Saturday, November 12, 2011

A full dose of fall

I love the fall! All the gorgeous colors, falling leaves, and crisp air. A couple weeks ago, we got our weekly Groupon--we get the Netherlands version every week--this deal popped up, and we snagged it: two nights for two people at a nice hotel in the middle of the Dutch countryside just west of Germany, north of Belgium. Plus, it included breakfast and the full spa access package! Of course, if you tell any Dutch person you're going to Asten for the weekend, they say "Where is that?" When I tell them in the Noord-Brabant province near Eindhoven, they giggle and say "Why do you want to go there?!" My only excuse is that I'm a permanent tourist in this country.  

We didn't get our rental car until around 7pm from Rotterdam airport, but then we hit the road immediately. About halfway to Asten we were starved and decided to stop at a rest-stop--our first international rest-stop experience! It was pretty basic: convenient store, gas station, the usual. None of the fast food looked very appetizing, so instead we searched for some beer to enjoy when we finally arrived at the hotel. Surprisingly, we couldn't find any beer! When I asked the cashier where we could get beer, he said, "in Belgium." Elliot laughed and asked if there was anywhere closer. He said, "Belgium is 1 kilometer south. It's very close." We hadn't realized how close we were! So we drove another 5 minutes south and stopped at the Belgian rest-stop. We got a few beers and ended up sharing a very rare steak and frites. Success!

140 kilometers later...Right when we got to the hotel, around 9:30pm, we headed to the spa straight away. It was so nice to sit in the steam room!

The next morning we had a quick gym session and then hit the breakfast buffet. Wow! Compared to our usual humble breakfast of oatmeal and bananas, this was such a treat! All types if breads (fresh and warm!) cheese, meats, jams; hot food, cold food; fresh fruit and yogurt. We tried not to stuff ourselves, but after reading the paper for almost an hour, why not have a second, ahem, third round?! Yes, gluttons.

Finally we rolled out to our cute little car and headed for Helmond, a small town with a Saturday market. After we parked, we just so happened to walk right under another set of cube houses! How strange! These fit more with the countryside theme with their wood paneling and green accents, but I think I prefer Rotterdam's mighty yellow version. The market was pretty much the same thing as the Rotterdam market, so nothing really caught my eye. Another cute Dutch town checked off this list!

Our Groupon also came with a free coffee at a sister hotel in the next town over, Deurne. Couldn't pass up that deal, so we made our way there. Deurne was dead! Apparently everyone was at the market in Helmond.

On our way out of Deurne, we saw an entrance to some sort of nature trail. After driving in circles trying to find how the cars got over there, across the fietspad, past a horse race, and over a pasture of cows--we found it. A beautiful walk! 

Around 4pm, we were ready for the spa again. We got some work done (yes we both brought our laptops, bad!) and then decided to get dinner first. The hotel staff recommended a place called 'Friends' in the town of Asten. Why not? In a few minutes we had a table and ordered a burger and a salad to share. It ended up being a huge portion of both, and we rolled out of there and headed for the spa.

Isn't there some rule about not participating in water sports within two hours after a meal? Well, if sauna and steam are considered water sports, then 30 minutes after meal is not enough! Neither of us will make that mistake again! Nevertheless, a lengthy steam gave way to a lovely deep sleep.

We woke up an hour earlier than usual--European time change was Elliot's first birthday present of the day! Happy 29! Wow, this is our 7th year of birthdays together, amazing.

We had another gluttonous, but leisurely breakfast of eggs, croissants, sautéed mushrooms, and more. When we went back to the room to pack up it was only 9:30am, still had two hours til checkout! Oh well, we had a great time and were totally spa'd out. Plus we had an agenda for the day, and looking back I'm glad we headed out nice and early!

Our first stop was the town of Asten. It was definitely a sleepy Sunday--this town was dead. We saw the church and the town windmill, and well that's about it. Oh, and some chickens!

The next stop was the Groot Peel National Park. The fall is in full force here, and the leaves reminded me of the autumn I spent in rural Japan. What an incredible palette of colors! We had a nice walk in the park and a quick coffee in the café. We drove around for a little saw some castle ruins, some incredibly feathered chickens, and then we happened upon a golf course and driving range! Since it was his birthday, he couldn't pass up the opportunity to hit a few balls. 

And with that, our Noord-Brabant adventures came to a close. We had a lovely time! 

1 comment:

  1. Lovely, lovely pics. Autumn like we do not get here on the central coast. BTW, dad thinks that Braband was where Oma stayed during the war!


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