Tour Daze France Part 9 – Final Days

By - February 12, 2007 (Updated: December 28, 2015)

This entry is part 9 of 9 in the series Tour Daze France 2006.
Volendam, NL

It’s been a week of ups and downs for me. Today the sore throat I’ve been battling has gotten the better of me and I think the next few days will be spent holed up with cough drops and cats.

I’ve been reading a fantastic book however, that should make my recovery speed by a bit faster. Wicked: the Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West first came to my attention when I saw the posters for the musical. The book is fantastic and I definitely want to see the show it inspired.

I received some mail today that made me smile. The Florida out-laws sent Andrew and I a Valentines card and a B-day card for me. Both were funny and had cats on them… I wonder why. Speaking of musicals, they recently saw Spam-a-lot and had a great time. Another to add to my Must See in London list.

Dessert in Den Helder

I also got a card from my parents the other day, reminding me that ’30 bites the big one.’ Indeed it does. Thanks Mom 🙂

So since it’s now February, I should finally wrap up our Tour Daze France adventures. (Soon I’ll have other adventures to write about but more on that in another post).

After Amsterdam we decided to show Helen and Bill the real Netherlands, (much as I love A’dam, I can’t say it’s indicative of the rest of the country.) So we did what we do best, and jumped in the car for a road trip.

Along the way we stopped in Volendam, a tiny fishing village on the coast. We crossed the dijk that keeps the sea from flooding most of the country and then headed to Den Helder at the northern tip of Nord Holland. Friends of ours have a ‘camping place’ in Den Helder and have graciously invited us to visit them there on several

My favourite farm in Everberg.

occasions. The last time we were visiting, they took us to a great restaurant beside the ferry terminal to the Dutch islands. So we stopped in again for supper, before heading back to Amsterdam.

Andrew left us at the hotel and headed back to Brussels so he could go to work the next day. Bill, Helen and I caught the train back into the heart of the city and explored the Van Gogh museum. No matter how many times I wander through there, I am never disappointed.

Seeing the sights in Brussels.

When we had our fill of Vincent, we headed to the station to catch the train back to Brussels. I will admit to some, shall we say, ‘timing issues’ that resulted in a sprint from the ticket counter to the track at the opposite side of the station. I worried about Bill’s heart for the next half hour but none of us seemed to suffer permanent damage for the exercise and we made it to Brussels without further incident.

The next few days we tried to be kind to ourselves and rest. Our most strenuous activities were laundry and a walk to the British Store. I forget that even tiny Everberg has its charms to foreign visitors and Bill snapped lots of photos on our strolls.

Finally the time came to see the sights of Brussels. I donned my tour guide cap once more and we did the circuit. As it is much the same as our ‘tours’ I’ve lead through the city, I’ll go easy on the details. Of course

Commonwealth memorial in Ypres.

it included a trip to Chocolate Square (Sablon), Grand Place, the palace, les Galleries and a stop at New De Wolf to admire the Christmas decorations and Dandoy for cookies.

Andrew met us in the city for supper, (after a restorative beer and nap inducing hot chocolate for the rest of us) where we dined on Moroccan at Kasbah.

Our next outing was a gentle stroll around Leuven where we admired the gothic Stadhuis and the market.

We wanted to spend Remembrance Day in a meaningful way and felt that Ypres would be the proper

Making a grave rubbing in France.

place for reflection. We headed out early on the 11th, bundled against the chill and huddled around the parade barricades. It was quite a different feeling from my last parade in Ypres.

The highlight of the event was the dropping of millions of poppies through the dome of the commemorative arch. It was a moving and beautiful ceremony and of course our thoughts turned to my brother-in-law and his colleagues in Afghanistan as well as those who fought on these fields long before.

We returned to the car to nip in to France and search for the grave of Bill’s uncle who died fighting in 1918 at age 29. The burial ground was in a remote site but with a bit of persistence we found it.

Our final stop was a Vimy ridge to visit the small museum and visitors centre there. Unfortunately the memorial itself is still under wraps for restoration, but it is due to be revealed next spring.

Supper at Star of India. Cheers to a wonderful visit!

We ended the weekend with a trip to Laeken. We stopped in at the Chinese and Japanese art museums there as well as the required trip to the Atomium. We ended the evening with a curry buffet at Star of India.

Our Tour Daze France was a fantastic experience for Andrew and me (and Bill and Helen too I hope). We were pleased to share some of our favourite places in Europe, which is always a treat for us, as well as discovering some new favourites. We had an amazing time and are so grateful to Bill and Helen for visiting us here and sharing the experience with us. Thank you and giant hugs to you both.
Let’s do it again soon.

PS – The films will be picked up on Wednesday and I can actually start showing some of my own photos from the trip. True to my schedule of being six months behind on everything, we should be still enjoying the photos in August.

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Alison Cornford-Matheson is a Canadian freelance writer and travel photographer and the founder of She is the author of The Foodie Guide to Brussels: Local Tips for Restaurants, Shops, Hotels, and Activities. Alison landed in Belgium in 2005 and, over the years, has become passionate about slow and sustainable travel, in Europe and beyond. She loves to discover hidden gems - be they museums, shops, restaurants, castles, gardens or landscapes, and share them through her words and photos. She has visited 45 countries and is currently slow travelling through North America in an RV, with her husband, Andrew, and two well-travelled cats. You can also follow her work on Google+
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  1. Comment by expatraveler

    expatraveler February 12, 2007 at 16:16

    I think this is exactly why Europe is so wonderful. You can jump in and out of a country and view some awesome places in such short amount of time. Mind you that I’m still stuck in Canada but hoping my luck will change any day now…
    great pics!

  2. Comment by dARK sIDE dAD

    dARK sIDE dAD February 13, 2007 at 21:21

    hey there expat girl. The Tour Daze France was a blast, and the old parents did live to see another day, and make plans for the return. Just a quick correction, Jack MacRae was Bill’s great uncle, not uncle. Significant to the visit is that we think we are the first of the family to have ever visited his grave, although his loss to Granny Matheson was immeasurable. I think she felt that if Jack had lived, her life might have been different. Who knows?
    And those cookies from Dan???were wonderful. Kate will attest to that.
    darkside Mom

  3. Comment by Alison

    Alison February 14, 2007 at 09:58

    Oops, my bad, yes Great Uncle as we had the conversation about both of our Great Uncles fighting in the war and being burried overseas.
    And yes, we have made a few return trips to Dandoy… Mmmm… cookie….

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