The week in the Netherlands was rather intense and therefore it was over in a flash. We were lucky enough to have a window of good weather! Except for the cloudy and freezing day we spent in den Bosch, the whole week was sunny and not so cold for the season.
After a recovering weekend with some sports and families’ activities we met on Monday morning at school. The new headmaster welcomed us with a nice speech and then the students had a guided tour through school and attended some lessons.
In the afternoon, while the Dutch partners attended classes, the Portuguese students were engaged with volunteer work at the Solidariteits Werkplaats Marianne’s Boekwinkel, by cleaning and repairing tools and old bicycles and decorating music boxes with icons and cultural expressions emblematic, representative or otherwise characteristic of Portugal to send to the third world countries. The commitment and team spirit shown by our students were worth seeing.
On Tuesday we headed to ‘S-Hertogenbosch meaning “the Duke’s forest and colloquially known as Den Bosch (pronounced “Den Boss”). As we moved through the city centre we could see that the city has largely preserved its medieval structure within the city walls. Our final sight was St John’s Cathedral, one of the most beautiful Gothic churches in the Netherlands. The building was being renovated but we could climb still to the top and enjoy the wonderful view. The interior of the cathedral was worth a look mostly for its organ considered to be one of the most beautiful in the country. But the highlight of this visit was the great exhibition of the most important Medieval artist Jheronimus Bosch – the master of ‘S-Hertogenbosch! We were undoubtedly lucky to have the opportunity to appreciate his renowned works which had just returned to the city they were created in 500 years ago from around the globe for the largest retrospective ever. It was definitely a unique event where we could experience the incomparable power of an artist who, five centuries after his death, still inspires!
The highlight of the week was as usual the most longed-for trip to Amsterdam.This time we started off with a walking tour through Red Light District as the majority of the students have heard about this neighbourhood well before their visit and are curious to venture out onto this area. The programme was free thereupon until after lunch when a canal cruise through Amsterdam’s world famous canals was booked. The cruise took us past all the cities highlights providing a computerised audio commentary guide of the city and its history.
Rijksmuseum was also on the schedule as we couldn’t miss the opportunity to see the country’s largest collection of art and artefacts, including Rembrandts, Vermeers and Dutch paintings from the 15th century until 1900.
After a short period for last minute shopping we gathered together at the World Bazar restaurant in Albert Cuyp for dinner.
On the last day we rode the bikes to Veghel to visit an old industrial CHV-factory located in Noordkade and restyled into an art, culture and entertainment centre – the new cultural heart of Veghel!
The day was bright, sunny and warm, perfect for the cycle ride.
A group of former employees of the factory was already expecting us offering coffee or tea and delicious pies.
Split in two groups and guided by these same employees we could appreciate the industrial architecture of the historic buildings which house the Siemei museum, the Phoenix Cultural education (that offers a wide range of classes, workshops, long-term and short courses for children, youth and adults), a shop that sells art items, a cinema, a restaurant on the top floor , the famous Escape Room Veghel, the old silos, and the well known Jumbo supermarket.
Parents farewell dinner enhanced the essential role of the parents in this amazing experience. We truly thank all the parents for their contribution to the success of this exchange.
Completely exhausted after a long week full of excitement and unforgettable experiences, it was time to come back home. Hopefully we’ll be back next year!
Lurdes Jesus and Fernanda Serra