Wendy’s Week; Dutch Connections
By Wendy Hughes
I remember the first time we visited Holland. I had casually mentioned that one day I would love to visit Holland. 1986 had been dreadful year for me health-wise. I knew something was wrong as I felt forever like a deflated balloon and Stickler syndrome was yet to be diagnosed. Then one day hubby Conrad, came home from work and brightly announced,’ pack some clothes we are off tomorrow morning for a little trip.’ This was so typical of him when he knew I needed a break. ‘Where to?’ I asked only to be told Scunthorpe was very nice in in the rain, and apologies to anyone living there. I quizzed him more, but he remained silent, only to say pack what you would wear at home, so that ruled out somewhere hot! The next day we set off and he kept up the pretence about Scunthorpe being a super place to visit. I watched the road signs, trying hard to work out our destination, but geography was never my strongest subject. I simply didn’t have a clue where were going until we reached the outskirts of Harwich, then he announced we are going by ferry to the Hook of Holland, and so our love affair with the country began and since then we have visited the country about thirty times.
So, when we were desperately in need a break – see last week’s article for details -Holland was our obvious choice and this time we choose southern Holland, an area we know very well. After my hip replacement surgery in November 2015 we thought Oisterwijk would be an ideal place for rest, recuperation and a few little walks. However, I soon realised that walking was going to be difficult, so although we enjoyed the break, walking was not an option, but we vowed that one day when I was fitter we would go back and take advantage of the walks that were geared for all levels of fitness. As my hospital appointment was delayed and I was now walking better than I have done for years, it was the obvious choice, so on the Monday morning we headed for the port of Dover and boarded the ferry for Dunkirk. As a ‘blue badge holder,’ we have priority boarding and were allocated and a parking space next to lift. The crossing was smooth and so our much-needed holiday began with an enjoyable breakfast of board. At Dunkirk we were one of the first cars off the ferry and made out way through France, into Belgium and into Holland stopping for a late lunch at Breda, another area we know very well. Late afternoon we passed the windmill on the edge of Oisterwijk and knew it was only a few minutes to our chosen hotel, the Fletcher hotel set in the middle of the beautiful woods surrounded by lakes and its eighty fens, making it one of the most striking areas of nature in the Netherlands. It is often called The Gem in the Green’ as it is the ideal place for cycling and walking holidays. Bikes can be hired for 10euros a day at the hotel.
Oisterwijk received city rights more than 800 years ago, but in the historic core you will find a unique combination of rural charm urban character and wonderful discoveries like the centuries-old lime tree behind the town hall, the tree-lined Trouwlaantje and Oisterwijk’s oldest house interspersed with lovely shops selling the most exclusive brands, not to mention a town full of friendly inhabitants. There’s something to see on every corner and more and more tourists are discovering and visiting Oisterwijk. Add to this a number of notable entrepreneurs and stunning locations, and it’s easy to see why people call this city a hidden gem.
The hotel, despite being only a three star was excellent serving all our needs and so near to all the walking areas – hence the reason we chose it. After unpacking we picked up a walking map from the hotel and I was told to stick to the ‘yellow’ routes, as these graded walks from 1-4kms had the easiest paths with an abundance of seats dotted along the way. The red routes were best avoided as they were for the serious walkers graded from 6 to 26kms with some of the hardest terrain to endure. Evening meal that night was a delicious Dutch pancake at Pannenkoekenhuis De Ontdekking, not far from the hotel where you can choose from an array of main course or fruit pancakes washed down with a beer or two, or in my case a delicious fruity beer. Then it was back to the hotel for a relaxing evening before taking the first of many walks the next day. Breakfast consisted of usual buffet of cereals, yoghurts, fresh fruit, hot smoky bacon, scrambled eggs, hard boiled eggs, as well as various cheeses, hams and meats with warm fresh bread, rolls, fruit loaf, coffee, fruit juices and fruit teas
On the Tuesday Thursday, Friday and Saturday we did a daily walk of between one to two miles, then after a leisurely lunch went into Oisterwijk town for some retail therapy, or relaxing. On the Wednesday we decided to have a day in Dordrecht and next week I will tell you all about this enjoyable day. All too soon Sunday was upon us and we had to make our way back through Holland, Belgium and France to catch the ferry home. If you want a relaxing holiday to recharge the batteries then it is a place I would recommend to anyone.