Stepping off the train and into the arms of relatives began our transformation from tattered travelers to grateful guests. As if in a fantasy world, our lives were filled with luxury, constant laughter, and hugs. This new world offered rooms with a view, travel by car, and -behold- a private bathroom!
Above: Me walking with the fam down the cobbled streets.
Wining and dining with the van den Brand clan was a V.I.P. intermission for the world trip. For ten days, fancy hotels with fluffy feather beds and gigantic breakfast buffets took the place of metal hostel bunks and white bread with jam breakfasts.
Above: Maas River in Maastricht. Our hotel overlooked this site.
Meeting aunts, cousins and friends of the family occupied the first few days in Maastricht, a quaint cobblestoned town along the River Maas. All of the van den Brand fam came together to host Jason and I, Jason’s dad and his wife Mary, and Uncle Peter and Aunt Carol. We quickly learned that it was not an option to clear dishes or help serve drinks, as we were the special guests. Dutch and Americans alike sat in the back garden, chatting about the old photo albums being passed around and enjoying the home cooked local cuisine.
Above: One of the last photos of the van den Brand’s complete family after moving to The States.
Left to right: Peter, Rob, Ann, Wilhelmus and Paula
Afterwards, we exchanged emails and planned to meet up again for meals and events during the following nine days. During the remaining days we discovered the goodies at a flea market in Belgium, ate breakfast and visited with Tante Nelly, toured historical Maastrict and tasted Wickse Witte beer in the town square.
Above: Belgium’s Famous Fries Shop by the flea market
Above: Strawberry Torte that Tante Mimi served.
The last night in Maastrict was spent with Cor and Ann, second cousins of Jason’s who own a historical home in the countryside. We dined in their backyard and Mary, Carol and I were given many of Ann’s fashionable boutique finds as gifts. I also received a gold ring and turquoise earrings that she wanted me to have after seeing me wear a turquoise ring from India. After Ann’s famous dessert waffles (see the recipe section of this blog) it was time to say farewell, and a few tears slipped down our cheeks, as there is never enough time when you visit family!
Above: Cousin Ann, the fashion icon on the family, checks out her brother Theo’s car.
Amsterdam provided a playground for the rest of the family vacation, with boat rides down the canal, a picnic lunch in Vondel Park, and special Dutch dinners.
Above: Amsterdam’s Vondel Park Entrance
After a tearful farewell to Rob, Mary, Pete and Carol, Jason and I digressed, toting our bags from the four-star Golden Tulip Hotel’s marble lobby to a smoke-filled basement where we were to check into our dorm room hostel. Back to reality, Peter Pan!
For more photos of our family reunion, see www.fooltimejob.com, where you will see a slide show that Jason created of old and new snapshots.
Below is a photo shoot Jason took of me, spelling my name:
Here are some photos of the relatives we visited:
Above: Jan van den Brand runs a painting school in Valkenburg.
Above: Cousin Peter was our tour guide, helping arrange all of our outings and always laughing!
Above: Theo Boumans (far left) took the clan to dinner in Aachen, Germany.
Above: One of many windmills in the Netherlands