Gorinchem and Slot Loevestein

Dion and Anna (friends from England) were recently visiting so we decided to checkout another cute little Dutch village Gorinchem and the nearby Slot Loevestein. Created as a finish village almost 1000 years ago now days its a harbour for pleasure craft.


The Dutch tend to use the term castle to represent an old Mansion so they call a Castle a Fort (ie, Fort Loevestein). With that out the way Slot Loevestein is situated in the top of the Y where two rivers meet (the Waal and the Maas). This made it the perfect position to toll everyone using the rivers. It also happens to be the corner of three Dutch provinces.

During its history is has also been a prison housing political prisoners.  The most famous was Hugo de Groot who escaped in a book chest and formed the basis of International law as we know it today. It can’t have been such as bad place as they appeared to be treated well having plenty of freedom. Their wives could stay and they have maids.

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Emily - Real or not?

Movie’s like Jurassic Park were once at the fore front of computer animation but you could still see the subtle effects that indicated it was computer generated. With human faces the job becomes far more difficult as we see and interact with people every day.

Californian company Image Metrics has further blurred the lines between what is real and what is not. Check it out for yourself.

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Steppen in Delft

We started the day by surprising Marcel as it was his birthday a few days later. Jorien made appelgebak (Apple tart) complete with candles and we gifted him his first BBQ. We also decorated his convertible car with a few balloons that lasted surprising well whilst achieving a top speed or over 120kmph an hour or so later.

A "Step" is one of those things that until I had been to Holland I wouldn't have even suspected to exist. They're a cross between a traditional scooter and a bike. Loads of fun they have a practical use as well. Almost every kid in Holland is able to step before biking! In the hospital where Renate works they use them to get from one side of the hospital to the other rather than having to walk for 10 minutes. Perhaps Renate can introduce them to Auckland Hospital next year?

We decided on a tour where we could see the city sites by steppen our way around Delft taking in all the important sites and completing a puzzle at the same time. Delft is the Dutch town famous for the white and blue pottery that goes by the name of Delft's Blue.

Antony, Reate, Maarten, Marcel, Jorien and Marja Steppen in Delft

The main highlight of the tour was the Nieuw Kerk (New Church) in the city centre with its high tower standing over the main square. Of course it begged us to ascend its heights so we spent a while exploring its passages. As is happens this is also the home to all the most important people of Dutch history including the various Kings, Queens and Hugo de Groot (Hugo the Great). There was even a space for the current Queen Beatrix to join her husband when she passes.

That evening we headed back to Marcel's place to try out the new BBQ.

Marcel's new BBQ

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Paleis Het Loo (Palace Het Loo)

Not the most sophisticated of names if you translate directly to English. Until the death of Queen Wilhelmina in 1962, Paleis Het Loo was a holiday retreat for the Dutch royals. She had decreed that upon her death the palace should be gifted the the public and became a museum.

P1120920At the entrance stood the Oranjeboom (Orange Tree) which symbolises the royal house of Orange. In New Zealand you'll find Oranjeboom at your local liquor wholesaler as its also a Dutch beer.

Inside the palace seemed a bit different to those across Europe and the United Kingdom. It felt brighter somehow and every room had quite a different feel so we started giving them nick names, the green room, the pink room...  Of course there were all the usual rooms for the King, Queen, chapels etc but there were also a large number of speciality rooms including a room full of animal heads. Cheetah, Bear and Badger rugs complete with heads looked immaculate and Elephant feet stood either side of the fireplace. This isn't my cup of tea however it certainly showed the power and wealth of the royals.


Outside, the gardens unfolded in front of the palace with a huge number of species interwoven with fountains, canals and water falls. What surprised me was that there were a number of plants from warmer climates I didn't expect to see. There were also a huge number of what we would categorise as weeds in New Zealand but they all had their place so it in no way did it look scruffy.

When checking the location of the Palace in Apeldoorn we used Google Maps and the gardens of Palace Het Loo could clearly be seen.

The palace is definitely worth a visit and if you have to compare it to something Hampton Court Palace just outside of London comes first to mind.

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Mum and Dad in Holland

Shortly before my original arrival time my parents were due to arrive in Amsterdam. Unfamiliar with the new surroundings Renate and her sister Marja met my parents and helped them to their hotel. They didn't go into the sex museum or wander the red light district but still, they saw as much of Amsterdam in the short time they had available.

A couple of days later Renate and I picked them up and took them on a bit of a tiki tour through some of the smaller picturesque villages. First of all it was Marken, a cute little fishing village on an island connected by a road to the mainland. All the buildings have been maintained beautifully and one old man (with a squeaky voice) lets you visit his house that he still lives in. The contents of which are original including clothes from when he was a boy and its amazing to see how a family of four lived there.

Mum & Dad in Volendam

We then headed north a bit further to another fishing village Volendam where we had a spot of lunch and another look around before taking in Edam where the cheese gets its name (of course we couldn't go past without buying some). Whilst in Edam were able to witness the engineering marvels of the Dutch. With no electronics a lone man was able to pull a chain opening a bridge to allow yachts up the canal. Once safely past he walked up the bridge and his weight bought the bridge safely and smoothly back to its original position.

Further north we arrived at yet another seaside village by the name of Hoorn. It was new to us all as Renate and I had never ventured here. Larger than both Volendam and Marken it was  lot more modern as with all the yachts and smart cafes but still plenty of character with the older buildings leaning into the road. Time was pressing on so we headed straight over the IJsselmeer (the once sea turning into lake by the Dutch) to Wijhe where our parents would finally meet.

Mum & Dad meet Wim & Almah

Everyone had a great time and Renate's mother once nervous felt it easier to understand my parents clearer accents. We had a lovely meal and let them get to know each other without us having to hold their hands. Dad and Wim were even whistling the same tunes in the car. Wim and Almah (Renate's parents) showed them around a bit more and had even organised a personal tour of the local Windmill.

A couple of days later we took over the responsibilities and dragged them back to Nijmegen to see where we live and that evening we made them bike into town to go out for dinner.

Thanks Wim for letting us show mum and dad around in your nice air conditioned Espace in the 30 degree heat.

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Off to the European summer residence

Despite the best efforts of the weather and the ground services at Shanghai I've finally made it back to Holland.

After a busy week I was lucky to have the Saturday to pack and tidy before my flight. My colleague Murray was kind enough to pick me up and take me to the airport in plenty of time. It was a speedy trip through security and into the bar where all the Kiwi's and Aussie's were gathering to watch the imminent rugby test match. After 15 minutes the Aussie's looked dominant so I had no issue when we had our boarding call.

That morning I had warned Renate that the eye of the "One in 10 year" storm was bearing down on the country and would hit just before my flight. Was I mistaken? All flights were departing on schedule without delay. That was until 5 minutes before our flight was due to leave when all flights were grounded to wait it out. Either that or the pilots wanted to see the end of the rugby match and post-match commentary.

During the wait I got to know my travel companions of which one was a Dutch guy named Maarten heading back to Holland for 6 weeks after working, living, playing rugby and drinking lots of beer in Tapanui for 10 months. We travelled together for the rest of the trip.

After a bite to eat, a couple of movies and some broken sleep we arrived in Shanghai 2hrs late with 45 minutes to catch the connecting flight. In their wisdom the authorities have taken a leaf out of the United States' book on "How to disrupt the travel plans of millions?". Shanghai is the only port in Asia that makes you collect your baggage and re-check it in.

After clearing customs the officer gave some other guy my passport and I was told to follow him. The problem was there were 3 guys. Luckily I followed the right one heading for a bunch of other kiwis where we waited for them to do something with our passports. Perhaps a temporary visa for our so-called stopover?

Next it was on to collect our luggage where  we waited patiently for over an hour as the bags were drip fed onto the carousel one at a time. It was like all the baggage handlers were relocated to Beijing for the Olympics whilst one guy was walking between the plane and carousel carrying one bag at a time.

After picking up our bags we then headed for Terminal 1 where we needed to check in. Following the signs we came to a dead end with a number of large roller doors locked down tight. We weren't the only ones as people were poking and prodding them trying to find a way through. Some just driving their trolleys around in circles. Deciding this wasn't going to work we back tracked and took side passage going against the recommended arrows on the floor until we finally made it although there was one last obstacle, an escalator. Unlike some of the other passengers we opted to leave our trolleys at the bottom.

Another hour queuing and we made it to the check-in counter where Maarten spent another half an hour trying to convince the 4 people behind the counter that his ticket was an old, the dates had changed and he was to pick the new one up in Shanghai. Luckily the nice steward on the Air New Zealand flight foresaw out predicament and rebooked us whilst we were still in the air. We finally had our boarding passes and with some time to spare to popped in for a bite to eat and a well deserved beer.

Overall the the process of getting from check in onto the plane was somewhat long winded and of course there was a queue at every point:

  • Check in
  • Post check in passport scan before leaving the check in area
  • Pre security boarding pass check
  • Scan boarding pass then have bags x-rayed
  • Go through customs (after this you are free for a bit)
  • Security check at the gate
  • Boarding pass check going into air bridge
  • Check half way down the air bridge
  • Seating check as you enter the plane

Don't get me wrong I'm not complaining just highlighting the different experiences. Lesson learned, avoid Shanghai if you are flying through Asia and not stopping over on the way to Europe. The most annoying part was that my Vodafone mobile wasn't working. I wasn't able to contact Renate to let her know I would be delayed and the new flight details.