Author Archives: colinjkeats

A Full Moon in My Eyes

Diary April 25, 2051

Well, I was lying in a bombed-out basement

With the full moon in my eyes….

The lyrics from the old Neil Young song sprung to my mind for some reason as I began to write this journal entry, long after Mr. Young is no more.

Odd, and yet, not odd.

Odd, because (of course) I am not in a bombed-out basement, but in an apartment in a very high apartment building. It is a bright sunny day outside—coincidentally with a full moon hanging up there as well; the sky is clear blue. No bombs in evidence.

And not odd, because I do have an apocalyptic feeling today. Truth be told, I’ve had it for weeks and months now.

Years, maybe.

The city outside my building is silent. Hell, the whole floor of the building is silent.

Anyway, I am writing this down—I guess—for the sake of people who were born within the last ten years or so, to give them perspective. Because this is not the historical norm, the way we live now.

People in the past often talked about ‘the Perfect Storm’. A 1997 book and a 2000 movie adaptation popularized the well documented meteorological event, and it became used to describe financial downturns, world crises, and even day-to-day situations where more than one problem comes together to produce a possibly catastrophic outcome.

An example could have been made of the fact that Donald Trump and Boris Johnston were the US President and UK Prime Minister, respectively, when COVID-19 virus hit the west.

But I believe perfect storms are meant to describe quick and rare events. What the world did not know was the aforementioned virus was going to prove to be neither quick nor rare.

I remember back in 2021 when the so-called third wave of the COVID-19 virus began hitting us. The first and second world peoples were angry at the governments for the up-and-down restrictions and lockdowns in response to the surges and easing of the virus; also, many were angry that the restrictions were not tough enough. It didn’t matter, in the end.

The third world people could do nothing unless and until the first and second were prepared to help them. Business as usual for them, sadly.

Way too many people began believing insane presidents like Trump and Bolsonaro and the ever-present fact-deniers and conspiracy theorists. Oh, and the social media propagated it all gleefully with click-bait and ads attached, so they made more money than ever.

It was just a distraction.

I am smiling as I write about it, because if there really was a government conspiracy, way more people would have died early on, or way more governments would have force-vaccinated their people. Here, I must explain to anyone not around at that time, that the vaccinations, according to many of the nut-jobs, were contaminated or contained implants so Bill Gates and/or the One World Government conspirators could track the remaining population.

Many of the naysayers and semi-scientific pundit thinkers of the day rationalized that this virus was just like the flu; the percentage of deaths was in reality extremely low. For example, on April 22, 2021—exactly 30 years ago, I just noticed—the statistics were these: The word population was approximately 7.8 billion, the number of (known) world cases was 144,801,247, the number of (known) deaths was 3,046,380.00. I say ‘known’ because of course the third world and a few of the first and second world governments were either skewing their figures or just not able to keep track and report them properly.

Leaving that aside, percentage speaking, the ‘official’ ratio of cases to total population was 1.86%, the ratio of deaths to cases was 2.1% and the ratio of deaths to world population was a mere .04%. Virtually nil.

So, many of those semi-scientific pundits were advocating to just ‘let it go’, allow the virus to run its course, like we did the annual flu. Herd immunity would be achieved and all would be flowers and unicorns. At the cost of a few more million lives, sure but…oh well.

If I were to argue that point (and I did), I might say that a great percentage of the world’s population was already vaccinated for the flu on an ongoing basis, and thus the deaths resulted typically at a low percentage. Plus, the COVID-19 virus percentages were possibly pretty low precisely because of what restrictions had been imposed, and that if the cases became more like 100 % without vaccinations, we could/should/would see a lot more deaths (not that they cared, apparently).

Plus, they weren’t really thinking about the mutations. Truthfully, neither was I.

Viruses are survival-oriented. They mutate quickly, which is why at the time, annual flu vaccinations were advisable, because every year those viruses mutated slightly and we had to adjust. Some years we got it wrong, and a lot more people died from the flu than was ‘the norm’, in those years. The SARS pandemic petered out pretty quick because it was too deadly, too quickly. It killed its host before it had time to really get out into the world. Sort of like the young kids who get killed in a car crash the year of their graduation.

This virus, however, was (and is) more mature, it was (and is) street-smart and extremely survival oriented.

So, I am smiling as I write because they—the pundits—missed the real conspiracy.

No, the virus was not manufactured by humans. No, it was not governments trying to control us.

It was Nature.

Mother Earth was out to get us.

(Even from here I can hear the Greens and environmentalists cheering).

Yeah, back then—hard to believe, I know—we were also worried about climate change, with growing concern, as unprecedented weather events began affecting everything, everywhere. There were target goals for reduction of carbon, emissions and so on. It could have been called a perfect storm.

But hey—hurray for us!—those targets are now very well met.

Though not from anything we did.

So here is what happened: The virus mutated, just fast enough to stay ahead of the vaccines, becoming vaccine-resistant at a faster rate than any other virus before. The world could not keep up. So, naturally, it was simply a matter of time before every person living became affected. Plus, the rate of deaths per cases automatically became the rate of deaths per population (that 2.10% I mentioned before).

But the final blow was the rate of deaths.

The virus became just deadly enough to kill its host in about a week, enough time to be passed on to others.  The death rate doubled to 4%, which seemed to satisfy the virus (so far), still staying ahead of any vaccines, and not really respecting the ‘herd immunity’ theory.

Telling truth again, I don’t think we actually now have enough population of medical or scientific communities anymore to produce a vaccine that works.

So, as I write this, the population of the earth is about 2.5 billion. Which I think is pretty much where the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement wanted us to be. So, all the methods that were being proposed in 2021 and onwards to save the planet were really not needed.

A little virus did it for them.

Yep, it is a bright sunny day outside, with a full moon in my eyes; the sky is clear blue. No bombs in evidence. Finding food and necessities is a little tough, but I will get by…we will all get by.

Until the virus doesn’t need us anymore.

Afterlife

 

Is it a blessing or benefit to have consciousness and memory,

Or a curse?

We live our lives in the moment but always know

it gets worse.

We face impending death and invent a hopeful afterlife

Or oblivion;

only take comfort that in the memory and consciousness of others

We carry on

A Note Before I go

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A note before I go

To the ones I leave behind

Not in the event that I choose to remove myself

But in the event that I am removed

 

Most important, top of the charts

Is my bride, long-suffering my foibles and frailty, stubbornness and stupidity.

What love! What Beauty! What strength!

What more can be said …

 

My oldest, most cared for

And thus most damaged by my ignorance, my helicoptering gaze

Yet managing to rise above, to learn and grow

Most brilliant, most kind, most evolved …

 

My middle, following (surprisingly) in my footsteps

Sure and confident, clear and composed

Nothing for granted, everything possible

A truer star does not shine …

 

My youngest, surpassing all expectations

In music, in thought, in love, in action

Potential unlimited, accomplishments many

The universe opens its arms…

 

To all I give my love and hope

There is more

There is so much more

I pray you experience everything … accept everything

With open arms

With open heart

And open mind

 

Remember me truthfully

Do not embellish

For all that I am

I am …

By choice

By design

And by all those who came before,

Whom I loved and who loved me

As I love you

The Green and The Blue

 

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To live among the green and the blue

Far from the maddening hue

Of neon and incandescence

 

To abide within the hum of life

Not the discordant strife

Of Television nonsense

 

What dream of flowing stream

Would drive one to scream?

What vision of wind swept trees

Would cause one disease?

 

To fall and sleep under pristine sky

Hear the song of the wild

In ringing harmony

 

I feel the winds of fate blowing strong

I know it won’t be long

Ere I finally see

New Travel Blog

Now being full according to WordPress and unable to add more pictures unless I upgrade for some insane amount of money, I am continuing the travel portion of the blog with WIX for as long as I am able. So please find the next installment, Bruges, Day 12 here:http://csteeksma.wix.com/travel-blog

Day 10 and 11 – Amsterdam (Round 2)

To my 2 or 3 readers:

My delay in continuing the blog stems from an increase in workload, a lack of discipline and also a paralysis caused by being unsure what will happen as I go over my allotted space in the free blog. Will my pictures from previous blogs disappear? Will the images for this current blog show up? Will I have to create another blog in a separate site or can I do so within WordPress? Finally I decided to bugger it and finish off Holland, and see what happens. Stay tuned!

July 9 and 10, 2015

Day 10 dawned bright and sunny yet again. We had another nice buffet breakfast  at the IBIS and hopped a bus into Amsterdam; this time stopping at Museumplein, which as the name suggests is a square full of museums (and the US embassy).

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“Which building is the Van Gogh museum?” asked MLW.

“Don’t know, but it shouldn’t be too hard, it’s Van Gogh after all.” I said with confidence.

We headed towards something that looked impressive enough, but it turned out to be the aforementioned US Embassy; where a young preppy blue suited chap was wanding some sort of detector over people lined up at the gate.

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“What’s the lineup for,” MLW wondered.

“Looks like they are trying to get passports or Visas.”

“Kinda paranoid aren’t they?”

“The US? Maybe, if your embassies had been bombed and attacked a few times in different countries you would be a little paranoid, too. Besides, I don’t see snipers on the roof, so they aren’t all that skittish.”

“Comforting.” Said MLW. “But it is not the Van Gogh Museum!”

“Maybe it’s over in the corner there.” Said I, pointing to a gaily decorated edifice across the huge park that centered the square, where crowds of people appeared to be gathering.

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As we got closer, I wondered if Disneyland had amalgamated with the Van Gogh museum, but it turned out to be sculptures, one of many scattered throughout the entrance to the Rijksmuseum.

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“Look, I see the Van Gogh museum.” The name was displayed on the side of an oval shaped modern looking building peeking out over construction fencing and scaffolding. But how to get there?

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We walked back towards the main part of the square, along the construction fence. I was looking up and around, trying to use the building as a landmark. According to the billboard, the new museum entrance way was soon to be opened. It would then have a huge modern queue area with a glassed-in entrance. Judging by the billboard, the modern circular edifice was indeed going to be part of the Van Gogh …

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But we were trying to find the old entrance.

Then, in typical unseen-forest-for-the-trees fashion, we actually looked at the construction fence…

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We followed the arrows and ended up on a busy street circumventing the square …

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… where there was a bus and trolley station, walked towards the entrance and saw the long queue beginning. The Dutch usually have terrific signage—where to go, which line to get in. This was no exception. Advanced ticket holders had one line, regular Joes in the other. As it was a timed entrance, a concierge would check to see which time you were supposed to enter, and align you accordingly. We were at first opening so were relatively near the beginning of the line.

Then I saw an understandable but disappointing sign:

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No photography. None.

So this is why there are no pictures to accompany this section of the blog.

Although I have enjoyed the very famous Van Gogh paintings such as Starry Night and his series of Sunflowers, as well as his self-portraits., I did not know much about him other than he had cut off his ear and killed himself. MLW was a big fan and not only was greatly anticipating this museum visit, but the later portion of our journey, when we planned to go to Arles, where Van Gogh and other painters of his era like Gauguin and Emile Bernard spent much time, and where his most famous paintings were finished.

So, I was impressed to discover that he had only decide to paint at age 27 in 1880. Before that he had mucked about, working for an art dealer and trying to be a lay preacher; possibly in an attempt to please his father, who was a pastor in the Dutch Reformed Church.

He taught himself to draw and studied art for a short time in the Hague. His brother Theo to whom Vincent wrote many letters, was also an art dealer and had many other painter’s pieces which Van Gogh was able to see, on his brother’s recommendation. Early on, Van Gogh painted the life of the common man, peasants, workers and labourers, with whom he felt a strong affinity.

After he moved to Paris, his vision expanded, but he always returned to that theme during all his different periods.

One of the most poignant (for me) pieces I saw, which I think spoke to his state of mind and his place in the world, as much as anything, was Still Life With a Bible, According to letters to his brother, Van Gogh painted this in one go, in a single day. A stock image follows:

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According to accepted interpretation, the Bible represented his father—with whom he had a turbulent relationship until his death in 1885, the year in which Van Gogh painted this piece—and blind devotion to religion and faith. To Van Gogh, the candle also represented his father as its flame was snuffed out and would no longer illuminate the Bible—a book VG described to Emile Bernard as feeling no love from.

The obviously well-thumbed other book next to the Bible is La Joie de Vivre by Emile Zola, which represented Van Gogh’s rebellion towards his father and his beliefs as well as his own embracing of the working man and life. Van Gogh was a great admirer of Zola’s literary works.

Van Gogh suffered from a mental illness, the treatment of which in those days did little to help him. Apparently, one night he had an argument with Gauguin, with whom he was living at the time. When Gauguin left, it was then that Van Gogh cut off his ear and took it to a brothel, giving it to a prostitute, at which point the police were brought in. After a few more nervous breakdowns, Van Gogh checked himself into a mental hospital, where he spent time painting copies of other artists and scenes he saw from his window, until he was given the freedom of the grounds, after which he painted outdoor scenes.

In 1890, he was still in mental turmoil, but completed 75 paintings in 70 days, before he went outside one day to paint as usual, and shot himself in the chest.

I take away two things from this tragic narrative; one, that it is never too late to begin. Van Gogh could easily have surrendered to the pressures to become a lay preacher or art dealer. He tried as well as he could to satisfy his father and the norms of his age, but one assumes in retrospect that the poor man would never have achieved satisfaction, happiness or greatness during his lifetime, anyway, had he thrown over his artistic side over for a more ‘ordinary’ life. Instead, his urges were too powerful; in the end he stayed true to his calling, sacrificing everything. It is sad that he still died in apparent misery. He eventually changed the art world, unfortunately only after his death.

The second is an observation; how close to the brink of mental illness true creative genius appears to be. In many cases we find unbelievable creativity walking hand-in-hand with a tortured soul. I think it is beholden upon the family and friends of these geniuses to keep watch over them; and not assume just because they are talented and brilliant that they are doing okay.

Another slight disappointment was for us to learn (although we could have anticipated this by a simple Google search) that Starry Night, arguably VG’s most famous work, is not here, but at The Museum of Modern Art in New York, where it has resided for 70 years.

After leaving the Van Gogh museum, we checked the time. Our plan had been to go through the  next, then go downtown to the Royal Palace. after which we would meet with my cousins Paula and Louis Charles for lunch. We easily decided that we would forego the Rijksmuseum until the next day, hopped a tram and headed downtown to the Royal Palace.

The Royal Palace was originally built in the late 1600s as a town hall, a place where the commoner could also come.

However, after Napoleon’s brother, Louis Napoleon, became the king of Holland in 1806, he decided to make the Town Hall his residence. The entire administration was moved out of the building and a door was put in the south facade to provide direct access to the Exchange Bank, the only municipal institution that remained in the building.

Shortly after entering, and taking these photographs …

… my camera died.

The audio tour was very well done and moved us through all the different rooms, showing what they had been used for when it was a town hall, with all the attendant municipal uses but also retaining the lavish interior and furnishings from the French Empire style. The cells became wine cellars and the cold marble floors were covered with thick carpets.

The stunning collections of Empire furniture, clocks and chandeliers, almost the entirety of which from that time was left behind, is apparently one of the best preserved and most complete Empire collections in the world. The Royal Palace is still used by the Dutch Royal House.

An amazing place! Like all sights we had seen to this point, it was deserving of much more of our time and contemplation, but …

We were now in a race against the clock as we were meeting Paula and Louis Charles in the Dam Square just outside the Royal Palace. We rushed through the last few rooms and burst out into the Dam Square to see these characters …

We sat on the entrance steps and kept an eye out. We had only seen Paula depicted in Facebook photos, so were slightly worried we would miss her in the crowds, but soon I spotted her about 10 yards away. We introduced ourselves and Paula gave us a nice gift; a fridge magnet depicting the oldest residential house in Amsterdam, built in 1590 as a traditional merchant’s house. Paula worked there as a social worker for the Salvation Army years ago.

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Later we went and saw it for ourselves.

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As we were looking at the magnet, I saw Louis Charles sneak up quietly behind Paula and MLW to stand unnoticed, nodding in agreement with MLW and Paula’s exclamations. He gave me a little wink. I finally had to stop MLW and Paula from talking, to point him out.

Paula immediately shook her head and said. “I haven’t seen him in 20 years and he still acts the same!” Dutch kisses all around.

We found a place for lunch and sat down to get to know each other a little better.

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Louis Charles, Paula and Willem (Wil), whom we had visited with earlier, are children of three brothers, so they are cousins to each other.

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Paula’s father was also named Willem …

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and he married Paulina Rijinders,

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who was always called Lena, which is serendipitous, as one of our granddaughters is also called Lena.

Paula told us a serious story …

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… that on May 7, 1945, two days after the German surrender, the Gestapo fired on Dam Square from their then-headquarters (now Madame Tussaud’s!) into the crowd of cheering civilians, who were waiting for the Canadian troops to arrive, killing over 31 people and wounding many more – Dam Square 1945.

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Lena was in the square with Paula, who was 2 at the time. Lena ran out of the square, shielding her baby and luckily escaped unscathed.

Lena was in the Salvation Army, as is Paula, and Paula worked for years in the red light district as a social worker, so it was not surprising as Paula later nonchalantly led us through the Red Light District , as if there was no porn or drug paraphernalia in the windows, or drug deals and other goings-on around her.

Our stop after lunch was the Oude Kirk. Oude Kerk which literally means “old church”, is Amsterdam’s oldest building and oldest parish church, founded around 1213 and consecrated in 1306 by the bishop of Utrecht with Saint Nicolas as its patron saint. After the Reformation in 1578 it became a Calvinist church, which it remains today, standing in Amsterdam’s main red-light district.

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However, our main reason for going here today was to see The Garden Which is the Nearest to God, which is a temporary platform on the roof of the Oude Kerk, designed by the Japanese artist Taturo Atzu on display from June 27 to September 6, 2015.

Ascending the scaffolding assembled on the outside of the church, was not without its thrills, as you realize how high you are and how shaky the steel stairs and tubular scaffolding seem.

The view is spectacular, a unique panorama of the red light district and all of Amsterdam; as well as allowing one to see the rooftop sections of the church itself, which is an amazing structure of slate tiles and lead. Any repairs that are done use traditional techniques, so it is a terrific example of historical site that one would never see, without this artwork project.

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Writing now afterwards from home, I found out that over 30,000 people visited  the Oude Kerk rooftop terrace and over 67,000 visited the Oude Kerk itself; including a remarkable number of Dutch, according to the reports.

Afterwards, we parted with Louis Charles, looking forward to dinner the following day at his house. Paula walked us to the train station where we could catch transport back to our hotel and we bade her farewell.

It was a short visit, but once more, we felt very close to extended family that we had just met, and were encouraged to keep in touch.


 

Day 11: another glorious day in Holland!

We made our now very familiar bus ride to the Museumplein and walked back to the Rijksmuseum.

A little side note which may provide insight into your friendly neighbourhood blogger:

We had noticed that the pension/concession discounts started at age 60, at most places in Holland; however, being the ridiculous rule-following person that I am, I couldn’t bring myself to ask for discounts when my birthday was still 2 weeks away. Later when I actually was 60, we were in the UK, which is similar to Canada, with the senior discounts kicking in only once you are over 65, for the most part! Typical …

I am going to warn anyone who read this blog, if you ever go to he Rijksmuseum (and you should if you are in Amstedam!), plan for two days, because you will be better served going through one half one day and the other half then next. There is just so much fantastic, incredible art and historical artifacts stuffed into its three (3) floors built in two squares. We got lost a number of times, trying to reach various exhibits, it is so huge.

According to Wikipedia, it reopened after a 10 year renovation in 2013 and has on display 8,000 objects of art and history, from their total collection of 1 million objects from the years 1200–2000, among which are masterpieces by Rembrandt, Frans Hals, and Johannes Vermeer.

On an interesting note, they had on display what we first thought were pieces of artwork – wooden boxes with a seat inside.

Upon reading the nearby presentation document, we learned that these boxes were created to help people suffering from Stendhal Syndrome, also known as Florence Syndrome or hyperkultermia, which is brought on by seeing concentrated works of arts. The sensory overload can bring about a variety of symptoms, including increased heart rate, paranoia, anxiety, nausea, disorientation, and even hallucinations.

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I am going to let the following photographs speak for themselves.

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We left the museum, feeling like we perhaps should have spent some time in one of those Stendahl  boxes, and made the trip back downtown, trying to find the boat cruise we had originally planned to take. However, it was full, so we trekked back up the street to an affiliated company, where we had a 15 minute wait before they set out.

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There were not many people on the cruise, which suited us fine. A group of two men and a young woman boarded. I had the impression they were Roma, by their appearance and language. At least, Eastern European …

The woman was pretty and knew it only too well. During the whole trip, none of the three listened to the commentary or even looked up at any of the sights. They both talked with each other so loudly we couldn’t hear the captain, or they texted on their cells and took myriad selfies … most annoying.

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In any event, it was a well done cruise, well worth the effort. We saw a lot of sites; however, many of the photographs are obscured by the boat frame.

Some interesting less obscured ones were an old bridge built in 1600’s, still standing and being used; the NEMO Science centre, on which you can see the upper deck has a cafeteria, and a recreation area; the replica of the Amsterdam sailing vessel, and the Amstel Hotel, a favourite haunt of the rich and famous.

After the cruise , we hurried back to our hotel, rested for an hour, showered and left to visit Louis Charles and Laura.

Louis Charles, Laura and their son Michel live in a lovely little area in a town about a half hour drive from the IBIS Schiphol, which I won’t give way, for privacy sake.

We arrived to a warm welcome and sat out on their sundeck chatting, lubricated with champagne and French Chablis, and fantastic appetizers of seafood (eels, mackerel, halibut, shrimp, herring and beet salad) and a cracker assortment.

Michel is a senior business analyst for Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate (CCC) a huge privately owned corporation, and is obviously highly intelligent, as are his parents; Louis, being a retired executive with ING Bank and Laura working as (the best translation into a North American occupation on which we could agree) a legal advocate for people in the social assistance system (people on disability); often presenting cases in Den Haag. Although judging from our meal, Laura could have been a gourmet chef as well; she went to a lot of work hand peeling the tiny shrimp and organizing the whole dinner. It was beyond belief how amazing it all was.

All three are well spoken in English, erudite, charming and funny.

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Our dinner consisted of chicken cordon bleu, with green beans, mushrooms, baby potatoes accompanied with a spicy Sauvignon Blanc, followed by 3 different cheeses, a date roll with walnuts, accompanied by a French red that was to die for, but for which I did not record the name, topped off with Belgian chocolate with strawberries and a lush Spanish sherry.

Louis Charles and Laura are wine aficionados, and although MLW and I consider ourselves as just beginning to learn the ways of the grape, we certainly shared in our love of drinking it!

Not stuffed at all, we repaired to the living room and attempted several times to get a shot with the infamous time-delay setting, before we finally got it right …

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We had begun our Holland adventure with Louis Charles and Laura in a welcoming fashion, so it seemed fitting that we ended it with such a marvelous send-off.

To top off everything, Laura insisted on presenting us with a 2006 Chateauneuf de Pape, which we promised we would save for our last night in Europe.

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Full of great food and wine, and stuffed with happy memories, we took our leave  and set off, driving for the first time in the dark, we realized, as  I fumbled to figure out the headlight system!

We loved Holland, and now … were prepared to take on Bruges.

 

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