About this time last year we did a little road trip around Belgium and the Netherlands. It was perfectly fit for October, filled with hearty food, lovely encounters, autumn colors and murky days. I can imagine Low Countries being nice and sunny in the summertime or flowery in the springtime, but somehow when the weather gets colder, I long for the north, be it that I find medieval streets looking at its best when gloomy and foggy, or that I find stews, waffles, chocolate and beer being especially fit for cozying up after a walk in the rain.
We enjoyed every bit of our trip, but fondest memories are mostly made of spending time with people that are dear to you. So, for a couple of days we ended up in Utrecht, where our wedding photographers-turned-friends Hanneke and Robert live with their son Loek. They organized a perfect day trip for us, which included the ultimate sightseeing of Utrecht, and that is, sailing the canals of course.
Since they moved to their new neighbourhood, they got themselves a small boat, which they frequently used before, only not with two more adults. That turned out to be a lot of fun and only a little bit frightening at the beggining, when I was positive that the boat was going to sink under our weight and subtly asked Hanneke what would happened to us if we fell into the water of the canal. Her answer was soothing enough: The swim in the canals wasn't recommendable but we wouldn't die either. That was when I started enjoying the experience.
After the motor almost bailed on us once, we got to the city center where we had to turn it off and continue on rowing, a task very well performed by Robert and Luka, and also very suitable for enjoying the views and taking many photos. We were visiting Utrecht for the first time, and seeing it from the canals on a gloomy day, with leaves on the trees showing off their autumn colors, and the midweek absence of other merry sailors, was indeed an unforgettable experience. We had some good laughs (mostly teasing the guys and their ability to row), some good talks (catching up while being introduced to the city), and some good cakes and coffee (we bought chocolate cakes in a shop on the canal and had them in a boat accompanied with a few jealous looks of the passers by).
On our private tour we got to know that all of those bicycles tied to the railings of the canal weren't tied because of stealing but because of possibility of being thrown in the canal at night by drunk youngsters. We also got to know that the Mayor takes a swim once a year in the canals of Utrecht to point out that the water is good enough (I'll never be able to become a Mayor of Utrecht). And that the best netherlandish chocolate is called Tony Chocolonely, peculiar both in flavor combinations and Willy Wonk-ish design (We bought a lot of those later that day). You don't get stories like that on a guided tour. So thank you, Hanneke and Robert.
We ended that day in a best possible way, having dinner that Robert prepaired at their place (it was perfectly baked whole chicken), talking, laughing and getting to know Loek (a very cool little guy who left to bed early without being slightly bothered by us chatting downstairs). With October rolling out to November, I'm not only reflecting these lovely memories, but also daydreaming of going back, while it's still cold.
What are yours favorite autumn / wintery escapes?
* If you're interested in Hanneke's work (which is pretty amazing, trust me on that), you can check out her website here, even just for lighting up your day with all the brightness she manages to capture.