We spent a lovely week in the “Achterhoek” (rear-corner) region of The Netherlands. Maaike’s parents had found a beautiful little holiday home to stay in. Extremely efficient use of space (see the steep stairs in one of the pics.)

From there we were able to get out on a few bike rides and explore the area. It’s was (is?) a rich part of the country, and old. We visited Zutphen a beautiful old town, one of the oldest in the country. It had been part of the Hanseatic League which was basically a group of rich trading cities that supported eachother (lasted 300 years!) It’s incredible when you think that it lasted 300 years, I wonder how much longer the EU or the UK are going to last. Frankly I hope the EU at least survives the upcoming Brexit insanity.

I also worked a number of days. It’s so incredibly lucky to be able to have this role. If I was pinching myself to keep believing it wasn’t just a dream, well, I’d be black and blue all over! I guess remote working isn’t for everyone, but, I love the flexibility it affords.

We also went past a quite pretty looking house, turned out to be owned by a billionaire Dutchman – Onstein, fairytale stuff (though his story isn’t entirely fairytale like, daughter was kidnapped etc.). Also had lunch at another of his places – Ruurlo. He has turned it into a museum for his art collection.

Anyway, a really lovely time exploring the area. Anna’s first time out in a bike trailer, she quite liked it (well, she didn’t say otherwise, though perhaps that’s ‘cos she can’t actaully talk yet)

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Camping – Irish stylez

It was coming to the end of the first 1/3 of our time in Europe & Ireland. Before leaving though my eldest brother Chris suggested going for a short hike. More an excuse to get away for a night and have some delicious steaks and wine. Apparently this is how people camp in Ireland these days ;) It was delicious, though, I feel I probably ought to go vegetarian (or at least weekend-a-tarian).

It was a nice spot. I think we actually missed where we were supposed to be and it ended up being a very short walk. That said, it was really lovely down by the river. There was plenty of firewood, we found a decent flat spot to camp, and it was just lovely hanging out. It’s different being in a place where there’s 4G access though. That’s definitely one of the nice things about NZ, when you go bush, there’s really nothing for yourself or others to be distracted by, at least connectivity wise.

Being close to Dublin, and maybe just in Ireland (I’m not sure), there was quite a bit of rubbish at the site. Chris makes a (really good) habit of bringing along rubbish sacks and collecting as much as can be fitted in. Really good practice. I can’t say I’ve noticed quite the same level of rubbish at NZ sites, but, I’m generally not camping that close to cities I guess. Still, honestly, it was just lovely to get away with me auld brother (and young nephew!) and just hang out. It was a pretty spot.

Next, scrabble, mum had a huge victory, the cactus flowered (just after we’d left), and flew to Eindhoven for the next part of the “holiday”

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The National Arboretum, Tintern Abbey and The Hook lighthouse

In fairness it was Maaike’s idea to head out of Dublin for a holiday! It’s very hard to get mum and dad (mum especially) to stop doing “tasks” while she’s at home. So, we headed away for a few days down to Waterford. We had a nice little cottage (once we’d found out how to turn the heating on) and really enjoyed exploring the area, not somewhere I’ve been before.

The national arboretum is absolutely worth a visit if you’re in the area. We were there when the rhododendrons were coming into flower, and it was just lovely. We had a really nice guide to trundle us around the place in a golf car. Mum and Dad are pretty good with plants and species, so, they had lots to discuss. Frankly I’m pretty impressed at all the things they can keep in their heads and distinguish!, not a skill I currently have.

If you do visit the arboretum, just behind it is Slieve Coilte, a highpoint with a nice view. Good place to have a picnic if it’s a calm day. Decent views all around.

From Slieve Coilte, we headed on down to Tinturn Abbey – (not the welsh one). Built back in 12th Century by the Earl of Pembroke after he was caught in a storm, it was colonised by the Cistercians until the dissolution of the monasteries, after which it was held privately. It fell into ruin, but, it was actually lived in right up until 1959!! Interestingly, the OPW (Office Public Works) in Ireland restored it (ish) to the original monastic ways, however, if they were doing it now, they’d leave it more as is – as it’s quite interesting to see how a buildings use changes over time. Must have been a bitterly cold place to live though!

A short walk from Tintern is the Colclough walled gardens (pronounced Coke-lee) built over 200 years ago and which fell into disrepair. It has been lovingly restored by a group of volunteers, and it looks great now.

After that we headed on down to The Hook peninsula and lighthouse. Lovely views, and a great guide for just us (we were the end of the day). It’s one of the oldest lighthouses in the world, and the second oldest currently operating lighthouses. Built back in 1240 by the same bloke (Pembroke) wot built Tintern. Originally a monastery, they had to light signal fires to warn ships – a lighthouse effectively. Pembroke wanted a way to guide people safely up into the harbour at New Ross (which he’d established). The walls are 4m thick and it has great vaulted ceilings. Worth a visit.

We also had a visit to the Dunbrody famine ship. It has a good exhibition about the famine. That was really an insanely bad time for Ireland.

The worst year of the period, that of "Black 47", is known in Irish as Bliain an Drochshaoil. During the famine, about one million people died and a million more emigrated from Ireland, causing the island's population to fall by between 20% and 25%.

Absolutely insane really. Mind you, when you think of it in terms of what climate change will do (countries going under water) we’re set for some real migration issues coming up. That’s why mum pointed out they don’t campaign against climate change – so much as for climate justice.

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