|Some of us were not quite used to summer sunshine!|
It was starting to turn into evening, so after we returned the bike, we walked back to the beach to sit and have a drink before heading back to Dunkirk. We couldn’t get enough of that precious sunshine, and it wasn’t too cold to be out. I left my camera in the car, since I figured there was nothing left to take a picture of.
As we sat and enjoyed watching the waves from a cafe on the promenade, another family came and sat next to us. They had the cutest, fluffiest little dog, and Amelia was mesmerized. They let her pet “Plushka,” and then she gradually talked them into letting her try walking the dog. The couple had a 10 year old daughter who was really sweet and big-sisterly with Amelia. They walked that little dog up and down the area in front of the restaurant, and we gradually started chatting with the parents. They are a Belgian couple from Gent, and had come to De Haan just for the weekend to relax at their vacation home nearby. We don’t end up talking very much with people out in public here in England, since most are very reserved and somewhat suspicious of strangers. That was not the case in Belgium– the social warmth was palpable. We chatted for a while, and then it started to get cold and Jeff went to pay the bill. But they wouldn’t take his card. We asked our new acquaintances where the nearest cash point was, and they insisted that it was too far away, and that the gentleman should give Jeff a ride. As it turns out, it was a ways away, and the closest one didn’t work– they went to another one, and we ladies sat and chatted while the girls played. When Jeff and Henry made it back, we thanked them for the wonderful company, and for helping Jeff out with the ride, and said our goodbyes.
We walked back to our car, and just as we started the engine, another car pulled up right in front of us! Elena got out of the car, and ran over to tell me that they would like to offer to let us rent their vacation home sometime. She doesn’t list it publicly, but likes to offer it to friends. They were asking very little for it– in fact, the same amount we had paid for our parking lot hotel room! We exchanged contact information, and then as we were saying goodbye again, Henry asked if we would like to come have a look, since it was only a kilometer away. Sure! We had nothing else to do! So we went over to their place, and it was really nice, big enough for two families to stay there. They asked us if we had plans, or if we could stay and have a drink. Of course! Then they started opening bottles of Belgian beers for us to try, solemnly stating that they did not want to get us drunk, and offering graciously to drink the greater portion of each bottle. We chatted for a long time, and learned a lot about Belgium, Belgian people, and Belgian beers. When it was time to go a couple hours later, they packed us a bag of several more beers to enjoy back at home, instructing us to think of our Belgian friends when we opened them. Amelia had a wonderful time with Anna, and was also sent home with a special baby doll that she had outgrown.
|Anna, Elena, Henry*, and Plushka|
What a sweet, surprising evening! It was like balm on our slightly frost-bitten souls to be received so warmly, and treated like dear friends by a family we had only just met. We will absolutely take them up on their offer, and I am looking forward to more bike rides on the promenade, and time on the Belgian coast. Their only requirement for using their home was that they could come and have a drink with us when we visited. I found myself thinking as we drove home, “What if we had never gone to De Haan? What if a thoughtful reader didn’t leave that comment?…” And I just felt thrilled that we were able to make a connection, that good things just happen sometimes, and that valuing people and connections can be incredibly rewarding. I know that the highlights for me of travel are always the people I meet. I learn so much about the place I am visiting from locals, and it always just feels so amazing to be able to know people from so many places in the world. And that ability to connect is always there– we are all people, and have so much in common just by virtue of being human. I love it when others see this too, and we are able to share a moment (or hour, or day) together. So, we loved De Haan.
Do you have any serendipitous travel stories to share? I love to hear about these kinds of things!
*Yes, I have changed the names of our friends for their privacy…