I landed at Amsterdam Airport and immediately continued my trip to Kaatscheuvel that I reached after a couple of hours by train. From the windows, I saw only a few villages, a lot of green and a bunch of farms. On the train, it was completely silent, and then I noticed a curious sticker with the symbol of “shhh silence” with a stylized man with his finger on his lips. This makes me understand that in Dutch trains there are wagons for those who want to be loud (like young students or crying babies) and wagons that are deadly quiet, to sleep or read a good book. And you know, the Dutch read a lot.
To get to the small B&B that I booked in Kaatscheuvel, I had to make a thousand changes and stops: I arrived at the station of S-Hertogenbosch then took bus 300 to Waalwijk, changing to Vredesplein station and bus number 234 to stop at Julianalaan Sprang-Capelle. I walked along Loonsestraat, went on to Zuid Hollandsedijk and finally got to Lage Zandschel, where I found my hotel. Luckily I had only hand luggage.
Why all this hassle? Simply because I bought a ticket to the Efteling theme park, which is just 3km away from my hotel. Only afterward, I discovered that there are comfortable, organized day trips that would take me there and back from Amsterdam for about 70 euros. Aaaaargh! I could not believe it: I ended up in a countryside, in the middle of nowhere, taking a bunch of buses passing once every hour, for what?
Consider as well the price of two nights in hotels and the Dutch transport costing an arm and a leg. Also (yeah, it’s not over…) in this forgotten place I also had a tough time finding a restaurant or bar open to eating in the evening. Yeah, the first night spent at Kaatscheuvel and I had to walk miles on foot to find the only restaurant open that day (because everything is closed on Tuesdays here). And it was a very expensive Chinese restaurant. I walked for kilometers in the middle of nowhere. There were almost no people around and absolutely no taxis. I got so nervous that I wanted to tear my hair out.
However, it was an enjoyable experience: I used the excellent Dutch public transportation, and I visited an area that would never have been in my travel plans because, except Efteling, there is little to see.
Coming here, perhaps, gave me a deeper insight of the Dutch people I’ve always admired. Just visiting Amsterdam would not be enough: like any capital, it is always like a bubble and doesn’t correspond to the rest of the country. Thanks to this opportunity, I looked at traditional and rural sides. The beauty of the Netherlands is made up of those cute people riding bicycles, taking care of their gardens, loving nature and having an open and friendly mindset.
During my desperate search for food, I walked into this town far and wide and noticed so many unusual details. Kaatscheuvel was very quiet; I would say almost deserted. There were residential neighborhoods right after long industrial avenues with sheds and wholesale stores. Here and there, on the other hand, courtyards with farm animals: cows, horses, sheep and goats… and a very intense smell of manure. Aaah, the countryside!
All houses have two floors, a backyard, and large windows. I noticed they were strangely dark inside. Now and then, I met someone popping out from the backyards, but all houses seemed to be uninhabited. As most of the houses had no curtains to protect their domestic intimacy, I dared to peep inside to see how they were. Wow, all living rooms were perfectly tidy as to be an interior design exhibit. The decor was often dark, although, I didn’t have the impression of a dull or sad place, on the contrary, it seemed very elegant and harmoniously blended with the country style.
Between the house doors, rigorously embellished by the family name painted on wooden plates, and the sidewalks, there were always beautiful flower beds that every family took care of at their best. It looks like a competition of who puts more garden dwarfs, ceramic sculptures, and flowers, lots of colorful flowers, especially hortensias. It’s a feast for the eyes!
The few locals I met were all smiling and helpful. As soon as they saw me with my luggage (me, a poor black-haired foreigner, ended up there who knows why), They asked me if I needed something while I was waiting for the bus. As I walked, they all greeted or talked to me with a huge smile. I met a boy taking his chocolate Labrador puppy around, and he chatted a lot with me while I was cuddling his active dog. Wow, why people are so friendly here? Which magic drug are they using to be so kind to strangers? Try to understand my astonishment: I’m from Genoa, and we are famous in Italy for being unfriendly to everyone.
Where I stayed: Hotel Restaurant de Joremeinshoeve
I booked Hotel Restaurant de Joremeinshoeve because offered me the best solution for location, quality, and price.
What convinced me to click on “book now” was the description of its breakfast. Well, it was delicious, and the owners only used fresh products. The owner’s daughter explained to me that everything produced locally: bread comes from the bakery around the corner, cheese is Dutch, milk and eggs are fresh every day directly bought from the countryman of the area. There is no doubt everything was delicious it: I saw courtyards and animals scattered around the town, the countryside is really within walking distance.
The B&B was simple, well-kept, family-run. English is not their strength, but enough to book and ask for information about the area. The interiors were wood-colored and country-style: on the ground floor there was the breakfast area and a common room with many children’s games, a TV, and some couches, and all the rooms located upstairs.
My room was a very cozy and structured on two floors. In the downstairs, there was a large sofa, TV, and bathroom, while upstairs there was one double bed set in a wooden structure. I felt safe and warm, even though it was summer, but in the evening the temperature dropped precipitously.
The hotel was surrounded by a large garden with trees and flowers and furnished with dark wicker sofas where you can read a book or pamper the old home cat. There was also a restaurant but apparently not working on Tuesday so I had to arrange my dinner somewhere else (the story I told you before).
KAATSCHEUVEL: PROS AND CONS
Coming here is interesting if you have enough time, whether you are travelling by car across the Netherlands or want to spend a few days at Efteling. With more days at your disposal, you can also enjoy the city, visiting the Loonse & Drunense Duinen Nature Park and the city center, renting a bicycle and taking a boat trip to Biesbosch.
I would recommend this place especially to families with small children or couples looking for relaxation, and I would return to the same hotel that made me feel so welcome.
If, as in my case, you have only a few days and your only interest is going to Efteling, then forget about it. I spent so much money and lost precious time before discovering that day trips were organised from Amsterdam and were more than enough to have fun at the park. Maybe I would not think so if I had rented a car, but coming here by public transport was just awkward.
Anyway, I did it … and I also saw something new.