Our next destination was a quaint country town called Sint Oedenrode, a city certainly off the tourist path. The reason for our visit originated from a chance meeting of a Dutch family aboard a cruise ship bound for Alaska in 2011 on which we commemorated mom’s 80th birthday. Olivia met their daughter, Sophie, at the kids’ camp aboard Holland America’s Volendam. Although the two girls couldn’t able to speak the same language they created a lasting friendship that fostered a relationship between the parents. The parents, Martina and Joop, are interesting and kind people who extended an invitation to visit (Sint Oedenrode) upon hearing of our adventurous travel plans.
They made a BIG effort to make us feel welcome – like allowing Caroline and I to sleep in their bed as they slept on the sofa. They organized a personalized guided walking/canal boat tour of the historical city named Hertogenbosch. (If you are Dutch, you know the place. If you are not Dutch, well you’ll never read the name again.) At the time of our visit the city was hosting a fringe festival in the town square that was backdropped by an ominous gothic cathedral. The cathedral was a mix of old and new. It contained many icons of current happenings sprinkled among the classic marble carved artworks. Like a 911 aircraft colliding with the twin towers as part of the stained glass pictogram that hung over the entrance, or a statue of a young woman wearing jeans while talking on her mobile phone positioned amidst many classic-type statues. It was a memorable visit that touched our hearts and solidified a friendship that we hope lasts a lifetime.
Olivia was reunited with Sophie while William connected with Janic and Lukas, their two teenaged boys. We credit the boys with introducing William and Olivia to Mine Craft, the delightfully addictive computer game that allows players to construct 3D buildings while avoiding deadly zombies. Fun. We ate herring and BBQ’d mixed grill in between going for great walks through the local countryside. The kids played in the park and visited the local petting zoo. Our three-day visit seemed much longer because of the wonderful bond that was created.
One of our significant discoveries was a restaurant chain called FEBO that sold freshly fried croquettes and awesome fried potatoes dispensed via vending machines. For the remainder of our time in the Netherlands we stopped each and every time we happened to pass a FEBO. The simple joy of giving the kids a euro coin so they could get a tasty snack is a lasting memory.