After an evening of over filling our bellies on delicious dishes from a local eetcafe in Otterlo, we woke up to a delicious breakfast in our hotel (a perfect end and beginning, if you ask me).
We walked into the breakfast room (actually just the restaurant, it wasn’t that posh) and seated ourselves as close to the buffet as possible. We were, putting it simply, the youngest people in the room, apart from the waitresses themselves. I’d forgotten actually, that we’d booked a Sunday to Monday stay, and actually, most people our age would have been at work.
It was a glimpse into the future, that’s for sure. Cauliflowers everywhere, and old men with those cute and tiny circular reading glasses. Retirement is apparently full of delicious breakfasts and gazing at young people with disdain.
We stepped up to the coffee and tea bar to get the essentials. It was then that I felt a pair of eyes on me, and the lingering gaze from someone who was, in fact, a little bit in my personal space.
Then we met Heather (not her real name, obviously, but I didn’t know her real name and thought that this would be the best fake name for her given the circumstances).
Her beady eyes were peering into my soul, I swear.
My heart sank. I had done something naughty at the tea and coffee bar.
She positioned herself between R and me. I watched him step a little closer. He knew that I couldn’t handle any Dutch words of pessimism from this woman and was ready to step in immediately (MY HERO).
“Your hair. Is it natural? We also have a red head at home.” Okay, absolutely not what I was expecting, but I’ll take it over being scorned about tea and coffee.
“No, not real, I paint it myself.” (I love a good Dutch to English literal translation).
“Oh it looks beautiful; I couldn’t tell that it wasn’t real.” She smiled at me. At length.
“Ah thank you, I love it too!” I always feel awkward receiving and answering compliments.
Heather left the conversation and took her place amongst the other cauliflowers. I picked my breakfast and feasted like a queen (which is the main reason we all love a good buffet breakfast right?!).
After breakfast, the plan was to check out and head off on one last walk into Otterlo. We’d picked the red route, which was a shorty; a 5km round trip which would lead us right back to the car.
We headed back towards our hotel room to pick up our bags. On the way up, R decided that he simply could not hold his bladder any longer, and relieved himself from bag duty to nip to the downstairs loo. I continued, and made my way to the lift.
As the lift doors opened, who walked out? Heather of course.
Her eyes lit up the way your eyes light up when you see a friend or relative unexpectedly.
“Your hair really is beautiful, but I see now that you are actually dark.” Damn I need to get my roots covered.
Gosh, she really did have beady eyes. I stumbled over my next sentence: “Ah yes, it’s brown really but with red flecks in it.”
Her beady eyes had now caught onto something more.
“You are not a Nederlander.”
Uh-oh, she got me. ‘red flecks’ probably isn’t translatable in Dutch. I’d slipped up. Damn it.
“No I am English.”
“A what?” She seemed taken aback. Oh god. What had I done.
“English?” I offered again, apparently uncertain now of my own roots.
“OH.” She giggled. “Not Irish?” She full on laughed at her own witty remark. I shook my head. She stared a little longer, seemingly putting some new pieces together.
“You have the pale skin for it though. And the brown eyes. It is really lovely.” Christ. This is far too much complimenting for my liking. My skin is turning as red as my hair; I can feel it. All I can do is smile at her. We spend a good minute smiling awkwardly at one another before she says: “Well, goodbye”, and promptly turns on her heels, suitcase in tow. Clearly Heather was off to her own red head at home.
We check out and head outside, ready to let the fresh air fill our lungs. It’s a glorious day, even nicer than yesterday. Perfect. Once everything is in the car we head to where we *think* the walk starts. Honestly, I’ve never gone to a place that’s been less signposted before. There’s lit-er-ally no hint of where this walk begins or ends.
After about 10 minutes of wandering around the woods, we come across a badminton court. Yes. In the middle of the woods. I’m getting a vibe. There was no mention of a badminton court on the map. Ok. We continue. Behind the badminton court is a building, with a load of old furniture stacked and left to its own devices. It’s dead here. I’m vibing Camp Crystal Lake hard right now. Jason Vorhees could be in the trees.
Thankfully, we pass through the camp without being mutilated by a masked murderer and head on, still absolutely not on the right track. We’re lost.
“Look, I don’t think we’re gonna find the heather.” R warns me.
“You know something; I’m just gonna not expect anything. I’m happy just wandering.” I mean, it was a beautiful day. I could feel the cobwebs shifting in my lungs now we’d passed the possible mutilation zone.
We walk a little further, and suddenly, out of the corner of our eyes, we spot what looked like purple, just a hint. But, yes, I really did think it was purple.
“Do you see that?” We had both spotted it. Oh my God. The excitement from a few days ago was starting to rebuild itself, deep in the pit of my stomach.
We pick up the pace, and head towards the hint of purple.
It’s real heather!
“Oh my GOD.” I exclaim. R, as per, is one step ahead of me. He’d slready surveyed the area and found that THERE’S HEATHER EVERYWHERE. “Is this a bloody joke?” I continue. Memories of the 10 Euro (each!) entry fee from yesterday flood my overexcited skull. My own brain’s mocking me! “Did we really pay to be fenced off from the heather?”
“We absolutely did.” He’s as dumbfounded as me.
We’ve only gone and wandered into a full on heather field in full bloom. Neither of us can believe it. How have we been so stupid! Why didn’t we ask someone? We’re about 15 minute-walk away from the hotel!
Honestly, the view of the landscape at that moment was utterly stunning. It was better than the photos, because they’re obviously touched up. The heather there was pure, untouched, beautiful.
We spend at least an hour wandering around, soaking it up, before we have to leave.
The heather is a blanket, reaching as far as the eye can see. It’s a spectacle. I breathe in the air, making sure to soak it all up. I feel most alive in nature, and this is a sight I’ve never laid eyes on before. This is something special, that I know I’m going to remember.
On the way home, I’m truly happy. After being so disappointed the day before, it’s safe to say that our day was made by a random walk that we decided to do just to give ourselves a bit of fresh air.
It was all worth it in the end.