article by Leni Hurley
What a lovely day we had. Anne, Patricia and Michael, Rick and George I, Roelof and George II, Emerald, Thijs and their little princess Julia boarded the bus-taxi in Tilburg. Just outside Eindhoven, Jan and Bob, Joanne and Anita and Jim and I joined in.
We talked, and ah, I missed so much of the good talk in and out the bus. But I’m sure this applies to all of us. Talking, we arrived in Valkenburg, the Tinsel Town (my interpretation) of The Netherlands. I’m sure all of us can agree that it was interesting to experience such a town, very pretty, with a wide river flowing right through it, and day visitors thronging the streets of the town center, which was lined with café after café after café.
The weather was very kind and most people sipped their drinks and ate their luxuries outside on the terraces.
Having emerged from the bus our party split in two. Michael, Emerald, Thijs, little Julia, Jim and I followed Patricia into the heart of the town in search of coffee, hot chocolate and food. The others headed for the Velvet Cave. As we wended our way through the narrow streets, Julia was delighted to walk from one amazing Santa to another, all dolls (happily). This certainly was an ideal town for little children, of which we saw but a few, it must be said. In fact, apart from Jim and myself, our party was 20 years at least below the average age on that day.
Over lunch, we talked some more. Well, a lot more. After luncheon (sorry but I love this word!), our ways separated once again. Jim and I went to visit the Gemeente (Municipal) Cave; the others went to see the castle. What can one say of the caves? They are man-made, dug out in the pursuit of the marlstone below the surface. The several caves in the town are in fact different corridors of the one underground labyrinth. It was interesting to see so many people in these caves; all being led from the entrance to the exit by means of a procession of stalls all selling basically the same Christmas trinkets. Later, we heard that little Julia was delighted when she first entered the Velvet Cave. Apparently, she stopped walking, opened her eyes and her arms wide and said Wow! I imagine she might also have said: ‘This is the BEST day of my life!’ It’s what my grandkiddies say on similar occasions.
Back out in the open air, Jim and I wandered around the town, away from the Christmas markets. Following the river, we arrived back at Santa’s Village, an open-air version of the below ground caves and their market stalls. It took us a while to find a relatively quiet café but we did find one and there we rested our weary bones over a weekend newspaper. Then, not to be outdone by the others, we ventured into the Velvet Cave. We had the tickets so it was not more than polite to use them. We were told that the route was 900 meters and, if we walked steadily, we could do it in 15 minutes. Not so, of course. The first obstruction, 2 Santa Clauses at once, made us turn around and hurry out as fast as our exhausted bodies could carry us. We emerged just in time to join the rest of the party at the place where the bus was to pick us up again.
The return journey was even more pleasant than the way up. I leaned across poor Jim to chat with Anne about books and the book club. I also told her about my first house-pet sit in Ireland (In case you are interested in having people mind your home and/or pets while you are away, check it out on http://www.trustedhousesitters.com). Next, we chatted with Rick and George I, who turned out to be more correctly George IV in his family!
All in all, I get the impression that everyone enjoyed the outing. What made it so much more enjoyable for me was to spend some relaxing time with Jim. At home, we are busy doing our own things and here was a day of leisure in the company of some great folks, even if our destination was Tinsel Town!