Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Squeeze: Camping trip

Against all odds, we somehow managed to squeeze in a camping trip this past weekend.  Somehow my freelancing assignments all ended right before (and picked up again right afterwards) so the entire weekend could be completely devoted to:  flying kites with kidlet, reading and finishing a book, babysittig kidlet while he zooomed around on his loopfiets, letting Karel do all of the camping stuff (I figure that, if he wanted my help, he's a man and can ask for it), and eating too much barbecue.

Camping is the national Dutch pastime--like baseball in the US, but far more interesting.  For starters, it's a very regimented process, almost like booking a hotel:  you go online and tell people what you're bringing (tent or trailer) and how long you're staying.  There is no (or very little) random driving around the country and staking out a tent wherever looks good--mostly because pastures have been fenced off, the woodlands are engineered to be utterly inhospitable to this sort of impromptu overnighting, and the campgrounds are always, always, PACKED.  (At least on the weekends)

One of the nicknames the Dutch have acquired is the rather unflattering "snails"--as a reference to the very Dutch habit of packing a trailer (Brits: caravan) with all the comforts of home--especially the Douwe Egberts Rode koffie--and clogging up the highways in some other country, and in NL for the less adventurous.  The Germans retaliate by taking over the beaches around Scheveningen and Leiden.  Campgrounds typically have shower, bathroom, and laundry facilities; you can rent a bike for lekker fietsen and seeing the sights; the one we went to had a pool and playground and a riverside beach, along with boat rentals from a nearby company.  Some of them offer free Wi-Fi.  So really, all you really need is a tent and a sleeping bag and some coffee.

Our tent was not a sheet tossed over some lawn chairs, happily  That was kidlet's little play space that I'd set up to keep him out of the sun while the tent was still being set up.  Karel had acquired an uber-delux tent that allowed us to fit a full-sized air mattress and still have plenty of room to store all of our things in.  One handy feature was that you could detach the floor from the roof, which was a good thing to do with the weather being as hot as it was.  At night, we put the walls back down.  It was not the kind of TARDIS-like contraption that starts out the size of a pencil case and ends up being a comfy suite when unfolded--the tent is heavy, made of canvas and heavy-duty plastic, and requires no less than 24 spikes in the ground to set up. But it is nice; and with the bed, it wasn't all that different from sleeping at home, which is probably the only reason why kidlet slept at all the entire time we were there.

The one thing about camping that I really appreciated, from a practical point of view, was that there was zero pressure to dress kidlet.  I mean, yeah--if we'd left the campground I would've put him in his shorts, but as long as you're on the campground, clothing is "nearly optional":  people of all ages and physiques walk around wearing whatever they want, and on a day that's 34 C (that's 95 F) in the shade, that translates into a whole lotta bathing suits, even if the only moisture on your skin is sweat.  Kidlet spent a lot of time running around in his underwear--and he was still more-dressed than a lot of the kids we saw.  I myself went three days without shoes--tan lines around my feet and ankles have always bugged the living daylights out of me.

The campground we went to was situated on the Waal, so we almost had a riverside view; were it not for the row of caravans that remained steadfastly parked in front of our tent. Kidlet, being a transportation fanatic, still thought it was the best thing in the whole world--waking up in the morning and seeing a boat go steaming by.  By and large, it was a relaxing two days, not worrying about clients or deadlines and just being able to sit back and watch kidlet enjoy himself running around without shoes.

My inbox, when I came back, though...

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