You see, there’s this one Paulussen in Tilburg who works with bikes, has for years, and there’s this other Paulussen who lived in NZ for a long time, and that’s a long way from Tilburg, but now he lives in Paris and can finally buy his dream bike from the Tilburg Paulussen.
And there’s this other Paulussen who really likes that song by Queen and wanted to listen to it over and over again all the way from Paris to Tilburg. Which basically sums up our weekend.
We were out the door just after 6.30am on Friday morning – that’s right, with two kids. Call Rome, we’ve a real miracle! And the kids were amazing, sleeping happily, or awake happily, and we only stopped a couple of times.
We are becoming increasingly familiar with the truckstops between here and Tilburg, which I’m sure isn’t Belgium’s best side, but this one was pretty nice. I found a fantastic macaroon and then tied Elena to a chair so she could eat her crumbly raspberry cake and spread it all around the room…
We were in Tilburg by lunch. And in the afternoon Luuk and his uncle went to pick up Luuk’s new bike. Which I don’t actually have a photo of. Yet.
In the evening we walked into the city.
Welcome to the Netherlands! Beer and Bitterballen all around. Delish.
We met Luuk’s Aunt at a pub called ‘The Eleventh Commandment’, which is apparently ‘Enjoy!’ I had my bag of tricks to keep the kids amused (food and toys) but why limit it to the kids?
Spot the odd-statue-out.
And why limit amusement to the toys? Elena entertained herself for ages flinging her hat about. Next time you’re bored, give it a try. Best if you have a pompom but I’m sure you can make do without, if necessary.
Being sensible, I decided to use the ladies’ before we left… and spotted this little gem. Not an unusual sight in the bathrooms of a pub and restaurant, but look closely…
Then we carried the kids home and spent the rest of the evening talking and eating French cheese on English crackers, drinking Belgian beer… enjoying the perks of Europe.
Saturday! After a leisurely start…
I kept thinking, man we would have made up the most fantastic games with this for fodder when I was a kid… but then again we came up with some pretty good stuff with just a swing set and some slides. Still: tunnels! Awesome.
And again. Sorry, bit self-indulgent.
Next we walked through the park to the animals. Only we didn’t have a pushchair so we took turns lugging Elena about (my arms were still a bit munted from carrying her all of the previous evening) and coercing Louis into walking. His preference is to run for a bit then get carried. Then run. Then ‘cuds’ which is short for ‘cuddles’ but which actually just means ‘carry me’.
But he was brave and bold with the animals. He likes that there’s a fence in between, I suppose. Knows he’s safe.
Then we walked back. It’s great when Louis wants to walk but he’s a bit slow. He looks at everything and wouldn’t know a straight line if it had a lollipop at the end of it. So the others got quite far ahead. And bored.
We did a bit more tunnel-running and swinging, then went to find a cup of coffee, and accidentally found pizza-pancakes! Oops.
A whole menu of pancake pizzas!
Frans and Louis having a late lunch.
Unfortunately Louis happily ate the cream off the hot chocolate and then basically threw the rest across Luuk’s lap. And someone only packed one pair of pants for the long weekend.
Elena did the right thing and fell asleep, shrouded in my scarf (which was also used as a baby sling over the course of the weekend. Très versatile. But not très comfortable.)
Right beside the cafe there was a whole raft of other play-areas and more animals. Best park ever. And there was a fort. With tunnels inside the walls. Forget liquorice, come to the Netherlands for their playgrounds!
And here’s a picture of Louis on a tractor.
Sunday! We had a very leisurely start. I went back to bed after feeding Elena, then woke just in time for brunch and coffee…
And playtime with Oom Frans and Tante Rita!
Then we went for a walk (before being all cooped up in the car for half a day).
There were paths, but this looked like more fun.
That’s right, I carried Elena across a rope bridge.
And there were swings. Baby swings. Proper ones. These are rare in France. So we took advantage, to Elena’s great joy… for a while anyway.
We got on the road in the early afternoon and it’s a five hour drive, minimum, but the kids just wouldn’t sleep. They were all cramped together to make room for our precious cargo (the bike) and at one point Elena stole Chimney Sweep. Later Louis grabbed Elena’s dummy…
But as they were happy, we really have no complaints at all. Louis slept after a while but Elena held out until we were already on the outskirts of Paris.
The sun was bright red on the last stretch of the journey, dipping beneath the pollution layer. And yes, that’s what the sign is warning us all about: the pollution is so bad that you’re supposed to drive slower.
That was our weekend in the Netherlands. Definitely a success: Luuk now has a proper Dutch bike, pictures to come no doubt, and we had a great time with his aunt and uncle, as well as enjoying a few Dutch specialities: food and playgrounds!