I still had one 10 euro Blokker train ticket left.
"Where do you want to go this time lads?"
Alexei: "Middelburg", Andrew: "Leeuwaarden".
"Leeuwaarden it is then. I've already been to Middelburg."
Long train journeys have become much more relaxing since Alexei got a PSP for christmas. Money well spent. The train was packed. "Why are all these people going to Leeuwaarden?", I thought. As it turned out, they weren't. Going to Leeuwaarden, I mean. All was revealed when the train stopped on the outskirts of Heerenveen. At Heerenveen Ijsstadion. Aaah - that explains it. Some skating competition had filled the train. If I were Dutch, I probably would have realised it was on. But I'm English and have almost as much interest in skating as in Zoroastrianism. No, that's not true. I am slightly intrigued by Zoroastrianism.
It was raining when we arrived. A leaden low sky and persistent drizzle make a town look its best, I always feel. Where is everyone? More importantly, why are all the pubs shut?
Did I tell you about my Dutch Pub Guide? When Tim Webb pulled The Netherlands from his guide, I put together a web replacement. How generous of me. Well, not really. It's for my use. I like to have a few leads when I arrive in a new town. The Leeuwaarden section isn't long. Almost 3 entries, it has. We headed for entry number one.
Dikke Van Dale had everything going for it: it was open, heated and dry. Perfect. Dad was in need of warming up. Like so many of the trendier cafes in Holland, its beer-buying hands are securely tied by Inbev. Westmalle Dubbel and a Korenwijn, maybe? Oh look at that - Hertog Jan Grand Prestige on draught. That'll do.
You know those dismal fake Victorian interiors you find in Britih pubs? Van Dale has a classier version. It must have something to do with the way I was brought up, but I find something disturbing about fake books used as decoration. They're almost as bad as fake handpumps.
I like to have a cultural destination planned when I drag the kids off. In Leeuwaarden, it was the Natuurmuseum Fryslân. Skeletons are good entertainment for the kids. I left the kids to wander and sought out the cafeteria. What, no beer? Aaaaagggghh.
According to my highly accurate guide, Strohoed (Leeuwaarden's only real beer pub) didn't open until three. At 15:05 I was staring at its locked door. What's that sign in the window say? Bum. Another 55 minutes to wait.
Finding somewhere to wait out those minutes wasn't easy. It was raining again. We ended up in somewhere that looked more like a tearoom. Westmalle Tripel - that'll do nicely.
Here are my notes:
"Strohoed - a long, thin pub in a typically Dutch pubby style. (My powers of description had been washed away by all the rain.) Andrew is whinging. What's wrong with him? I bought them Vice City for the PSP. Miserable gits. No, I shouldn't be unfair, Alexei is being quite reasonable. Andrew complains that his knees are hurting. They will be soon, when I take a hammer to them.
Reasonable enough brown beer café. Piano. Upright. Whingeing effing kids spoiling my 5 minutes in the real beer pub. Standard day out.
Last night I dreamt that I lost my coat and had to borrow Matt's. It was crap. Didn't keep the wind out. Fascinating, eh?"
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