Last week Fil competed in the World Predator Classic kayak fishing tournament held in Hellevoetsluis, Nederland. The coastal town is in the South Holland province on the Haringvliet, a large inlet of the North Sea. Fil went early to get his campsite set up, register and purchase licenses, and to meet up with Brad, another American in Germany who will be competing. Brad and Fil will be competing together as a team as well as individually. Brock and I followed the next day so we could see the opening ceremonies and support team USA without being in the way when Fil was doing business.
We had about a 5 hour drive through Belgium to get there and it was really interesting to see the stark differences in the 3 countries. The Belgian highways were not as smooth as in Germany, and unlike the tiled or cement homes common in our area of Germany, the homes we could see in Belgium were almost all brick or stone. German, Dutch, and French are all official languages in Belgium and it seemed like I saw all three on signs! It was very confusing but that’s why I put all my faith in my GPS :).
The majority of the trip was through Belgium and it was a pain. Unlike the bridges in Germany that span the valleys, the roads in Belgium went up and over each mountain, but then as soon as we got to the Nederlands it all flattened out, not surprisingly since “Nederlands” literally means “low country”. I am not kidding either. About half of the country sets at or below 1 meter above sea level.
We only had about an hour to drive from the Belgium border to our destination, and this observation may just be the area we were driving through, but the roads narrowed, guard rails disappeared and the roads almost disappeared into the landscape. It was really amazing. For miles you could see smooth, green fields with little intrusion. Every so often we could see a random herd of sheep or goats wondering free in the fields- not fenced in, and once we got to the beach we saw little black rabbits everywhere. I found myself taking deep breaths, exhaling, and just loving the last part of the drive. Ending a roadtrip in such a realxing way was a real treat that only got better!
Our hotel was right on the beach. From our terrace we could see the lighthouse towards the left, and to the right was a marina so we could watch the sailboats coming and going. By the way, I am pretty sure there were more sail boats, power boats and yachts docked in Hellevoetsluis than there are people (at least in the old part of town)! Fil enjoyed his campsite all week, but Brock and I really enjoyed our beach hotel for our short 2 night visit. I especially liked this vacation as I got a nice bubble bath every night after Brock fell asleep in the hotel crib. This was a real treat since all the other hotels we have stayed at only had showers, no tub.
This was Brock’s first experience with sand and a beach and it started rocky. He got quite upset when I wouldn’t let him eat the sand. Eventually he figured it out and liked letting it pass through his hands. While he wasn’t sure about the sand he LOVED the sea. He ran through the water, holding my hands, and splashed around like crazy! We just about had the beach to ourselves in the morning aside from the two pre-teen girls who were singing “heigh-ho” from Snow White as they played. (The words heigh-ho were English but I’m guessing the rest was Dutch).
Wednesday night were the opening ceremonies of the tournament. It started with a boat parade for all the kayak and boat participants. It was really cool to see the flags of all the 20 nations but especially the USA!
The marina and old part of town were really adorable. They were built up behind a star shaped fort with a windmill on it. Most of the buildings were brick, but a lot of the newer buildings were colorful and reminiscent of Key West, Florida. Everyone, young and old, rode bicycles around town and it seemed like most enjoyed the presence of the fishing tournament. Oh, and they love dogs! At both restaurants I went to there was a section of the menu for dogs and the waiters even brought dishes of water out for them.
What a lovely first trip to Holland! Fil got to do what he loves, and I actually relaxed. All the traveling we do usually has a list of things to see and try and this time I just went to support Fil and ended up having a real vacation. I got a little sun, had a blast with Brock, and had a nice retreat at the end of the day.
I kept laughing at myself on this trip because I kept finding myself wishing to see German! The Dutch language is impossible! I couldn’t navigate all the extra, “I,J,and Y’s” and certainly couldn’t pronounce anything. I really wanted to buy wooden shoes to fulfill my lifelong dream of being Shirley Temple (referencing Wooden Shoes from Heidi) but the only shoes I saw were on the porches of homes. I guess I will have to get some on our next trip to Holland which will absolutely happen, there is still so much to see!
I think Fil was happy with his performance in the competition. He placed in the middle of the pack– and most of his competitors were professionals. He did catch the biggest Pike of the tournament though!
Fil is working hard all week and will hopefully have the time to be a guest writer for the blog and tell us all about the competition! He will be pretty busy traveling for work this summer so it might take some time, but if you want to see small posts about his fishing and the competition check out his Facebook page, Yakbum.
We don’t have any other big trips planned, but have lots of visitors coming soon that we will take day trips around Germany with and I can’t believe it but Brock’s first birthday is right around the corner! I am ready for his party but need to test out baking in my Celsius oven… I don’t want to mess up his first cake because of the temperature conversion.