Visiting The Hague - Summer 2017

After much deliberation about where we might head after leaving our late spring/early summer base in the Gers region of France, our mind was somewhat made up for us when Esther's 100 year old grandma suffered a painful fall in Holland and broke her hip. One 11 hour drive later (done over 2 days) and we were back in Holland, finding an entirely different routine and set of activities than we had grown accustomed to in France which, on balance, was good for humans and dogs alike!

Naturally the main business of our visit was to spend time with Oma who, soon after we arrived, was moved from the hospital where she'd had surgery to what the Dutch call a 'Revalidation Centre', a facility dedicated to helping people recover after injuries like hers. Seeing her, at 100 years old, staying so upbeat was a real inspiration to us. Plus, wonderfully, the centre allowed dogs inside which meant that on our daily or every other day visits we could take one or two of the pups with us. A couple of times we even took the whole pack, sitting outside with Oma and Esther's mum (her dad joined us towards the end of our stay) in the outdoor restaurant while we had dinner. It was brilliant. It wouldn't be quite accurate to say 'everybody', but certainly almost everybody can't seem to help smiling when they meet some or all of the gang. Pretty soon we took to calling them "therapy dogs" as Esther trotted them round the centre, doing training and some of their little tricks, while the other residents clapped and cheered. They really were spreading a lot of happiness.

Away from our visits I have to say that going from rural France after almost three months into the urban Hague was a bit of a shock to our system, and the dogs as well. For most of our stay we stayed with Esther's mum in her 6th floor apartment which bought it's own unique challenges, not least the (usually) six daily walks or wee visits required in groups of two or three dogs at a time. They were troopers though, taking to using the elevator with hardly a problem at all, even after Bella lunged for the door and got her snout caught in it (a feat I managed myself with my hand a few days later - crikey it hurt - poor Bella).

It did, however, highlight that they (and us?) had perhaps become a bit reclusive hidden away in rural France. Certainly at first they were a little fearful and barky at other dogs, something that raised a few eyebrows and tuts from a small minority of other apartment residents nearby. Again most people were just happy to see them together and playing, but it did seem to be a symptom of the close living environment of the Hague that people were quick to judge anything they deemed less than perfect, which is odd because probably 60-70% of dogs we saw walking with owners did exactly the same thing i.e. got excited to see dogs, foxes, pigeons etc. Maybe it's just non dog owners that believe in the 'perfect' dog? Anyway, it put us on edge for a few days before we realised that we were doing our best and that they were just pups, which was a welcome lesson for us to stop worrying about other people quite so much.

Anyway, on a happier note, although Holland is built up there were lots of places in the area where dogs were allowed to run loose. Our two favourites were a stretch of grassland along a dike nearby and also on a particular section of beach. Each morning at around 7 am Esther and her mum (sometimes with me as well) were up and out and giving the pups a great exercise session, supplemented later in the day with individual and pair training sessions so they certainly got a lot of good running while we were in Holland. This was also great as they got to meet so many other dogs as well, including their 'cousin' Zoe, a beagle owned by Esther's uncle who seemed to slot straight into the pack and play their silly games. So many of the dogs in Holland seemed to have been rescued from other countries (including Spain, Italy, Greece, Crete, Romania, Hungary and that's just the ones we met and remember) which is very uplifting.

It wasn't all dogs, dogs, dogs though. We were lucky that having 'grandma' on hand meant that Esther and I could take some longer breaks away from the pack and set off on longer runs, road trips and cycles while Esther's mum took care of wee visit or two. It was lovely to get out and get some fresh and alleviate some of the claustrophobia we seem to feel these days in such busy, urban places.

Before we knew it, however, we were in Holland almost three weeks with each day following a similar, peaceful and lovely pattern. Special mention must go to the special family memories we take away with us such as watching some lovely films (especially "Marvellous" telling the story of Neil Baldwin - one to watch!), enjoying sunsets from the balcony, fireworks over Scheveningen, a surprise 50th birthday party with a friend from the UK, an afternoon with Esther's cousins and their two lovely young children and a special visit from a travelling friend we had made a couple of years ago who also lives in Holland.  But we couldn't stay forever. When Esther's dad came over after we'd been in Holland a fortnight we took a few days to see him (and celebrate his 82nd birthday) and then with one final family meal with Oma, it was back off into the great beyond.



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Adventures In Life, Love, Health & Travel: Visiting The Hague - Summer 2017
Visiting The Hague - Summer 2017
Adventures In Life, Love, Health & Travel
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