Monday, March 29, 2010

Travels to the South by Aukje De Vries

A Short Break

March can be nice, but it often is still quite cold; warm spring days usually come later. This time of year I need new energy and I like to go to a sunny place. I asked Martje, my friend from Rotterdam with whom I often travel, whether she might like to join me for a trip to a Southern country. But she only had a few days during which she had no commitments, so it was not worthwhile to go all the way to Italy or Spain. We decided to spend three days in Sluis, a small town in the southwest of the country only a mile from the Belgian border.

The hotel I had booked looked quite impressive and it had a Casino!

We arrived late and went out to discover Sluis by night. It looked like a nice town. It is said to have many “coffee shops” for drug users from Belgium and France, but if they were there, they must be well hidden.

We spent one of the two full days we had in Sluis visiting some small towns in the region. Aardenburg turned out to be a town with some lovely old buildings like a gate and gabled houses but so small…We, big city dwellers are no longer used to houses built on this scale; it looked almost unreal. There was also a large church, which had been restored after WWII.

The next town we visited was a new town. We asked some people in the local bookstore why it was new: they told us the town had been completely devastated towards the end of WWII.

No need to spend much time there, like many new towns it lacked character. We then went into the direction of the beach, had a walk in the dunes and saw a nature reserve, which was a bit disappointing. It had a bird sanctuary and we gazed at the many storks that were there. After a visit to a Belgian sea side resort where we had tea and were offered several goodies, unlike what we are used to in The Netherlands. In the process, I lost - bad luck - the filling of a tooth. We returned to Sluis.

In the evening we had a very tasty dinner at the hotel. We were amazed by one of our fellow-guests, a young man, sitting at the table behind us. Cell phone in hand, lap top on the table and all through the dinner he was making calls and using the computer. It is funny, but people, when using the telephone, speak more loudly than normal. We couldn’t quite understand what he was saying, but noticed that he hardly took any time to enjoy his dinner.

The next morning “Mr. Office” was at breakfast as well and working as hard as the night before. This time he also used the hotel’s fax. He ran in and out of the breakfast room with sheets of paper and telephoned quite loudly again. Why? Is work really so important that it never stops? Can any (public) place be used as an office, these days?

Our second day we mostly spent in Belgium visiting several coastal towns (we noticed they differed quite a bit in character) and then we had our last day to take a leisurely trip back home and see several more small towns, among them one that had been especially recommended to us. This town, Groede, was well preserved and had a nice circle of old and not so old houses around a very large church. We wanted to see the inside of the church, but it turned out to be under reconstruction. It looked awful and the workmen who were busy inside told us to get out of there fast. We had had unusually nice weather during our days in Sluis, but on the way home it started to rain. We had been lucky. The trip had been a nice break.

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