2021 The Netherlands

A staycation, celebrating towards my sixty-first year on this planet…

What started of somewhere at the beginning of 2020 lasted longer, much longer than anticipated and held the world in a tight grip disrupting peoples lives. The Covid-19 virus, more commonly known as corona, spread throughout the world, closed borders and made travelling something of the past. More seriously it robbed millions of people from their health, life, loved ones or income as the world almost came to a stand still.

Obviously the both of us were affected as well but considering the seriousness of the situation both of us were extremely lucky as neither of us got infected, lost loved ones, or lost income because of the world wide pandemic.

For me it al started when I had to cut my 2 month India trip short by 5 weeks and not much later Vladi and I had to cancel a long Easter weekend in Zeeland, The Netherlands, as all hotels and restaurants were closed. A couple of months later though we were still able to travel to Calabria in order to meet Vladi’s family who he had not seen for a long long time. It was such a wonderful and heartwarming experience and shortly, very shortly, Corona did not seem to exist.

Enthusiastically we booked the same B&B in Zeeland again for Easter 2021, hoping things would be better then. Unfortunately we had to cancel our trip for a second time, with restaurants still being closed our trip would made no sense at all.

Although things were slowly turning better and the both of us were lucky enough to receive our double vaccination travelling was still highly uncertain as the situation seemed to change day after day. We looked into the option of returning to Italy and visiti Napoli, the Amalfi Coast and Ischia but for many reasons decided against it.

With alternatives being limited we decided to give Zeeland a third chance and once again booked the same B&B. Third time lucky? Both Vladi and myself had happy memories to Zeeland and had the strong urge to make our experiences a shared one… And as I wanted to compromise my disappointment for not going to Italy this year I decided to book something extremely special for my 60th birthday.

So once again we booked Herberg De Ring in Dreischor and started counting the days till our staycation and we could only hope we would be third time lucky…

And indeed we were… On Sunday the 29th we started off with a festive breakfast at Windraak 31, not far from my place.

Completely satisfied after our breakfast we finally headed towards Zeeland for a couple of days. Our first stop was in Middelburg where we visited our Marillion friends Silvia and Ben and their son Robin. It was such a wonderful afternoon, time flew by far too quickly, and before we left we were spoiled with mussels “Zeeland” style. Memories to cherish.

Our final destination, Dreischor, was not far away, we crossed the Zeeland bridge and not much later arrived in this little picturesque village. Our B&B was a former diving pub and looked extremely charming. We were welcomed by a very friendly host, Irene, and shown our room.

It was far to early to go to bed and as there was nothing going on in the sleepy village of Dreischor we went to Zonnemaire, which was only 3 kilometres away, for a drink. I remembered from my diving time in the 90’s there was a lovely pub that I wanted to show Vladi whilst enjoying a drink or two. The place was still called d’Ouwe Smisse but what used to be a Jazz café was now turned into a nice restaurant with much of the interior the same as 20 years ago. Although we were not hungry we were allowed to come in for a drink and when we found out the place also had it’s own brewery the choice was simple so we tried out a few of their excellent beers.

The next day, after a fantastic and sumptuous breakfast we did some sightseeing in downtown Dreischor which took about 10 minutes and included a visit to the local church. Dreischor its the most beautiful circle village in the Netherlands and our B&B was directly located at the “Ring”. A small, very traditional village, and very picturesque indeed.

After our short walking tour we grabbed our rented bikes and went for a cycling tour past some, for both of us, well known points and continued the trip to Brouwershaven which turned out to be almost as sleepy as Dreischor. We managed to drink something at a terrace and headed onwards to Ten Osse. Unfortunately the restaurant where Vladi used to go was closed because of lack of staff. Fortunately a bit further we found a divers cafeteria so we had a beer and some fries over there. Next we returned to our B&B for a short nap, well deserved after our 30 kilometer cycling tour, which was more difficult than expected. We had rented traditional bikes as Zeeland was flat after all but we had underestimated the wind. So far the day was nice and relaxing and with the exception of a couple of drops we remained dry.

When we had a drink at Ouwe Smisse the previous day we asked whether they were open on Monday and asked to see the Menu. Indeed they were open on Monday but there was no menu for that evening. Each guest shares a table and eats what was available (fish or meat). We immediately liked the idea and reserved two spots. So we returned and enjoyed a truly tasteful dinner and had a vivid conversation about food with our table companion who turned out to be a chef cook.It was also an opportunity to try out the remaining beers from their own brewery that I hadn’t tried out yet.A wonderful evening which ended far to early for our liking but then the season is over and nightlife doesn’t exist here…

Next morning we enjoyed another fabulous breakfast after which we decided to take the car for our exploration of Schouwen-Duiveland. Our first stop; Zeeland’s pride, Neeltje Jans and the Deltawerken were too far away for cycling on a traditional bike. We were lucky with the weather as the sun was shining and the rainclouds were nowhere to be seen. We spent some time around Neeltje Jans and the impressive Deltawerken during which we thoroughly enjoyed the smell of the see. It had been a while since we experienced that sensation.

Next to the exhibition building was a restaurant and being a bit hungry we could not resist a fishy meal and a glass of white wine which was especially selected to match my oysters (Vladi had fish & chips instead as he is not keen on this slimy delicacy.)

Completely satisfied we returned to our B&B and left the car behind after which we walked to the next place on our wish list (Thanks to simultaneous recommendations from our Marillion friends Silvia and Chrissy). Although we had initially planned to go to Zierikzee our plans spontaneously changed after we found out “Wijnhoeve de kleine Schorre” was at walking distance from our B&B. As their wines are served in KLM business class we could not go wrong. First we visited the shop and decided to come back there after we had tasted some of their wines. Our waitress was extremely friendly and knowledgable about the products and after a sparkling Brut we were served a set of five glasses of wine, including descriptions on the placemat. As we liked the place tremendously we decided to stay there the remainder of the afternoon and have a small bite to eat. Without doubt the barique was our favourite wine and although officially sold out our super friendly waitress , after approval from the owner, was allowed to serve us one of the few remaining bottles… What a wonderful place to spend the last afternoon of my 59th life year.

We returned to our B&B and spent some time in the lovely garden. It was our plan to open up a bottle of Brut at midnight in order to celebrate my 60th birthday but round ten in the evening both of us got a bit tired and decided to go for a small nap so we could enjoy the moment to the fullest. We did not wake up anymore…

Next morning the breakfast table was festively decorated with flags and Irene had written a lovely card for the occasion of my 60th, such a wonderful gesture. Our time in Zeeland had almost come to an end, however after we packed our bags and said goodbye to our fantastic hostess there was one more place to visit, Zierikzee.

After we had parked our car on the outskirts we headed towards the centre. Our first stop was “de Nieuwe Kerk” and as it was used for an exhibition of the 50 best wildlife photographs according to National Geographic we could not skip the opportunity to visit.

Zierikzee was already a rich trading city in the early Middle Ages. This prosperity provided the city with a beautiful harbour, town hall, church, city gate and walls. It was a true pleasure to stroll around and see the plentiful monuments. The weather had changed again so we decided for one final cup of cappuccino before we headed to our next destination, Roermond.

There we arrived after an almost two hour drive and we checked in at our hotel, a former jail. Our room, constructed out of two former cellblocks was comfy and on the bed there were rosepeddles in the shape of a heart that I had ordered but also a birthday card and some sweets, very attentive.

We enjoyed a glass of cava which was offered to us as a welcome drink, followed by a short afternoon nap so we would be able to enjoy the evening to the fullest.

As said, in order to compromise for the disappointment of not going to Italy I wanted to do something special for my birthday and booked a night in this extraordinary hotel. In the evening a taxi waited for us and brought us to Restaurant One, which is my favourite Michelin Star Restaurant. We were welcomed with a fantastic tactic cocktail after which our 8 course One Expedition started. It was such a wonderful tasting menu, each and every dish was en explosion of flavours and textures. The matching wines completed this feast, we were in heaven, I could not have thought of a better way to celebrate my 60th…

A good night of sleep, followed by a great breakfast and we were ready to go home. Still our staycation had not finished yet as we had a couple of days together left before Vladi had to return to Remscheid as work was waiting for him. That day however we relaxed at home and finished the day with a simple BBQ.

Next day was another gorgeous day so we grabbed our bikes and went off on a tour. one biketour, three countries, one ferry ride (ok three as we had to backtrack as I missed directions). All the way to Thorn and back and clocked over 70 kilometers for this trip.

We finished our tour just across the border with a couple of well deserved beers, if only to ease the pain in our butts. What a beautiful day!

Next day was another typical Dutch summery, dull and grey and as we could still feel the effect of our bike ride the day before we relaxed and watched the Hobbit in 4K.

One final night together after which Vladi packed his bags and returned home. Our staycation had come to an end and although it was completely different from what we are used to we enjoyed it tremendously. We cherished the time we had together and that is the most important after all. It also showed us one does not need to go far to have a fantastic time, the Netherlands has so much to offer. But then, on the other hand, wherever I am with Vladi on my side is the right place to be. One week had gone by far to quickly but in the short time we had we build memories to last…