Saturday, May 9, 2009

April Sunshine & Shoes

My parents came to Groningen for their second visit this month. They eventually arrived by car on Good Friday having crossed the North Sea by ferry and had an enjoyable day admiring the tulips in the bulb fields at the Keukenhof. They also brought the sunshine with them and we enjoyed three glorious days of sunshine and warmth over the Easter weekend.

Having the car meant we were able to get out and about in the car and explore this area of the Netherlands in a bit more detail. We saw quite a lot of the northern provinces in the few days they were here. We visited the pretty harbour town of Harlingen in Friesland where my mum indulged herself with a portion of chips and mayo that she'd been hankering after for some time. Strangely, for my mum, she skipped on the fish.

We drove back along the coast overlooking the Frisian Islands and mudflats. I was navigating and felt compelled to make a slight inland deviation to a small village that held so much promise but was, quite frankly, something of a disappointment once we got there. The village is called Sexbierum...but, from what I saw, it exhibited no visible signs of any of the three elements it claimed as its defining characteristics! Apparently, the village sign gets stolen on a regular basis.

On Easter Sunday we decided to give a wee nod to the religious festival by visiting the cloisters at a former monastery built in the 15th century in Ter Apel. We then moved on to the village of
Bourtange, which sits practically on the German border. Bourtange was built by William of Orange in 1580 to help protect the eastern approaches to Groningen. It's really rather pretty and built in a star-shape. Now restored, it was packed full of day-trippers enjoying ice creams and cold drinks in the village square. I first visited Bourtange when I was a student and some fellow classmates were doing a work placement here. They were living in a shed on the local campsite and counting cows in a field by day...exciting stuff!

The next day I took my parents along to see an exhibition of paintings by J.W.Waterhouse at the Groninger Museum. For me, it was a bit like having your parents come and watch you in a school play. I had done the voiceover work for the audioguide to the exhibition and so spent a couple of hours cringing as my parents insisted on listening to every description of every painting.

Not long after I waved my folks off I then saw them again. I flew back to Leeds for a couple of days before heading on down to London and back to Groningen for a week. I then repeated the same journey a week later! It was all quite hectic being a European commuter but I managed to catch up with some friends and join in various celebrations, so it was well worth it.

In between my various plane, train and automobile journeys (one of which included a close encounter with a ferret!!), I managed to cross yet another border. Just a few miles down the road from Groningen is the Dutch-German border and a world of slightly cheaper and larger-size shoe shopping opportunities beckons. So...three women and one dog set off for a spot of shoe shopping one sunny Saturday afternoon. Our expedition to investigate what lurked on the many racks of big-footed pedi-wear was rather productive and between us we returned home with twelve, yes twelve, pairs of shoes! Imelda Marcos eat your heart out!

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