The four weeks of this trip have been filled with all that I hoped for, and more than I expected. And now the time has come to return home. There is always a mixture of feelings at the end of a holiday and this time tinged with added pangs of sadness at saying farewell to Rosie.
We had a really nice few days back in Nijmegen. It was just what we both needed. A regrouping after our adventures in the U.K. For me it was particularly nice to be back on somewhat familiar turf, and to delve a little deeper into the life and times of this city that my daughter has made her home now (at least for the 2 years of her degree).
I am happy to report that my trip to the Netherlands did include riding a bike. We rode out to a village named Beek (pronounced “bake” – sort of) and then pushed the bikes up a hill (there are a few in the Netherlands) through the forest and then cycled along country roads back to the city. The weather was perfect, my mastery of the heavy hire bike with back pedal brakes (and no gears) less so, but with such amazing cycling infrastructure it is an absolute “must do”.
This weekend there is a big cycling festival in Nijmegen, which unfortunately I will miss. There were all kinds of events already underway, including an exhibition of decorated bikes. But to be honest I wonder about the necessity of it, except perhaps for a celebration of “fiets” (Dutch for bikes). Everyone it seems rides bikes or if too young, gets transported via them. I wonder whether the geography is the primary reason that cycling is so embraced, it certainly must contribute to the ease of use. I loved seeing older people (not Lycra clad – phew!) just out for a friendly ride, women in their good dresses, mum with a young child on the specially mounted front handle bar seat and the older child on a back seat and so many, many young people zipping around. A lasting vision I have was of a mother cycling next to her son aged about 7 or 8 with her hand on his shoulder so she could guide him through the heavy cycling traffic and the roads shared with cars. It was strange to me (and somewhat anxiety provoking) but spoke of a legacy of many generations of learning to ride a bike and negotiate the particularly Dutch riding conditions and rules.
While Rosie and I had our super special seasonal pancake (yes, it was pretty damn fine), I got to witness the bicycle buses going off to the school to pick up the kids. Great stuff! There were two kinds; one had a cart at the front that would seat about 8 preschool children and the other one was like a massive “silly cycle” (does anyone remember them??) where about 8 older children could take a seat and pedal with the “bus driver”. I was so impressed!!
Another wonderful thing about summer in Nijmegen is that there are pianos dotted around the place, sometimes brightly painted – an open invitation for anybody (talent optional?) to tickle the ivories. There was an impromptu jazz concert around the one in Kronenburger Park that we saw on an evening walk and then the day after I saw a guy rolling one down the street to a spot near a few cafes, later heard playing some half decent honkytonk. Rosie serenaded me with my favourite piece while I took in the scene of the pleasant summer evening.
Apparently, according to Rosie, I had probably seen more of Nijmegen than many international students see in the course of their studies. We did lots of walking and quite a bit of shopping. There is a distinct Dutch aesthetic in design that appeals to me. Clean lines, natural products and a touch of quirkiness… it’s not all delftware, clogs and tulips.
So as the sun sets on this wonderful holiday, I make my return to my home with some understanding of how and where one of my offspring lives on the other side of the world… and begin to entertain the idea of making an overseas move myself… time will tell…