Yesterday Rembrand had to work so the rest of us took the train about 10 minutes to neighboring Utrecht which had many of the charms of Amsterdam in a smaller, more sanitized version. All along the canals are restaurants where people were sitting out on patios drinking. We sprung for a boat tour through one of the canals and visited a monastery that later went on to be a place for the locals to drink beer and eventually became a site for gunpowder storage – sort of the ultimate fall from grace.
The church contained many replicas of art dedicated to Martin Luther so I decided to try and enlighten Vaughn a little bit. I present this dialogue as a cautionary tale as to what can happen when children are raised by parents with no religious upbringing AND are too cheap to buy the self-guided tour:
Me: So Vaughn, there was this guy – Martin Luther – and he had some problems with the Catholic Church so he nailed ummm...I think 13 of these 'demands' to a door and voila! That's how we got Protestants!
Jacob: Aren't they Lutherans?
Me: Oh right- yes, that would make more sense.
Vaughn: Can we go back outside now?
(After reading the Wikipedia article on Martin Luther I can see the multiple levels where this fell apart).
That night Monique and Rembrand spent close to two hours with us trying to figure out how we were going get to Belgium and what we would do when we got there – including where we would stay. We went to bed feeling a little less adventurous about the prospect of rolling into some of these areas at the height of tourist season with no reservations and I began to see how my dad has turned planning for his two weeks in Italy into practically a full-time job.
Today's plan centered around taking bikes and visiting Monique's home village of Wilnis (est. pop. 7,000). The trip was about 18 miles round trip and this was a pretty hefty trek for all the Mestmans. Monique showed us a place where the dike broke some years ago and flooded the town and we spent some time at the local playground. I know I keep harping on how much I like the cows/sheep/goats but this place is seriously like the domestic farm animal version of Yellowstone (sans geysers). It is my Little House rural fantasy without all the religion and hard work.
Tonight Monique requested that in lieu of taking them out to dinner I cook them a meal. Naturally the meal I made was - wait for it - burritos! I don't think Mexican food is very common here but I was able to round up most of the ingredients I wanted except cilantro. I bought what I thought was cilantro but it was encased in plastic and so I couldn't smell it and it ended up being some other random herb.
Tomorrow we leave for Belgium and poor Jacob has spent the last hour trying to get a car rented. We decided that we weren't going to worry about making reservations so I'll let you know how that goes. We're taking the train to Brussels in the morning and then we're going to head south to Wallonia (the French speaking half of Belgium) to try and stay in the town of Rochefort and tour the caves in the famous Ardennes region. I wish I could say that I was more excited about going to Belgium but at this point we're not feeling super adventurous. I may pick up a copy of Heart of Darkness for the journey.