Friday 26 September
12.40 pm, touch down at Schiphol airport. Ten minutes later the plane is still taxiing, and there's still no sign of the terminal - this is one huge airport! Eventually the low grey building appeared out of the mist and, after a speedy baggage reclaim, I met Marijn in the arrivals hall. Both of us were wearing our h2g2 Tshirts, so we must have looked like very odd twins as we set off for the car park. On the drive to Shazz's place, I was struck again by how very 'Dutch' everything in the Netherlands looks - there are windmills, it's very flat, there are dykes and canals, everybody cycles, and some people even wear clogs.
During the remainder of the afternoon the rest of the meet attenders started to trickle in. Well, given the height of Kheldar and Arutha, trickle isn't really the right word... and it was great to see Terry Teadreg, who made it all the way from Den Haag! I was persuaded to try the local speciality of pickled herring (too many onions, otherwise quite pleasant) before it was time for the traditional Uitsmijters - another local speciality consisting of fried eggs with melted cheese on top in a bacon butty - delicious!
Het Kasteel - part 1
Off to the pub/social club/nirvana that is Het Kasteel. The band - Silkstone - had just started their set, so Shazz and I settled ourselves at the bar next to a steady supply of beer and tried to decide who was sexier - the charismatic lead singer, or the cool bassist in his shades. I thought the band's blend of melodic soft rock was fabulous although I should, in fairness, point out that this was not the view of all the team. Anyway, a few beers later I was cajoled into buying the CD and going backstage to get the group to sign it for me. Which I did, and a nice bunch of guys they are too. Back to the drinking (and for me, the admiration of all these gorgeous self-confident Dutch guys... drool drool) and a little bit of dancing to TowelMaster's excellent DJ set. Time for home - cycling in a straight line for Shazz, zig-zagging behind for me, thankfully avoiding the canals.
Saturday - Efteling
Early arrivals were Mina and Freggel, who kindly drove me, Shazz and Marijn to Efteling, a beautiful fairytale theme park near Tilburg. First stop was the renowned Villa Volta, with its haunting music and great attention to detail. Then we agreed to queue for the Dreamflug, a suspended ride through an enchanted forest. After a quick bite to eat, I surreptitiously led the group to the scary rides, and managed to get everyone on the Eagle (VogelRok), a coaster in the dark, before heading towards the white knuckle rides at the back of the park. Only Freggle and myself were brave enough to attempt the nauseatingly high Pirate Ship, and I was worried that my chicken and chips might be making an unscheduled reappearance. But undeterred, we pressed on to the Python, which zooms like a bat out of hell through 2 tight loops and some very unnerving corkscrews. After regrouping over coffee, we all enjoyed Fata Morgana, a boat ride through the mysterious East, before a final dash through fairytale wood to see the Water Lilies. Tired but happy, we welcomed the chance for some shut-eye in the car on the way home.
Het Kasteel part 2
After delicious pizzas, we set off again for Het Kasteel. Some serious quiz machine effort ensured that various permutations and combinations of our names topped the leader board. At the end of the evening we all lent a hand in cleaning the floors with what looked like a relative of NooNoo's, and a huge squeegie. Time for bed after a looooong day...
A much needed lie-in, several cups of tea, and all too soon it was time to go. Now I've heard various rumours about what happened on the rest of Sunday and Monday, including something about Torture chambers, but you'll just have to ask the others about that!