Four Countries and Four Languages in Four Days
On Thursday morning at half-past-very-drunken-sparrow o'clock, Mr C, me and his friend C set out for a long weekend in Gouda, Holland, there to meet with many European friends, enjoy good food, good company and good alcohol. And 30-year-old computers. LOTS of 30-year-old-computers. A Christmas Coding Convention, what could be better?
We were at the Eurotunnel terminal around 7am, in France by just before 9am. There is a restaurant in Cite Europe, Coquelles, which caters for early arrivals, and there we had a 'full English' breakfast, French style.
After finishing our breakfast and acquiring alcohol, sandwiches and water from the supermarket across the way, we hit the road.
By lunchtime we were in Belgium. By late afternoon we were rolling through Holland.
We arrived in one piece at the hotel, settled in and decided on pizza from the local (10 minute walk) pizzeria and some of the wine we had bought in France rather than the formality of the hotel restaurant.
On Friday we ate at the hotel for breakfast, then wandered out to find the location where we were meeting with our friends for the weekend. This turned out to be a school which was a peaceful 20-30 minute walk down the canal from the hotel. Cats, dogs, ducks and swans were all to be seen and greeted. We headed back to the hotel to collect the car with all the vintage computer gear in it, then drove back to the school to drop everything off. Friends were beginning to arrive by then, and the old school's classrooms began to hum with noise. Supper was part of the deal, so we enjoyed the first of several Moroccan meals.
Mr C and C took the car back to the hotel before walking back to the school, where they had left me writing peacefully, then we spent a few hours catching up with everyone before hitting a pub on the way back to the hotel.
Saturday morning we slept in, as we were quite tired. Wandering back to the school mid-morning, we found the same mix of English, Dutch, French and German being spoken. Lunch was a mix of rolls, buttermilk and fruit, which was utterly delicious. One of our friends hosted a concert mid-afternoon, then in the evening, after supper, we had several hours of music and graphics competitions, judged by a jury and with prizes awarded later, some time after midnight.
On Sunday morning we slept in even further, arriving during the lunchtime serving. That was fine though, as they catered to feed far more than the 200 people who attended the coding convention and there was plenty food left.
From late afternoon, we slowly packed up and then headed to the cafeteria for one final delicious supper. Still the same basic meal of meatballs, pasta, rice, vegetables and salad, but the caterers gave us delicious fruit (pineapple, melon, grapes, oranges) and ice cream for dessert.
Between us, a bunch of multi-lingual types speaking English, Dutch, German and French all helped the organisers tidy up, before they ran us back to our hotel. There we sat around for a few more hours with one of our new German friends before deciding that bed was a good idea.
On Monday, after another hotel buffet breakfast, we went shopping in the tipping rain and a howling gale, purchasing freshly made Gouda 'boerenkaas' (farmer's cheese) and a few souvenirs before embarking on the return journey across Holland, Belgium, France and England to arrive home just after 11pm.
We slept very well in the hotel, thanks to the ingenious idea of a twin room being two single mattresses on a queen-sized base and being provided with some very comfortable pillows too.
We liked Gouda very much and are already laying plans to return some time in the next few months for another long break. It's around 3-4 hours' drive from Calais, and only 45 minutes from Schipol airport, but is a delightfully rural and laid back place.
Image Credit » https://pixabay.com/en/gouda-town-hall-netherlands-385874/ by wiegerwaardenburg