Dolores bought some cheap weekend train tickets. Valid for anywhere in Holland. But where to go.
“Harlingen looks nice. I quite fancy going there.” I suggest.
“Too far. And you have to change twice.” Dolores shoots down that idea. “Leeuwaarden doesn’t appeal and I wasn’t that keen on Groningen.” That’s pretty much the whole north of the country ruled out.
“What about Tilburg?” I try.
“No idea. Pubs. I went to a couple when I visited with the kids.”
"You probably can't remember it then. I know what you mean by 'a couple of pubs'." Dolores is dishearteningly cynical at times.
Dolores pencils it in as a possible. Then goes away and does some research. It looks a decent-sized place so we can potter around the shops. She gives it the nod. Before giving me the job of finding some nice places to eat and drink. My speciality, really. I produce a map and a list of eight pubs.
Getting the shopping out of the way early, we hop on a bus to Amsterdam Zuid to catch our train. The closest station to us. Which, for operational reasons, keeps getting more and more services. Dead handy for us. No need to endure the tourist hordes in the city centre. Beyond a joke it is. Most Amsterdam residents avoid the centre like Watneys. (There’s a joke that only CAMRA members of a certain age will get.)
Station Zuid is brutally functional. Which is better than functionally brutal or plain disfunctional. Standing on the platforms is a lovely experience. Sandwiched as they are between the two halves of the A10 motorway. Nothing whiles away the time waiting for your train like watching cars race by 10 metres away. And what better way to top up on your exhaust gas toxins?
Before checking in, I tell Dolores I quickly need to visit the Kiosk, without saying why. When we’re safely sat down in the train I pull out a half litre can of Heineken. She doesn’t say anything, but gives me a look. What else does she think I'd buy? We've been married almost thirty years. She must have me sussed by now.
We have to change in Den Bosch, but it’s pretty smooth. Before we know it we’re detraining in the second largest city in Noord Brabant. Proximity of the station to the centre was one of Dolores’s criteria. Which it easily passed.
As it’s 1 PM, we head straight for Anvers Brasserie & Biercafé. I remember it from the visit with the kids. It offers 13 draught beers and around 100 bottled. Plus reasonably priced uitsmijters. Perfect for lunch.
Despite being enormous – there are several rooms spread over two floors – we have to search for seats. The place is bustling with Saturday shoppers of all ages, shapes and sizes. I guess that’s a good sign.
A dozen waitresses dart about like swallows and, despite the crowds, our drinks arrive before Dolores gets back from the toilet.
I suppose I should mention the beer a bit, shouldn’t I? On my last visit, around ten years ago, I recall it being mostly Belgian, with a smattering of offerings from newer Dutch Breweries. Belgium is still well-represented, especially in the bottled selection. But I was pleasantly surprised to see beers from Uiltje and the local LOC brewery. Whereas Dolores was delighted with draught De Koninck, something that’s becoming increasingly rare in Amsterdam.
€7.50 for a three-egg uitsmijter is pretty good value. But being a fat gutsy bastard, I plump for a four-egg one. It’s going to be a long day, that’s my excuse.
Bellies full, we stretch our legs a little. The main square doesn’t have the most beautiful architecture in the world and it doesn’t detain us long. Luckily the next destination I’ve picked requires a walk along the main shopping drag. Something for us to look at. Like the hollowed out shell of a large shop.
“I bet that was the V & D,” I remark.
V & D was a Dutch department store that went but last year after BHS-like asset stripping. It's left a hole on many Dutch high streets. Literally, in this case.
I’m not sure how much Dolores is going to like the next pub. Sounds like it may be too crafty for her taste. Will she hate it or will she loathe it? We’ll find out next time.
Anvers Brasserie & Biercafé
Oude Markt 8,
5038 TJ Tilburg.
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