15 Sept 2010 13:07
In the train station in Zurich heading to Milan. We are settled in our seats and the train leaves in 2 minutes. For first class, the seats seem a little tight. Our seat mates across from us are two young men, they speak German and English. Our knees are almost touching. I had hoped for more space. I am going to try to catch up with our trip here as we have 3 hours before we arrive in Milan.
Our visit with Marnix and Renee was enlightening. We got such an education about Holland in general and Rotterdam in particular. While with Cor we were in a village and although it was busy, there was no comparison to the bustle of the big city. Rotterdam was exceptionally clean. After visiting the old part of the city and the museum downtown, Renee drove to the “bad” part of town. Not exactly what we would call the ghetto, but, according to her, pretty close. Lots of shops for African and Moroccan and Turkish foodstuffs, women with headscarves pushing baby strollers, men hanging out on street corners. Although the buildings were plain-no fancy ornamentation as in other parts of Rotterdam-and the curtains fluttering in the breeze from the open windows weren’t lace trimmed, the area was immaculate. I wouldn’t call it charming, but I could sense a pride of place, a community.
Renee and I and Marnix and Scott all met back at their house and prepared to go out to dinner. The restaurant was a sweet place with wooden floors and sturdy tables. Renee and Marnix were regulars. The menus were huge chalk inscribed slate boards. Renee patiently read off all the offerings. The Dutch language is difficult, although I can struggle through the menus-I don’t know why. I found I couldn’t understand a word of the spoken language, but reading it seemed easier…much of it how one would spell English words if done phonetically. All the Dutch meals we ate out-one with Cor and Angeline and now with Marnix and Renee-included French fries and a small bowl of mayonnaise. It seemed as ubiquitous as having salt and pepper shakers on the table. They brought a small ramekin of ketchup for us even though we didn’t ask. Yes, as Americans, our reputation precedes us-not always a positive thing. We had a nice dinner with easy conversation and then back to the house for a good nights sleep.
We were awakened the next morning by rain on the tile roof. It reminded me of rain on the tin roof at home. After showers and breakfast, our friend Will de Haan came by to pick us up. We met Will and his wife Astrid in April of this year when they visited Texas on vacation. The flew into Houston and traveled to Big Bend for a camping trip. They stopped in Fredericksburg on their way back to Houston. A mutual Dutch friend, Gido, had told Will to contact us while in the area. They met us in Fredericksburg and we had dinner together at the Brewery on Main Street. The next morning they joined us for breakfast at the ranch. Will and Astrid are an attractive couple, both tall and athletic. Astrid runs semi-competitively but more, I think, for the pure joy of it-she even ran the New York Marathon! They have backpacked all over the world and their home is decorated simply but beautifully with inspiring photographs and art. Their cat Patso:
Back at Will and Astrid’s in Zeist, we prepared to go out for dinner. We went to one of their favorite restaurants which served Indonesian food. It was spectacular with perhaps a dozen different dishes, each one more tasty than the one before. Served family style, we all picked small bits out of the bowls and sampled everything…our favorites we went back to time and time again, although I have to say it was hard to pick a favorite as everything was so good!