Chapter 3: Gorinchem, small and perfectly formed
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An early start this Thursday morning to take a walking tour around the small Dutch town of Gorinchem, and I was so grateful for the tea station in the lounge which runs 6am to 7pm. I’m an early riser so inevitably need to avail myself of this facility. And I do love a quiet prowl around whilst everyone else is sleeping.
It’s a dull day, with snow threatening, however the walking guide, Femca, is not one, I suspect, to be deterred by the weather or much else perhaps! She had the quiet determination of a Brown Owl, who might become giggly on a Christmas sherry, but was certainly not about to lose a single Royal Crown guest on her tour! Gorinchem is, in essence, a fortified island with a host of 15th and 16th century houses still remaining, and very splendid they are too, with gables of impressive height, many with fairy tale stories clinging to them. The water defences and clear success of the marine engineering to ward off floods could surely teach us Brits a thing or two! The River Thames might well be given a well needed lesson. An astonishing number of children and teenagers on bikes appeared out of nowhere, the size of the bike, often with enormous baskets resplendent with decorative plastic flowers, being the same regardless of the size of the child or adult, none with protective hats on and many heading for the ferry, where the deck is swamped with bikes, to be ridden home once a short river journey is over. A very poignant life size bronze stands by the water, a mother and child looking out towards where the Allies came to liberate Gorinchem at the end of World War II.
We lunched on board again, the town being but five minutes from the dock. For someone who normally has a sandwich or soup at her desk, the temptation to eat again was not resisted. Everyone I spoke to was thoroughly complimentary about the standard and quality of the food. It was declared unreservedly excellent, and better than on many other ships.
A quick, bracing walk after lunch, the purchase of a fetching felt hat and our time in Gorinchem was over. The ship sailed early, about 4pm, passing farmland and golden beaches. Lazy Frisian cows strolled across the sand to drink, interrupted by the odd walker with dog. The waterways here are busy, serious trading routes, with cargo barges moving everything from coal to concrete, each with a car or two stowed on board, presumably for the crew when in port. It does seem an efficient way to move crude commodities around.
Dinner was a further delight, I was learning to pace myself by now and skipping a course now and again. Lucien, our maître d’ hotel, amused us all with a few magic tricks at the table, using coins to great effect. We had coffee in the lounge serenaded by the cherubic Geza, who turned out to be Hungarian like many of the staff, they were exceptional ambassadors for both their country and Royal Crown. Our steward, Bambang, was, I guess, from Indonesia and more house proud than Mother, so we were shipshape at every moment of the day and especially at bedtime, after his superb turn down service. I found myself wondering if we might smuggle him home, I could get used to chocolates on my pillow, an immaculate bathroom and a cheery major domo.
A turn on the sun deck after dinner was, of course, obligatory. No sun obviously, but thoughtfully to ward off any chill, giant wool blankets were stowed in the deck lockers. A putting green, with golf clubs and bikes for the brave were available. And of course wonderful wooden steamer recliners aplenty, a definite nod to the gracious style of living the Royal Crown provides. We sailed through Amsterdam at night, under beautifully designed steel bridges, past lit windows and through an exciting cityscape.
Tomorrow we reach Hoorn, with another walking tour to enjoy. I could really get used to this way of life, it’s touring without the relentless packing and unpacking, what’s not to like?
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