AND SOME FREE–ASSOCIATION
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” — Mark Twain
by Kelly Sargent
I WAS the one agitating for a vacation. I needed to get out of Dodge! Concerts by the two Big Bands Paul plays in and promotes were set to resume in early October — which meant that rehearsals and marketing would begin the month prior. I knew if we didn't get away by the middle of September, we wouldn't go.
Since I was the one lobbying for this trip, by default I was the chief planner and organizer. I chose the destination, the airline, our B and B in Brussels, our hotel in Ghent (high marks for the first; low marks for the second), and our day trip to Sint Martens-Latem and Bruges.
The plan had also always included getting ourselves to Boom, a suburb of Antwerp (Antwerpen in Flemish), to meet up with Kristiina Kariluoma. She was a foreign exchange student at Ankeny High School when we were seniors, and we'd reconnected through Facebook. Kristiina was from Finland when I knew her all those years ago, but then she married and moved to Belgium.
How could we go to Belgium — it is after all only the size of Maryland, and Brussles is only 26 miles from Boom — and not see her?
That was as far as my brain could go, however, and there was still one more day and night to plan. I thought it would be fun to run into Germany or the Netherlands if we could, and since we'd spent all of our nights in two relatively large cities — Brussels has a population of more than a million, and Ghent has about a quarter of a million — I was hoping for a smaller place. I'd considered dozens, and finally turned the problem over to Paul a few days before we left home, probably with the words "you figure this one out" or something similar.
And he did! What a completely awesome choice he made for us: Bergen op Zoom. Considered a cultural treasure of the province Noord Brabant, Bergen op Zoom has a population of about 66,000, so certainly not a village or even a small town, but nevertheless, we loved this place so much! And the Grand Hotel de Draak was absolutely the pièce de résistance. Located on the Grote Markt (city square), it's more than 600 years old — the oldest company and hotel in the Netherlands!
We would go back to Bergen op Zoom and the Grand Hotel de Draak in a heartbeat.
Paul Bridson and Kelly Sargent
We've been helping companies achieve lofty goals for over twenty years now. Here's the benefit of our experience!