18 June 2013

Visitors of the Familiar and Royal Variety

Last week, we had visitors! Little Man's Great Grandma and Great Grandpa came to stay with us for a few days. They've been to the Netherlands and seen Amsterdam before, so we had the opportunity to show them around our place and some other cities in the country. It was just a short visit, but we managed to pack in quite a bit.

Great Grandma and Great Grandpa arrived on Monday afternoon after taking the train from Paris. They arrived in time for snacks and playtime before dinner, and even brought a new book featuring Scooby-Doo!

Tuesday was a good day to explore. The weather was great (warm and sunny) and worked out perfectly for checking out Nijmegen while Mark presented at a conference at the university there. We've been to Nijmegen before, so it was nice for me to be able to act as a tour guide rather than totally winging it as we went along. Once we arrived in Nijmegen, Mark grabbed a bus to the university and the rest of us started walking to Valkhof Park, the park overlooking the river and bridges made famous by Operation Market Garden during World War II and A Bridge Too Far.

Photo op on the way to Valkhof Park.

The view from the park is spectacular, and because the surroundings are so peaceful, it's hard to imagine what transpired here during the war.

View across the Waal River from the Valkhof Park.

Luckily, Great Grandma was ready to help Little Man enjoy the view.

Nijmegen claims itself as the oldest city in the Netherlands, dating it's settlement back to the establishment of a Roman military camp that remained inhabited through the years as the military kept it's strategic location and a village developed around the camp. In celebration of the 2000th Anniversary in 2005, this interesting sculpture was installed, with Dutch, German, and Latin writing (none of which I can read).

Commemorative sculpture installed in 2005 for the 2000th Anniversary.

The details are beautiful.

Yes, that is a turtle on the top. No, I don't know why it's there.

From the Valkhof Park, we made our way over to the Stevenskerk, a church built during the 13th century in Nijmegen's city centre. In general, I think these old churches are beautiful, and I stand in awe of any ancient buildings that continue to stand.

Just look at that organ and those chandeliers! 

A sample of some of the very old interior paintings that have survived.

Outside view of the main entrance.

Stevenskerk did suffer quite a bit of damage during the Second World War - not only was it victim to the fighting that took place in the city, it was heavily damaged when American fighter pilots mistook Nijmegen for a German city and leveled a good portion of the city centre. Some of the "old" part of the city centre was spared, and the shops and cafes down that stretch are quite nice. We spent some time drinking delicious coffee in the beautiful garden patio of the Smaakrijk (Flavor Empire) cafe after our tour of the church. The staff was excellent, the coffee was excellent, and Little Man enjoyed playing with the rocks.

After Mark finished his conference, we headed to Utrecht to go through another beautiful old church - the Domkerk - and to enjoy drinks and snacks at one of Utrecht's well known cafes, Winkel van Sinkel.

Enjoying the atmosphere of Winkel van Sinkel, Utrecht.

The next day was less traveled, but just as exciting. A friend that lives in Oisterwijk told me that Koning Willem-Alexander and Koningin Maxima were coming to town. Not wanting to miss such an opportunity we made sure we were there to see it - and we were not disappointed. The streets where the King and Queen walked were lined with banners made by school children, people handed out the national flag to anyone that wanted it, and people were buzzing with excitement. Gildes from the towns of our province (Noord Brabant) had their representatives there with their flags in view, and then laid the flags on the ground close to the old gementehuis (city hall building) for the King and Queen to walk on.

Gilde representatives laying the flags.

It was crowded, but we all got right up front and had an amazing view.

It doesn't look like it here, but Little Man was very excited.

And then the King and Queen walked through, and then they were gone.

Koning Willem-Alexander and Koningin Maxima, Oisterwijk, 12 June 2013.

We were able to briefly meet our friends in Oisterwijk, and then headed back to Tilburg for a good meal at home. Little Man got to recap the day's events with Great Grandma looking at pictures on the train - a good distraction for a tired boy.

Looking at pictures with Great Grandma.

Great Grandma and Great Grandpa had a very early departure time on Thursday so they could catch their flight out of Brussels. Their time with us was brief, but we enjoyed it immensely! Now we're looking forward to the next set of visitors for the summer and a vacation in Germany.

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