Europe – July 2017

Day 13 – Kerkrade

Thursday 10th August

We had a slow start this morning. Since I wasn’t sure whether breakfast was or wasn’t included in our stay, I dressed and wandered down to reception to inquire – in that order. Fortunately breakfast was included after all. Sandy was still rousing so I took the kids down for a bite to eat ahead of her. Despite my best parenting efforts, I couldn’t convince Joey to eat anything other than a plate full (and I do mean full) of crispy bacon. I could probably have pushed the issue and compelled him to eat something else, but at the expense of drama and tears and I just didn’t have the energy for it this morning. Sandy joined us in the breakfast hall after a while and casually asked Joey if he wanted something else to go with his bacon, to which he immediately said yes and then got up to follow her back to the buffet area. Inconceivable. I wonder if she’s using the same wind as me.

We spent the morning with Frank, Sandy’s eldest brother. We had a great time catching up and hearing all about Frank’s new apartment in the centre of Kerkrade. It’s only just been built and it an absolutely stunning place right in the centre of town. Our conversation subjects varied and jumped from Sandy’s mother’s funeral to family to the things that have changed since we left and so on. We took a wander into a nearby shop – all of about four metres from Frank’s apartment front entrance – and we picked up some liquorice and other treats for Sandy and the kids.

Our time with Frank was all too brief – for today at least, as we would be seeing him again tomorrow and likely next week. We passed the time this morning with him as if it was only just yesterday that we were still living here (it was actually 21 years ago now). After dropping him off at his place of work, the Roda JC soccer stadium and entertainment complex, we made our way back to Bleijerheide in Kerkrade (extra bonus points if you can pronounce that correctly). Our destination was Diana & Lei’s house. To say that Diana and Lei are good friends in a massive understatement. Sandy and Diana were best of friends in school. We’ve known them since we first lived in Holland some 29 years ago. We used to be in and out of each other’s homes regularly, playing cards, Rummycub, or whatever, and even took several holidays together back in the day. I can count the number of true friends I have around the planet on one hand and both Diana and Lei each occupy one of the fingers from that hand.

Diana and Lei haven’t changed. Well, perhaps a little change in hair colour but it has been almost thirty years after all. Their kids have grown up, which is the biggest change I saw. Their house, their character and everything else are exactly as I remember. It was comforting. We made ourselves at home in their home. We had lunch at their dining room table and grabbed what we needed from their kitchen as and when we needed it. It was like we lived there. That ability to feel immediately comfortable in someone else’s home is testament to just how good friends they both are to us. We spent the better part of the day just chatting at their dining room table. The original plan was to spend the day with them going out and doing something, such as visiting the nearby Gaia zoo. The weather wasn’t cooperating, however. More than that, Diana and Lei judged the situation to perfection by predicting – quite correctly – that we would probably benefit most from just relaxing and spending a couple of hours not actually expending copious amounts of energy moving from one place to the next. No, as you might expect from best friends, they offered us exactly what we most needed right at that moment – which just happened to be to just sit and chill, which we did, and we enjoyed every last minute of it.

Our good friends wanted to treat us all to dinner and they couldn’t have chosen a more perfect place for the occasion. At the entertainment complex next to the Roda JC stadium is a buffet restaurant that’s particularly popular. Now, I’ve been to Las Vega several times and visited half the buffets there but this one topped them all. The sheer volume and choice of food to select from was just bewildering. As such, everyone – the kids included – were able to find and enjoy various things to eat and drink. Once again today, it afforded us the opportunity to just sit and relax without things like parenting pressures (whether the kids will eat anything or kill each other before the night is out). Today represented the most relaxing time I’ve had since the start of this epic holiday journey.

We all stumbled out of the restaurant trying desperately to keep upright with all the food we’d consumed. Indeed, I actually found it physically difficult to squeeze back into the car, I was that stuffed. Be that as it may, we went back to Diana & Lei’s and polished off the evening with more chat and reminiscing. The laundry fairy brought us our washing that had been washed and dried whilst we ate. It sounds like a small thing but logistically, this was a god-send – further testament to our good friendship.

After the kids were both spoiled with some extra pocket money from Diana and Lei (naughty, naughty!) we made our way back to the hotel. We will be back here in a few days to spend some more time with our good friends, so it wasn’t a protracted goodbye this time around.

I somehow managed to churn out a new blog, although I remain a day or two behind our actual traveling progress. I’m hoping to catch up when we get to Center Parks tomorrow.