corders in the hague

It's like having the Corders round for dinner - except the kids don't smash stuff and Mike doesn't drink all your booze. And when you're bored you can get rid of us with a mouse click rather than having to start tidying up the house.

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Location: The Hague, Netherlands

Monday, August 20, 2007

No puppies

You'd look like this too if somebody had just removed your ovaries without asking.
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Hols IV

Langres Cathedral.
Last stop was Langres, halfway between the Alps and Voorburg where we pitched camp for a nights to break up the journey. I'd never heard of Langres, but it was a beautiful walled town with an old church and streets and streets of amazingly preserved old houses. It was so picturesque even Esther and Julia didn't whinge as we dragged them around the place.

Julia's Velvet Underground moment.
It was all so unspoiled and timeless, that all the pictures I took that day somehow look better in black and white.
Somebody even parked an old Citroen in this street to add a bit of atmosphere.
And then it was done. We had our last meal in France in an Italian restaurant, saw rain clouds looming, broke camp and made a six-hour dash through northern France, Luxembourg, Belgium and home. When I found my motorbike was still parked where I left it chained to the house, my holiday joy was complete.
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Hols III

All hail the Alpine weather.
For those of you interested in continuity and who haven't read the blog for a while, I'd suggest scrolling down a couple of posts and then returning here.
After moving mum into her new house, we headed across country and uphill to my brother Will's new chalet, which he bought with soon-to-be-wife Alex near Les Deux Alpes. We stayed there for three nights enjoying fine food, learning to play poker and wandering around the mountains.

The ski lift in Venosc, gateway to the real mountains.
One day we all boarded a nasty ski lift to head up to Les Deux Alpes where you can ski all year around if you want to take an hour long cable car odyssey to a glacier, which the girls did. I stayed at the base with Will and his soon-to-be-brother-in-law Ben and played golf. Much more civilized, particularly after my chip in birdie on the fourth.

Pining for some decent weather.
While we were at Will's - and just before we went camping at a site down the road - we had the immense pleasure of watching a fantastic hail storm batter the valley they live in causing only minor flooding to Will and Alex's basement. The picture at the top of this post shows their deck littered with hail stones that undoubtedly would have punched straight through our tent had we been sleeping in it. As it was, the girls hit the hot tub on the deck just until the lightning started, at which point they beat a hasty retreat. The more sensible among us stayed inside drinking beer and contemplating just how much fun the storm would have been under canvas.

Will and Alex's place.
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Friday, August 17, 2007

Hols I

In the clouds in the Vosges.

So, we’re back from France after tooling around the country visiting my mother and brother, getting wet, sunburned, frozen and windswept, being treated like royalty and like shit by the French.
Getting to France from The Hague is an entertaining process Australians on your island continent can only dream about.
If you leave early and don’t get held up every two miles by a Dutch sleurhut (see earlier post for translation) attempting to overtake a truck doing 80kmh uphill (good luck avoiding that happening to you), you can hit France for lunch and rack up your fourth country in as many hours after the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. I’ve spent longer than that in queues to check in at Sydney airport.
We lunched at a roadside service station in Luxembourg where thousands of penny-pinching Dutch drivers were queuing up for hours to save a few euros on their fuel bills thanks to low Luxembourg tax. My guess is that if you leave your engine running while sitting in the pre-petrol pump traffic jam your idling engine wastes more money than you earn from the cheap fuel.
For our first ever trip with pooch, those helpful Luxemburgers had fenced off a dog dunny and even more helpfully, they put the picnic tables right next to it, so we could watch dogs crapping and smell the turds while we ate.
As well as our first trip with dog, it was also the first European excursion for our satellite navigation system nicknamed Rob in honor of AP Sydney photographer Rob Griffith, a lover of all gadgets and early advocate of the technology. We even managed to program the thing to talk to us in an Australian accent.

I know we pitched the tent around here somewhere...

I don’t want this to sound like an advert (unless somebody at Tom Tom wants to pay me wads of cash), but the thing was a small miracle. To get to our first stop, a tiny campsite near the mountain village of Gerardmer in the Vosges, it directed us across country and up roads that were barely more than goat tracks, bringing us unerringly to the forest clearing and its bustling population of Dutch campers (if you are having trouble being plagued by Dutch people all over the world and want to escape, I suggest you visit the Netherlands in July or August. The place is empty).Let’s draw a veil over the Vosges (pretty though it is in a pine-clad, rolling hills kind of way). It rained. We left the tent windows rolled up. Our stuff got wet.We packed up the tent the following morning in pouring rain with kids steaming in the car. The rain stopped the very second we closed the door to drive away but Esther and Julia still had their first experience of driving through clouds rather than under them.We then plowed south under gray skies – even the sunflowers in fields along the way seemed embarrassed and gazed at the shoes in the absence of any sun to turn their faces towards.
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Hols II

The Ibie.

Next stop was the Ardeche, where we had eight days of the kind of beautiful weather that could have even transformed me into an avid camper had it not been for the three French families who shoehorned their tents onto the pitch next to ours at a beautiful, supposedly quiet, little camping a la ferme. They must have had a dozen kids between them and they screamed every hour on the hour throughout the night. They (the barely-old-enough-to- walk kids) went to bed a couple of hours after us and got up a couple of hours before we wanted to be awake and got progressively more tired and cranky the longer they stayed.
But generally our stay was great, we basked next to a river called the Ibie where generations of Corders have swum and sunned themselves amid the scent of wild thyme mixed with lavender.

Mum's new house - the one on the right with the blue shutters.

We also helped mum move into her new house despite the fact that it had no electricity, running water or a kitchen. Even the pool wasn’t finished. The deprivation of it all.Helping move gave me one of the great moments of the holiday. Lugging furniture around one day it felt like the entire male population of mum’s tiny village spontaneously turned out to help - even the little man with battered cap, scuffed dress shoes under his shorts and the same self-rolled cigarette that has been hanging off his bottom lip for the 25 years I’ve seen him around. After we shifted mum’s furniture, we all went to her neighbor’s garden for a midday Pastis. It was about as quintessentially French as a bloke in a striped shirt with strings of garlic slung around his neck.This idyllic scene was offset by the unbelievable snottiness of a waitress in a restaurant in Vallon, the town closest to mum’s house and one which relies on tourism for its survival. On Esther’s birthday all she wanted in the evening was to go out for an omelet in town. We went to a nice restaurant which had omelet on the menu. Trouble was it turned out to be the lunch menu and this waitress refused to have the kitchen cook the birthday girl one in the evening. It suppose it could happen anywhere, but the French do seem to have a bit of a reputation for this kind of thing.It’s getting late so that’s going to have to do for now. More later.
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