A Travellerspoint blog

DAY 138 - Tuesday 15th September - Kasteel De Haar to

... Rotterdam to Kinderdijk to Noordwelle 'Alice in Wonderland'

With some of the HGV lorries starting their engines at the crack of dawn, 6am of a crack, and having to keep them on til they make a move to warm it up (guessing why that's why the sit around for ages without moving on off!) then its really time for the up. As i take Ellie out for a quick walk, well down the grass verge of the service station, i see people already stopping in their cars for a coffee and a chin wag so its definitely time for the up. Now this is a castle that i'm going to, and at this time of a morning, i'm not sure exactly what i can see. Will this place be closed off until the ticket booth is open or is the land its on open for us to at least walk around and its only the interior of the castle you pay to see. I've been to so many that it could be anything, it could all be free, parts of it to pay for or all of it to pay for! Who knows...but i'll soon find out as it's only a 15 minutes drive from here.

As we get on closer TomTom is stating a right at a roundabout but the signs are saying straight on, and its times like these that i follow TomTom as those signs are taking you on the larger main road whereas TomTom can take you through villages that they are trying to stir you away from so there's not too much traffic going through them and onto the attraction. And once again what really cute villages with streams and canals running on through to drive along, and at this time of a quiet morning where the skies are clear...they are clear!!

So this place is near to the old city of Utrecht, called Kasteel De Haar which has the largest fortification in the country. This castle required so much land (situated on a 250 acre park) that the entire village of Haarzuilens had to be relocated to accommodate it. That bit i told you about yesterday. While the original castle site was established in the 14th century, with its fairytale looks, the newer structure dates from 1892. As i turn in I see that the castle entrance is to my left and to my right a barrier to a car park; with a dead end up ahead. First of all I decide to see, before entering into a barriered car park, if there is anywhere in which i can park for free as its early enough to have a walk around this place before heading on in to the castle walls and this entrance seemed to be the only way in. As i drove around it really was the only place in which to park but not before taking photos of the cows and sheep just chilling in the morning sun eating way at the never ending grass to munch on. The barrier goes up and in we park and at 8.15am we are the only ones in here and then i realise that there was no parking machine to pay the 4 euro charge but a barrier to exit. That means that i'm stuck, that if i wish to leave then the only way in doing so is to get a token from the ticket booth of the castle and who knows when that'll be open! Oh well, we'll just have to have a very slow walk until the booth is open...although if we can't get into the grounds now before it does where are we going to have a morning's walk...didn't quite think this one through! Can't hang around until 9.30-10am when it does...that's a long wait!

So we walk over the drawbridge of the entrance, as that was open to let cars in it seems, and walked left into one of the grounds of the castle where the horses were kept in the olden days. Now its a restaurant and cafe area. The gate in-front of the drawbridge was for cars only...and it can only be for those that work here that it can be opened for. In this walled circle i could see a man cleaning out the toilets, so that'll have to wait, but as he looks on over i just give him a hello and walk on purposely as if i know where and what i'm doing. Reason being is that i'm suddenly not exactly sure that i'm meant to be in here as yet, its all a bit too quiet with everything shut. That included the ticket paying area which looks to be in the gift shop also and without looking at it more (as if i do then i really know its somewhere i need to pay to get in) i turn to see a green, small, archway wooden door next to it...and its open!! I kinda feel like Alice in Wonderland as whilst i'm going through the door i'm not knowing if i really should or allowed, but its right there and wide open! Now you would have thought that if anyone saw a random stranger in the grounds that they may have thought they could be someone working here, or part of the renovations that they are doing, but a stranger with a dog, and i'm not ever sure if dogs are allowed in here, that someone would stop me. I'll wait til then and play the dumb tourist!

Through the door I put Ellie on the shortest lead which is attached over my chest so i keep her in check in case dogs really aren't allowed in here. The gardens with lush greens and colourful flowerbeds seems like the very places that dogs wouldn't be allowed...but again i saw no signs and again that little green door was open. I decide to walk away from the garden area as it was all out in the open and head into the woodlands to hide for a bit where there was a lake to walk around. Further on down we then saw some deers and a stag in the grounds fenced off. As we got closer they could sense Ellie so they ran round to the other side but as we went that way too i managed to get a picture of them all out in the open. Those guys with their long lenses yesterday should have come here for a closer shot of a deer! Mind you i'm not sure with one stag and much rutting will be going on!

We ventured closer to the castle now as that was the only thing left to see and the only people we saw was a farmer and a couple of construction workers who didn't batter an eyelid when they saw us. Maybe we can just be in the grounds for free and wander as later on, as we got to the roadway where the employees were parking on up, no one was stopping us there either...or someone thought someone else had let us in or it was open to buy tickets already. Who knows but at the moment i'm having a great walk around the grounds and taking some lovely pictures of the place, including getting right to the front door of the castle! I have to say it is great going around places like this when there aren't any tourists around, just you taking it all in. After our hour and 1/2s walk it's getting closer to 9.30-10am for opening time, of which i'm guessing only as normally it is for these type of attractions, so we head to the main gate to get on out...but first i need that token for the car park for the barrier to open. If we only had to pay at a car park machine we'd be home and dry and out of here but we need to get a golden token first.

As i looked to the green door, out of curiosity to see if we could have made our escape if we didn't need a token, it was indeed closed as i thought it should have been when we first arrived. I went inside to the building which said exit which took you through the gift shop, which i also remember was where the wording 'tickets' was printed on the glass window here as we entered the paddock. I shouted on out as i couldn't see anyone and there were a couple of ladies who looked a bit startled as they were coming out of the kitchen area and into the office to the right, opposite the gift shop. One had a couple of steaming coffee in her hands and i asked if i could possibly pay for a token in which to exit the car park. Think i had them a bit stumped there as why was i needing to exit the car park when i haven't even paid for a ticket to get in...and how did i come from the exit side anyway?!!

I followed the lady to the till as she was able to give me one, although she wasn't quite open as yet. I said that we had an early start of a walk and i loved the grounds in which we could do just that, that's when she mentioned that i needed to pay in order to see the grounds!! Erm....do you??! I told her that the green door was open and so i thought that the grounds were open to the public but that you needed tickets in order to enter the castle itself...no, no she said, you need to pay to see the grounds too! As it was only 9.45am she laughed and let me off as i handed over my 4 euros for the car park, and i think that as i was coming out when it was even open and only been in the car park for a couple of hours it was only fair...so 4 euros it is! I asked how to get on out again and she needed to open the door to the gift shop / ticket booth area in order for me to do so. Now i know why they were a little more startled when they saw me as i was coming in from the exit when they hadn't even opened the entrance part to the grounds! I can quite imagine the gossip of how i possibly entered, who left the door open and a breach of security needed to be looked into...or they put their heads down and pretended it never happened as they'd all get into trouble maybe! Either way i have my golden token, had a pleasant walk around, and it was all for free...well apart from the car park, that i'll give them!

Next on the list of destinations was Rotterdam and i was a little bit worried about this place as when you read the info and it states, 'it has become known as the capital of culture where the Netherlands is concerned' and talks about the nightlife then you are left wondering if there is anything to actually see there! We come into the city and i'm half deciding whether to get on out of the van at all but the sun is shining on through so why not have another little walk, even though from the van i'm not seeing much. I head towards the River to park on up which leads us into the old town where there wasn't much to see. Then there was the architecture which was a sight to behold and i'm not sure if Rotterdam is the architectures playing field of experiments with buildings of different styles. On one side of the road you had like a Rubics Cube, in yellow and grey on each side, but positioned on its side of which it cannot sit up on its own...so on the very corner, tilting forward....and people live in here!! Then there was a massive dome building, looking like a train station, but it had apartments on the outside and inside was an indoor market with colourful paintings on the walls. On another building was what could only be described as either a yellow waterside going around it or that the water pipes were needed to be 4 times as big as the standard ones and painted yellow so you can see exactly where they are! Wasn't sure if i was seeing cutting edge or just weird!

McDonalds for the toilet was next which took us into the commercial part of the city and once again nothing to write home about here either and what made it Rottern for the city name of Rotterdam was that i had to pay 50c to use their toilet...never have i been to a McDonalds and had to pay!! Oh well, was most definitely needed so needs must and time to head back to the van. As i do i see what i've seen quite a lot in this country and that is the colourful branded courier clothing of DHL, TNT, UPS and the likes of courier men and women on their pedal bikes. Loads of them! I know we have our posties on bikes but i don't think i've seen couriers on them.

A castle seen, a city seen, and so next on the list were windmills of which the Netherlands has more than 1000 old windmills that still exist and the largest concentration of these are found near a village called Kinderdijk (Children's Dyke). So that's where we are heading! It took its name from an incident during the St. Elizabeth's Day flood of 1421 after a child's cradle had been stranded on the dike. To drain the excess water from the polders, which are situated below sea-levels, 19 windmills (with impressive 92 foot sails) were built around 1740 and have now been granted UNESCO World Heritage Status. They have been preserved to the present day and a joy to walk amongst them. Historically they were a vital part of the water management system that prevented this flat country from flooding...which makes sense now as i keep seeing how very close the homes and farmland are to these waters and as there are so many you had to build in amongst them.

There were free parking spaces on the side of the road in the village near to here or you pay 5 euros to park just outside where the pathway begins...erm, i'll take the free one please! As we walked on through the paid car park there was a hut near to the pathway in which you could see you needed to take to see the windmills more closely and so i wasn't sure if you needed to pay to get onto the pathway. Before i could check it out one of the workers here came and asked if he could stroke Ellie and mentioned that he had 16 golden retrievers as his family had farmland in which they could just head on out and run! One's enough for me i say! I ask him if i need to pay and its only the museums on the pathway you need to do so for, the walkway is free so off we went. What a picture to be surrounded by these windmills, beautiful scenery. After walking for a good hour up and down this pathway the rain just started to fall so we timed it quite well with that one.

Next stop was over to Noordwelle where there was a campsite near to the beach within the Delta Project or Delta Works of which we'll see tomorrow, and best to be tomorrow as the rain is falling down so heavily now and doesn't seem to be letting on up anytime soon. As we were driving at one point i did feel that we were about to be lifted up in the air and onto the side of the road as when the HGV lorries went past us on these large open, rainy and windy roads by the coast (warning signs all up) they nearly blew us off! Further on down this road once again you can see why there are not many traffic jams in the Netherlands (that or i've been lucky, one yesterday was for an accident) as they are so wide that they just keep the traffic flowing. Also when you come off from one motorway there are slip roads everywhere connecting 4 different roads and going onto spaghetti junctions so that the traffic never stops its flow. At one set of traffic lights, for example, there were 2 roads going left, 2 roads for straight on, and 2 roads for right...and each side of the cross roads!

Next we were heading over the shipping yards and towns as you can see all of the industrial machines clogging away too with mountains of coal waiting to be shipped somewhere, plastic bubbles with tubes coming on out steaming something away and large steal chimneys with steam coming on out. The car park i saw here was the biggest i've ever seen, a multi story car park which could hold 1000s of cars! Finally, with the rain still beating on down, we got to the campsite and not only did it have a parking area for motorhomes but was a hotel with lodge cabins and the likes. Looked very new and as you entered the shower / toilet area the place was so warm that i just wanted to park myself here for the night! Everyone had their waterproofs on but we stayed in the car but when the sun started to set the rain stopped and so we walked over to the beach to see the sun hide away until tomorrow. Beautiful...last night was a service station car park seeing the lights on the motorway, tonight we see the sunset on a beach by the sea. There were other dogs here running around off their lead and Ellie was no exception, you should have seen the excitement as she knew that once we got over the steps to see whats beyond that there was a beach and the sea to play on. She was that excited that she got the other dogs to join in with her which puts a massive smile on your face seeing her loving life...especially when she's been in the van for the last few hours looking bored as its pouring outside!

Wish List - see the Windmills of the Netherlands: tick

Posted by emmabrown1014 04:17 Archived in Netherlands Comments (0)

DAY 137 - Monday 14th September - Delft to Hoge Veluwe

... National Park to Kasteel De Haar 'Lost in the Woods'

Again my tummy upset after a while dwindled and once again the quietness around the campsite allowed you to sleep on in. With the overcast of the clouds keeping the sun from shining on through it makes the van stay in darkness that bit longer and with no church bells telling you to get up at 7 of a morning you can lie in for a little bit. That's a point, when was the last time i heard the bells as normally they are the ones that tell you to get up! The rain is trying to head on through but so far its keeping away as i venture off to have a shower and its something that Ellie has gotten so use to, this routine of a campsite. When at first i started opening the door of the boot, to get my showering things out of the cupboard, when this door is open with the bed down then Ellie can at my waist height just jump on down and out...and she use to do just that! Now when i open the boot she stays on the bed looking at me and smelling what's around before i shut it again after retrieving my shower bag! This is a first...its a first that i've had to wait for a shower to be free, never had that before. Luckily i only had to wait a couple of minutes and after that couple of minutes all four of the cubicles opened at once as they all came on out...which one to choose?!!

Check out time here at the campsite is 11am, as i ask whilst getting my croissant to go with the small packets of Nutella that i'm still going through of which my parents stocked up for me when they went for breakfast in Berlin. At 11am, after the lie in, breakfast, shower and a walk for Ellie, it was time to leave but i just wanted to put on two more blogs so i asked if i could leave at 12pm...not a problem so at 12.05pm i was out of the site and parked up not 100 yards away!! The town was only a 10 minute walk away from here so best to park for free in this woodland area and have a walk into Delft. As we walked around and into the centre we saw the Delft City Hall which is a Renaissance stye building on the Market square across from the New Church. This city is another built on canals, like Amsterdam, where Vermeer painted The Girl with the Pearl Earring and famed for its hand-painted blue earthenware.

When we were walking by the canals i saw a smart car coming on down and i thought that's a sensible car to have in the narrow streets around the Netherlands...then i saw up close that it was an Aston Martin, but in the size of a smart car...really?!!? What are they thinking, the manufacturer and the driver to buy it! By the square i see a sign for Fish n Chips, like i saw in Amsterdam, and wondered if it was the same as what we do back at home but with it being closed i couldn't go in to see...do they like their fish battered?! As i walk on round, and stopping to take a picture of Ellie by a massive clogg as we are in the Netherlands (!), i hear people chatting away and then i realise that these last few days i've heard quite a lot of people talking English. Now i'm not sure that they were tourists as they seem to be getting on by with their daily chores and coffee shop gossip. All i can say is that even though some of Europe have mistaken me for Dutch i'm not feeling that the locals are, think they know they have an impostor on their lands!

Delft done and we walk back to the van as our next stop is the Hoge Veluwe National Park a couple of hours away and so on route i put the radio on as this is one of our longest drives to do whilst we are here in this country...it's not actually very big at all. Radio on and once again there is a station that solely has english spoken tunes blaring out and i think about returning home soon as there is one thing that i must stop doing before i do. At the moment, as i speak, i speak with my hands as well as limited english so not in full sentences so i can try to communicate with those that have limited english for me to speak to. That can actually stop here and i now realise that i'm still doing it...please if you see me doing this back at home just knock me around the head and tell me to stop!!! I speak a little with my hands anyway, but not as much as i am now!

Getting to the gates of the National Park we go through a really cute village in order to do so and i see sunflowers absolutely everywhere, not only the real thing but also made out of pottery, paper, plastic, painted...everything is a sunflower. Now i'm getting the Van Gogh sign of it all but why here, why the sunflowers here? He wasn't born here, don't think he painted anything here, didn't reside here....then why?? Mystery. At the gate you have to pay to get into the Park and as we've come all this way we may as well go and have a drive (about 25km) and a walk around it (walking routes marked). She said that one of the things in the park was closed today as it was a Monday but i didn't quite hear what that was as she mumbled foreign words to me and that's when my brain switches off as it doesn't recognise what those words are!

Once in i look at the map to see where best to go and the thing marked 'Centre' seemed the most likely candidate to start. As i read more i see that there is a museum here called the Kroller-Miller Museum which is the 2nd largest museum in the Netherlands and has the 2nd largest collection of paintings by Vincent van Gogh....mystery solved!! That's why all of the sunflowers in the village before entering the Park! I can now sleep at night without wondering...who am i kidding, wouldn't have given it another moments thought! Full of information this leaflet as i also find out that The Hoge Velue National Park is one of the largest continuous nature reserves in the Netherlands consisting of heathlands, sand dunes and woodlands, 50% woodland and 50% open land. Even though the Netherlands is a small country (i can vouch for that!) it boasts as having one of the world's most diverse national park programmes which covers nearly 13,000 acres and home to many red and roe deer.

Apparently if i stayed for when it turned night, as mentioned by ticket booth lady, then i could hear the deer rutting...what is deer rutting, doesn't sound pleasant?!? Info read - from late September until end of October the red deer rut takes place. During this period the stags compete to mate with groups of hinds in a testosterone charged spectacle. Sounds of roaring stags, described as 'a cross between a chainsaw and a burp' (!!), fills the Park and you may be lucky enough to see a pair of stags lock antlers in a duel. Think i'll pass on that one...BBC wildlife documentaries show it from the comfort of my armchair if i'm interested as i'm not driving or walking in the midst of that!

We get to the centre and its threatening to rain but its holding off...just, and with the black clouds i can see in the distance i'm not sure how much dry time we have left! We have to go for a walk though so we get out of the van and find a sign with a 3.5km walk which would take over an hour, that'll do. All i have to do is follow the yellow arrows, that's all, the yellow arrows; not the other coloured ones for other routes. Yellow arrow number one, found and taken that direction...arrow number 2, we had red and white barrier tape across it and the deviation was not really clear but it still looked yellow an arrow on another type of sign so we followed that. Next we came to a shelter hidden away in the midst of the woods so that we can see the deers up ahead of which i can see one. There was seating in this wooden hut but we had a quick look and left as with the people sitting there i didn't feel we could make too much of a noise to then scare the deers off, especially if Ellie caught their scent and wanted to run after them, whilst barking!

Out of there and the rain starts to come, very slightly, but its here and i'm wondering that if it stays the way in which its falling it'll be fine. Here's hoping! Next i see a yellow arrow but i am confused as we've not come back on ourselves to the part we were diverted from...oh well, although you could say that tis arrow was a light green colour or a faded yellow one?!? Am i now on another coloured route?! Oh well, i can't see any others so i'll just follow this one! It was a really lovely route as we were walking in the midst of the trees and with the weather the way in which it was we were the only souls in sight, didn't see anyone. Thunder...hmmm, i can hear thunder and it's not a million miles away. Ellie adds a little quick step to her walk as she hears it too, she's not barking but if we were indoors she would be at the first rumble. Thunder again with a flash of light in the skies and Ellie does a triple quick march as i think that if she can walk quicker she can outrun it!

Suddenly the heavens opened up and as the rain drops were the size of golf balls landing on our heads we try to find some form of shelter from the storm. Now with the packing that i was doing before i left for this trip waterproofs were not high on my list...to be fair they weren't even on the list in any format!! Didn't think that i'd need them but here today its living proof that with the soaked in, sodden clothing I now stood in I was indeed wrong with that oversight. As we were taking shelter from the lightning, thunder and the fast and furious rainfall, i remember all of what i was taught .... about how in these circumstances that you should never EVER stand under trees in this kind of weather....but its too wet away from the branches of shelter, and to be absolutely fair we are in the midst of a bloody National Forest which so happens to be full of trees!!! This reminds me of a family story, as i stood wishing for it all to end and keep something of myself dry, a story of a Great Uncle (correct me if i'm wrong Dad, can't quite remember how many Greats and the exactness of this story), a Great Uncle who survived the First World War only to find shelter not soon after under a tree as the thunder and lightning began. Unfortunately as one of the lightning strikes hits the tree in which under he stood he died....maybe i need to think of something else!

Finally after 15 minutes of the storm weathered, me looking like a drenched rat and Ellie shaking herself and shaking and shaking herself dry, the rain started to fizzle out and you could see the rainbow coming on out as the sun decided to make a little appearance, not for long, but a little one to at least warm us up a little! If i thought i'd just gotten rid of a cold i can see another one coming soon! We walk on and then not long after we come to a massive open land area, massive it was...didn't expect it in the National Park (didn't know about the 50% woods and 50% open land before this trek) and i felt like i could shout and no one would hear as its still only me and Ellie around here. As i felt like a shout out of 'Helloooo' (yes not very inventive) i suddenly heard a bell, a bike ringing bell...there she was, a random grandma of a cyclist ringing me to get out of the way!

There was one 'Helllooo' in which i did as in the Park there was a steal drum on its side with another one just 100 yards away...it was a teaching spot for the kids to explore on their trips here. Its like the string and the cans on either ends we did as kids, where you can hear the other talk on through...so i yelled hello into the drum and could hear the echo of my voice go over my head adn to the drum opposite but obviously i wasn't there to hear the finished article. And i don't think Ellie would quite understand...think i need to find myself out of these woods and back to reality! But where have the yellow arrows gone...i'm sure when the thunder and lightning started that i managed to find one to follow but now i see nothing. The next sign i come across is one for cyclists and the centre was now 4.5km away...but this walk was only meant to be 3.5km and i've already walked some of it so how has that happened?!??!

Glad i know senses of direction and decided to follow that cycle path as i knew i needed to go south and then back east to get to the centre. Then we come to a real road where cars can drive (!) and the cycle lane wants me to go straight on and with not many roads in the Park i know that i'm heading the wrong way if i continue across it and head on south still...so i decide to follow and walk on the road instead of which there was a sign for the centre a bit further on. At least we are on the right road to the right destination. The centre had to be on my left somewhere and with 1.5km to go the rain started once more; give us a break!! We're here, finally i can see the van and the one bonus of having the van as your home is that you can change into dry clothes...the downside is that a) there's no where really to dry your wet clothes and b) the floor is covered in wet mud! Hot air on please...warm us up! So the next plan is to drive around the park and as we do we head back to the open land of which i see about 50 cars all stopped and tripods with cameras and lenses were out. What are they all looking at?! I pass them and just up ahead were another load of people parked on up...so i did too!

Here i could see the deers up ahead and then i see the men carrying the biggest lenses i have ever seen...and a camera which is the size of a camera in which we film TV productions on, never mind a Stills one! Hmmm, i'm wondering if my little 25-50m lens will be able to zoom on in and capture them...or it may just capture a blur of an outline of something...yes i'll give up on mine me thinks! Then i remember....the lady said its rutting season and so they must be all here to see if they spot a duel to capture or a mating to be endured by some poor female deer! As the night was descending it was time to move on to...well that's an issue, not exactly sure where i'm meant to be laying my head this evening and with the time as it stood there may not be a campsite open. Hmmmm. Looking at the guide there's no where really to stop off at and with no wild camping allowed its hard to crash somewhere like in Germany. First things first, i need a warm meal and the warmest meal i can lay my hands on is a McDonalds so we i'll pick one up near to our next destination of Kasteel De Haar of which we are seeing tomorrow.

Kasteel De Haar...nope TomTom not liking that one. De Haar it finds as i'm thinking Kasteel means Castle, but something isn't quite sitting right. I put in Kasteel just in case and that brings up a place...hmmm, so it likes them separately but not together, so this isn't boding well! I start in the direction of De Haar but as i do i'm just not feeling it so i stop once again...well i have to as i'm stuck in traffic on the motorway!! I look at the info that i saved on my phone about this place and it mentioned it was close to the city of Utrecht which is an hours drive west of here and we're going in the opposite direction even further away. Then there was a second clue which mentioned that as it was so big the castle being built that the village in which it presided had to be moved, and that village was Haarzuilens. So looking back to TomTom it finds that village and it was close to Utrecht so we didn't need to be sitting on this side of the standstill traffic as where we were at the Park i could have turned off and onto the motorway heading in the opposite direction that was moving freely!

Finally we were going in the right direction and at least this way we were fitting something in half way from the National Park to Rotterdam so not all is lost on this journey, but first that McDonalds...then i'll figure out where to rest my head! As we headed closer to the village of Haarzuilens i input McDonalds into TomTom and find the nearest one which had a massive open car park to the shopping mall it was situated outside of. McDonalds bought, Ellie has hers at the ready and then there was a car pulling on up in-front of mine. Not just any car it seems but a Police car! As it was now dark outside as it was inside their torch was shinning on through as they were trying to figure out if someone was in it as i was sat at the back about to tuck on in. I open the sliding side door and Ellie has a bark just to let them know they are stepping closer to her territory...maybe now's not the best possible time to be doing this Ellie! They were just checking that we weren't staying the night in the car park as it wasn't allowed and i admit (not to them!) that it had crossed my mind but it didn't feel right. After they were satisfied that i was only there to eat my McDonalds i decided to find a service station resting area to join the HGV lorries on the motorway near to here. McDonalds eaten, 10 minutes later i'm hidden within the massive HGV's and the screens are up with the blinds down as well as the bed. Bed time...but bed time with a difference as there was no tummy ache today. Mind you the experiment i was going to do was never going to work today as a) i ditched the water in case it was that and replaced it with last nights campsite's water and b) i finished the white Toblerone last night!

Posted by emmabrown1014 01:56 Archived in Netherlands Comments (0)

DAY 136 - Sunday 13th September - Noordwijk to Leiden to

... Delft 'The Reminder of Seaton Carew'

My tummy finally settled after a while and i managed to get some sleep and once again, like last night, it was so quiet and peaceful around here so when 8am came it was a lie in! I was debating this morning if i could stay here til at least 4.30pm before heading off as Spurs were playing today and i believe with this being one of the strongest wifi signals i've come across in a campsite that maybe, just maybe, i could stream it on my laptop to watch. Trouble was that check out was 12pm and that's a good near on 5 hours extra that i'll be staying. They close at 2pm so could get away with them not noticing (even though as I said yesterday she had no details or me or where i parked) but once they opened again at 4pm i'm kinda pushing my luck. Decisions, decisions.

The first decision i make is that after doing a blog at least to go for a walk to the beach with Ellie and this time instead of the pathway we took before i stayed on the road that bit longer and took the next one down. Turns out it was the right decision made as just 700 meters up from here was the entrance to the beach, would have been oh so simple if i knew about this pathway yesterday but i'm rubbish at asking, i just head on out and explore and figure things out myself. As we walked along the pathway i remembered it was a Sunday as everyone was out walking with their walking poles, bikes riding in the cycle lanes, dogs out for their walk and families having some time together before their lunches. One of the bikes i loved as it was a two passenger one but side by side that looked like it could have been a garden swing with two ladies pedalling away together and having a right old gossip!

Onto the beach and there was a sign which indicated where dogs were allowed to go, mainly to the right with horses allowed on left and right. As we headed on, past the beach cafe with steaming coffees on the go to get people warm as it was cold by the North Sea breeze (!), there were horses galloping and dogs running around everywhere with kids playing in the sand. Now this is a beach which proves that we can all get on with each other, don't need this no dogs or no horses allowed but i do get it with kids, especially in the height of summer and the busyness of it all. Now though Ellie is off the lead and going absolutely mental in which i remember that our last beach outing was in Italy before we headed in-land and into the lakes. Some lakes had beaches but this was the first for a while by the sea. As she's running around and around like a greyhound chasing the rabbit on a racetrack she then does her usual of laying on her back to wiggle away. Loving life right now. With getting nearer to the water it suddenly dawned on me that as a kid in Hartlepool we were by the North Sea as we are now and so i try to look across (although i'm sure you couldn't see England even on a clear day!) to spot Seaton Carew. As i thought it about it a little bit more, and my geography is getting better with all this travelling (and so it should!) that direct West to here would be Cambridge more, not Hartlepool! It was a bit chilly on this beach in September and with Hartlepool being North by a good few hundred miles from here (with the sea in-between) it reminded me that even in the height of summer you didn't want to go to Seaton Carew so and no wonder we didn't head down to it as much as you'd think.

Back to today and with one load of horses coming on by i put Ellie onto the lead just to make sure that she didn't go off running to bark to them, even though she didn't really take any notice of the first lot as soon as we stepped foot on the beach. As i took her off again just a few moments later i was kneeling down to Ellie to give her a treat when in the corner of my eye i saw another load head on by. Ellie had the perfect view looking over my shoulder as i was unaware but she didn't give a monkeys, just sat and then ran off to play in the sand. Perfect morning! She was though looking for something for me to throw into the sea...no, no, no, way too cold for that!! There was nothing though, just shells which crunched under your foot and the sand to walk on but then there was this long piece of rope right by the waters. Ellie looked at me and then back to the rope and i did wavier for a minute whether to throw it in for her but as i went to pick it up the rope was wedged, properly wedged under the sand and i couldn't see what was attached at the other end. Well i knew it wasn't a plug that would gurgle down the whole of the North Sea but i stopped pulling just in case something strange may have happened!

Back to the campsite and it was 12pm on the dot...do i stay or do i go?? I can't do it, i can't sit there and feel comfortable whilst watching the game and there was a good couple of hours until it started. I just wouldn't enjoy it whilst looking out the window to see if anyone was about to knock on my window or see a motorhome try to park where i was with reception thinking there should be space. So we decide to head onto Leiden and with the sun half out we should stay outside as long as possible as you don't know when this rain will stop and start at present. Also if i do Leiden now then who knows what the campsite is like when we go to Delft, a campsite which is only 500m away from the town which is next on our list to visit afterwards, it may be better than here.

At Leiden we park on up and this place is known for having the oldest university in the Netherlands, the birthplace of Rembrandt and its beautiful canals. The two branches of the Old Rhine enter Leiden on the east and meet in the city centre which also contains several smaller canals. The old centre of Leiden is the largest 17th century town centres in the Netherlands, second to that of Amsterdam. It was threatening to rain but so far so good and the canals were amazing here, with boats running through the midst of town and people sitting by the waters edge drinking and dining at bars and coffee shops to enjoy the scenery. Boats were busy being sailed around and once again i remember that its a Sunday as families were out having picnics on them with Dad at the wheel. Then i saw two smaller boats with kids in each of them, having a little race it seems but a harmless one. Made me giggle as i didn't know why they suddenly slowed down until a few moments later when i saw a police boat head on down...of course they'd be police boats, i just never thought of it before!

Off to Delft and with Hockey being played on a Saturday it now seems that Sunday is a day for Football as all of the pitches i went past were full of legs being swung and a ball being launched somewhere. The Netherlands love their football too, although maybe not for the European Championship qualifiers at this moment in time. In the cycle lane, and i've seen this a couple of times, you have people riding side my side with one of their hands on the shoulders of another. This may be a partner or a dad pushing his child to help them keep their little legs from peddling too much. I know i've said it before but there are really Rivers, Streams and Canals everywhere and farmlands covered with cows, sheep, goats, horses, pretty much everything. What i did notice was that these farm animals are all in together and weren't fenced in, there were ditches with water that were their fences before they could run into the roads. In the cycle lanes too, as i noticed this yesterday too but thought maybe a one off, there were scooters taking advantage of these lanes. Well i suppose when you have the professional / amateur cyclist roaming on through that they would be doing the same speed as them so why not have them on this part and not on the roads. They aren't speeding, obviously quicker than those cyclists using it to leisurely travel in between where they are going and not in a sporting way, so no danger there it seems. There are just so many different people on these pedal bikes, i just love it, and it all seems so very safe and i don't feel like i'm going to knock down any cyclists on the roads here...as they are no where near me! You see grandparents, work people, kids of all ages just riding around.

We arrive at Delft and park on up just in the nick of time as the rain starts to fall, and the game is due to kick off more importantly. Its times like this, when its raining, that i don't feel guilty about staying in the van when i should be out exploring...mind you i do have to keep reminding myself that i do need rest too! The website is found...i'm clicking onto the stream...we have the game in perfect speed in a not so bad fuzzy state!! I can see the colours of the shirts and where the ball is at least so i can gather around all of the fuzziness to see what's going on without playing too much of spot the ball. The rain keeps on falling and at half time we go for a quick walk and as Ellie's not too keen on the rain either its back to the van for the second half of which at the market here i bought a can of larger for the occasion. What is it about larger and football, they go hand in hand and i've not touched a drop on my own until i have visitors coming for their jolly holidays!

The pitch we are at in the campsite is perfect too as we've parked on the side so Ellie has a massive grass area to play in, for when the rain stops, with no passers by for her to bark at to just pre-warn them that they are reaching her home territory! Also here are the most number of Brits in one place that i've seen at a campsite, 3 of them are our neighbours and i love the motorhome and car of one of the couple as they were F1 Sue and F1Tom...Tom had the motorhome of course, the bigger vehicle of the two whilst Sue had the little run around!

Game finished, photos going up onto the blog and time for bed but once again i've got tummy ache, is it the water from the Amsterdam campsite that i'm still drinking or white Toblerone I'm still eating by the triangle fulls?! I'll experiment tomorrow on that one and take one of them out of the days eating / drinking to figure out which one it is that's causing the upset. Can only think its one or both of these as these are the new things i've bought into my diet of pasta, bread, cheese, chocolate biscuits and potato salad in the massive tub load in the last few days!

Posted by emmabrown1014 03:16 Archived in Netherlands Comments (0)

DAY 135 - Saturday 12th September - Amsterdam to Muiden to

... Keukenhof Gardens to Noordwijk 'Jolly Hockey Sticks'

As we woke it seems that the skies are overcast after the rain in the middle of the night but the sun is trying to come on through. With a lazy morning we got up slowly and went out for a walk around the campsite to wake us up and then my next mission was to do the list of 'what to see in the Netherlands'. Think as we are actually in the Netherlands that i should be researching a little bit more as to what we can do here as all i've got on my itinerary is Amsterdam and Rotterdam and i'm pretty sure that there is more to the Netherlands than that! Seems like there is as we need to see the windmills, the beaches of the North Sea, the National Park, a castle built in the 14 century and so much more. You would have thought that i would have researched this a bit more before i came out but with doing this now it gets me excited as to what's to come for the next few days to see.

So it's finally done, I've got my pencil written list of what to do although no dates stated as we'll play with that on a day to day basis. It takes awhile to make these lists as not only do I search a few websites in which they say what's best to see, and they agree about 80% with a couple of differences to each of them, then i need to google where they all are and come up with the order in which to visit them. The only thing left i need to do is to make sure i get to Bruges in time for Mel's arrival on the Tuesday before i'm home and Ellie's vet appointment in Lille before we catch the Ferry home so she can come home on her passport and without quarantine.

Check out time is 12pm and at 12.01pm (as i'm in a queue for a good minute!) we pass over our card of access the campsite, retrieve our deposit of my discount campsite card and a token to open the barriers to leave. Reason I was a tad late is I only just remembered on the way out that i needed to re-stock the bottles of water as we were clean out .... 10 bottles of varying sizes and into the fridge later we are fill to the brim of drinking water as i don't know where we are staying next if we need any. I'm 100% that the water i got it from was drinkable as i always check and there was a guy saying to a lady asking that question, who was getting water at the time i was walking Ellie, that it was drinkable although there was no sign to say it was but there isn't always.

Token in, barrier opens and we head off to Muiden after inputting the Rijksmuseum into TomTom. When we got there it wasn't quite the picture that i had on my phone as to where we were meant to be but the village was cute to walk around which had a canal gates and locks and there was the Muiderslot Castle to see which was included in the Defence Line of Amsterdam as part of the fortress of Muiden from 1892 to 1922. We went in as far as we were allowed until the ticket booth came upon us and a no dogs allowed sign. Not sure where i went wrong as the Rijksmuseum i thought was around here and its the museum which has been collecting rare art and antiques since 1809, nearly 7 million of art works to date including works from Vermeer and Rembrandt. Not that i was going to go inside to see the art work on display but as it was close to the campsite for it to be worth a visit to see where they are housed...maybe next time!

So after a quick time spent here we were off to Keukenhof Gardens which is the world's largest flower garden, for its 7 million flower bulbs that are planted annually in the 70 acres of park which was formally a kitchen garden of a large country estate. Not only tulips (but there are 800 varieties of them), but also hyacinths, daffodils and other spring flowers are on display. Sounds lovely and i'm sure that Ellie wouldn't be allowed in and that the ticket price would be too much in what i'm willing to pay but i didn't have to make any decision at all it seemed in the end as when we turned up it was shut...we went around all of the entrances to this place and all of them shut. What i should have read on the info were two things and that was a) Spring Flowers were mentioned which was a give away as now we are near to Autumn, and b) it actually stated that this place is only open from the last week in March til mid-May. Wow i think that's the shortest ever opening i'm come across for an attraction!

One bonus driving to here though is that we went through an array of flowers on the fields to either side of us with a windmill in one of them. The flowers were of full of colour and as it was lunchtime i parked the van up next to them and looked out to see the amazing view whilst i tucked into my garlic and herb edam cheese sandwich that i had for the first time since buying it...it was an amazing sandwich!!! Great lunch by the tulips and I also saw the cows grazing in the farmlands near to us. So where to next; the list says the Leiden Canals but maybe we'll keep that for another day and head on to the beaches of the North Sea to a campsite which is close to there.

On route it was just a joy to see this open flat land with Canals, Streams and Rivers all flowing to somewhere with bikes riding around everywhere, even in the countryside and small villages. It is making me feel very unfit and that i'm cheating by driving a vehicle and not peddling one! They really do have the system of the bike lanes here so right but they can as they have the large flat lands. With the roads they can extend so not only do you have roads to drive on but also a separate road for the bikes and then a separate walkway for those using their legs only. The marked out tiny lanes that we have back home are not sufficient for cars to go past cyclists as they haven't widened the lane, just marked it out so there's no extra space to take over them, you have to do so by going slightly into the other lane. Just because they have a marked out lane doesn't mean that we can fit 2 cars and 2 bike lanes on the road at the same time. But here they have space, we don't as we've got built up town and cities where they were been built in the days when bikes weren't in someones scrap book as a design of moveable transport even existed.

Stopping at traffic lights the bikes have their own system for them to press (like pedestrians) for us to stop and for them to cycle on through. As I then look around i suddenly see hockey sticks everywhere, girls and boys walking to the match or cycling with it popping up behind them as they ride. They certainly do love their hockey around here. I come to a roundabout and i've been to lots of different variations of a roundabout but this one took me a few seconds to figure it out as i didn't see the arrows on the road on the two lanes leading up to it, as to which one to on for the exit you needed. I went to the left lane automatically for me to turn left but then in-front of me there was a narrow gap for to get me through and onto the left hand lane of the roundabout. Instead of marked out lanes it had a small built up ramp to make sure that you stayed in the lane in which you were in. So going right and straight on you had to stay in the right hand lane...but what i struggled on for a few seconds was whether that tiny gap was for me. I just went for it and think i got it right!! At the next one i noticed the arrows on the road pointing to which lane you needed to be on for your exit and then there it was again, the small narrow gap to get through to turn left...what i did was correct!

The houses i saw as i drove or walked around i did get concerned with how close they were to the canals, streams or rivers, as not only where they pretty much on their doorstep but also at very much near the same height of the front door step. Do they not suffer from flooding here, i'd say not otherwise they'd be more of a defence on the buildings for such times but nothing, just houses right by the waters edge.

At the campsite the lady mentioned that they were full apart from the edges where a couple of parking spaces could used for me to park on the grass (normally its just for cars for people with caravans or tents to use) or in front of a stationed motorhome of which they've left for the season. I had a wander around and decided for Ellie it was best to be on the edge as we were parked on grass and there was enough room for me to park side on for the side door to be opened and she can crash outside on the grass between that and the large greenery borders of their fencing. Also there was electricity close by for me to plug on up...where the wifi was free and it had a great signal so i managed to finally load some photos up onto the blog. When i went back to pay for the night, with the pitch now chosen, she wrote down my name on a form and would only accept cash even though the guide said they could take credit card. Mind you there are some places that i've been too of which the guide has said the same but as its only one night i don't think they like to use the machine for that.

Walking back to the van though i realised that she didn't take any of my details down which is really unusual for a campsite, no van registration, no full name as she only had Brown written down, no driving licence or passport number or discount card (that you can use as proof of ID at these sites) seen, or a deposit taken...i'm wondering as i'm on the side parked up in not a proper pitch, and that i've taken the only form that had Brown written on it with a written cost on there, whether that's a sneaky cash payment not to be shown on the books! Oh well, its their business and with her saying check out is at 12pm (after i had to ask) what exactly can she do to make sure i've left as she doesn't have my details what so ever...no idea which is my van parked up for only one night!

Time for a walk again and this time we go in search for the beach which according to the guide was only 1km from here so i guessed in which direction to go to as TomTom showed where the sea was just before i pulled into the campsite. Out the campsite we turned right and at the end of the road, before it swerved to the right to continue, there was a pathway for horses and humans alike. I saw other dog walkers and families out for their early evening walk and all i could see were trees and sand dunes and hills...no beach or sea. Then we come to some steps that lead onto one of the hills so i was going to use this as a lookout point to see exactly where i was but there was one stumbling block, and that was 3 Alsatians and a puppy one right up ahead with two ladies chatting and not moving! Erm Ellie, how do you feel about getting closer to those steps so we can at least see where we are?! I tried walking the other way but i could see we weren't going forward, only sideways and i knew the sea had to be straight ahead, i needed the lookout point. I turn back and they are still chatting away and so i take Ellie by a tight lead and to the right of me away from the dogs...we get closer and Ellie has noticed. Closer and the Alsatians see her but don't bark...and so Ellie doesn't. We get past, hurrah!! Up to lookout point...well that didn't help! I could see the sea at least but not a pathway to the left or right of us as to where i could get to it!

It's getting a bit late so i decide that we'll try this challenge tomorrow and head on back to the campsite but as i get to the road i see a couple starting down the pathway in which i was on and started at. They are looking at his phone, then he turns his phone to slightly to the right as i can now see that he's looking at a map and they quickly get off the path i'm on to walk down the road that verged off to the right instead...hmmm me wondering if that's what we need to do. Oh well, we'll do so in the morning and see if we can take another pathway further on down.

Getting ready for bed and i eat a very large section of the very large white Toblerone which was one of the chocolates that my parents bought for me with some water that i got at the other campsite today...and as i go to sleep i get a bad tummy and cannot quite settle into sleep. Was it the Toblerone or the water....can't be the chocolate surely?!

Wish List - see the Tulips of Holland (the county, not the country so correctly stated here!): tick

Posted by emmabrown1014 02:51 Archived in Netherlands Comments (0)

DAY 134 - Friday 11th September - Horstel to Edam to

... Amsterdam 'Edam + Cheese = Sandwich Time!'

Being by the River in a small town there was very little traffic about of a night but the cold was once more seeping into the duvet! Although at 6.30am there were noises coming from outside, the rest of the motorhomers sounded asleep, so what was it? This was the sound of ships carrying their cargo down the River I soon found out by peeping out of the screen covers from inside the van. Therefore it was an early up as when you can't quite get warm enough again you can't get back to sleep. Although it was nice to make an early start by having a walk on the Riverbanks and the sky looked like we could be in for a dry day at least, the sun was rising with stunning colours...well for what i could see at present!

So this is the last day in Germany for a while as we're off to Holland before heading back for the last part of West Germany, then into Belgium (a sneaky trip to Antwerp as just south of Holland) and then to the top of France to get to Calais. Now i keep wanting to say the Netherlands but we call it Holland, or do we, i'm getting confused...but it is the Netherlands. There are differences in how we call and spell each of the countries in Europe but Holland is a big change, it goes a bit like this:

France - France
Portugal - Portugal
Spain - Espana
Switzerland - Schweiz (German), Suisse (French) or Svizzera (Italian)
Austria - Osterreich (kinda see where Austria phonetically!)
Italy - Italia
Belgium - Belgique (French), Belgien (German), Belgie (Dutch)
Luxembourg - Luxembourg (French), Luxemburg (German)

There are actually two which are an exception to the rule of the countries i've been to:
Holland - Netherlands
Germany - Deutschland

History Lesson: as i needed to figure this one out!! The reason i question this is that each border that i cross it will have the spelling of the name of the country I'm entering and with these two i wondered why they were so different to how we spell them. Then there is the word Dutch, why do they speak Dutch when the Germans speak German, French speak French and so on?

Turns out it goes something like this -

There are three terms we need to define: Holland, the Netherlands, and Dutch. In Old English dutch simply meant “people or nation.” (This also explains why Germany is called Deutschland in German.) Over time, English-speaking people used the word Dutch to describe people from both the Netherlands and Germany. (At that point in time, in the early 1500s, the Netherlands and parts of Germany, along with Belgium and Luxembourg, were all part of the Holy Roman Empire.) Specifically the phrase “High Dutch” referred to people from the mountainous area of what is now southern Germany. “Low Dutch” referred to people from the flatlands in what is now the Netherlands. Within the Holy Roman Empire, the word “Netherlands” was used to describe people from the low-lying (nether) region (land). The term was so widely used that when they became a formal, separate country in 1815, they became the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The word “Holland” literally meant “wood-land” in Old English and originally referred to people from the northern region of the Netherlands. Over time, it came to apply to the entire country. Strictly speaking, Holland is only the central-western region of the country comprising two of the twelve provinces. Got all that? So really it should be the Netherlands....so going with that!

As we drive on out of the parking area, being the first ones to do so, i see that there are at least 2 petrol stations in Germany flashing up on TomTom before we head into the Netherlands. Now petrol or not to petrol as here in Germany I know the prices; or shall I wait until we're in the Netherlands and chance it to see if they are cheaper? I certainly need petrol before hitting Amsterdam so decision time, and i decide to take the luck of the draw and see what the prices are like in the Netherlands. 'So the last one clocked in at Germany was 1 euro 33 which ain't bad...but i still risk it. 'Big mistake, huge' as Pretty Woman would say! It was a petrol station at a service station granted but at 1 euro 60 per litre it felt like i was back in Portugal again...and there's me thinking that petrol would be cheaper here but I was well and truly wrong on that regard. Oh well, half of the tank filled and i'll see what the prices are like as i get into the cities and towns, hopefully down by at least 10c per litre.

So what's the first thing i notice that's different when coming into the Netherlands from Germany...its the massive open flat lands of which you could see for miles in each direction that you looked with a few trees scattered about. If there was a line of trees then there were spaced out so you could see beyond them still. In Germany the trees were right on the roads mostly, so dense that you couldn't see beyond the first row and hills with trees on the open land. With a near 2 hour drive from the border to Amsterdam i did suddenly wonder what i'm missing out on seeing from this side of the country but i hadn't done my usual 'what to see in this country' so who knows...hopefully nothing and just flat land! The flat land though was covered mostly in cows, all the cows you could see to make the cheese they are famously known for here.

The other thing that i notice is that there is a massive variety of cars here, like there were in other countries and in the UK, but whilst spending time in Germany i only really got use to seeing BMWs, Audi's and VW's. With them all being German cars these are the ones mostly in which you'd see, unless you wanted that Aston Martin, Ferrari or Porsche. Before some of you say Porsche is German the little history lesson here was that Ferdinand Porsche was an Austrian Engineer who then moved his headquarters to Stuttgart in Germany...which makes me wonder why that place is a s**thole! Initially the company offered motor vehicle development work and consulting, but did not build any cars under its own name. So the idea, design and manufacturing of the Porsche was German and the badge is based on the coat of arms of the Free People's State of Wurttemberg of former Weimar Germany, which had Stuttgart as its capital and so their arms were placed in the middle.

Well with a BMW, Audi or VW you are getting one of the best cars in the world so why not as a country drive the cars in which you produce! Now website address, yes may be a strange one to write about, but from all of my travels and being in another country once again to prove it, why do we have co.uk at the end of all of our addresses? The reason i ask is that i would have thought that the rest of Europe would have the co. bit in their addresses but not so. They have the name of the company, or whatever the site is for, with .de for Germany, .nl for the Netherlands, .fr for France, well you get the picture! Why do we have the co before the uk?!

Number plates, how do number plates work here. Yes with a lot of driving being done you get to wonder about these strange things! Now with Austria, Germany and Switzerland the first letters represent the town / city in which they are from, the driver that is and not the car. I figured that out from spotting the similarity of where i was to the reading of the plates that i could see. For example in Germany a numberplate with the lettering of B are from Berlin, BAD from Baden-Baden, F from Frankfurt, FUS from Fussen and so on. But the Dutch number plates i cannot see with any form of pattern like with the French and Spanish...can't remember the Italian ones. Its a bit like that game where you have a grid of squares and when you turn over 3 of them and you don't find a pair then you have to remember where those symbols were for when your opponent has their turn and upon your next to get a match. This is my driving game for today and i'm just not getting anything, nothing....think gonna have to google this one although i think they are just at random as they could start with letters or numbers, of have a tiny 1 on top of one of the dashes. Not making sense. What i do figure out are the blue number plates as the majority of them are yellow on either side. That's another difference with the rest of Europe, they all have white number plates on both side. Blue number plates are for taxis it seems, at least i've solved one thing today on number plates!

I turn the radio on and it seems that a lot of them are playing english spoken music that i know, don't have to listen to one song and then play the game of shuffle to find a song i do know for the next station. Then the radio adverts come on and in their mother tongue they start fleming from the backs of their throats it seems when they pronounce some words, and I found it even more unusual when i heard a child do it. I've obviously never really heard the Dutch speak and then i think of all those in which have said that i speak like i'm from the Netherlands...erm please tell me that i don't do that?!! Listening to it on the radio i can't see what i do that makes people think i'm Dutch...but I think i need to hear them speak in English as the throat fleming won't be used to pronounce our words. What people say about my accent, although a lot of different things have been said about it (!), is with those thinking i'm Dutch its because it sounds like i'm been taught to speak English. At first i didn't quite know how to take that as I was taught it, like everyone else in the UK, from a very early age but i did have to have elocution lessons with my slight deafness, maybe that's it. Does it sound like it's my second language as i can't quite talk properly of my own but it's my first?! The pronunciation of my s's is another Dutch attribute according to another...my accent as i call it, is a soft Northern accent!

We arrive at Edam and TomTom is taking me down the narrow streets by the canal and i'm not too sure that i can head any further so i turn round and go back a few hundred yards to the free parking area i went past. Trouble was that all of the car spaces were taken, and 2 of those spaces were taken by a mini digger truck so i sneakily parked in the buses area which had room for 2...but plenty of room for me to park at the back and two can still fit in. Edam is my first experience of a village in the Netherlands and what a lovely way to start exploring this country as there were canals running on through it with cute small cottages and homes. First thing we find beyond the houses was a cheese shop and as we walked around the corner to the main street (with another canal running on through it) were more cheese shops! There was an Edam museum and loads of cute bridges you could drive and walk across.

As i saw children walk 2 by 2 across one of the bridges for their school outing (from a school in the village) a car was slowly behind them crossed it also of which i then heard the creaking of boards, the bridge was a rickety wooden bridge of which sounded like something from the old ages. The tiny homes reminded me of the ones i use to make with Lego as the windows were so small you wondered if people were small enough to get inside. As i walk on back through town to head towards the car i see a tourist group, oh no wait, make that two. Oh hang on.....tourist groups = buses parked up. I can only guess that they've parked where i have and i hope that there was enough room...and that i can get out! I say two tourist groups as one group were Chinese and the other American...well i suppose they could have all been on one but i very much doubt it. And yes, my thoughts were quite correct, two buses are now parked where i am, side by side, which means until one of them moves i'm stuck.

So i use the time to go and buy some cheese and as there was so much choice i just pick one up and head on over to the counter to pay. As i did i saw a ball of Edam loveliness that had garlic and herbs in it, yep that'll do for me! With a quick swap the lady asked if i'd like to try it but i didn't need to, with that combination in cheese for me i'm in heaven. She did look surprised that i didn't wish to try that and others but then smiled and said that the farm is very local to here and the cheese will keep for 2 weeks out of the fridge or 4 weeks in. Oh don't worry less than 2 weeks is enough time for me to demolish this, especially when my diet at the moment is bread and cheese! Cheese bought and i see that a tourist group is getting nearer to the buses from where i last saw them in town so i head over to a bench close by and keep an eye on them. The group are not coming so quickly behind me and then i look to my watch its 12pm...please tell me that they're not going to stay here for a cheese sandwich lunch?! About 10 minutes later one of the buses departs, hurrah !, so i head on back and manage to get away and head to Amsterdam.

Once into the city i tried to look around for somewhere to park but with a lot of canals and narrow streets with underground car parks being too small for me to fit i find a space on the road a good 1.5km from the centre to pay at the machine. Better than nothing where i am and from what i have been able to see...that was until i saw that it was 4 euros an hour to park here, that'll be a no then!! I look to the campsite guide and input the one which is a 10 minute drive from here so i can get the metro back in of which it was 15 minutes to get into the centre. Decision made and it was better to be at a campsite in Amsterdam than at a car park for Motorhomes in the city as they were the same price with my discount card now working as we're in off-peak season. No free parking here and you are not allowed any wild camping at all in the Netherlands so you have to go somewhere that's designated or at a service area on the motorway. At this campsite i have a toilet and shower with wifi and electricity all rolled into one, whereas in the car parks you may get one but not the other but rare you get it all. And if you do you have to pay extra for it.

As i was driving around the city and to the campsite was on constant alert for bikes as they are absolutely everywhere!! They aren't kidding when they say that they are a cycling nation here and they have their own little marked bays, and mostly bays that are not marked off from the roads, they have their own road section. They even have their own zebra crossings and traffic lights!

We arrive to the campsite and the guy on his pedal bike shows us the pitch to park on up which is right by the end where Ellie is tucked away and the campsite is big enough to have a walk around with a park next to it if we need a bigger walk. Perfect. Next back to reception as they sell the metro return ticket in which i need, making it easier than looking at a ticket machine at the station to figure things out. Dogs are allowed on free which is a bonus. I did worry if i wasn't allowed to take Ellie onto the metro then Amsterdam was doomed for the day but we'd just find somewhere better to park tomorrow instead if need be...but we are dog friendly happy here so all is good! When i read the guide to the campsite before we left it stated that if you were taking your vehicle then to leave something behind on the patch so that people know that the space has been taken. This is what campsites remind me of, the good old days when you could leave your front door open and your bikes outside without the fear of them getting nicked. Not that i'm old enough to remember those days (!!) but at a time when things were safe and that's what its like here at campsites, as you feel you can leave your doors open and things left outside as they won't get stolen.

Off to the metro station and its out of the campsite, turn left, walk then to the end and then turn right. Okay, think i've got that and i do just that but find i'm coming to a dead end! So i back track and see a sign of which it was left, straight on and then right but a diagonal right than i straight right i'd say! Once onboard i check to see what line we are on and which station we set off from but its quite simple as its the red line, number 53 (but all other coloured lines numbered 53!) and we are the last stop. This i should be easy to remember! As we get off at Central Station we head on out and with 5 exits to choose from we just head up the nearest one and look to see what we have. As we came out and went down one of the little alley ways all i could smell was pot, and then i remember that you could buy a 'smoke and a drink' if you wished around here and they were advertised it as such in the cafe and bar windows. The smell though i don't even like in the first place, never mind smoking one and so i couldn't quite get over the aroma.

As i walked away from these streets the smell was getting less and looking at the map that i got from the campsite that place could only have been one thing, the red light district. And low and behold, looking at the map it was! The sun was shining on through which was great and made the day even more enjoyable to see the boats travelling along the canals and people outside enjoying their coffees and snacks. Amsterdam is famous for its canals and it began building them in the 17th century during the Dutch Golden Age. There are three main canals, Herengracht, Prinsengracht, and Keizersgratch and are known as the grachengordel. With its many small bridges and quaint 17th century homes its lovely to see, this and along with the surrounding of countless examples of beautiful architecture, small boutique shops, cafe and hotels as well as many colourful gardens. Also today there are over 100km (60 miles) of canals and 1500 bridges.

The one place i did want to see whilst i was here was the home in which Anne Frank and her family hid for much of WWII (Jewish refugees from Frankfurt), the place in which she wrote her famous diary. Although she died just 2 months before the war ended, her legacy lives on through her words and she famously wrote that she wanted to go on living after her death, and her diary, story and Amsterdam's hugely popular Anne Frank House & Museum are testament to that and the continued importance of her writing. Her diary was been translated into 51 languages and with the house fully-restored what's been left in its original state, as much as possible, is the hiding place. Unfortunately being with Ellie i couldn't go inside the museum and visit the attic in which they hid but maybe one day i'll travel to do this, for now i'm quite happy sitting on the bank of the canal watching the queue to this place never dwindling and listening to the bells of the church in which she wrote about in her diary. I also watched the boats ride on by and i'm glad that i was listening to one of the guides as he stated that the house was to the left of the museum...i would have been looking at the wrong one then! As i walked past it a bit later i did see a plaque so i may have figured it out. On the canals were people were on the sightseeing tours, hired boats having a picnic and drinks as they sailed and then there were those with pedal boats...they looked a) difficult to steer and b) you wouldn't want to go far in them as it looked exhausting just watching their legs continually cycle to get themselves nowhere. Give me the motor boat!

As we went off to explore more of this city it was so peaceful and relaxing here, that was until there was a beeping of the horns and not only the beeping of one car but of 10 cars!! As i walked on by i got to the top end of the traffic to see what the hold up was and now everyone from the houses to the coffee shops were looking on over to see what chaos is being caused. Basically it was a taxi driver, personal one, who positioned himself outside to where his pick up must have been but the trouble was that with the street being next to the canal it was so narrow that no other car could get past, and with this it was a one way street. Therefore i could see that the taxi didn't want to move to then find his way all the way back again but that pick up of his ain't coming out from where they are any time soon it appears. Finally after 20 cars pilling up and 2-3 minutes later he moves to park up on the bridge close by...but even then he was having trouble as with that being narrow others had a hard time squeezing past. The joy of canal cities it seems, one in which as a taxi drivers I would hate!

Well i think we've explored this city to the max and time to go back to the campsite although i'm feeling that with everyone else holding a cone of chips in their hands that i need to do the same. Then i remember when i was in Switzerland and Austria that there was a chain called Amsterdam chips that were selling just that, chips. I've not heard of Amsterdam being famous for their chips, thought that was a British thing although i did see a Fish n Chip sign whilst i was here and wondered if they were the same as ours. Trouble was that looking at the chips they weren't like the good chunky ones at home where you spray on the salt and drown them in vinegar for them to soak them on up, they were thin so you could just call them french fries! So i went home and had bread and cheese instead!

Wish List: Buy Cheese from Edam, see the house of Anne Frank: tick

Posted by emmabrown1014 02:21 Archived in Netherlands Comments (0)

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