Windmills, cheese & Planete Chocolat
Luckily for our wallets we were following Public Holidays down the Rhine. I could easily have let the moths out of my purse in both Gorinchem and Dordrecht, as the small, original shops were tantalising.
Dordrecht was our first sighting of windmills and off we went to visit them at Kinderdijke which is a UNESCO site. Water Management involves the whole community here and to realise that windmills dated 1734 are still operational when the cry of “All hands to the pumps” is called, is very sobering.
Constantly keeping the water at bay, families (sometimes with 13 children) tried to make a living from the reclaimed land whilst always being on call for pump duty. Living in windmills – could this be the solution to our own employment, housing and energy problems? I was sorry to leave Dordrecht as I was already comparing prices in estate agents windows.
On we sailed to Willemstad for our overnight mooring. A peaceful village, full of the sailing fraternity, for it seems the Dutch all have boats to play with during the holidays.
Reaching Antwerp early next morning we found ourselves in a busy city with building cranes everywhere, clearly a city constantly evolving. We had an excellent tour guide named Mark who took us on a walking tour through the old parts of the city and showing us fashion houses where the prices displayed made your eyes water.
We paid homage to Rubens and learnt about the giant whose hand was cut off and thrown into the river because he demanded too much tax from sailors, thus the name Antwerp of today means Hand Werpen = Hand Thrown!
We then met Melanie, our Tour Manager, at the oldest restaurant in Antwerp called the Rooden Hoed where the owner had especially opened his doors on this Public Holiday to allow us to sample three types of beer and cheeses with crusty bread. A good siesta was needed after this.
Today was the highlight for the Commemorative Battlefields group as they went off to Ypres and the Menen gate for the sunset salute and dinner. They returned very sober after seeing such a sight.
As we arrived in Brussels the next day, the heavens opened, we got a good drenching, seeking shelter under the statue of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza no less, but help was in sight. Just two steps away from la Grand-Place and Mannekin-Pis, the Planète Chocolat chocolaterie opened its doors to us. Melanie had arranged a demonstration on how those delicious praline chocolates are made – a skill which we will all try at home this Christmas I am sure! This was a welcome opportunity to warm up with a cup of hot chocolate and gave us an insight into this famous artisan chocolate workshop. No-one declined the samples offered to us afterwards either.
Ladies were now able to open their purses and with gifts in mind, chocolate shoes and animals would all be UK bound in the morning. We were all happy with the knowledge straight from the Chocolate atelier’s mouth – and it is now official – ‘Chocolate Noir is good for you’!
We left MPS Rotterdam the next morning, with the crew waving goodbye. They were a special team.
The coach turned towards Calais once more and as we could not check into the overnight hotel until 4.00 pm our driver, Maurice, took us to Ghent with its beautiful buildings and canals. This city is well worth a City Break and I shall have to go back as the rain again stopped play that day.
Thank you to the team at Shearings Holidays and the crew onboard MPS Rotterdam, we had a wonderful cruise down the Rhine and I cannot think of a better way to unwind and watch the world go by. We’ll spend the next few weeks trying to lose the weight we put on!
- Read Rhine Cruise with Shearings Holidays – Chapter 1
- Read Rhine Cruise with Shearings Holidays – Chapter 2