Sunday, January 30, 2022

More incursions into Brabant: seeking out its watery ways

I'm a week behind with posting about my activities, but no matter. Nothing of great note has occurred in the flatlands. We're still under partial lock and key; it's still grey and cold (mostly), so the lock and key stuff isn't quite so bad; and it's still winter, but that's no surprise to the rest of you northern dwellers.

What we have done, however, is a little more exploring of our new(ish) terrain, and so last weekend, we took ourselves to Roosendaal, a town some 10 kms from Oudenbosch by road, but quite a bit further by water. Given the extra distance and the biting cold, we took the easy option and went by car.

Koos had been investigating the harbour area in Roosendaal on Google Earth and I'd also seen that it was being renovated, but nothing quite prepared us for the extent of the refurbished marina area. 

Apparently, the local council (the gemeente in Dutch) wanted to attract small boats to the city, and there are now loads of moorings, and even some with electricity and water points. What we found strange, though, was that when we looked at the website explaining it all, it was clear they didn't want people staying overnight, which begs the question why they offer electricity and water too.

Anyway, we realised soon enough that this was not a destination for the Vereeniging, but we enjoyed the outing and our wander around the harbour. There is a marina further back along the reach, so if we want to go to Roosendaal in the summer, we could certainly find a spot. And we probably will. 

Despite the gloomy weather, I took some photos (see below). The quays look a little bleak as much of the new paving is going green (like everything else at the moment), but there were plenty of people out and about, especially in the children's playground adjacent to the harbour. I think you could say it's an area under development, so I'll look forward to seeing if it attracts more boaters when the weather's warmer. For now, I particularly liked the yellow footbridge and quirky gargoyles mounted in the walls. 

These houses are new but inspired by traditional Dutch styles
I have a feeling there will be a lot more of them in the 
surrounding area soon.

Below are a few photos of the official marina. It's not particularly appealing because the surroundings are quite industrial, but I'll bet it looks better on a sunny day. We could certainly overnight here and enjoy a summer's evening in the city.

 To finish on a brighter scene, here's a photo I took today of the Vereeniging just after a bit of de-greening and cleaning. The sun was shining and she looked lovely ... but then she always does. At least I think so!

It's February this week, so spring is on its way (or autumn for my friends in southern climes). Something to look forward to anyway. Have a good week allemaal! 

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Water over the land

Sound worrying? Fortunately, no, I don't mean flooding, although we have indeed had plenty of high water on the big rivers lately. In this case, I'm focusing on one of the aspects of living in this country that never ceases to intrigue me: the way the canals sit higher than the land around them; hence the water is always over or above it.

A few days ago, we had a rare afternoon of sunshine, so I donned my coat, hat and gloves, grabbed my camera and took off for a walk. My way took me along a local village dyke not far from the great Terneuzen to Gent sea canal and I was, as usual, on the lookout for ships on their way to or from the Gent docklands.

The thing is, because the canal is just that bit higher than the surrounding farmland and its protective dykes make it look even higher, the ships give the appearance of drifting across the fields. It's slightly surreal, especially when looking through gaps between the houses. There, in front of you is something akin to a castle tower proceeding at a snail's pace across your vision. A very arresting sight, I can assure you.

I spotted the ship in the two photos below several times as I walked along the village dyke. 

But by the time I reached the end, another one (see photo below) had caught up and overtaken me. I should mention that this canal is extremely busy and the bridge leading to the small town of Sas van Gent, the Hennie H's home port, opens at least twice an hour, and often more, during daylight hours. It continues throughout the night as well, although the openings are probably fewer, but we'd guess forty times a day wouldn't be an exaggeration. And that's just for those vessels that can't pass under the bridge; there's a constant stream of barges ploughing their way to and fro beneath its spans.

Whatever the numbers, we're not short of shippy eye candy, especially when you think that each time the bridge opens, it's possible for several ships to pass through in procession. Vehicles often have to wait 20 minutes and sometimes up to half an hour for all the canal traffic to get through. The photos below were all taken while I was waiting.

Changing the subject now, this last photo is of a small house along the dyke, which has recently been put on the market. It's very cute, but it needs a lot of work, and I mean a lot. Curious to know what it was going for, we were shocked to discover the asking price is €145k. A couple of years ago, they'd have been lucky to make €85k and indeed, I think it was even sold as a project for about that amount at the time.  It still has to be renovated, so is it worth it? I don't know, but given the way prices have shot up in the last two years, I am sure it will be snapped up. It will make someone a lovely cottage ... eventually!

 Have a good weekend allemaal

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

The Oudenbosch Basilica: St Peter's in the Netherlands

My second post of the year! It's is also a bit later than I intended, but hopefully I'll get back into the swing of things soon. In any event, the month hasn't had a very auspicious beginning. Apart from the leaks, which are not yet totally cured (a long story for later lamenting), it's been (yes, you've guessed already) largely wet, and cold and only fit for hibernating. Or maybe I'm not being totally fair.

On Sunday, one of Koos's sons came with his wife to visit us at the Vereeniging. As always, we enjoyed their company tremendously and did a walk around Oudenbosch to show them the new sights (or sites). For once the afternoon was sunny – for a while anyway.

Our first stop was the famous Basilica, which I think impressed us all. I'd been before, but this time, the pale sunlight was shining through the high windows and it all looked rather heavenly (sorry). For those who didn't read my previous post about this amazing church, it is heavily inspired by both St Peter's in Rome and the basilica of St John Lateran (which is also in Rome but outside the Vatican). 

The story goes that Oudenbosch's parish priest in the mid-19th century was one Pastor Willem Hellemons, who had studied in Rome. He'd spent his free time in the holy city walking through St Peter's and developed a great admiration for the church's architecture. His lodgings, however, were opposite the St John Lateran basilica, so when he returned to the Netherlands, his dream was to build a church that would honour both buildings as well as the Pope himself.

Enter the famous architect Pierre Cuypers (he of Amsterdam central station and the Rijksmuseum fame) and the Basilica was designed with the nave, dome and interior based on St Peter's while the facade was copied from St John Lateran's. Apparently, permission for this smaller St Peter's (in fact dedicated to Agatha of Sicily and Barbara of Nicomedia), was given by Pope Pius the 9th after the Dutch Papal Zouaves and other local Catholics went to Rome to defend the pope against Garibaldi's nationalist army in 1868. I'm not quite sure how this was possible, though, since construction had already started in 1865, so maybe it was more of a blessing than permission. 

In any event, the connection with Rome was confirmed, and Willem Hellemons' dream was realised. There is even a piece of the cloak worn by Pope John Paul II during the assassination attempt on his life in 1981 held as a relic in the Basilica. What is remarkable is its size. It is a massive church for such a small town and stands out as a somewhat incongruous but proud landmark. 

So there you have it: a bit of quirky Dutch history that is visible for literally miles around. I particularly like the saintly statues on the top of the facade. They look quite a crowd scene, don't they?

Oudenbosch basilica (photo: Wikiedia)

The photos of the interior below are, I admit, not the best. I took them with my phone, which has a fairly dreadful camera, especially when it comes to lower light levels. I hope they give you an idea of the rich decorations in the church.

Floor detail

The nave from front to back

Looking up to the dome

Nave ceiling

After leaving the Basilica, the weather changed and it became cloudy, windy and rather cold. Undaunted, and with our hands shoved in our pockets and our noses tucked into our scarves, we all walked across the main road to see if we could find the Chapel of Saint Louis, the Basilica's smaller scale mirror image and an even quirkier feature of Oudenbosch history. 

Koos's photo below is of the chapel, which is set in a courtyard surrounded by what used to be a famous boys' school. 

The baby sister: Chapel of Saint Louis inside
the former school courtyard

As you might already have guessed, our Pastor Willem Hellemons was the brain behind the school project and the mini basilica; the architects were different though. The setting is lovely, but unfortunately for us they are restoring the chapel, so it was closed and we couldn't see inside – a shame because I believe that too is beautifully decorated. The old school buildings are now rather elegant apartments.

If you'd like to read more about it, this website is in English. Oddly, it's all written in the present tense, but that's a Dutch convention and is often how the past is presented. Here too is a link to a book (in Dutch) about the school; it gives a few photos of the chapel's interior, which I found interesting; I hope you do too.

Lastly, I've pinched another picture from the Chapel's website, which shows clearly how similar it is to the Basilica. 

In other news we are at last having a few dry days this week, and this morning the sunrise was quite beautiful. We've also managed a few good walks, so my last few photos here are of strolls with my grandpup-next-door. I am blessed, aren't I? What with the Vereeniging in Oudenbosch and the crumbly cottage in Zeeland, life could be a lot worse despite our current restrictions and wintry conditions.

Have a good week, allemaal! Keep well, keep positive and keep smiling.

Monday, January 03, 2022

A new year but the usual walk

HAPPY NEW YEAR, allemaal! I hope you had a good Christmas and festive season. 

Here in the flatlands, all was generally quiet. We had a Christmas lunch with my girls on the Vereeniging followed by a walk around Oudenbosch looking for somewhere to let the dogs run. Unfortunately, we didn't succeed in that mission, so the search for good dog walks in the area will be resumed the next time the grandpups visit.

That said, 'daughter one' and I did a New Year's beach walk on the 31st and, as often in the past, we headed for the estuary where the mix of sand, pebbles and tidal scrubland is always appealing. Luckily, the weather dried up for our stroll although it remained mostly wet and windy here (and still is). There were very few others around, so other than the weather, it was perfect. Just a couple of dog owners, who like ourselves were escaping the bangs. We could listen to the wind, the keening of the gulls and the cries of the terns without interference. There was a brief episode with some quad bikers, who shouldn't have been there at all, but they didn't stay long.

However, my ambitions of a place in the sun are currently limited to poring over estate agents' images of homes in Portugal and Spain. I can but dream, can't I? The only bright skies I've seen recently have been those lit by fireworks. They were banned this year, but you'd never have thought so. Belgium and Germany (where most of the fireworks come from) are far too close for the ban to have had any chance of succeeding.

Anyway, to kick off the year, the photos below are of our walk at Paulinahaven on the Western Scheldt coast near Biervliet (see map).

 In other news, I'm up to my ears in 'project shower' at the moment. As many of you know, I have a horror of leaks wherever they may occur. To my dismay, the shower developed a leak that no amount of silicone kit has cured, so there was nothing for it but to rip the whole thing out and investigate the darkness below. I have to say that, barring a few bashed knuckles and choice expletives, the dismantling was much easier than finding the culprit, which has so far evaded me. Koos and I tested the drain, the water pipes and the taps today, but none of them has given up any surprises, or comfort. The only thing left it can be is the outlet from the shower tray itself. I'll let you know! 

A bit fuzzy, but this was the dark and dingy 
place below

I also have a leak to solve on the Vereeniging...again. I check under the floor every week and for months it's been dry. This week, however, I found a puddle, the source of which is also proving hard to detect. Ah well, what would life be without a few leaks? Hmm, I shall ponder that appealing notion for a while.

Have a good week, one and all, and I'll be back with more watery wonderings in the coming weeks.