John’s experience in Etten-Leur

During my five mile drive to site each morning it’s very noticable how cars give way to bikes, there are cycle paths everywhere, an absence of hills, all bikes have luggage racks and lots of secure covered cycle parking is available……… the UK has a very long way to go.

Cycle parking at the hotel.


Initial concerns about running a training course in a foreign country quickly evaporated, everyone speaks excellent English and seems to understand every word – occasionally the group reverts to speaking Dutch to discuss some detail points but then take the trouble to summarise that discussion in English, probably because I’m looking blankly at them.  Of course the only Dutch words I can remember are ‘Circuit Zandvoort’ and “Arnhem a Bridge to Far”.  Although everyone speaks English they pointed out that they do struggle with a Newcastle accent and for some reason phrases such as “Yer gannin’ proper radgie, man. Caln doon, al mek a cuppa.” seem to cause difficulty.

At lunchtime, everything stops as we briskly head to the site canteen, the idea is to get there early enough to make sure some Kroketten are still available. Dutch Kroketten are about ten times larger than croquettes found in the U.K. and seem to consist of potato together with some unidentified meat in a savoury béchamel sauce rolled in breadcrumbs. This sought after delicacy is then enthusiastically mashed onto a slice of rye bread before being eaten with a sliced boiled egg on top.


Having skilfully avoided Kroketten yesterday, my hosts encouraged me to try them today. As fast food goes it was fine but its unlikely they will feature on our menu at home.
Soup also seems very popular and my hosts were rather surprised when I declined soup to go with the Kroquettes they had acquired for me. Even the hotel has six different soups on the menu, one of which is courgette and we’re tempted to take some home for Matt!


A day in Etten-Leur

Today’s challenge was a two mile walk into Etten-Lear, there was no way I could sit on a bike again!

I do like such easy walking, the pavements are wide and it really is very flat. The main road has a series of watercourses running alongside it, I assume for drainage. They’re neatly planted with lilies, reed’s and bamboo and home to a wide range of waterfowl and amphibians. Obviously I had to stop and check out each one on my way!

The town itself felt very modern with a shiny, new shopping centre surrounded by shopping streets. Everywhere seems very clean and well cared for. I managed to find the main square where I sat opposite ‘Van Gogh’s Kerk’. Van Gogh’s father was the vicar at this church and Vincent grew up in Etten. There is a small museum, disappointingly, it only opens afternoons and not on Tuesdays so I feel I’ve missed the cultural heart of the town.

Intrepid explorer that I am, I decided to take a different route back to the hotel which took me past some interesting sights..

As far as I can work out, the stijloren is a jester and carnivals are held in his honour. If anyone can find a site that translates into English, please let me know, I’d like to know more about this weird looking man.
I walked through many different types of housing, most of which would have me searching Rightmove with a view to living here but I also saw some run down, poorly maintained housing which was a reality check. Until then, everything I’d indicated a country with high standards for everyone. The award for the most unexpected sight goes to what, in the U.K., would have been a poorly maintained grassed roundabout in the middle of a housing estate. Here it had been fenced and was an unusual wildlife haven with a small herd of fallow deer, a turkey, a peacock and a selection of geese. The picture isn’t great but at least I remembered to take one….

To help you remember that John is here with me, here’s his highlight of the trip so far…. Last night we ventured out of the hotel to find a big DIY shop next door, John loves foreign shops and this could only have been bettered by a supermarket! He’s always on the look out for the things you wouldn’t see at home, I’m not sure that we’ll get home without one….