Bergen op Zoom and Antwerp 

It was time to visit some old friends – Jess and Nabil –  in Bergen op Zoom, on the edge of the province of Brabant. Our journey that day wasn’t very long so we arrived in the afternoon with plenty of time to catch up and then go into the city. The centre of Bergen op Zoom has lots of beautiful 16th and 17th century buildings and is lovely place to walk around. 

The next day while everyone was still sleeping I sneaked out of bed, hopped on the bicycle and went out for a ride. Jessica had told us about some woodland near by so I found it on my map and headed that way. It was great to be out so early and once I was cycling it wasn’t cold at all. The woodland was quite tame compared to where I was hiking in Germany last week – paved footpaths and markers everywhere – but was still beautiful. I arrived back just as everyone was getting up which was perfect.

That afternoon Jess and I decided to go into Antwerp for a look around. Again, Jake and I were here last year but only for an afternoon so it was great for me to go back with someone who knows the city. We didn’t do much: we visited a church, we walked around the centre of the city, visited the red light district and went for a drink. I quickly decided that I like this city a lot – it’s a real city. It’s not postcard perfect and spotlessly clean, much the opposite. It’s a bit dirty and rough around the edges but this doesn’t matter. It’s very multicultural, is lively and really feels lived in.

We came across a monastery, hidden among the buildings in the centre. Here we found a fantastic sculpture dedicated to the refugees. Each figure was individually created and beneath hung the persons story. It was very moving.

That evening Nabil and Jake met us in the centre and we went to China town for a meal. As everyone knows, we love Asian food a lot so for us this was perfect. I even found my favorite noodle dish – kuay taow. As usual, the meals were huge so we had our packed lunch sorted for the next day!

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Jessica and Nabil had told us about a pretty fortified town not far from Bergen op Zoom so the next day we made our way to Willemstad. The road we took passed through the countryside and from this perspective we could really see just how flat the country is. We could see for miles. Lacking hills, the Netherlands is also pretty windy and today we really felt this; Jake spent the whole journey fighting with the wind. We were both freezing by the time we arrived.

Once we warmed up a bit and looked around we soon saw that it was worth the ride. The town is centralized on a small canal which links to the sea. The buildings within the walls have all been very well preserved and cared for and the whole atmosphere was quite quaint.

Our next stop was Breda, the closest big town. Again it’s lovely town with 17th century buildings all around. It would be lovely to spend some time walking through I’m sure but, obviously that’s not on the cards for me right now. Instead we relaxed with a drink for a short while then made our way onwards.

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I’d found on the map a ‘castle’ close to Breda so on the way back we decided to stop. It was beautiful. Imagine living in a house on an island!

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After 2 days it was time to move on to Zeeland, it was a short stay with Jess and Nabil – it just means we’ll have to come back soon! 

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