Back with our best barging Buddies
We have been in frequent contact with our barging mentors and friends, Rebecca and Michel, aboard ‘t Majeur, throughout our cruise. We had taken our first barge cruise with them and they were instrumental in us buying Catharina.
Whenever we were about to try something tricky: needed some advice on routes; wanted to query what the weather meant; were seeking apps to check the wind and weather; confused about some aspect of Dutch culture, and so forth – we were on the phone to ‘t Majeur. Always, Michel and Rebecca delivered wonderful advice, freely and carefully, so that we were much better prepared for whatever challenge had prompted the call. We also had good chats about the weather, food, drink and other bargees via Facetime. But it’s never as good as being there in person.
Graciously, they had asked us to stay with them for a night aboard ‘t Majeur on our way back from Veurne to Amsterdam. At the time, they were moored in the scenic (well they all are…) Dutch town of ‘s-Hertogenbosch – almost always referred to as Den Bosch.
We sauntered out after we had said hello to Panache, who as always, was thrilled to have visitors. First stop was Sint-Janskathedraal (Cathedral of St John’s) one of the largest in the Netherlands and with a strikingly gothic architecture.
It has been renovated several times over the last century and on the last occasion, 25 new angels were provided as part of the restoration. One of them has a mobile phone.
As most of us lack such a phone, the Cathedral’s fathers have thoughtfully provided a mobile number so you can call the angel, who can pass on your request.
It was then time for a chocolate break – hot chocolate and a local treat, the famous ‘Bossche Bol”. This is a tennis ball-sized profiterole filled with cream and covered with chocolate. You have to be hungry to consume one on your own.
After a little more sightseeing:
and finding out we were too late for some education:
we returned to ‘t Majeur and Panache to partake in a lovely dinner and a relaxing evening with good friends.
Next morning, after breakfast, we had about half the day free for a little more sightseeing. We decided to go and visit the Jheronimous Bosch (English know him as Hieronymus Bosch) gallery. The art of Jheronimous is instantly recognisable and his style was never taken up by any artists who followed him. He is however, considered an influence on Salvador Dali and other modern surrealists. He painted his striking, bizarre, confronting, surreal and imaginative works during the period from late 15th to early 16th Century. He spent almost all his life in Den Bosch and the town celebrates his art widely and often.
One of the most spectacular celebrations is the yearly Bosch Parade. Unfortunately, as this festival is held in June, we weren’t able to experience this fascinating combination of art, engineering and watercraft – but it is high on the list of events we wish to attend sometime in the future. Artist/engineers throughout the Netherlands create wonderous watercraft, inspired by Bosch’s art, and these parade along the River Drommel. Accompanying the parade, the town has a music, craft and food festival.
However, the there was an excellent exhibition of reproductions and interpretations of his work at ####.
The exhibition was wonderful! It was a mixture of reproductions of his art and some three-dimensional sculptures produced from his visualisations. Incredibly detailed artwork along with a striking imagination.
It was hard to drag ourselves away from the gallery but time was getting on and we had to go back to ‘t Majeur, collect our luggage and get to the train station for the final leg of our journey to Amsterdam.
One more important place to visit was the Frites Restaurant (yes, the Flemish and Dutch have restaurants devoted to fries – what wonderful countries!) ‘De Finproever’ for a last serve of Belgian Frites before leaving. As this restaurant won the award for the best frites in the Netherlands in 2013, we expected and received a delicious, large serve of fries, covered in Frite Sauce.
Well, we thought we were entitled to a big dash of carbs, having lost about five kilos each over the holiday. Just have to hope it isn’t a harbinger of the weight gain to come. Anyhow, if it is, it just gives us one more reason to come back.
The flight back was uneventful, just very striking how a large city like Abu Dhabi is surrounded by the most desolate and sandy desert imaginable.
Closing thoughts on 2015
While we felt that we still learnt something new every day that we cruised, the box of skills was growing and our ability to use them was becoming more refined. Apart from the great places we visited and great experiences we had with the friends and family who cruised with us, another highlight of this year was how we met many more fellow cruisers and the wonderful time we had in meeting them and quickly adding them to our list of good friends.
Most memorable of all, with out a doubt, was meeting the Verwers. The connection with the family history of Catharina Elisabeth and with the Dutch tradition of barges is something we will treasure forever.
Next year it is the centenary of Catharina’s launching – so the celebrations continue!