Thursday the 28th of May
It was a nice surprise to discover our second and final flight was only seven hours in duration. Within minutes I was curled up in my mother’s lap and finally asleep. Thank goodness I inherited her height or I would never have been able to fit over the two seats – nonetheless I awoke with my back in spasms and my arm still asleep. I was pleased they did not feed us nearly as much on this flight, and even more pleased when I found out there were stroopwafels! Just as I had put on the movie Mordecai and was waiting for my breakfast of pancakes, a flight attendant whom my parents had earlier engaged with in conversation came to our aisle with two glasses of champagne and two porcelain ornaments shaped as apartment houses. “Happy 21st wedding anniversary!” she congratulated my parents. The Delft Blauw houses contained BOLS liquor, a form of genever that is made of fermented grain. It put a smile across our faces – dad joked he ought to pretend to celebrate an event for every flight so to reap the rewards of this special treatment.
The chill air that enveloped us as we exited the Schiphol International Airport was not a friendly welcome. We had long awaited our return to the Netherlands and Belgium – not only do I mean the twenty hours of anticipation that was spent thirty-thousand feet in the air but also the three years that have past since we last made this journey. Despite the grey skies, I was overjoyed to see the familiar clean landscape spotted with windmills and canals. We passed a grazing paddock filled with cows; we drove alongside cyclists; we got lost in the winding streets on the opposite side of the road. The houses stand like uniform soldiers: tall bricked structures with flat walls and peaked roofs were replicated one for one. This was unique to the suburbs of the Netherlands – clean lines and quaint housing pleasing to the eye of the perfectionist.
We were turned away from our hotel as our rooms still needed housekeeping so abandoned our hope to freshen up to and took to the streets of Noordwijk Binnen. It was eight in the morning but none of the stores or even cafes were open. The scent of fresh bread wafted out of nearby bakeries but we resisted this calling in the search of a cup of coffee. Not far further, we entered a small cafe called Ons Huis (translation: our house) that was decorated in dark stone with fluffy rugs draped over the white leather benches. It had a cozy ambience – and a coffee menu. But once again, I was surprised by the small differences that I had not expected to make such an impact. The coffee menu was limited to the familiar espresso and cappuccino and a number of strange other options including koffie verkeerd and latte macchiato. Koffie verkeerd can be literally translated to coffee mistake; it is a single espresso shot with steamed milk and has the closest likeness to a latte. A latte macchiato has the same separation of layers but is served in a tall glass with lots of milk and foam. There was no latte, no flat white, no piccolo, no macchiato, no chia latte, no mocha and no soy milk! I already miss my soy piccolo from back home. As I work at a coffee shop, this difference in coffee culture is unexpected and astounding! I ordered a latte macchiato that was served with a biscuit on the side. I was still full from the aeroplane food so instead had a taste of both my parents breakfasts: mum ate brown bread with smoked ham, cucumber and a celeriac slaw whilst dad ate an uitsmijter three egg and bacon toast. Duly satisfied, we exited the cafe and wandered back to the car.
We arrived at at the house of father’s mother near 9:30 just as she returned from the bakery. Mum and I shared a mocha meringue tart over coffee as we caught up with Oma and discussed the prospects of the days to come. A murder of crows caught our attention lingering and occasionally swooping through the backyard; they were devouring the koffiekoek (translation: coffee biscuit) Oma had forgotten outside. As soon as the hotel was ready to receive us, we made our way back to check in. I had my own room, number 1206, at the back of the hotel on the opposite side of the building to my parents. My parents, with it being their anniversary, had booked a suite! I visited them for a quick snoop of their room and was in awe of the most beautiful accommodation I had ever set foot in. A narrow hallway opened to a intricate wooden desk to the left of a nespresso machine. Large windows scaled the expanse of the walls, that were coated in an elegant pattern, overlooking the old fashioned buildings and esplanade. The rest of the very large room was occupied with a fireplace, living area with couch, queen-sized bed and flat screen television – and that’s still not the end of it. The suite continued onto a luxurious bathroom with a shower and spa bathtub. To top it all off, they received a bottle of champagne and macaroons as a welcome gift.
Whilst my parents unpacked, I headed to the gym for a short session, proceeded to shower (in the most incredibly luxurious massage spouting steam compartment omg) and get ready for our next engagement. We met Oma at a cafe on the beach called the Koele Costa.The organic venue had an unpopular indoor seating area as, despite the cold, customers took shelter beside glass panels that inhibited the wind where they could soak up the warmth of the summer sun. I accompanied dad to the bar where we ordered a round of coffees – I was taken aback by the waitstaff whom seemed to have a facial tick, unless he was winking at me? Cannot confirm. The expectation of cold was not disappointed in Noordwijk, but the onshore wind that swirled around the brown beaches made it even colder by the sea. Mum could not contain her coldness so made constant remarks of the ungracious climate and how it made her hair stand on end. Like in Australia, the beaches are composed of sand and water, but it differed in that the ocean was a dirty colour brown unlike the deep blue that I found so familiar.
We made our way through the shopping street on the way back to the hotel. A wooden blue and white cart with streamers outlining the premises stood at the centre of the plaza – it was the herring cart. Herring is a Dutch speciality that is traditionally served fresh with finely diced onion as garnish. This is called Hollandse Nieuw. Still peckish, we headed to a frietkot for a bite of frikandel and kalfsvlees croquette. A frikandel is a sliced open deep-fried skinless sausage topped with diced onion and served with mustard and mayonnaise in a soft bun. A kalfsvlees croquette is a deep-fried beef croquette with a crunchy shell and melt-in-mouth centre that is my favourite Dutch delicacy. Of course one need something sweet to finish the meal so we made our way into a sleek store that was laden from counter to counter with deliciously irresistible CHOCOLATE. We bought some badchocolade with is so named due to its resemblance to the bubbles in a bubble bath: silky tempered chocolate coated whole hazelnuts in a smooth disk that was devoured in seconds! Ahh how much I love Dutch food.
We returned to the esplanade that evening. Trendy restaurants and luxurious hotels bordered the esplanade overlooking the grassy knoll that separated the street and the beach. An impressive lighthouse stood tall near the end of the street directly across from a commemorative statue of Queen Wilhelmina (1880-1962). We ate dinner at the Zeemeeuw (translation: Seagull) that stood halfway up the shore so naturally was decked in sand and seemed a part of the beach. I indulged in a malibu orange and smoked chicken caesar salad – we all walked home with full stomachs on the verge of a food coma. This was a great way to celebrate my parents’ 21st wedding anniversary.