I had never heard of Willemstad until Paul stopped the car that day.
“Where are we?” I asked, confused. We were on our way to Zeeland, but we’d only been in the car for ten minutes.
“Willemstad,” explained Paul, seeing my confused face. “You’ll like it,” he added reassuringly.
Willemstad is slightly south-west of Dordrecht, nestled in the junction of where the Volkerak and Hollands Diep meet, which both flow into the North Sea. Boring description, yes. However, what I was soon to find out was that Willemstad might be the perfect little Dutch village, even winning out against my old favourite of Nieuwpoort.
On a perfect spring day, Willemstad looked like this.
I mean, look at those boats! They didn’t belong in a little village in North Brabant; they would look more at home on the French Riviera. But Willemstad was full of these boats, none of which seemed to move. Everyone seemed to like just sitting on their boats, and looking at everyone else.
It fascinated me. I wondered why people would just sit on their boats at such close proximity to each other, and spend all their time just staring. To understand this, I too partook in the sitting and staring (as you can see, even from the bushes).
I realised it was quite a nice way to pass a sunny Sunday afternoon.
Willemstad is still a fortified village, surrounded by ditches, water and man-made hills which form the shape of a star when viewed from above. Today the fortifications don’t do anything useful except keep visitors’ cars out, and allow for an easy route to walk around town.
Paul and I walked around, peering into people’s living rooms like I always love doing in the Netherlands. People don’t usually have front yards and combine that with not closing their curtains, which means I get to do yet more staring. And when they do have front yards, I would protest by being annoying and taking their picture.
Soon enough, I was hungry. Never fear, reassured Paul yet again. And yes, it was only going to get better. Even though I’d been in the Netherlands for well over a year, I was yet to try kibbeling. We found a little fish stand (which I always steer well clear of due to smelly herring), got our hands on some kibbeling and then chose a little grassy spot to eat. With a good view of all the people, of course.
As you can see, kibbeling isn’t very good for you. It’s essentially deep-fried fish, but this ain’t no fancy flake. It’s dusted with secret herbs and spices, perhaps not unlike the Colonel’s, and accompanied by a similarly spiced mayonnaise. It is dangerously good and fit our time in Willemstad to a tee.