31 December 2015

Christmas in the Netherlands

I don't have to think about where to go for Christmas; I go to the Netherlands. But still every year the moment jumps at me. This year the whole student thing had taken more time than it should have, so I wasn't very organised. I just went to my mother and had to fill in everything else from there! Which wasn't that easy as I had a new phone and had to faff with it a bit in order to find out how to make it accept Dutch internet. Fortunately, text messages still exist.

It was good to see my mother; it always is. But rather soon I would be off to venture into Amsterdam to see some friends I had been hiking with in autumn. It was winter now, officially, but we sat on a terrace! That was very nice. I don't get that at home: a quiet beer on a terrace with friends I've known forever.

The view from the terrace, with the science museum prominent on the horizon

Another perk of the Netherlands: bock beer! 

My next port of call was a dinner with Floor. He had to practice with his band afterwards so couldn't stay long, but it was good to get to see him. Not much had changed since last time! But every time I see him I am less shaken by it. The first time I saw him since a long time it took me at least a week to recover. The last time I managed with a mere walk. This time I managed to keep it dry. It's still unlike seeing anyone else but at least I can cope. 

After that dinner I headed for Hoorn to see Monique. I would be there for a whole day; we tend to have a lot to discuss! I hadn't written her for way too long so it was time to catch up. And I went for another run from her house. Hoorn is beautiful! And after you come back from a run to her house you get the salt licked off you by her dogs. Sweet!

There's a piano in Amsterdam Central Station, and it is very often in use; when I was waiting for the train to Hoorn a girl was singing to the tunes, and a man was dancing to her singing. Lovely! 

Maybe the most impressive building in Hoorn's old centre

Between trips I would go back to my mother. After all the horrible weather we had had in Wales it was quite nice to wander through the calm dryness of the Netherlands. Amersfoort is lovely and places like the Koppelpoort are amazing under a full moon!

The brightly lit Onze lieve vrouwetoren seen from Plantsoen Noord

I also went to my sister's for a christmas dinner. Time flies and life changes; her eldest son is now the tallest in the family except his dad, her other son will be choosing a secondary school in the coming month, and her daughter had helped making the dinner. Her husband had started his own company and she herself had a new job. 

I spent Boxing day with my mother, just taking it easy. I did go for a run (and got slightly lost so it was a long one)  but most of the time we were just drinking coffee, tea or wine, and talking or reading. Nice and calm! Although I did get a bit worried; I saw on my phone the road home was flooded, and nobody could get into or out of North Wales. Fortunately the weather forecast for the coming days was alright! 

I then had another day with old friends; I would see Roelof again, and Marijn had joined; this was apparently contagious, as Erik then joined too. All people I've known for more than 20 years, and with whom I've been through a lot! We had a chat and later went to the movies. That was less exclusive since Bangor has a cinema too, but it was nice.

My last full day I met up with my sister again; I had half a day unplanned, and if you only see someone in the presence of their whole family plus your parents you may end up not talking with them very much. We went to the resistance museum to see an exhibition on the true face of the Indonesian war for independence; the Dutch had made quite an effort to make that struggle look clean from the Dutch side, but some pictures had emerged which showed the not-so-clean side. Not nice to see, but impressive to see how long a government can keep something out of the public eye.

De Sluyswacht, one of my old haunts, and a very cute building

My last event was a meet-up with my old PhD colleagues from Amsterdam; only seven of us showed up, but it was nice to see them. Only one still worked full time-ish at the Free University! The others had dispersed. I hope I'll be there again for next year's meet-up; it's a nice old tradition!

Amsterdam by night

After the pub meet I went back to Amersfoort for my last morning with my mother. I'd fly in the afternoon, but it's good to plan in some extra time, as travel disruptions between Amersfoort and Schiphol are barely unheard of. So after a last lazy morning with coffee I left again. I had had a good time! I have no idea when I'll be back but I should make sure it's not too far into the future!

The Koppelpoort under the moon

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