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Netherlands

2015 JUNE NETHERLANDS - AND THE WHEELS KEEP ON TURNING!

We travel inland away from the windy coast - Holland into Belgium.

Thursday 4th June 2015 (day thirty-one)

Oostkappelle to Groede 23km

Last night it was freezing cold in the tent! We woke to a beautiful blue sky all suffering from a cold or snore interrupted sleep.

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We had to be out of the campsite by 10am so it was an early start and pack up and we actually managed to be on the bikes at 9.55am. Not that far to go today we rode inland to the town of Middelburg just in time for lunch and lucky for us the weekly market was on. Lekkerbek fish was as usual a popular choice and we joined the rest of the crowd for fish for lunch, and as usual it did not disappoint, it was yummy.

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This was finished off with a tompouce and a coffee at the Hema. The Lemons and Sarah made a few extra bedding purchases, but to tell the truth Lyn & I just don’t have the room to carry anything else, so it will be just put on as much clothing as possible to sleep in and hope we are warm enough.

The fresh produce for sale at the market looked delish and was all too tempting and we purchased an assortment fruit and vegies which we then had to find homes for on our bikes. Food was hanging everywhere off all our bikes as well as the Lemons washing from last night which still needed drying.

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Our ride continued to Vlissingen where we caught the short ferry ride to Breskens where we rode into town to buy some further food supplies before looking for a campsite for the night. I found a tourist information office and was advised about a campsite only 5km away so we headed for that. So tonight we are in Camping de Woordhoeve in Groede which costs us a better price of E4.75 = $6.70 each, we had a beer at check-in, in celebration E1.75 = $2.45.

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The riding was much easier today, with hardly any wind at all. The brilliant blue sky also adds to the enjoyment. Today I rode in shorts and singlet top, big change from the previous few days where we have been rugged up.

Tomorrow we enter into Belguim.

Bike computer stats for today:
Time cycled: 1 hours 41 mins
Distance: 22.54 km
Average speed: 13.2 km/h
Max speed: 22.3 km/h
Calories burnt: 198
C02 3.38
ODO 129

Friday 5th June 2015 (day thirty-two)

Groede to Sluis to Damme to Bruges 30.5km

I think we were all a little more comfortable in our tents last night. I did not seem to be as cold as previous nights and we were rugged up better.

The morning looked a little overcast and dull, but soon turned into a clear blue sky and actually a very hot day. I wore shorts and singlet top today. It was an easy ride today, and as we farewelled out campground hosts they advised it was an easy route to our lunch destination of Sluis – the last town in the Netherlands before we cross over into Belguim. It was good and hot by the time we made it here just in time for lunch. A table by the side of the canal was the perfect spot to eat. This being our last stop in Holland, Lyn & I stocked up on droppies (salted liquorice).

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The remainder of our ride today was just under 20km from Sluis to Bruges. This is a beautiful ride along a bike path that follows a canal all the way. I have ridden this path before and it’s still a lovely ride. There was hardly a breeze, which made the air even hotter. A very pleasant ride.
Just 5km outside of Bruges is a nice little place called Damme where we stopped for a cold beer before hitting the big town. Today sure was a scorcher.

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The last leg of the ride the weather started to turn, that lovely hot sun we had been enjoying all day had turned to a sad grey sky. The wind blew up a bit and threatening rain lingered in the air. As we hit the outskirts of Bruges it was almost necessary to stop and put on a jacket, but we rode on instead. We had to find the centre as I knew the way to our B & B from there as Lyn & I had been here on 2 occasions before.

Only after a little bit of circling around on the cobbled streets did we finally find the correct way and were greeting by Lady Jane B & B owner Hugo. Our bikes were lifted into the hall way of the old building and we were shown to our lovely rooms. The next two nights are going to be luxurious. The Lemons are in the romantic Lady Jane room, Sarah and I are in the Japan room and Lyn is sleeping in the library. We have a sitting / dining room that we are all able to use as well.

By 7pm we were all showed and settled in and were about to go out to find food when a storm hit. Hail stones the size of marbles bounced around on the roof as we watched out the window. The storm did not last very long and within an hour we were out on the street and could see no sign of the aggressive storm that had just drenched the streets. Lyn, Sarah and I had a hankering for frits (hot chips) so we headed for the centre square to feed our craving. Toni & Shawn opted for pizza & pasta from a local Italian place.

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Chips and kroket eaten on the main square was a real treat. We washed down our greasy pleasure with a cold beer, only because beer costs just cents more than a coke, so it seemed silly to have a coke for E2 when a beer is E2.20. The food was hot and the beer was cold, eaten with a view, a nice end to an excellent day.

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Bike computer stats for today:
Time cycled: 2 hours 18 mins
Distance: 30.57km
Average speed: 13.2 km/h
Max speed: 20.4 km/h
Calories burnt:257
C02 4.58
ODO 159

Saturday 6th June 2015 (day thirty-three)

Bruges

I woke up just as Hugo was delivering our breakfast. This is a real treat, having breakfast delivered to us. Rolls, cold meat, cheese, sweet rolls, yoghurt, fruit, OJ, tea & coffee, we were certainly spoilt. Everyone had slept well, warm and on a soft comfy bed.

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We had a free day in Bruges today and so did hundreds of other tourists. The town was packed with canal to canal tourists and it’s not even high season yet. So glad that yesterday evening we had the town to ourselves as no one seemed to hang around after the hail storm. Today was another perfect sunny, warm, slight breeze day and I guess due to it being Saturday also brought in the crowds.

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We all did a fair bit of walking around today enjoying the beauty of this amazing town, finishing off another great day at the Café Vlissinghe which this year is celebrating it’s 500th anniversary. Absolutely unbelievable having a beer or two in a pub that has been serving for 500 years! That sort of history is just too incredible to comprehend, so we had to have another beer in celebration!

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No bike riding today.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 02:38 Archived in Netherlands Comments (2)

2015 JUNE NETHERLANDS - ON OUR BIKES, ON THE DYKES!

A relatively easy start turns into hard slog of bikes on windy dykes.

Monday 1st June 2015 (day twenty-eight)

Rotterdam to Brielle 34km

We all woke up fairly early this morning, excitement? I think not, more like nervous anticipation.

We had showers and breakfast – several different forms of breakfast as we had to clear the fridge of any leftovers. I had toast with runny, smelly cheese. Sarah opted for a more health style for the start of the day with a packet of twisties (great Australia snack food) and glass of diet coke. Shawn actually took the cake, by actually having a cake, a tompouce and a bottle of lemon beer started his day off today. Let’s see how this food helps with their leg power acceleration.

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It was close to 11 am by the time we were completely loaded up and descended the fourth floor apartment steps for the last time. Well here we go it was now or never. We were all a little wobbly at first, this was the first time we had ridden the bikes fully loaded. And we are fully loaded, no idea how all our stuff managed to get shoved inside panniers or strapped to the bike, but it was all loaded on and we were finally off.

1.1km or 6mins down the street and it was time to stop for a coffee and a plate of poffertijes. This was just because we could and to share with Sarah this treat that we had shared with Peter 12 a few days ago. Yes, I know you can get poffertijes everywhere in the world now, but there is nothing like having them in the poffertijes saloon in Rotterdam. As it turns out Patricia had told us yesterday that this café was owned by our cousins, so another good reason to stop there.

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Back on our bikes it was time to head out of town with a quick (sorry not as quick as we had hoped) stop at the train station to try to purchase train tickets for a later leg of our journey. In the end we were successful, but it was now 1pm by the time we were finally on our way out of town.
It was an easy 8km ride from Rotterdam to Schiedam along well marked bike routes. This was a nice easy ride to get accustomed to the weight while riding the bikes. Schiedam has the tallest windmills in the world. There are only 7 out of the original 20 left standing and we managed to find them without getting too lost inside the town. Again I say, who’d have thought Nederland was so beautiful. We spent about an hour riding around and photographing these giant windmills before heading off again towards Maassluis via Vlaardingen. The bike route signs are pretty good for most of the way, it only seems to come undone when we get closer to the centre of a place that they seem to taper off and a little guess work is needed.

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Reaching Vlaardingen was no problem and when I saw a Lidl supermarket suggested it was a good place to stop for food supplies. It was close to 4pm now and luckily we’d had that feed of poffertijes earlier, as that was what was keeping us going.
Food purchased, we returned to the cross roads and stood looking around in assorted directions trying to decide which way was the correct path to take. A lady who was also on a bike stopped and asked if we required assistance. Yes, of course we do. When I told her we wanted to go to the ferry at Maassluis she stood thinking of the best route to advise us to take. Then she asked if we rode very fast, when I said no, she said follow me I will show you the way out of town onto the correct path. What a lovely person to assist us when it was so obvious we had no idea. To top it off, this lovely lady invited us back to her house for a cup of tea as she thought we needed it.

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What a cool interlude we had, an hour out in a stranger’s home showing hospitality to 5 perfect strangers. After we’d had tea and chocolate, Maroeska, our host, lead us to the bike path out of town leading to Maassluis. It was a nice scenic path through the countryside.
Once in Maassluis we headed to the harbour to get a ferry which would take us over the river to Rozenburg. I was afraid that this ferry was perhaps not yet on summertime schedule and may stop running at 6pm. Did not need to worry as we all made in on board just before 6, with no idea what time it stopped. The fare was 1.30E = $1.90 each and our bikes were free. It was only a 10 minute crossing, but pretty good value anyway – it would have been a long ride around if the ferry was not going.

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From Rozenburg it was then just a short distance to our chosen campsite Krabbeplaat just outside Brielle. But it had been pretty windy since getting off the ferry and I think everyone had just about enough for the first day. I rode ahead to the campground, praying that it was in fact open. And of course it was. I enquired about a trekker’s cabin that would sleep all 5 of us. I had seen online that this was actually cheaper than 3 tents with 5 people. So tonight we have a solid roof over our heads. The Chalet was quite cosy, with 5 single beds (2 bunks) and a gas stove & fridge in self-contained kitchen. A real bargain at 50E = $70 for the 5 of us, and a touch warmer than sleeping in a tent. The tents will get their turn soon enough, but it seemed silly when this option was cheaper for us anyway.

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We cooked our dinner and ate civilized at the table (which would also not have been possible if camping) and we talked about the first day and our encounter with a hospitable stranger.

So after the first day of riding how does everyone feel? It’s now 10pm and the Lemons are already comatose and snoring. Lyn and Sarah are a little tender and saddle sore, but I am so happy with my bike. My saddle is fantastic, I rode all day without bum pants and still suffered nothing!
Very happy.

Oh, and I managed to connect my bike computer correctly and can advise we travelled 34km today. I somehow managed to erase all the other information (first time user lol).

Tuesday 2nd June 2015 (day twenty-nine)

Brielle to Ouddorp 32km

So what an interesting shit day today was. We managed to all sleep in until 9.30am, obviously exhausted from our first day riding and it was 12 noon before we'd had a relaxed breakfast, loaded up the bikes and started cycling. This late departure would be regretted later in the day.
It was just a short ride to the ferry that would carry us from the campground over to the town of Brielle. This all went well as the ferry departure was sort of on demand and the man was happy to take us as soon as we showed up. The fare was an affordable 1.25E per person including bikes. It was a very short crossing of about 10 minutes on a stand up platform sort ferry boat.

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We rode through Brielle and followed bike route signs that took us south to Hellevoetsluis. It was pretty rough going all day as we all struggled through very strong head winds. Even if we turned a corner the wind still seemed to be pushing at our faces. Going downhill we still had to pedal to avoid stopping completely. It was very bloody windy.

Reaching Hellevoetsluis we stopped at Albert Heijn (supermarket) for supplies and not long after stopped in a lovely park to have lunch, remember we’d had a late start. Off again into the wind. The countryside and little villages we passed through were lovely, but I think their charms were lost on us as we struggled with the wind.

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It was 6pm before we reached the town of Ouddorp which was still about 10 or so km from my planned night stop. It was agreed we would stop here in a campsite for the night and continue on in the morning. Misguided directions from a lady at a petrol station had us riding around town not getting anywhere. Finally we asked some women on the street walking their dogs and we were given the correct way to find the campsite. Unfortunately it was not as close as anticipated and in the end we would have been better off sticking to our original destination, as by the time we arrived at the reception it was of course closed. It was now 8.30pm. Thank goodness for day light savings I say, as least we always had light on our side as we knew it would be with us until about 10pm.

So reception was closed, but there was a phone number we could call for someone to check us in. We were all praying for another bungalow of some description, but it was not to be as the night porter did not have access to the keys and just showed us to an open field that was the tent place. The wind was still blowing a gale so we decided to camp in a caravan site next to the field as it at least had 3 sides of hedging that would protect us a bit.

First night in the tents, everyone is exhausted and I think is wishing they never came on this stupid bike ride. I had an ok day, love my bike with the most comfy seat. So proud I was the only one who managed to cycle up the dyke bridge! Whoo hoo.

After the tent was set up and our stuff squeezed inside, Lyn and I had a wee snack and finished off our bottle of Baileys – so happy, happy in our tent. We then cooked dinner and ate that inside the tent also.

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We did have a bit of light spattering’s of rain today, only having to don rain capes just before we arrived at campground. Hopefully the rain will not visit us in the night and we will stay dry. With any luck this bloody wind will blow away the clouds.

Bike computer stats for today:
Time cycled: 2 hours 51 mins
Distance: 32.37 km
Average speed: 11.3 km/h
Max speed: 25.3 km/h (must have been a downhill run)
Calories burnt: 252 (wow that does not counter out what was eaten)
C02 4.82 (is that something to do with our carbon foot print? Or is that the carbon output we saved? Will check the book)

Wednesday 3rd June 2015 (day thirty)

Ouddorp to Oostkapelle 42km

We woke today to a beautiful blue sky and the sun was sending down warm beams also. Sure it was still windy as hell but nice to have the sunshine and blue sky above us. We did a runner from the campground due to the rude reception we had received last night. Let them chase us on our getaway bikes – I dare them.

We were up and about much earlier today with a start out time around 10am, after breakfast and the bike load. We had some distance to make up from yesterday, and were going to ride as far as possible to catch up. No-one seems in any particular bike pain, apart from the usual muscles not used for ages pain and the normal old age sleeping on an air bed pain. The old people noises we make as we struggle out of the tent in the morning and into it as night are tell tail signs that we should not be doing a trip like this. However…

First stop of the day was at a road side stall to buy some farm grown vegies.

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First up we had to tackle Browersdam , windy as hell. The beaches along here are very popular for all wind/seaside sports. We saw hundreds of kite surfers and there were land sailing (little buggies with sail attached racing at high speeds across the sand) also. Quick pit stop here of a coffee and pancake – it's ok we shared it amongst the 3 of us. Good energy for the bike.

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The sun stayed with us all day and the wind did not seem to be as pushy as yesterday. I thought today was going to be the hardest ride but it went surprisingly well for us all. We rode through some lovely green countryside, stopped to buy some fresh grown vegetables (potatoes and carrots) and then finished the day by crossing the 17km dyke from Westenschouwen to Vrouwenpolder. Magnificent, this was the route I really wanted to ride and why I chose to take the coast bike way instead of the inland track from Rotterdam. Tick. Amazing what the Dutch have done with water control.

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Sarah and I rode ahead to try and secure a bungalow for the night, but the first campsite straight off the dyke had only room for camping, so camping it is. It’s a nice grassy patch, with 50c hot showers at a cost of E11.10 each.

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All in all a good day I think.

Bike computer stats for today:
Time cycled: 3 hours 34 mins
Distance: 42.86 km
Average speed: 11.9 km/h
Max speed: 22.9 km/h
Calories burnt: 337
C02 6.42 ODO 106

Posted by Cindy Bruin 14:23 Archived in Netherlands Comments (3)

2015 MAY NETHERLANDS - A DAY OF MILLS AND RAIN.

Our first test ride and our first test of rain.

Saturday 30th May 2015 (day twenty-six)

What better place to go and test ride our bikes than to Kinderdijk to cycle amoung the windmills.

Kinderdijk windmills: unique & iconic water management

A significant part of Holland is situated up to approximately 7 meters below sea level.
The Dutch don’t notice any of this though, because an incredibly innovative and intricate
system keeps the ever-rising seawater from flooding the land. Even during spring tide,
the Dutch are safely guarded from being washed away…

The most important aspect of UNESCO World Heritage Kinderdijk is undoubtedly the
unique collection of 19 authentic windmills,
which are considered a Dutch icon throughout the entire world.

We rode from the apartment to the water front where we caught the waterbus to take us to the village of Albasserdam. From there it was just a short 4km ride to Kinderdijk. Short, flat, but windy, this was a test of our newly engaged leg power. We enjoyed a beautiful sunny day cycling along the canals among the wind mills.

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Our journey home was the reverse of how we arrived, cycle back to the waterbus in Albasserdam, ferry back to Rotterdam and then cycle home. It was a good day with easy cycling, a nice get to know our bikes before they are loaded up. The killer of the day was the climb up the 4 flights of steps.

Sunday 31st May 2015 (day twenty-seven)

There was one nearby so how could we resist a Sunday morning breaky at IKEA! It was just a tram ride and short walk away. The breakfast deal was a steal at just 1 euro = $1.40.

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From Ikea we wanted to take the train to Dordrecht to catch up with a long lost family friend so we had to walk to Barendrecht town to catch the bus to the train station. This all went smoothly having only to wait about 20 minutes for the next bus to arrive. It all turned to shit when we arrived at the train station where we could not get the ticket machine to load money onto our transport cards. In the end we were lucky enough to have a railway worker use his card to let us through the barriers and then board the train to Dordrecht. Lucky this fellow was on the same train and told the ticket conductor the problem we had with the machine so we ended up getting a free ride. whoo hoo!

By the time we arrived in Dordrecht the weather was starting to turn to crap, it was going to rain no matter what we did. We had arranged to meet our cousin at the Hema (best place for a tompouce and a coffee) so we headed straight there. Patricia showed up and we had just enough time for a coffee before the store closed.
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She then gave us a walking tour through the centre of this, another beautiful Dutch town. Seriously, who would have ever thought Holland was so pretty, certainly not me. Have been here several times but never really looked at the place as a destination, so it is nice now to discover the cute little towns we have been visiting. I think it was also kinda nice that the streets were deserted due to the ugly weather.

Although the weather was not on our side, with a little wind and rain, it was still a lovely afternoon and time spent with Patricia, who deposited us at the train station for our trip back to Rotterdam and a warm apartment and hot showers.

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So, tonight is the eve of the start of our epic bike journey. To say I'm apprehensive about the whole ordeal is an understatement. This peloton of cyclo-tourists that I have assembled are a motley crew of untrained, unfit, eager adventurers, who are no doubt at this moment in time thinking what the hell are they doing here. Hopefully as well being a little bit excited about the weeks to come. The first couple of days are going to be tough going for us all, but hopefully our overloaded bikes will fare well and bring us lots of enjoyable memories.

This is going to be an awesome & unforgettable trip. Bike paths of Europe - here we come!!

Posted by Cindy Bruin 14:21 Archived in Netherlands Comments (2)

2015 MAY NETHERLANDS - A WEEK IN ROTTERDAM AND BEYOND.

Let's get acclimatized and ready to pedal.

Tuesday 26th May 2015 (day twenty-two)

The Lemons did not arrive until close to midnight last night, they had managed to get a little lost during the ride from the station to the apartment, but made it in the end all excited as they had been upgraded to business class on the last leg of their flight. (lucky buggers)

The search for bikes continued today. I googled bike shops in the central Rotterdam area and marked them on the city map I had picked up somewhere. Lyn and I then borrowed the Lemons bikes to ride around to these assorted shops to see if they had any good second hand bikes available. Unfortunately, we had absolutely no luck whatsoever. We visited about 6 different stores, and more that were not even open but none had any bikes for us and the new ones they stocked were way out of our price range. So looking grim on the bike purchase front.

We returned to the apartment at lunch time deciding we would take a visit to The Hague the next day and try our luck at a couple of second hand places we knew there from previous bike purchasing missions. But this afternoon we had a date to meet up with Peter 12 - an old couchsurfing buddy from a couple of trips ago who we still keep in contact with. We met up with Peter outside the market hall, which was a short walk for us. We had a stroll around inside and it was not half as crowded as it was yesterday on the public holiday. Peter asked Toni if they had eaten poffertjes yet and when she replied no, that was our next stop. The Poffertjes Saloon is supposedly the best place in town, so we grabbed a table outside in the sunshine, ordered a beer and some poffertjes.

Poffertjes are a traditional Dutch batter treat.
Resembling small, fluffy pancakes, they are made with yeast and buckwheat flour.
Unlike American pancakes, they have a light, spongy texture.
Typically, poffertjes are served with powdered sugar and butter, and sometimes syrup.

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We walked around some more, looking a few shops etc, and finally ended up at an all you can eat ribs place that we had eaten at with Peter last time. The ribs here are fantastic and great value at E11.50 = $ 16.00.

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Wednesday 27th May 2015 (day twenty-three)

Our aim for today is to find bikes and I am happy to say we had great success.

We caught the train to The Hague and after a quick stop at Hema for a quick coffee and tompouce, we headed to the second hand shops.

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After visiting a couple of shops we finally found 3 little beauties - a bike for me, a bike for Lyn and a bike for Sarah. Whew! Finding these bikes was a load off our shoulders. We now had our transport, which meant we were ready to go! Now just getting them from The Hague back to Rotterdam. Option one: take the bikes on the train, option two: ride the bikes the 25km back to Rotterdam. Well this is a cycling holiday so we took option 2. However I think the 25km may have stretched to 35km by the time we finally found our way back to our apartment. Toni was the lucky one to take the train and she was happy tucked away in the warm apartment, while Lyn, Shawn and I rode the bikes back. It was not too bad we made it back before dark and it gave us a good run to test out the new purchased bikes.

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As we climbed up the 4 flights of stairs to our apartment I overheard Shawn saying to Lyn, "I love you guys, but this is definitely the last biking holiday we will ever do!" And we haven't even started yet!

A few beers were needed after this inaugural ride.

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Thursday 28th May 2015 (day twenty-four)

Today we woke to an overcast sky, which did not look like a good day to be heading outside. Not letting a few clouds stop us, after breakfast we headed out anyway, for today we travelled about 15km to the town of Delft. Lyn decided to stay at home as she is still fighting a head cold and did not want to risk going out and feeling like complete shite!

Delft is a city and a municipality in the Central West of the European country Netherlands.
It is located in the province of South Holland, where it's situated north of Rotterdam and south of the The Hague.
Delft is known for its historic town centre with canals, Delft Blue pottery (Delftware), the Delft University of Technology,
painter Johannes Vermeer and scientist Antony van Leeuwenhoek,
and its association with the Dutch royal family, the House of Orange-Nassau.

Toni, Shawn & I had a great day in this very pretty town. Nobody was interested in cycling the 15km after yesterdays effort, so we caught the metro from Oostplein, close to the apartment, to the Blaak train station where were transferred to a train to Delft, which took less than 30 minutes. We had ridden through the town yesterday on our epic journey after purchasing the bikes, but today we could take our time to look around and wander the streets - which is what we did.

Walking from the station we spotted a tall windmill that was actually turning, a rare sight (see video on FB).
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As the day progressed the weather improved after an initial light shower of rain. It was still cold enough to warrant wearing a jumper all day, but the day was very pleasant walking around in the sunshine through the canaled streets. Very pretty place.

The local market was on and for lunch we had a very cheap meal of Lekkerbek for just 2 euro = $2.80. This deep fried fish was freshly cooked and tasted delicious. 90_DSCN1379.jpg
We had this after a visit to the Cheese shop where we were able to taste test about 20 assorted cheeses. The cheese aroma in this shop is enough to get my taste buddies working overtime.

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The whole town is very pretty and there were quite a few tourists visiting today also. While meandering the narrow cobbled streets we happen to come across a hardware store that was selling the butane gas bottles we need for our cookers. Somewhat on the expensive side but at least now we have fuel to cook on the road when we take off in a few days. These canisters which are so readily available and very cheap at home are not so easy to come by here which make me very nervous for any future hot meals, but for now we are sorted so we can spend the rest of our time in Holland relaxed knowing that all our housework is now done.

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Before returning to the train station we made a quick stop at the Hema to pick up a couple of tom pouce to have for later. To tell the truth I was amazed they made it all the way home uneaten. lol.

Train and Metro back, we were home again just before 3pm, minutes later Lyn came puffing up the stairs with Miss Sarah in tow who had just arrived today. So now our little group is complete. There are a few more day excursions planned (some involving our bikes to acclimatize ourselves to them) while we are still based here in Rotterdam.

We stayed in tonight, after stocking up on some more lemon beers, catching up planning the coming days.

Friday 29th May 2015 (day twenty-five)

Today we took the train from Rotterdam to Amsterdam.

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The weather did not favour us today, and although we did not have a down pouring of rain it did spit on and off and the wind blew through us for the majority of the day making itself felt right to our bones.

We managed to score some really cheap train tickets from our apartment host and got return Rotterdam to Amsterdam train tickets for 10.30E = $14.80 each. This was a bargain price ticket. The sky was looking ugly when we left the apartment to walk the short distance to the train station, but previous days had looked like this and ended up sunny and clear so we did not worry too much. Unfortunately, today did not live up to the standard of weather we were expecting and maybe put a little damper on our visit to Amsterdam.

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After arriving at the Amsterdam Central station I walked over to the tourist office to try and find a map, but the only maps they offered were for sale @ 2.50E = $3.60 so we decided to wing it. Toni had read about a market in a magazine so we found a street 'you are here map' to direct us to which tram we should catch to take us there. Our OV swipe cards are good for transport all over the Netherlands so it was easy to find the correct tram number, climb aboard and hope we get off at the correct stop. Locals are pretty helpful when they see you are struggling to find anything that looks like our stop by advising where to get off.

The market was smaller than expected and seemed to be just an extension of the shops that were in the same street. The food stalls are always a winner for me and there were a few selling fresh fish and my favourite is the cheese stall. We did purchase some cheese as it was cheaper than we'd seen in the supermarkets, and you never can have too much cheese now can you?

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Feeling a little peckish by the end of the market we all stopped for a cone of patat met = a cone of hot chips with mayo! They were hot and yummy, just what we needed to warm us up and fill a hole.

After this vegetarian lunch we needed to hightail it to Waterloo Plein to meet up with our free walking tour of Amsterdam by 2pm. I had made the booking online last night and although touted as a free walking tour it is not actually free as the guide works for tips. Fair enough, we have done a couple of these free walking tours in other countries and it still is a cheap way to get a short tour around, shown some of the sights and learn a few interesting facts. Today was no different and I'd like to share 3 things that we learned today.

1. The Netherlands was a republic until Napoleon Bonaparde invaded in the 1800's and declared his brother, Louis, the King of Holland. Louis saw the town hall in Amsterdam (which at the time was the biggest town hall in the world) and decided it would make a good palace for him. The only thing he added to the building was a French balcony where he could stand and address his new subjects. Trying to impress the locals with his newly learnt language, Louis stood proudly on the balcony and declared ' I am your rabbit!'. The Dutch word for rabbit and the Dutch word for King are very similar in pronunciation, was his language teacher taking the piss or what?

2. Amsterdam is built on a swamp and the canals were hand dug. The elm trees that line the canals are there for a reason. The roots of the elm trees grow straight down and become support for the canals so they do not cave in. There is a government department that is solely responsible for the welfare of all the elm trees.

3. Most of the buildings that line the canals are very narrow. This is due to the fact when built there was a tax payable on the width of the canal frontage. Wealthy families and business would show off their wealth by the width of there premises.

4. 50E = $72.85 will buy you exactly 12 minutes of suck and fuck from one of the prostitutes sitting in the windows in the red light area. (We only know this fact because Sarah asked the question. She asked our guide not an actual prostitute).

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So all in all it was an interesting tour and we got to learn some stuff too. Pity the weather was drizzly and the wind just blew straight through us. After more than 2 hours walking around we had enough and went searching for the nearest Hema for a hot coffee and cake. Of course being late in the afternoon they were sold out of tompouce.

Back to Rotterdam again by train, it is easy to loose track of time when it does not get dark until 10 pm. We had a late dinner back in the apartment happy to be out of the cold.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 13:55 Archived in Netherlands Tagged amsterdam delft tompouce Comments (3)

2015 MAY NETHERLANDS - STENA LINE FERRY HARWICH TO HOOK

UK to the Netherlands, we sail across the English channel over to the Continent.


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Saturday 23rd May 2015 (day nineteen)

An early start this morning as we had to be down at the ferry at 8.00 am for 9.00 am departure. After thanking and bidding goodbye to our friends Janet and John, we loaded our huge bags into a taxi to take us down to the dock.

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The crossing of the Channel from England to Holland was long and uneventful. Thankfully the sea was calm so it was smooth sailing, only complaint was the air conditioning was turned up to Arctic levels so we froze the entire 8 hours. It was not only us who felt the shallow temperature, other passengers around us were rugged up and shivering under blankets also. We regretted checking in our luggage as we had sleeping bags with us that we could have readily used to try and stay a little warmer.

I guess the high air con was trying to acclimatize us for the coolness of temperature that met us as we left the ferry terminal to walk to the train station. Luckily it was only about 20 meters away so we did not have far to go. However, once there we had to wait on the drafty platform approximately 25 minutes until our train arrived. We still had a way to travel as tonight we had a hotel booked in Almere which is about an hour north of Amsterdam. Our ferry ticket included a train ticket to any Dutch station, but the first train we boarded would only take us as far as Rotterdam from where we got on at the Hook of Holland. As we had to change trains in Rotterdam, we thought it best to leave half our luggage at the Rotterdam train station as we were only going to be away one night then return to this same station. This was a better idea than carting it with us for one night.

While at the station we stopped for a quick picnic break with the left over food we were given for the ferry journey. (Thanks Janet).

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Another train took us from Rotterdam to Amsterdam where again we changed to a different train that took us to Almere. It was almost 9.30pm when we finally booked into our hotel and it was still broad daylight outside. Gotta love a hotel that hands out ear plugs to its guests on checkin. They warned us there was going to be very very loud music from 10pm until about 4am. We were given a room on the 4th floor and after showering we more or less went to bed. (After watching the Eurovision Song Contest of course).
I don't know about Lyn but I did not hear much of the music that was played downstairs, it had been a big day of travelling and slept like a log on a very uncomfortable soft bed, in a room with very loud wallpaper.

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Sunday 24rd May 2015 (day twenty)

Breakfast was included with our room and we took full advantage of it this morning.

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Rest of the day was spent with our cousins Alie & Koos and Wout & Ria. It was a beautiful day and we sat outside in the sunshine. Koos cooked some amazing schol (sole fish) which we enjoyed for dinner.

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After a lovely day spent with our Dutch rellies, which was as usual a complete day of overeating, Lyn and I boarded a train to take us back to Rotterdam to the apartment that we have rented for the next week. It was well and truly dark by the time we finally arrived in Rotterdam, collected our luggage from the locker and went outside the train station to get the tram. This of course was perfectly timed with the exact moment that it started to rain - not very heavy, but enough to be a pain with full luggage and no idea where we are going.

Amazingly, we found the apartment without too much trouble. This is a place I had booked via air bnb so very interested and not sure what we were to expect. Luckily the owner lives in the same building so our late arrival was not too much of a problem and Erik was really nice and welcoming. Only down side was apartment was up 4 flights of stairs, a rather large drama with heavy luggage, but Erik helped and soon we were upstairs and settled. We had forgotten to buy milk so could not even have a tea/coffee, best thing to do was go to bed and find something in the morning.

The hunt for bicycles starts tomorrow.

Monday 25th May 2015 (day twenty-one)

I went out first thing this morning to look for milk and bread. Little did we know that it was a public holiday and nothing, and I mean nothing was open. I walked the surrounding unknown streets but found nothing open, so returned empty handed to the apartment.

Friends on FB assured me the shops would open at 12 noon and we would be able to get sustenance then. And sure enough they were correct, we went out for a walk around lunch time, managed to get some supplies and then went for a walk around town.

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Not much luck on the bike finding front, hard to believe it's hard to find a bike shop when you are looking for one. As we only had half a day anyway we decided to wait until tomorrow to really get into it. After our walk we returned to the apartment, did some washing (we have a machine here). Cooked some dinner and waited around for Toni & Shawn Lemon to arrive. They are joining us for the first 6 weeks of our bike tour, having enjoyed (news to me) the ride along the Danube River with us some years ago. Toni & Shawn are bringing bikes with them from Australia so although their flight is due to land in Amsterdam around 8.30pm we are not expecting them to arrive until much later. Not that they are riding these bikes from the airport to Rotterdam, but need time to assemble and then get them on the train from Schiphol airport to Rotterdam and then they will ride them from the station here in Rotterdam to the apartment.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 13:28 Archived in Netherlands Tagged of holland line almere harwich hook stena Comments (1)

2013 SEPT NETHERLANDS - A QUICK HELLO TO HOLLAND

2day stopover to collect stuff

rain 18 °C

Saturday 7th Sept 13 (day 7)

Arriving at 7am the sun had only just risen, and it was somewhat colder than the Asian continent. We had a coffee at the airport before catching a train to Rotterdam, where I had booked a hotel for the next 2 nights. Hotel check-in is 3pm so there was no great rush to get there. After recharging our Dutch transport cards we boarded a train that promised to take us from Schiphol airport to Rotterdam in 25 Minutes for 11.20 euro (just under $20) - a bit more expensive here compared to public transport costs in Asia. Welcome to Europe!

The sky looked bleak as we travelled across the countryside to Rotterdam. Ironically as soon as we stepped out of the covered train station it started to rain. It was only light rain and luckily the hotel was not too far to walk according to my hotel mud map. Again my navigational skills failed me and we did take the long route to reach the Grand Central Hotel, but the short walk was welcomed after so many hours sitting in a cramped plane seat. Hotel found, we were advised the room of course was not yet available, fair enough as it was still too early at 9am. We were welcome to sit in the foyer which is what we did and by 10.30 our room was ready to move into. Pretty good service. We settled in and then went out for a walk to look around and to find some lunch. Downtown Rotterdam was a pretty dead place on a Saturday morning even though the weather had cleared. Walking up the main shopping street it was almost noon before all shops were open and people started to appear. At the end of the main drag we came across the weekly outdoor market which we had a walk around. Lots of fresh fruit and veggies and the in season choices were looking lovely, fresh and reasonable prices were displayed. A few mouth watering fish mongers were also displaying their goods and Lyn & I could not manage to walk past a mussel stall without indulging. Wow they were very yummy and we shared very generous portion size for 5 euro ($8.00). On the way out of the market we also purchased a smoked mackerel fish which we ate back at the hotel with fresh bread bought from a supermarket.
There were a few more people out and about now. The sky had cleared and the Main Street was now swarming with Saturday shoppers.

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Didn't do much for the rest of the day. We had a dinner date who met us at the hotel at 7pm. We met Peter12 a few trips ago when we stayed with him when he lived in the south of Holland. Coincidentally, Peter now lives in Rotterdam and we all went out for dinner to catch up. We chose a restaurant not far from the hotel and all ordered a slab of ribs. It was great to see our friend again and although the ribs were all you could eat, due to the extra large initial serve we couldn't fit any more in.

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Walking back to the hotel we realised that although the hotel seemed in a good position during the day, during the night we seemed to be in the middle of the all night bars area. Loud music, very loud music continued until the early hours. 5am was the last time I woke and it was just starting to quiet down then. Call me old but I prefer sleep to all night, than listening to loud partying these days.

Sunday 8th Sept 13 (day 8)

Not a wonderful nights sleep due to all the noise outside. Woke up to a wet day.

Breakfast provided by the hotel was fantastic and we spend at least an hour over a leisurely Sunday morning breakfast.

I came up with the idea to perhaps hire bicycles today and have a bit of a ride around. The weather put a kibosh on that idea so we are having a vege out day in front of the telly instead. Feeling no guilt about a lazy day as we paid for a nice room and intend to get our money's worth! Like I said soon we will be spending our nights in a tent so we are enjoying these comforts without guilt while we can.

However we needed to leave the comforts of our room at 6pm and catch a train to The Hague. We had a 7pm appointment to collect some of our belongings that we left with a friend last trip. It's important stuff that we need for our bike trip in France. The train from Rotterdam to The Hague is only about 30 minutes and from memory we knew we'd be able to get a tram from the station to where we needed to be. Of course no one had informed us that the tram line we wanted to ride had closed down, so we had little choice but to walk the distance. It wasn't really that far and probably only took us about 25 minutes, but of course again, ironically, it started to pour down with rain about 5 minutes into our walk. Luckily we had our rain ponchos with us, but still walking in the pissing down rain is no fun. Our bag of goodies collected, we headed just around the corner to a favourite restaurant we always like to eat at when we're in this neck of the woods.

Seafood calzone was on the menu and we managed to dry off while having dinner and the rain had eased a bit for the rest of our walk back to the train station.

Back in our hotel room, it hit home that we really do have too much luggage for the type of trip we are attempting. And yet everything we have is really the bare minimum needed for the type of trip we are doing. Stuck between a rock and a hard place I went online and purchased extra check in luggage weight for our flight to France tomorrow. It will be fine.

A little exciting as the adventure will really start to take shape tomorrow.

Look out France - here we come.

See the itinerary of this trip, and details about each destination.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 23:44 Archived in Netherlands Tagged rotterdam Comments (2)

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