(I apologise in advance about the formatting of this post. It looks perfect on my screen, then BANG, when I upload it, it comes out all funny)
I cannot believe that it has been more than 5 weeks since my parents arrived and another week since they have left. It certainly went by extremely quickly and was an amazing amount of fun.

In short – we spent about week in Altrincham before taking a trip to Europe by car. Our trip roughly looked like this:

Hull to Rotterdam by overnight ferry (very civilised way to travel!)

Rotterdam – 2 days in Maastricht (Netherlands) – 3 days in Koblenz (Germany) – 2 days in Bruges (Belgium)
Return Zeebrugge to Hull by ferry

Thereafter, we came back for a few days before visiting Tim’s sister and family in London for 3 days. The last week was spent in Altrincham before my parents flew back last Thursday.

Now about our European holiday. It was a relaxed , and much of it (as you’ll see from the pictures) revolved around food, beer, sightseeing and looking for Henry’s Hat. More about that later.

One of our most memorable meals was the Moules Frites (Mussels and chips) we ate at this restaurant in Bruges:
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Mine (of course) ended up being the best one: creamed curry flavour. Leon (my dad) and Tim had Belgium beer flavoured ones. It came in a gigantic pot:

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And although it is true that most of the contents were shells, it was still pretty big and filling. I struggled to finish mine.

As you got through the pot, you came to the delicious sauce at the bottom. It was like a fantastic cream chowder. Rich, but scrummy.

Mine was such a big hit, I ended up giving my left-overs to my dad, who in turn shared it with my mother (Lorna), as you can see below.

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But mussels weren’t the only hit. Have a look at these cakes. Works of art! We were bowled over!

I ended up having the cake at the back right. It looks really rich and decadent, but in fact it was so incredibly light… I think Tim had the one back left (with strawberries on top). We were planning to swap over half way so we could try them both, but his had that soggy cake thing (like in trifle) going on that I am just not very keen on, so I stuck to my chocolate cake and made him eat his soggy cake himself. Which, if I am honest, he was quite happy to do because he likes that kind of thing…

Now holidays should be about new experiences, and as my dad is the most adventurous eater I know, he was completely up for trying the ‘maatjes‘ (herring) we saw people eating on the street. It often formed part of lunch. And as they say about when in Rome ….. Leon did it justice – watched how the locals did it – and did it like it ought to be done.

The herring is served like this and you buy them by the piece. Not more than a pound a piece from memory. And it is always served with chopped raw onions. The raw onions looked less appetising than the fish to me!


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I think for a minute or two, Leon had his doubts (look at his face!), but he had committed to it …..

….. in it went ….


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… and he came out the other end with a very big smile on his face. I am not averse to eating raw herring. I even buy it myself (from Ikea!) after being introduced to it by my Norwegian friend, Kathrine. But that is the pickled variety. These maatjes were extremely fishy with the trails of raw onion taste that I don’t like at the best of times. That ruled me out for having a full one of my own.

I do think that this was one of the highlights of Leon’s trip!!!

Now let’s get to Henry’s hat. A very large portion of our trip was dedicated to trying to find Henry’s hat. My dad has a white (funny) golfing hat that his friend, Henry, covets. As Leon had bought his hat on his last trip to the UK, he was keen to buy Henry one of his own. But, alas!, we couldn’t find one in Manchester, so we continued our search in Europe.

Lo and behold, in Brugge (Bruges) we found a shop that sold these hats.

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There were hats in all colours and sizes, but no white ones for Henry. Leon debated and tried on a number of alternatives, but never ended up buying one – they were far more expensive than he had hoped, and he couldn’t find a colour/size combination that he was happy with.

The story did have a happy ending: Leon found one by chance in Northwich (of all places) once he was back in the UK.

All the while while Leon was trying on Henry-Hats, I decided to try the female variety:


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And then we did heaps of sightseeing. We did quite a bit of walking – the best way to explore other than going by bike in my opinion. We were planning on hiring bicycles in Bruges, but it was raining and brollies don’t work so well when you’re cycling!

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Because we stayed quite close to the Belgium / Netherlands / Germany / Luxemburg border, I was often getting my tongue in a twist when I had to speak to the locals. Luckily I did speak a few languages that they spoke, but found myself saying ‘merci‘ instead of ‘ veel dank’. At least this time I didn’t speak a bit of Zulu in error! That often happens. I think my brain has the capacity of 3 languages: english, afrikaans and ‘other’. All other languages I know a bit of get dumped into that same pot, so I never know what will come out when I try to speak French, German, Dutch, etc …

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Tim and Leon were really looking forward to all the Belgium beers and ensured that they sampled as many of them as possible. I stuck to Liefmans Kriek, a dry cherry beer. A real ‘girlie drink’.

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Some of the most interesting things we saw were the toilets. From the old-fashioned type that protruded from the castle to allow the contents to be deposited into the moat, to completely open, yet modest urinals in the market squares (weird!). But these were my favourite.

This is a sign in a men’s toilet (I only went in for research purposes of course):

Translated it reads: Feel free to come closer. It is shorter than you think.

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And then let’s not forget our canine friends. This is a toilet especially for them!