... to Dusseldorf 'Runaway Train'
Being by the coast you can certainly feel the coldness seeping on through so we are up early to try and warm up somehow...well i'm thinking of that very nice warm shower / toilet area not far from here! Shower gear in hand and as the rain is drizzling i run on in to enjoy not only the heat of the shower but also of the shower block itself as when you're getting out of the shower you don't need to wrap that towel around you to keep the heat upon you. We did though have a shower issue and one that i'm glad i was the only one in the block of 4 cubicles for, as i will explain.
So again we have the time limit on how long you can be in there...but no token, no one off opportunity, just that it lasts for 6 minutes but you can put it back on again. At least you can do that here. I'm in and I can see we are down to 5 minutes left, but the most annoying things about these time limits is a) it takes 30 seconds on average to heat up and b) on most of them you can't stop and start them in-between bits. Then suddenly i notice 2; where did minutes 3-4 go?!? Where does the time actually go as i'm not even finished off conditioning my hair or put any body wash on yet!! So quickly on and just as i was about to wash it all off it stops as with 1 being stated on the digital box in-front of me, i thought i had 1 minute left...nope it meant i was in the last minute already! So dashes come up on the digital screen and i await for the 0 to re-appear so i can press start once more and so i wait...and wait....and wait....and then i'm left wondering if i need to leave the cubicle for it to set back to 0 as its on a sensor maybe??
So i get all of my things together and with a towel around me (still with conditioner and body wash on) i head into the cubicle next door and this is where i'm glad i'm the only one in here as someone watching me will be wondering what on earth i am doing! So i settle myself in and then i remember i've forgotten one thing so i head back next door again and its then that i actually see the dashes change back to a 0...oh man!!! Well i'm in the other one now so i press start and have another 6 minute shower but i only needed 3 and after this 3 i tried to press stop but nothing, it kept on coming so as i tried to towel myself dry whilst not getting the towel in the spray still heading my way!
As i head on back to the van the rain is still drizzling and i'm not sure if its gonna get any better so in the lightest of rain we head over to the beach so that Ellie can get some run and play time before we head on back to the road and into Belgium for our first time. Once again she's a greyhound on a track after that rabbit and then celebrating by wriggling herself in the sand...i am glad i'm not OCD when it comes to a clean place as this van with this rain and sand and mud it doesn't take much to see it dirty! Breakfast eaten but just before we head off to Belgium i do my list of what to see when i'm in the country as even though i'm heading to West Germany afterwards, and then back into Belgium, there maybe something on route that's best to see now. Don't want another Fussen moment when we actually drove past the Fairytale Holby castle in Germany that i was meant to see as the non toll road took us that way and having to drive all the way back to it after doing Austria!
List done and i do it right until my very last day, all the way to Calais and so this is it, this is my last list. I have a moment...but then quickly we head on off for a drive to see the Delta Project which are a series of constructions built between 1950 and 1997 in the provinces of Zeeland and South Holland to protect large areas of land from the sea. The works consists of dams, sluices, locks, dikes and storm surge barriers which have been declared as one of the seven wonders of the modern world. We have to cross the Zeeland Bridge to get over to the land that takes us to Belgium and after a road works traffic jam we drive on over and its one of the longest bridges i've been on...although i think the one in Lisbon is still the winner on this one. As i see we are 1km from Belgium my thoughts turn to Hercule Poirot, Agatha Christie's famous Belgium detective, who everyone thinks is French as he speaks...so that reminds me, they speak French here!
Into Belgium and i feel like i've just put myself on the runaway train ride at Chessington World of Adventures as these roads are so rickety that the whole of the van is vibrating at each yard i take. Its like Southern Italy all over again when the roads were poor but are they poor here or do they like to use that track road thing where it bumps you up and down to slow you down? Or did someone use the wrong concrete and instead of using this at steep bends and hills (where normally used) they planted it here?! After 10 minutes i'm left wondering if we'll ever come to a smooth road again and glad of the fact i'm only in Belgium for a few hours before back on Germany / Netherlands roads once more!
Into Antwerp and we park on up quite easily by the River and just a few hundred yards into the city. This place is known for its vibrant nightlife, its funky bars and restaurants with numerous festivals and you can see that...well through the rain pouring on down as soon as we stepped foot out of the van! We managed to get to the main square and then the golf ball sized drops appeared and everyone, even those with waterproofs and umbrellas, were taking shelter where they could in doorways and cafe's outside seating areas. Its strange, like in a lift, when you have people just suddenly stopped and standing still next to each other...do you talk or just look down and wait silently until the rain passes. Silence here seems to be the most popular. The rain wasn't passing anytime soon so as soon as it turned to a light drizzle again we were off, although i do wonder why we bothered to take shelter as i was drenched and my face was so wet that raindrops were falling from my nose constantly so that i had to keep flicking my head to get them off as there was nothing dry to wipe it with. Ellie was doing her shake shake dance for quite a while!
So as we wander around i can see why the Belgium's call this the 'capital of cool' and if you know your fashion, of which i certainly don't (!!), then this is where Antwerp Fashion Academy produced a group of avant-garde (nope not a clue what that means too!) who made a big splash of the fashion scene in the 1980s and became known as 'The Antwerp Six'. It still churns out new, hot talent and i'm left wondering why name them the Antwerp Six as it sounds like they've caused a riot in town not designed dresses! As shopping really isn't my thing then the compact area of Antwerp is where i spent most of my time in the midst of medieval buildings with modern architectural landmarks. It certainly loves its art here too and Rubens is eternally linked around you as he was born here nearly 400 years ago and he left his mark on this city. Oh and diamonds, you could see diamonds stores like you do in the Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham and Covent Garden...what's more surprising though is that more than 85% of the world's rough, and 50% of the cut, diamonds are traded here. One thing i did notice a lot of, but saving myself for now, were the chocolates, the waffles and the beer...got time when Mel comes here to do all that, or have a little pre-start in Brussels instead.
As we just can't get wet much more, as everything is sodden, we head back to the van where i get Ellie towel dried as best i could and i change into some dry clothes...but again, not sure these wet clothes will be dry anytime soon! As i put on the heat in the van you come to that annoying thing that even though you want heat the car wants the air con on for the windows to de-steam as with the heat of you and the coldness of outside condensation hits...so air con it is until we can get a constant temperature running through. That though wasn't coming anytime soon! With heat i can't see out of the window to drive, with air con i still get the shivers as i drive...don't know which is worse!
So from Antwerp we head off to Dusseldorf and with it being a good near on 4 hour drive back into Germany i decide to park up close to the city and start exploring once more tomorrow. The rest of the day was keeping dry, warm and out of the rainy weather as it was still beating on down....not getting out again until it stops! I find a place just a few km's out of town, its in an industrial estate but there is electricity to use and we are off the road with not many people parked around here, tucked up in the corner. This will do where we can have tea, warm up still and then rest our heads ready for tomorrow. Not exactly sure what tomorrow we'll do, maybe we will see one town, or two on the list or...who knows!