One of the questions we are being asked most often is: What were the best things you did while overseas?
The answer is usually as expected: we enjoyed absolutely everything..
That’s true too. The bus tours in the United Kingdom (16 days) and Northern France (one week) were tremendously interesting and informative; they were blessed with well-chosen inclusions and were well-organised and conducted (thanks, Trafalgar!). And both the tour groups were fun too, with a nice mix of people. Each covered territory we hadn’t seen before and of great personal and historical interest to us, the pace was quite fast (as we wanted it to be but not too rushed), especially with the optional extra excursions we chose.
The family time in the Netherlands was shorter than we would have liked, as was our free time in Paris – but only with hindsight. The way we organised our accommodation in Holland was ideal, with a holiday-house as a base shared with five other Aussie relatives and with time for half a dozen or so “excursions” to spend time with various family members. Read my previous blog for some more details.
Once or twice we are asked, What did you like least?
Helen and I each had a rather strong negatively emotional response to a different episode each. We continue to discuss these experiences and our response to them, which we understand although the power of each of our reactions took us a little by surprise at the time.
Helen’s darkest experience of the nearly 8 weeks was the cabaret evening at the Moulin Rouge, the risqué world-famous cabaret in Paris. For many people and certainly in the tourist literature this is a “must see”. We each knew “sort of” what to expect, so Helen didn’t want to spend big money on going, but was willing to come because I wanted to be able to say I’d “been there and done that” and neither of us had ever been to anything like it.
The “Red Mill” dinner was so-so in a very crowded theatre. My taste-buds are one of my rather poorly developed parts and so I’m far from being a connoisseur: those of our group who are food and wine buffs found the fare frankly “awful”. The show included among the most excellent ventriloquy and acrobatic displays any of our party had ever seen. The cabaret dancing by young men and bare-breasted women was extravagantly costumed, beautifully executed and took up almost half the show. It was the questions raised by these young women performing that well-and-truly put up Helen’s hackles. Who sets up and produces music and dance acts like this, and for whom? What is it that makes a group of young women join a cabaret troupe, what was their past and what will their future be like? I’d like to come back to this issue some time.
It was going to church on our first Sunday in the Netherlands that affected me deeply. We were staying in one of Holland’s deeply conservative regions (the Veluwe) so we decided to worship God with a congregation that has a link with our Australian family of churches. We had spent a very happy morning with one of their city congregations a few years earlier, so why not? I commend Helen for maintaining a positive attitude to the experience, but for me this very traditional congregation touched several of my “red buttons” – issues I feel very passionate about because to my thinking they are areas where I and many others have moved from “the old ways” to embrace important Christian truths. They are issues that have cost me stressful days and sleepless nights during too much of my working life.
Again, I won’t open up those issues here and now, but you readers who know something about the family of Reformed / Presbyterian churches and about me won’t be too surprised. We’re grateful that neither the Veluwe church nor the Paris cabaret did much to take the gloss off our travel weeks.