Sunday, 25 January 2015

Emergency Trip

Home for a week - the black ship on the left with a white cabin
We had an emergency trip last week to The Netherlands, that sounds rather dramatic and it was rather, but it shouldn’t have been. You see we have known for months that this might happen - we were just in denial. To be honest I just couldn’t (and still can’t) get my head around what has happened.

It all started when Cees noticed his passport was about to run out, mine still had 7 months to run. We started planning our day out in Lyon, a sightseeing trip, a long lunch then hand over the paperwork, have a nice chat with the Consul lady, give your fingerprints and away you go, you will receive passport in the post a week later. But not any more. The Dutch government in its wisdom has decided that issuing passports via consuls is no longer cost effective. It does beg the question what a consul is for, but let’s not go there.. That means that all Dutch people, resident in France, have to go in person to Paris to hand in the paperwork and then return in person about a week later to collect their passports. We live quite close but even so, we would have to pay 100 Euros each to get to Paris to hand in the paperwork then another 100 Euros to collect them - 400 Euros just in train fares!!!

This must be some sort of joke? What about the people who live even further away than us? They still have to travel to Paris then either go home or stay in a hotel for a week. What about people who are too old to travel? Tough - costs must be cut and anyway if they can’t travel they don’t need a passport do they?

One of the country's most important cities?
Another option is to go to The Netherlands and get a passport, but hang on a minute, you can only get a passport in the town hall where you live can’t you? No, the Dutch government have graciously nominated a handful of town halls that can do it for you. The Hague – 3 months waiting list for an appointment! That was fine for me, but Cees’ passport had only a week left to run. OK, let’s find another large town where we can do it, Amsterdam? No, Eindhoven? No, Rotterdam? No, Utrecht? No - I’m running out of big towns here, give me a hint? Finally we found the list, Echt-Susteren (where?) Bergeijk (Huh?) Montferland (are they making these names up?) the list goes on. We had to get a map out to find out where these huge places were. Finally the decision was taken, Bergeijk it would be, their efficient website site allowed us to make an appointment for both of us for the following week, then it was panic stations to find somewhere to stay for the week’s wait - I am not making two 8 hour drives at this time of year if I can help it.

The town hall - looks like an Escher print
Cees’ daughter to the rescue, yes we could stay on her canal boat in Den Bosch only about an hour away from Bergeijk. Phew!

We tagged on a nice weekend and Monday afternoon we had a trip through the Dutch countryside to the metropolis of Bergeijk. Not being modern enough to have a GPS, we rely on maps, but the ANWB (the Dutch automobile association) doesn’t consider this place worthy of a mention, so we had to pray we found some signs near to the place. We made it and as you can see it doesn’t really have “world city” written all over it, does it?

There you have it, what should have been a leisurely day-trip to Lyon ended up as a panicky visit to The Netherlands. At least we have stocked up on unmissable Dutch goodies like filet American and smoked sausages, not to mention affordable spices and we did have a lovely week with Cees’ daughter catching up on news and gossip, so all was not lost. I also tucked into all types of delicious Dutch food that are unavailable here.

Gastronomy - Dutch style
So 2kg heavier we returned with our new passports, just before the snow started to fall. Fortunately they are valid for 10 years this time.

Finally here is a message to all you Dutch ex-pats out there, if you don’t live within convenient distance of an Embassy, start planning your trip to Bergeijk, they are very friendly and efficient and the café next door to the town hall does really good kroketten!

For information on holiday accommodation about 7 hours drive from Bergeijk click here.

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