Disclaimer alert! Despite my favorable opinion of Vantage, I have never nor will I ever accept compensation for opinions shared via this blog.
I was beyond excited. In fact, I’d apparently lost all common sense during that home visit. I trampled all over our hostess’ hospitality, unaware in the thrill of the moment the brutish nature of my behavior. I’m such a ditz!
Fortunately, I did come to my senses before committing the ultimate sin.
Yes, I went right on snapping pictures – of our gracious hostess, of her cozy home (inside and out), of the wonderful food and refreshments she’d provided for our consumption. I never even showed her the courtesy of asking permission before I commenced taking pictures. My first reaction wasn’t to simply savor her hospitality sans camera. Sadly, my first reaction was, “This will make a great blog post!”
Months later, with my sanity intact (well, as much as can be expected!), I still cringe at my lapse in judgment. I can’t exactly say when I went from this-will-make-a-great-blog-post to I-can’t-post-these-photographs. Suffice it to say, somewhere between insanity and epiphany I came to my senses.
I have no regrets. What I have is a better understanding of what it means to be a citizen of the world in an age of digital decadence. Obsessive digital documentation never begets a better story. If anything, the obsession becomes a barrier to the real story.
The real story (once I put my camera away) – a cultural connection that provided a unique glimpse into the life of a middle-aged Dutch widow, and a new global perspective on what it means to respect the privacy of friends and acquaintances all over the world.
If our tall hostess was any indication, behind the charming row houses (yes, the front doors were all Dutch doors) lining one of several canals in Enkhuizen, the multi-lingual residents live modestly, at least in comparison to suburbia back home. The Dutch frown on pretentiousness. How refreshing!
There was little doubt the heart of our hostess’ home was the cozy, tidy kitchen reminiscent of my grandmother’s back in the day. Hardwood floors from a 300-year-old church ran the length of the unit from living room to dining room to kitchen, all of maybe 30 feet. Just beyond the kitchen table a wall of windows framing a French door (all was painted white to match the kitchen cabinets and dining room buffet running gracing one wall) made the kitchen feel spacious and inviting.
We gathered at the kitchen table where there was no sign of “cake and coffee” among the items set out in anticipation of our visit. The food was simple, the quantity far from the decedent spreads back home that are as much about impressing the guests as it is actually feeding the guests. We had a choice of hollandse nieuwe haring, raw herring with chopped onions; gerookte paling, smoked eel; rookworst, sliced smoked sausage; Goudse kaas, chunky cuts of Gouda cheese with crackers; and my favorite, kaasbroodjes, little puff pastry balls about an inch in diameter that were soft and cheesy in the middle. Oh, and pretzel sticks for the less culturally adventurous.
Being the adventurous sort, I tried the Gouda cheese and crackers. Okay, I also tried the raw herring sprinkled with chopped onions. Interesting! And the sausage. Delicious!
The food came with a hearty helping of spirits: Zeer Oude Genever, Dutch gin, the most popular alcoholic drink in the Netherlands; Dujardin Premium Vieux Extra, Dutch brandy, essentially an imitation cognac for those who know their distilled beverages. I stuck to water, although I took the diplomatic high road and had a sip of Jimmy’s Genever. I knew I’d otherwise regret passing up the chance to try the most popular alcoholic beverage of the Netherlands. Not that I can offer an opinion when it comes to brandies in general, but the high proof, sweet elixir felt warm going down and left me feeling as sunny as the kitchen. Hum! Another sip was in order.
I don’t remember much of the conversation that afternoon. I’ll blame the brandy. I took notes for a bit, before the brandy, than finally came to my senses and gave up the brutish ghost a second time. I do remember our hostess sharing that she and her husband operated a B&B for 12 years, up until last fall when he passed, prompting her move to Enkhuizen, where she has family. I also remember feeling a genuine respect and admiration for this strong woman much more worldly than I.
I’m not sure I could welcome six strangers, foreigners fresh off the boat if you will, into my home for an afternoon of conversation and cultural connections, particularly when communication might be an issue. Sadly, I only speak one language. I did manage an awkward, Dank u wel, thank you very much, when we parted, and a handshake in return for one of the best travel moments ever!
After all, who says the best travel moments have to be Kodak moments.