After nine months of being in the Netherlands, it was now time to explore the country with my friends. In the cheapest way possible, of course.
- A – Tuesday 22nd May – The end of finals week and hence the final party at UCU (The Beach Party)
- B – Wednesday – A night camping on Texel (one of the Dutch islands)
- C – Thursday – A night at Myrte’s house in Alphen aan den Rijn
- D – Friday – A night at Anton’s in Wezep
- E – Saturday – A night at Gerrianne’s in Aalten so we could join her for her confirmation
- F – Sunday – A night at Sofie’s in Apledoorn
- G – The day in Apeldoorn and back to Utrecht
This was a great plan as we would get to visit lots of people and get to camp on the islands, which we had wanted to do for a long time. Plus staying at people’s houses means free accommodation and potentially free food. As ever it is great to know locals.
I had finished my last exam the day before but everyone (except Gerrianne) still had deadlines and other exams to do. I thought they would have been done by lunch time but they actually continued long into the day. Whilst they were working hard I laid on the Quad and read Dave Gorman’s Unchained America.
The beach party in the evening was a big deal and something that is looked forwarded to all year. However, the name threw me a little bit as I assumed it would be in the beach party area (a room in dining hall), but my logic was apparently wrong and it is held in a different location every year. Last year it was in a swimming pool and this year it would be in the football stadium near our campus. I was already unexcited by this as I guessed that once you were in the stadium it would be the same as just being in the bar. I was to be correct in my assumptions.
First, however, there is the pre-beach party hosted by one of the fraternities – Primus. It started at 5pm and ran to 11pm when the beach party started, and after this was the after party starting at 3am in the bar. I was pretty sure there was no way I would make the whole thing. I loved the pre-party – it was for charity, the sun was shining and we were listening to students singing and playing music whilst we had a few (drink as much as you want) beers. It’s pretty much my favourite thing to do. We had a great time even though the pump for the beer was broken meaning the beer had even more foam than usual (about half and half). It started off with only Sofie, Myrte and I, as Myrte was to be playing at 7.30pm with her band. But as the night continued more people joined us and we celebrated our new-found freedom.
However, when the switch to the actual beach party came around, things didn’t go so smoothly, with difficulties getting the group ready to leave at the same time. Eventually we gathered everyone and walked the short distance to the stadium. When we were in it was just a room with the bad “boom boom” bar music that we don’t enjoy. We sat down in another room. My feet hurt so everyone went to dance while I stayed sitting. Long story short, I laid around on a bean bag and people didn’t come back for a long time so I ended up talking to Life. He is one of our unit mates and this was really nice as he is part of the unit we don’t talk to at all. The other guys came back and we ate some snacks. Everyone then went back to try the dance floor again, but after the stories of what it was like I wasn’t keen on that, and instead had a little nap.
We then left having a little sit in the middle of the road on the way back. When we reached the after-party people were too tired to even go up the stairs to check it out, so we all went to bed. Such party animals!
We woke up early for the last brunch and hence last meal ever in dining hall, as in the summer term it would be closed. We called all the stragglers who were not there on time and discussed our excitement for the plans ahead. The aim was to get to the campsite in Texel before five, and so after brunch we packed the car. The task looked impossible but in the end we could fit everyone’s luggage in, plus three people. As Dutch students get free public transport they were going to go by train to Texel and the rest would go in the car with Myrte. At the end of the week we would split all petrol and any extra train ticket costs. Simple.
We nearly killed Klementina on the way as she became very travel sick, but we made it. We waited for Veerle, Anton and Gerrianne to arrive and then we boarded the ferry. It was the calmest piece of sea I had ever been on. It hardly even felt like we were moving. At the other side the car continued to the campsite while the public transport people took a route via the shops to get some snacks for the evening.
The campsite was not what I was expecting. It was actually on the sand dunes and you got to camp amongst them! This was a little weird as other times I had been to some Dutch dunes they had been protected – meaning that you couldn’t even walk on the them, let alone camp. But I wasn’t complaining. We found a nice pitch and had just started setting up when the others arrived. We made camp and then walked back to the entrance to get some pizza.
We grabbed the bag of drink and snacks on the way back and walked the two minutes from our campsite to the beach. The weather was glorious and we enjoyed the late sun and ate. We played a bit of ultimate frisbee, flew a kite and some even had a swim in the sea. Our night was cut short though as there was a huge lightning storm on the horizon so being in the sea and on the beach was very dangerous. Unfortunately a very sad thing had also happened and my camera had broken so I am not able to provide you with footage of this storm, but it was incredible. It never rained on us and we couldn’t hear any loud cracks of thunder, but the lightning was beautiful with lots of fork lightning lighting up the dark sky. We watched, chatted and went to bed.
We had to wake up early again as had to be off the pitch by 11am, but this wasn’t so bad as we could still park the car on the site until 4pm. This meant we had a whole day to spend on the beach. It was another day of blue skies and heat. We played more frisbee, sang, sun-bathed and went paddling in the sea. It was very relaxing and crazy that two days ago we were all stressing over exams and deadlines. The sun turned out to be a bit too hot for some and as it approached 4pm Veerle and I were under our towels with Myrte sitting in the shadow of the chair. The aftermath of this day would last the whole week – Tina’s feet are still burnt now. Myrte also had problems as she burnt the back of her legs. So, a lot more red than before, we departed for Myrte’s house.
Here everyone met Myrte’s dog James and Myrte’s parents who kindly bought us Chinese for dinner which we really enjoyed. Sofie joined us afterwards. We all put our bedding down and got attacked by James who thought it was all a very fun game.
Klementina and Gerrianne had another early morning as they had to return to Utrecht for a SIFE competition. Veerle was to join them and Myrte needed to drive them to the station. So sadly Anton, Sofie and I had to sleep-in longer! We awoke at 11 and had a late breakfast. We then played Jack Straws (Mikado) and Cluedo. I chanced it and decided to guess – even though I wasn’t sure of the item – as Anton was very confident. It back fired, though I had the other two correct, and many turns went by where I could’ve discovered the item easily. The game ended with Anton winning. Sad times.
Anton and Sofie then left to get the train to Anton’s where Gerrianne would join them. Myrte and I were first going to go to town to try to rescue my camera, and if not to get a replacement. The shop said it would be €65 just to look at the camera, and then more on top to get a new lens if that was causing the ‘zoom error’. So, with that being a ridiculous amount, and with the fact I would be missing a lot if I didn’t have one, I got a shiny new one! Expect many pictures from now on…
Today was the weekend before Pentecost, which is a holiday in the Netherlands so people have the Monday off work. Hence this is a time for everyone to go on holiday and thus we sat in a massive traffic jam for three hours on what was supposed to be an hour’s journey, plus we had to make a detour to campus to collect Klementina and Linda who had decided to join us for this part of the trip.
Anton’s house was beautiful and the garden vast. We were treated to a BBQ even though we had missed eating with the family, like we were supposed to. We spent the evening in the garden, swinging in the hammocks and sitting by the candlelight. We said “hi” to the miniature ponies next door and, when we went inside, played with Anton’s very cute bunny. Sofie, Myrte, Anton and Klementina played a game about trading animals that was very long and got very serious, which was quite dull in the end for Gerrianne and I. We then retired to our respective sleeping places.
When I arrived downstairs Linda and Klementina were doing work and I was offered a nice breakfast. We then got into a game of DVD Cluedo which was interesting. In this version, you also had to work out what time of day it was and you could do things like ask the butler for a clue and look up a secret message in the rule book. In the end I thought it ran too long and preferred the original.
After the game Linda headed home and we continued onto Gerrianne’s. Here we met her dog Jackie, her chickens and her many cows as she lives on a farm. It reminded me a lot of my Grandma’s house with the sounds and the atmosphere, though she doesn’t have a herd of cows to milk every day. We were introduced to the family and had some drinks whilst we waited for the public transport people to arrive as they had missed their train.
We made pancakes for dinner and set up the tent as this is where we would be sleeping tonight.
I then sat in the living room as Eurovision was to be starting soon.
I like Eurovision and was looking forward to it coming along all year as I thought it would be fun to watch with other nationalities. However, I have gathered that the Netherlands are into it even less than people in Britain are. I also learned they have boring, optimistic, serious commentators and not funny ones like us. As a nation they also do not take the competition seriously, and have not made the final in the eight years that there has been a semi-final.
Klementina was also not that interested which left me being the only one who thought that it was fun. Myrte and Sofie watched a lot with me, but it was not the same atmosphere as normal, even though I appreciate their effort. I was in fact a little torn as those who weren’t watching Eurovision were doing my other favourite thing sitting around a fire.
For those who are interested the UK entry was as terrible as to be expected (but we didn’t lose, coming second to last to Norway!). My favourites were Sweden, Germany, Iceland and Denmark. Sweden was obviously going to do very well and indeed did win, thankfully beating the grannies of Russia, and Serbia – who I do not remember at all. My lasting favourite, though, is Denmark as I still have their song in my head now – even though they did badly, for some unknown reason, in the results. Politics!
Breakfast was freshly baked rolls with strawberries and spread. After this we then left for church where Gerrianne was to have her confirmation. Attending church – which is something I don’t do – and in another language, is a very interesting experience. Even with some translations from Sofie I didn’t entirely follow what was happening, but Gerrianne enjoyed it which was the main thing. We returned to the house where we were joined by some of Gerrianne’s friends and family. We ate some very nice home-made soup and salad.
We were also in for a treat. One of the cows was giving birth! It was her first calf, and after a few hours she needed to be assisted. This involved quite a scary device that cranked the calf out of the mother. Thankfully it was attached to the calf’s hooves and wasn’t used to crank something else, as others first thought. It looked scary at first, but soon the calf was breathing. It was a boy and so was named after Anton, which we all found amusing.
After this we left Anton and Gerrianne behind, whilst the rest continued to Sofie’s where we would be joined by Christina and Linda. Here we felt very relaxed as we didn’t have to feel so awkward about not speaking Dutch as Sofie’s mum is an English translator, so it was easy. We were treated to Maltesers and ice cream and watched Calendar Girls and Alice, now that the boy of the group was no longer with us. The Alice series was on too late for me (hence I fell asleep) but everyone else enjoyed it and talked about it over breakfast in the morning.
After breakfast we had a tour by car of Sofie’s beautiful town Apeldoorn where we dropped Linda at the station. We then continued to Paleis Het Loo where William III, who was one of the few to conquer England (so people like to tell me a lot) had his summer house, but now the Dutch royal family only occasionally has parties there.
It was very beautiful, though to my eyes was just like another big stately home, or similar building, like at home. The gardens were very impressive and as the sun was shinning all day like it had been for the whole of the week, we happily dipped our feet in the fountain – something that Sofie said she had never seen any of the times she had been there before. We were true trend setters! After this we laid around on the grass admiring the trees around us.
The Paleis closed at 5pm so we headed to the outer grounds to try to find the maze. It was a terrible maze, as you enter there are 4 paths, one leads to a dead-end, two lead in 30 seconds to the centre and the last actually gets you to do the maze. Tina took the last and as a consequence took some short cuts through the hedges to reach the centre. A big disappointment.
Back at Sofie’s house we had the first proper meal of our week (as in the meat potatoes and vegetables kind) and a huge slice of Vienetta. We were then to take a detour on the way back to campus to the Veluwe. Driving through it was very pretty with lots of thick forest on each side and small roads. We eventually got to the place Sofie wanted, even with a turn into a dead-end in a field. It was 7.5km of sand to the coast with heather growing amongst it. We are told to return there in August where everything will be transformed to purple thanks to the heather. It was truly gorgeous and definitely a secret place to visit that I’m sure many foreigners don’t know about.
This was the end for us as we arrived back at UCU to close with a trip after-party, where we chatted and looked at photos of the trip. It was a great week.
Now to some conclusions I have drawn from this. It might be the houses that I visited here, or it might be the houses that I have visited at home, but Dutch houses are much more modern and families keep them much more organised. Lots of things match, Ikea is a favourite, and open plan is preferred. People are very proud of their homes. Of course they are all of a different style to our own, with big sloping roofs making them look like toy houses. A sentiment that is mutual as Sofie says the same about the houses in England.
And if you are wondering how cheap this cheap holiday is, €40! All-inclusive. Definitely worth it!!