visit Blankenberge. Violet would rather have gone to Oostende and emphasizes this by looking less cheerful for an hour or so.
To avoid parking problems, they first go to Zeebrugge, where there is ample parking space for the GRV (Garish Red Volvo). From there they continue their journey by tram.
Just like in Knokke, the beach at Blankenbergen is leased out in allotments of the size of about half a football field. Some leaseholders go to great lengths to attract visitors to their allotment, like here at Eric's:
The family settle down at Jean-Pierre's, where the attendant tries to test the knowledge of basic arithmetic of his Dutch guests: he attempts to charge ten euros for two deckchairs which are three euros each. Quite friendly people, those Belgians. Just a pity they sometimes have such a low esteem of their northern neighbours!
The daughters go into the sea a few times and emerge again as true sea nymphs.
On their way back home, your chronicler notes the following gem from Lea’s mouth: “This morning the weather didn't seem as fine as it has eventually become.”
Saturday 31 July
After breakfast, mom inquires if the daughters care to clean the GRV (Garish Red Volvo) so as to complement their pocket money. Well, they do, and after an hour or so of scrubbing and washing, they give the vehicle a last spray with the garden hose, after which it's got its original garish red colour back.
Sunday 1 August
As far as parking is concerned, visits to Knokke are usually troublesome affairs on sunny weekends. But a whole day at De Platluus is not exactly the daughters' cup of tea either. So at approximately 2 p.m. Lea drives them to a swimming pool at Aardenburg, a small town about five miles away.
The entrance fee for the pool is not such a huge expense. Only two euros a ticket, for those who want exact figures. It's agreed mom will come back at five to pick them up.
At five o'clock on the dot, Lea arrives at the baths to pick her daughters up. Liset appears to have been stung by a flying insect – a painful experience which she has luckily survived.
Monday 2 August
Even before breakfast has begun, Violet is overwhelmed by the urge to make pancakes. Without any hesitation, she converts this impulse into deeds. So this morning there are pancakes on the table.
After their morning meal, the daughters don a swimming outfit and hurry towards the kitchen in order to fill balloons with water. Two balloons appear to form Siamese twins.
And then they recklessly start throwing the balloons between them. They do not only have to call out a first name with every throw, but also have to keep the balloons intact for as long as possible.
Tuesday 3 August
It strikes the family that there are very few flies about the house this year. One wonders if our good quadrupet is to be thanked for this. After all, doesn't she chase everything that moves?
In the morning, Lea and her matrimonial partner do some shopping at Oostburg. They notice many shops have been closed last year.
In the afternoon, the family go to look for a cool place at the beach of Knokke.
Some French-speaking people start playing pétanque at such a short distance from the Amsterdam family that Tom begins to worry about the health of his relatives. He admonishes the players (in Dutch) to take a little more distance. Fortunately, they appear to understand him.
Not long after, the Amsterdam daughters are seen to have their way with a smaller-sized ball. When at a certain moment the ball narrowly misses Lea's head, she thanks her good fortune that this projectile weighs only a fraction of a pétanque ball.
Wednesday 4 August
In the morning, lots of things can be seen in the garden.
For instance, Siep can be seen stalking about, looking for prey.
Your photographer still hasn't managed to take the good cat's picture with a mouse or other prey.
What he did see, however, was a plant which is obviously quite special. "Why special?" you may wonder. Well, the other day, a woman knocked on the door because she wanted a cutting.
dung fly plant
What also makes this plant special is the fact that it obviously attracts dung flies, which descend on it in great numbers.
While the family are having breakfast, it starts raining. On rainy days the family often go to Ghent . The decision is made to continue this tradition again.
Although it won't be raining anymore all day, the family have already left for Ghent.
Having arrived at the town, the company splits up into two parts – as has been their custom lately – according to age.
At dinner time, the daughters opt for McDonald’s, while their parents have a meal at a more classical restaurant in the Vrijdagmarkt (yes indeed, madam, Friday market -- Dutch isn't such a difficult language).
Entirely in accordance with the name fast-food, the daughters are soon spotted in the marketplace taking some pictures.
Thursday 5 August
During the night, the parents carry out a massacre in the bathroom. Seven mosquitoes are sent to the happy hunting grounds. It is to be wondered what bloodbath these vampires (the mosquitoes, that is) would have perpetrated otherwise.
The sky is cloudy. The family decide to stay at De Platluus.
In the afternoon, the daughters play their own version of squash. Many a ball has to be fetched from between the bushes or from the roof gutter with the help of a ladder.
Later that afternoon, the lovely daughters -- along with their charming mom -- are seen to handle the the heavy balls of pétanque.
And in the evening, the daughters take up a cheap digital camera and start filming an impressive drama. The dressing up that this involves is quite promising indeed.
Friday 6 August
You'll understand that a masterpiece is not completed in one day. So today the daughhters continue the production of their film.
It appears to become some kind of thriller – more or less like Morse or Frost – assuming these names ring a bell to you, madam.
In as many as ten takes, the film is shot.
When the fiming is done, the movie is shown to the parents, who watch their daughters' creation breathlessly.
As far as Siep is concerned, the fact that the family have stayed indoors for two days is a definite treat: all day she can play in the garden. So in the evening, the good cat is seen lying under the coffee table, tired but satisfied.
Saturday 7 August
The atmosphere is warming up.
In the afternoon, they try to see if Knokke is accessible. They manage to get the car parked … but even further away from the beach than normally.
The temperature at beach is quite tolerable. The daughters join their new Belgian friend (about whom no details will be supplied in these pages, madam).
When the family return by seven, Siep is awaiting them behind the window.
Siep behind window
In the house, they find out that sending sms messages with provider Orange is free this weekend. Both daughters turn out to have received a plethora of electronic messages.
Sunday 8 August
This morning, we are phoned by Jasper (our friendly neighbour who takes care of the animals and plants at our home). The turtle tank is smelling foul. Tom says he'll take the train to Amsterdam to do something about it. But Jasper insists that's quite unnecessary. This evening, Jasper will try to flush out the aquarium with a few buckets of water. The family are perplexed by so much friendliness.
For reasons explained before, the family don't care for a visit to Knokke on a Sunday. And for good reason: later they'll hear the beach has been overcrowded.
In the afternoon, Liset and her sister leave for Oostburg in order to buy postcards. As soon as they return, they start writing them with great fervour. They prepare no fewer than eighteen cards for the post.
In the evening, Siep stays away for quite a long time. The family starts worrying. But by midnight, our adventurous pussycat enters the premises on her white socks. Exhaustedly, she lies down on a window-sill.
Half an hour later, a thud is heard: Siep appears to have fallen off the window-sill. Seemingly unmoved, she recedes to the upper floor, where she continues her nap.
Monday 9 August
Once again, the daughters display their great talent for making games with the simplest of means. At breakfast they play "Connect-the-dots" with a styrofam tray. One may wonder if the fact that the tray ever contained meat products, does not cause any moral problems for Liset, who's a vegetarian.
Today, the last hot day is expected. They decide to visit the beach.
The daughters play beachball with no fewer than two balls.
When they leave the beach shortly after six, it's still and hazy.
They've left just in time. For when they reach the car, it starts raining.
Tuesday 10 August
There is some rain in the morning and it's somewhat chilly.
While the heat mainly promoted Siep's laziness, she now starts hunting afresh.
The weather forecast has predicted rain, so they'd rather not go to the beach, The parents suggest their daughters could visit Toversluis with a a sum of money to pay for some of the attractions, an offer they can hardly refuse.
At half past three, Lea takes them to Toversluis in the GRV.
After an hour and a half, the parents come to collect their daughters. Liset has exchanged the vouchers she has won for a donkey with a blue bath sponge, whereas Violet has yielded to a cigarette lighter (although she doesn't even smoke).
In the evening, Siep's hunting instincts are still alive and kicking. She enters the house with a mouse, which she starts playing a cruel game with.
Siep & mouse
It's with great pleasure that they hear Frank de Boosere, the weather man of the Belgian television predict bedroom-friendly temperatures.
Wednesday 11 August
The sky is so overcast that a visit to Knokke is not an obvious choice. They decide to spend the afternoon at Oostende (sometimes referred to as Ostend).
By two o'clock Lea starts the GRV. They take the route via Knokke. More than six quarters later, they enter a parking place at Oostende. A travelling time of over ninety minutes, which they consider too long. They'll have to do better in the evening.
The sidewalks of Oostende's Kapellestraat appear to have been covered by some sort of green carpeting.
Shortly after their arrival, parents and daughters go their separate ways (by mutual consent, madam). The parents sit down on a dijkzetel (literally: "dike seat"). Contrary to the predictions, the weather is quite sunny.
They've agreed to meet again at half past five. By 5.30, Lea and her matrimonial partner meet their daughters on a part of the beach that was newly laid out in the past year.
The weather is so pleasant that the parents propose to enjoy the sun for one more hour. They all agree and the daughters stay on the beach while the parents return to their dijkzetels. Later, Lea is photographed before the ugliest building of Oostende (and probably of all the Belgian coast) – for those who want to know the exact details, it's nearly opposite the Ensor Museum.
On their way to the car, the daughters make a number of fashion pictures …
They travel back via the motorway to Brugge (Bruges). That route may be some 10 kilometres longer than the one they made earlier that day, but Lea can make so much speed that the trip takes half an hour shorter than earlier that day.
Thursday 12 August
The daughters have been promised that they could go to the disco in Knokke one night. This evening, they remind their parents of this promise.
By 11 o'clock, Lea drives them through the fields of Zeeland towards Knokke. After their arrival, the daughters get out, into the sparkling nightlife of Knokke.
They've agreed to return to the vehicle at three a.m. The parents will have to find a way to amuse themselves until then.
That's easier said than done. First they walk along the marine embankment for some three quarters of an hour. When a potty stop would suit them both, they are lucky enough to find a restaurant, where the last guests are slow to leave. The staff don't mind if the Dutch guests stay for an hour or so. But they can't stay there forever. So Lea and her consort spend the last forty minutes reading in the GRV.
Exactly at the time agreed, the daughters return – to the great relief of their parents. No dancing was allowed at the disco, but for the rest they seem to have had a good time.
Friday 13 August
The sky is overcast. They opt for a visit to Brugge, also known as Bruges.
They take the route via Maldegem, which is probably the shortest route. But it looks as if the authorities want to discourage anyone driving via Maldegem. No signs at all are seen that mention Maldegem in connection with Brugge. Even in the town itself they can't find any signs that point to Brugge.
In spite of all this opposition, the route takes them less than three quarters of an hour.
The GRV is first parked on the outskirts of Brugge Then they walk via the Queen Astrid Park to the market.
As is their custom, the company splits up into two groups. They decide to meet again at six.
Typically, the daughters dine at a fast-food chain, this time at Quick.
Their parents eat in the market at Le Grand Belfort . Only after they are far away from the restaurant, they discover to have been overcharged more than ten euros.
Still there isn't much reason to complain. For hardly have they reached the GRV after a twenty minutes' walk, when it starts raining.
Almost the entire way to De Platluus and the rest of the night, it will go on raining.
Saturday 14 August
Today it's time to return to Amsterdam.
After breakfast, the GRV is loaded according to the vagrant's method : everything in plastic bags. That may seem somewhat strange. But just think how efficiently things are packed in a living body. That's not packed in square boxes either, is it?
At a quarter past two Annelies, the owner of De Platluus, appears with a Citroën car and a cat named Jurk (literally "Dress").
But there's an end to everything. The get-together is but short-lived and ends when the Amsterdam family leaves after fifteen minutes.
They travel via Waterlandkerkje, the tunnel under the Westerschelde, Fijnaart, Barendrecht, Rotterdam and Den Haag (The Hague). Perhaps a rather unusual route, but that's probably the reason why it was so quiet.
The journey is rather uneventful, but went as it should. When they've arrived home and want to go for dinner, the daughters demonstrate their independence by opting for pizza from the freezer. The parents can hardly prohibit that, so the photo taken before the restaurant shows only half of the usual family.
The parents do miss their daughters, but the food is not bad at all at Kaap De Goede Hoop.
And after this dinner, another holiday has come to an end.