After three short trips away, by the time we got back to The Netherlands it was time to take things easy for a few days.
I started off spending a day at home downloading the pictures of my camera, editing them and uploading them to my Facebook, writing my blog, and doing the mundane stuff like catching up on some washing.
That afternoon I was already ready for some more excitement. My cousin Quinty had organised something for all the girl cousins to do…but it was a secret. So dressed casually, ready for anything and toddled over to Quinty’s place. I soon learned that the afternoon schedule involved a cake decorating workshop followed by dinner with all the cousins and partners.
Starting our workshop we all had the choice of what cake shape to work with: round with a flat top or a dome. Considering the lady told us a dome shape was easier I put my hand up for that! We started by cutting our cakes into layers, then putting flavours into the layers, covering the whole cake in buttercream icing and putting it in the fridge to cool. By covering the cake in buttercream icing, it would make it easier to smooth a layer of marzipan icing over the cake. From there we had to decide how to decorate our cakes, and true to my name I decided to make a duck cake. I started by colouring and rolling out a light blue to cover the whole cake. Then I drew a duck on paper as a template, cut out my duck and then used this template to cut out a bunch of little ducks. I added little orange beaks and teeny tiny blue dot eyes (the person running the workshop made me an awesome duck to put on the top of the cake). By the time I put my ducks on the cake we were starting to run short on time, so Quinty, having finished her cake, helped me out with the waves and the clouds to finish off the cake. Consider I am not at all artistic and I really suck at cakes..I was incredibly proud of my efforts!!
Quinty’s cake had branches, leaves, flowers and birds; Maricia made a cake about her and Jeroens upcoming wedding, with champagne glasses, rings, the wedding date and their names on it; and Lianne made a hot orange cake with a Dutch flag in support of the European Championship football competition due to start that week.
Happy with our cakes we packed up, put the cakes in the fridge and headed out. With all the cousins together (most anyway, Pat and Anna were visiting Ann’s family) we went for dinner to an Italian restaurant in Papendrecht. We all ate delicious food and had a fabulous evening enjoying each others company.
Mum and I headed to Rotterdam the following day for a spot of shopping. I had been very restrained so far!! I got some awesome jeans, chinos, sneakers and few other odds and ends. With our bags full we jumped on the train back to Sliedrecht where my aunt Marjan collected us and we all headed to Ikea in Barendrecht. Ikea is totally my most favourite shop ever!!! So I bought a few bits and pieces but not too much..very aware of baggage limits when flying!
On Tuesday Anna was a little bit disappointed that I had gone to Rotterdam without her, so I went again, with Pat and Anna this time. The market happened to be on, so we ate some yummy hot chips, drank slushies and filled the last little gaps in our bellies with freshly made super stroop wafels. Anna had waited three years to finally try a fresh super stroop wafel, so she was pretty happy!! We also had a look at the cube houses, checked out a few shops and then realising the time quickly jumped ont he train back to Sliedrecht. That evening we had a family dinner with everyone on mum’s side of the family. We went to an all you can eat sushi restaurant called Shabu Shabu. It was actually pretty awesome. There were 4 rounds and each round each person could order 5 menu items. It was great fun, and so tasty! Also surprisingly filling, we all crashed and burned after round three!! At the end of the evening as we all waddled back to our cars, we grabbed a quick family photo. The first time in 20 years that we have had a full family photo! (Sorry it’s not actually the best quality picture in the world..but at least we are all in it!)
Some other things we crammed into that week included a guided tour of my uncle’s shackle factory. Mum, Anna and I had an afternoon in Dordrecht, eating poffertjes and checking out the shops. Pat went out on the boat in the Biesbos with the boys. We all checked out the local market for fresh bread, cheese, meat and of course….super stroop wafels! One night the Stam Clan and Ineke went to Quinty’s place for dinner.
Before we knew it, it was Friday June 8th. The big day for Maricia and Jeroen!
Maricia had spent her last night as an unmarried woman, in her family home (where Pat, Anna and I were staying). In the morning the make-up person and hair person arrived to make her look all pretty. Then Marjan and I helped her put on her STUNNING wedding dress! We laced up the back and then stepped back to look at the huge grin on her face. She looked amazing and was super excited and anxiously awaiting the moment when she would see her groom. She didn’t have to wait long before there was a knock on the door. Jeroen had turned up in a spunky white porsche to collect her.
They sped off to some stunning locations for their photos before returning to greet their guests. Together we all walked to town hall where we witnessed the official ceremony. The ceremony was really lovely and very personal, the celebrant had gotten to know them well and shared some great stories.
After they had exchanged rings and kissed…of course with much applause from us! We all walked down the street to restaurant Bellevue for the wedding cake/cupcakes and coffee. This was also the time we had for group and family photos.
Soon it was time to catch the party bus to the Hipper in Gorinchem, where we enjoyed a delicious BBQ buffet dinner. We were kept entertained by some nice poems about Maric and Jeroen as well as a powerpoint presentation with pictures. By the time our food had settled, the evening guests (everyone else who was invited) turned up to the reception to congratulate to the couple, celebrate their wedding and party on and have a boogie to the band’s great tunes!
A fabulous night was had by all…especially Maricia and Jeroen!
The day after the wedding there was no time for us Stam’s to relax, it was time for another family reunion. This time we caught up with the entire Stam clan (Dad’s side of the family) for the first time in 20 years!!
We started our Stam day at my aunt and uncles place for coffee where we met everyone. I think I had met almost everyone before; but for Pat and Anna it was a pretty steep learning curve trying to absorb so many new names and faces. After our coffee and introductions, we hopped onto our bus and headed out to a place called Hooghei. It is an activity centre, where they offer all sorts of activities for young and old, as well as offering buffet style meals. On arrival we started with some lunch, build up some energy stores before the games to come!
The first game of the day was 18 holes of football-golf (by football, I mean soccer). It was pretty entertaining, there was such a huge variation in skills level. The young ones had completed all the holes before we were even halfway through! I accidentally kicked my ball into a small canal…luckily Patrick helped me fish it out without getting wet! Some of the other boys had less luck than I did, kicking their ball into a big canal, which required stripping down to their undies and going for a muddy, cold swim to retrieve it!
Unfortunately for us, the field where we were playing had about 10 centimetres of water on it, so by the end of the game we all had soggy, cold toes. This certainly didn’t stop the Stams! Off we went for some farmers games: team football, three people per team, tied to each other, playing as one…that got a bit messy!; wheelbarrow races; the thing where you throw horse shoes onto pegs, pitchfork throwing into bales of hay to pop the balloons and a few more. We calmed down from all this excitement with a horse and cart ride. We finished the day with a tasty buffet dinner while we watched the first Netherlands game in the European Championships football. Once the game was over, with a not-so-favourable result, we took the bus back home.
Before we did that, we did manage to get a quick snap of the whole family.
After so much busy-ness, Pat and Anna had no time to slow down, they packed their bags and took a train to Frankfurt to continue on the last leg of their round-the-world trip. Their final destination was a second honeymoon in the Maldives. Though I was sad to see them go, I knew it would only be a few short weeks till we were all back in Tassie together, so determined to make the most of my holiday, I packed my bags, collected mum and off we went to Belgium.
Mum and I drove the short 1.5hours to Brussels, we found our hotel, parked the car, checked in, and set off to see the sights!
Brussels is cute little city, though I am sure we didn’t even see very much of what it has to offer. We wandered past some amazing old churches and watch towers, through the fish market, briefly checked out an outdoor concert/jazz festival and nibbled on some sugar dusted apple beignets. We continued our wandering and found the city center and the marketplace, with many cute cafes and beautiful old buildings, of course the streets were lined with chocolaterie’s offering so many tasty treats..this is where we had our first Belgian pralines. We wandered into a little store and asked “Which one is the best?” and that was the one we had. Using this method, I never got a dud!!
Before going too far, we sat down for some late lunch. What does one eat in Belgium?? Well, if you didn’t already know, I will tell you now, Belgium is known for several things: Chocolate, Waffles and Beer. Having already had chocolate, our lunch consisted of waffles and beer. I had waffles ‘mikado’ with ice cream, cream and chocolate sauce, I made sure to support the locals by selecting a local brew, Tongerlo.
Bellies full, off we went, exploring more streets at random, seeing more lovely old architecture. In our wanderings we of course tried some more chocolates and also visited one of the landmarks of Brussels: Manneke Pis. The statue of a pissing boy – who knows why that was ever famous, but the crowd surrounding the small fountain/statue was crazy!
Another thing that surprised me, were the Tin Tin murals I spotted on random buildings throughout the city. Very cool though!
After having explored many of the streets and soaking up some of the culture, also having walked off our food, it was time for dinner. We found a lovely little restaurant near the old fish market we had some amazing truffle ravioli with a fresh tomato sauce, and of course accompanying this meal was some beer. It was here that I found my most favourite ever, Pecheresse: peach beer. It was divine!!
The following day we had another bit of a wander around Brussels, enjoyed a few more chocolates and were even so generous as to buy some extra chocolates for friends back home. (Do you think those chocolates made it back to Tassie?)
By around 11am, we hopped back in the car and made the short 45 minute drive to Bruges. Again we found our hotel, checked in and set off to explore. Within a few minutes of leaving the hotel the rain started, it became a torrential downpour and we found a bridge/gate to shelter under. (The center of Bruges is a walled city, and this entire city centre is Unesco world heritage listed..it was under one of the gates to the city that we were sheltering) In the 10 minutes that we stood waiting for the rain to slow, I saw the water it the gutters build up and build up, until it was a third of the way across the road. The cars that passed slowed down and swerved to avoid the pooling water…all except for one… a range rover sped through the puddle, and we were showered in filthy street water! Soaked right through, we no longer had a need to shelter under the bridge and we continued our walk into town. Thankfully it was not too long before we found a nice dry cafe to sit, warm up, dry out and enjoy some lunch.
Having sat in a cafe for close to an hour, we were still a little damp, but the rain had stopped and os spirits high we went off in search of pretty sights. The first thing we spotted was the Belfry. The big tower at the central marketplace. (this is the tower featured in the movie In Bruges). I’m always a fan of climbing towers and checking out the view. Mum decided to sit this one out and sat in a cafe for a cuppa. Off I went, climbed 366 steps to the top and even with the rainy-grey sky it still had a pretty good view. Just as I was about to head back down, it must have ticked over to the hour because the bells began to chime. It was insanely loud and a terrible tune, I assume/hope that those things sound good at a distance when they sound so bad close up. The last bell chime was more of a resounding ‘clang’ ..the kind that vibrates through your whole body and deafens you! I was definitely ready to head back down!
When I met up with mum we resumed our wandering, stopped for a chocolate or two along the way. We went for a boat ride through the canals and learned a bit about the city. Such a beautiful old city! In our stay in Bruges we saw many beautiful buildings and experienced many different things: We saw Church of Our Lady which housed Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child, one of his only works to leave Italy; we learned about the history of chocolate, and got a taste test at the Chocolate Museum; we tasted some interesting beer and learned about the brewing of beer at the Half Moon Brewery.
The Belgian people are very particular about the beers. You will never find a Belgian beer that is in a can. Also every beer (I do actually mean every beer) that is brewed also has a glass designed to match it. The brewmaster designs the glass to accentuate the flavour and smell of the beer, I assume he also factors in the look and the amount of head that the beer produces when poured into each different shape glass.Once the glass has been designed to match the beer, it is then also labelled with the name of the beer, so as not to confuse the drinker. No beer is ever served in the wrong glass!
After 3 days enjoying Belgium it was time to head back to Holland, pack our bags and head home. So I said “Proost” to a fantastic holiday!