Four Verbanszkys in Europe 2014 travel blog

A warm summer rain is drizzling outside and gently tapping on the patio covering. Stephanie is researching our excursions, Izabella is entertaining herself with a floor puzzle, and Zenobia is taking her mid-morning nap.

This small home is perfect for our needs. It has a nice large common area, plenty of bedrooms and a backyard with a trampoline and a swing set. The patio is attached to the common area and a large sliding glass door can be opened to make it part of the living room. It is open and the fresh air from the rain is invigorating. Everything is so green and lush and clean.

It is hard to imagine that we are within kilometers of some of the most brutal World War II battle sites, including Arnhem that is featured in the film “A Bridge too Far.” Most of this area and small towns were destroyed during the war.

The owners of the home kindly left us breakfast as well that consisted of flaky croissants, crusty brötchen, sweet raisin biscuits, a large bowl of fresh cherries, slices of Gouda and a thin spiced bologna of some sort. We could not keep up with Zenobia's consumption of the bologna and Izabella's inhaling of the cherries.

The rain outside is more forceful now, but it is still comfortably warm. Although my childhood was filled with warm rain, I have been so trained by Northern California living that I equate rain with cold. Izabella was bouncing on the trampoline in the garden when it began to drizzle and wanted to run for cover. She was visibly surprised to discover that it was not the expected cold rain from home and returned to her bouncing.

The plan today is just to take it easy. We slowly showered and geared ourselves for the rain and are going to do a little local exploring after Zenny wakes from her nap.

Not long after I wrote the last line, Zenny did wake up and we loaded up the car. To keep Izabella entertained as I was buckling her into her car seat, I was being silly by speaking in garbles, guttural intonations, and saying words in a combination of a Swedish Chef and an Indian Taxi driver.

I dropped into the driver's seat as I heard Izzy say loud and proud,”Mommy! Daddy can speak Dutch!”

And there you have a great description of what Dutch sounds like, especially on television when they get excited about the performance of soccer players in a game.

I did not have the heart to tell Izzy that I don't speak Dutch, but Stephanie corrected her accordingly.

I am too far from being Dutch anyway because I smile way more and actually exhibit emotions when interacting with others. That has been hard to get used to. The Dutch we encountered are never rude, just overly reserved to a point where I am not sure how to read them. Once we start chatting with them more, however, they loosen up, but until then one has no idea how they feel. The Germans are similar but the Dutch are more so.

We drove around Heijen and the other small villages and quickly noticed that they are all very young for European standards—which is obvious since all had to be rebuilt after World War II. They have quaint little red brick homes and are placed neatly along narrow streets. So often I think that I am going the wrong way on a one-way street for the roads seem too small for two-directions traffic.

There are a lot of farm fields around: green stalks of corn, golden wheat, red tomatoes and peppers, and any color of flowers one can think of. Occasionally a rustic farm house or a field with miniature horses or sheep breaks up the miles of agriculture.

Satisfied with exploring, it was time to go get lunch. We took Sandra's recommendation and headed to Eethuis de Diepen in Milsbeek. We drove out of Milsbeek and literally traveled along the German border for a few kilometers, green fields on both sides—one side Netherlands, the other Germany. Just as I thought we may have missed it, we came across the restaurant.

The restaurant specializes in pannenkoeken (a combination of pancake and crepe) and we were excited to try them. Stephanie shared that when her family traveled through Amsterdam in 2001 while Stephanie traveled through other parts of Europe, her teen aged brother, David, according to Peggy, supposedly lived off of pannenkoeken. And I can understand why! They come sweet or savory, simple or luxurious. And they are filling—almost too filling.

We ordered a glass of a local beer called Grimbergen—which was incredible—as well as a pannenkoeken for each of us. Stephanie had cheese, peppers, and salami on hers. Zenny got one with cheese, I had one with blood sausages, salami, ham, bacon, and a sprinkling of vegetables. Izabella simply had apples. But hers was even more exciting. Translated to be called the Clown Plate, it came with little bowls of various toppings: rainbow sprinkles, gummis, chocolate flakes, whip cream, long strings of licorice, and other candies. The point of it is for the child to decorate the pannekoeken with these items. Izzy sure did and ate the whole thing. Did it look like a clown? Not really. But she had a lot of fun with it.

Zenny discovered on Izabella's plate little pastel-colored sugar balls. Oh, did she go to town on those and was visibly frustrated when she could not reach more.

With kids' pannenkoeken come these small tokens. After the meal, kids go and turn in these tokens for little plastic toys made in China, such as bracelets, rubber duckies, etc. Izzy took the liberty to take Zenny's token as well and picked up a princess necklace and bracelet of bright pink plastic. At least it wasn't another temporary tattoo for she still is sporting the ones she got at her birthday party.

The other thing that was great about this place was the playground attached to it. It had two sets of climbing structures and slides; teeter-totters, swings, a mini soccer field, and a spinning contraption. While we waited for our food, Izabella had a fabulous time playing on the various structures. Other kids were doing the same, while we parents could relax. Of course, once Zenobia saw her sister out there she wanted to go too. Thus, one of us had to take a turn watching the kids, while the other enjoyed the solitude savoring every moment of the dark ale in hand....and ordering another!

After a filling afternoon meal, we needed to head to the nearby town, Gennep, to buy some groceries.

We found a grocery store tucked in among buildings that we missed the first time. The store was bustling with people grabbing many cases of beer and rushing out of the store. Temporary signs were posted reminding customers that the store will close at 5:30 pm due to the Netherlands versus Mexico World Cup game at 6 pm. It was about 4:30 pm.

And speaking of World Cup, everything is orange! Banners, ribbons, balloons, wigs, flags, t-shirts, etc. It is unbelievable how many things can be orange. I, personally, love the color orange—probably due to my favorite holiday: Halloween—and think it is great. There is so much excitement for the Dutch soccer team this year and people are expecting great things.

We bought a bunch of food stuffs for breakfast and dinners, figuring our main meals will be out and about around lunch time. We also picked up some Dutch football regalia for, after all, “when in Rome!”

We got back in time to make dinner and watch the game, sporting our new orange gear. At home is was 9 am, here it was 6 pm.

The game was exciting and, in the end, the Netherlands won. Since it was still warm and light outside, we had the main window open. The cheers from around town were echoing throughout. I think the entire nation of Netherlands cheered!

(It is too bad we don't have a sport that unites the entire nation as the world cup does for other nations.)

Later that evening we tried to also watch the Costa Rica versus Greece game, but since it started at 10 pm, we barely made it to see the end when the Greek coach was kicked out of the stadium. Costa Rica won and we went to bed.

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