Efteling, gaslighting and onwards to Belgium.

Through bleary and angry eyes, we woke from our sweaty metal encased slumber and I was ready to fight my corner with the owner of the accommodation.  I just wanted a refund on the second night as I was convinced that we would not be spending another night in that place, no matter what.

To start with, I was told that I was a ‘square’ for not being able to cope with a little noise and that it was a vibrant city coming out of lockdown and I should not have had a problem sleeping.  I think my daughter called this ‘gaslighting’ and when I looked it up she was about right. 

He told me that he had not had any other complaints and when I sent him the only review he had on Google making the same complaint it seemed to anger him.  It was two days later that I received a follow up message from him showing me the response of the bar owner.  He had added extra sound systems on the terrace and admitted that the noise was over the top and wouldn’t happen again.

We didn’t know this right away, so we left the keys on the table and left, with a refund in our pocket.  I don’t blame the owner, it was a lovely place and I wish it could have been different for our trip, but it wasn’t to be.  As I said to him, if I was between the age of 18-29 and without kids, I would have been on the terrace myself having a right good night out!

So, once again, we packed and filled up the car and made our way to a proper adventure this time.  We knew that we were heading to Belgium that night, but we had no accommodation sorted and would have to sort that on the fly.  Titchy’s idea of hell.

Before that, we had the kids ‘Yang’ to the ‘Ying’ of the garden festival; we were heading to the theme park at Efteling.  The car park was absolutely heaving and had that buzz of overexcited kids and stressed parents trying to balance up sugar rushes.

Despite the numbers of people making their way into the park, it never really felt busy as the park was vast. It felt a lot less scabby than similar parks in the UK which always look like they could do with extra cleaners and a lick of paint.

As always when you’re on holiday it’s always the little things that you notice. The thing that stood out for me here was the little trolleys that parents were using to cart around their kids and packed lunches.

I don’t know why, but it just made me think of the Ann Frank house earlier in the week and wartime refugees. The contrast to the theme park was quite stark to say the least.

We spent most of the day either upside down or with our faces pulled back with g-forces and it was all rather fun while Titchy and her boy had a more sedate day. Her biggest adventure of the day was leaving her phone on a ride and having to retrace her steps to find it.  All’s well that ends well!

It was getting to mid-afternoon and we had, as one tends to do on a theme park day, walked ourselves into the ground and couldn’t spend another moment queuing.  We jumped into the car and headed south without a real plan of where to go as according to the original plan  we were still supposed to be on the house boat.  

We had looked at driving a long way to the east, over the border into Germany, to visit a place called Titz, but we decided that we couldn’t really justify such a childish jaunt.   As I drove, everyone was on their phones looking for hotels around Antwerp that we decided would be a good place to check out.

There was nothing really happening on a sensible budget and it was starting to get stressful; this was turning into Titchy’s hell again.  A car full of overly tired people (theme park plus no sleep the previous night) and no plan for food, drink or accommodation ahead.  I used to work with a guy from Antwerp and so I dropped him a message asking if he could recommend anywhere for us.  In the end we actually found two rooms at the IBIS budget in the city centre and it was just what we needed.

Tired, sweaty and all a bit tetchy, we dumped our bags and had a walk into the city centre for food.  It was a bustling place, alive on a Saturday night with revellers and we settled in an independent burger restaurant that was, surprisingly, the same chain that we had visited in Amsterdam.  

We limped back through the busy streets with a small increase in energy levels but we were all still worn out.  My son said to me, “I like Antwerp Dad, you never know when you might need three shops selling diamonds all in a row do you?”  We walked through the train station, again, they never are the in the nicest of areas, but the building itself was amazing.

We walked back to the hotel and I don’t think there had ever been five people more grateful of a clean, comfortable and quiet room.

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