Tulips in Holland; May Bank Holiday 2017 part 2

Ruby the campervan has moved just over half an hour down the road to a new campsite, we are now at Camping de Liede on the outskirts of Haarlem. Haarlem was once the brewing capital of Holland so it seemed like a good place to spend a day exploring! We were up quite early and had a simple breakfast of porridge, a first time for us trying the instant porridge cups in Lidl, where you just add hot water. At 45p each there are a cheap and easy breakfast and require minimal washing up, so perfect for quick getaway mornings such as today.


The weather was lovely and so we set off with a real spring in our step, looking forward to exploring a new area, even if it was only just down the road. We passed the queue for Keukenhof, wow, it is a popular place! Again, I’d say try and avoid driving- cycling there is the way forward! 

A quick stop at an ATM in Haarlem and we were at our campsite, again just before 11:00 – luckily the man let us on with no problems. He was much more laid back than the lady at the previous campsite, saying basically we could park wherever and however we like. We went and settled the bill, and unloaded our bikes, and set off for a cycle to the centre, just 20 mins, or 4 km away. 

We soon arrived at the centre of Haarlem, a pretty little square with interesting looking buildings and a lovely church tower. The sun was well past the yard arn so I dragged Keith for a pint ( he took a lot of persuading 😉) at a cool place I’d seen online. It’s called Jopen and is in a church but now is a microbrewery and they have a large selection of home brewed beer, some using recipes from the 1400s when Haarlem was all about brewing. It was really cool inside, although we couldn’t sit inside with Jazz, luckily it was glorious sunshine so we sat in their beer garden, watched the world go by and had a couple of rather strong and absolutely delious beers accompanied by the local bar snack, bitterballen- a delicious fried ball served with local mustard. Yum.

 



Feeling ever so slightly tipsy, we left the bar and took a wander around the rest of the town. It’s really pretty and has a trendy feeling about it but is much quieter than Amsterdam, which is only 15 km away! There are lots of little canals running through the side streets and a picture perfect windmill on the main river. The main river is full of boats, differing in size, some small rowing boats, many larger, more expensive day boats. It has a very European feel here, there are loads of nice looking places to eat and drink, and we really enjoyed spending a few hours wandering. We found a brilliant cheese shop and picked up some amazingly mature cheese, so brought rather a lot in our drunken state, she ended up vacuum packing half of it! 



On our arrival back to Ruby, the sun was still shining so we decided to get the chairs and table out and have a Pot of Earl Grey and the rest of the Stooplewaffels. They are just so delicious, we hope to buy some more before we go home!


As the sun went down it became chillier so we showered and moved inside. The facilities on site are pretty good, although they have a strange system of 4 showers all set at different temperatures- no individual control on each shower.  Despite us being very close to Schipol airport, airline noise is minimal – in fact we enjoyed watching them come into land. (I’ll just fetch our anoraks now! 😂)

Dinner was Chicken and ham risotto with saffron from my camping cookbook, oh it was delicious and perfect for Ruby as it only needed one pan. We had an early ish night, all this cycling and fresh air always makes us so tired!


Monday dawned with the usual pitter patter on the roof you may expect on bank holiday! Never mind, it’s a travel day for us, we had a bit of a lay in before cooking a full English breakfast to see us through the day (who am I kidding!) and hitting the road. We took the scenic route from Haarlem towards Lisse, passing through Hillegom on the 208, to try and catch some more fields of tulips. Having now travelled a fair few miles in this area we reckon the best batch is directly around Keukenhof. We pulled in and took a couple of pics and brought some more Stooplewaffels for home along with a novelty wooden clog to hang on my shed at home with some tulip bulbs. Hehe. 


Onwards towards the Hook of Holland for our afternoon crossing. Check in closed at 1:30pm so we arrived at 1:00pm thinking we would need 15 mins like at Calais to sort Jazz’s passport out. We couldn’t find any signs of the pet passport area so went on to the check in area (no queue!) asked where to take Jazz. The lady said, I deal with that here. We passed over the 3 passports and she passed us a micro chip scanner, which we used,  and within a minute we were on our way onto the ferry. Exceptional. And opens the question why doesn’t the eurotunnel do it like this? 

Unfortunately I can confirm Jazz is NOT a fan of the ferry however. As soon as he realised where he was he began shaking so much he couldn’t even bark 😞😞😞 I had to man up and be strong as we left him for 7 hours in the kennel. He’s got water and blankets so will be fine. 

So here we are, somewhere on the sea between Harwich and Holland. What a fabulous bank holiday weekend we have had! For anyone thinking Holland is too far for a mini break, we totally beg to differ. Budget wise, we are fairly sure we’ve spent less than bank holiday onsite in U.K. Site fees come in at €50; fuel, just over a quarter of a tank, door to door; Ferry £200 (with Tesco vouchers making up the rest) Keunkenhof €16 each, €20 on beers in town.

This has been our first 3 night trip in Ruby and we are chuffed to bits with her. Happy days. More adventures to come later this month with our annual pilgrimage up to Scotland. 

Until next time 

Lx 

Tulips in Holland; May Bank Holiday 2017 

Ruby the campervan is parked up near to Lisse, Holland after surviving her first (of many, we hope!) cross channel crossings. This time we opted for the ferry crossing from Harwich, Essex rather than our usual method, the Channel Tunnel. The main reason is that we are cramming a little weekend away utilising bank holiday Monday and the fact that we had no work Friday. We didn’t finish work until 7pm Thursday though, so the 11pm overnight Stena Line sailing from Harwich, a mere hours drive from us, was appealing. We were also able to use our Tesco Clubcard vouchers to soften the blow budget wise. My main concern was Jazz the dog, he’s a bit of an anxious thing and I wasn’t sure if he’d be ok with the crossing. We booked him out an on board kennel and learned that there are cameras linked to your cabin so you can keep an eye on them. 

So worked finished and by 8:30pm we were pulling into Harwich port, after a smooth check in and a short wait boarding commenced. First stop was the doggie kennels, Jazz got checked in and howled as predicted, we found our cabin and cued the doggie cameras, he was still howling 😞 We both had a quick shower each, which by the way was a fantastic power shower! cracked a beer, gin for me, and went and had a little explore. We couldn’t resist a pitcher of Heineken on the outside deck, before returning to our room for a cheese board picnic. Jazz was still barking by the looks of things. I did my best not to feel like a bad dog parent and we turned the channel and watched question time. A full on day of teaching soon caught up with me though and I’d hit the sack before we even left Harwich, the next thing I know and it was an alarm through the tannoy to say we would be arriving in an hour, and that breakfast was being served. Time for a shower, quick coffee and picking up Jazz, who was in a big grump but had survived the crossing, and before we knew it we were back in Ruby and rolling off into Holland at Eight o clock prompt!


Our first stop was Lisse, a town famous for being home to Keunkenhof, the world famous spring gardens. Before we arrived at our campsite, Camping Van de Eden, we had an appointment with the local vets for Jazz’s “return to England”Passport stamp/tablet. Colin the copilot did a great job guiding us out of the port area and on to Lisse, depositing us directly outside the vets, half an hour early. We had a quick croissant, before going to see if the vet could see us a little early. He did, and best of all, only charged us €6.50! That has to be the record cheapest vets bill we’ve ever had! 


We arrived at the campsite at the early time of 10:00 but luckily the lady was happy for us to pitch up. So a grand total of 10 hours after boarding our ferry, 7 of which I was asleep for, or 13 hours after finishing work, we had arrived and were set up, having a cuppa tea. Perfect. 

After a campsite reccie and an early lunch where we got to try out our new gadget, a gas ring toastie (not just toasties though!) maker, 👌👌👌, we unloaded the bikes and went in search of some tulips. 

 It didn’t take long before we spotted a field of mass pink flowers. The smells are amazing although as our friend pointed out, perhaps not if you have hay fever!





Our campsite is right on a river and our favourite windmill just half a mile downstream. Isn’t it picture perfect with its thatched walls.


We arrived back to Ruby and had a doze, before an early tea of cheesy nachos (done in my new toastie maker) and chilli. An early night follows as we want to be up early for Keukenhof tomorrow. 

Saturday dawned sunny but a bit fresh. We were up for 08:00, and enjoyed a bacon and egg roll with fresh bread off the campsite lady. Yum. We are right next to a dairy farm which produce their own cheese so naturally we popped into their farm shop to have a taste and buy. Sadly they (as well as the campsite) don’t take MasterCard and Euro cash is therefore rashioned so we only were able to buy a smallish chunk of their extra mature which is delicous. 

We unloaded our bikes and set off on a 5km cycle to the Keukenhof Gardens. Cycling over here is a joy even if it took a bit of getting used to with the numbering of routes. It was an easy cycle and we arrived about 10am. Already it was looking busy but getting in was a doddle, I’d ordered tickets online and we literally queue jumped and walked straight in. I’d highly recommend this rather than trying to buy tickets on the day. You get a month to use the ticket from purchase day.

You get a free map of the park and it was a real shock how large it was. We spent almost 5 hours wandering round and admiring the thousands of different varieties of not only tulips but also hyacinths and many other spring bulbs. The smell was heavenly. We paused only briefly for a coffee and stooplewaffel (Danish Waffle) which was delicious, so much so we bought a pack for Ruby’s afternoon tea, and a beer to accompany our pack lunch. It became extremely busy, unsurprisingly, seeing as its the world’s best spring gardens and by almost 3pm we had had our fill. 

Despite the crowds we had a wonderful visit and highly recommend a trip to Keukenhof to anyone reading. Try and cycle or bus in to save an additional €6parking though Entry into park €16pp.

We took a leisurely cycle back along the canal and past more gorgeous fields of colour before reaching Ruby, who smelt amazing as I’d left a joint of ham in the slow cooker. Dinner sorted it was time to chill and reflect on our lovely couple of days.

Time to move to Haarlem tomorrow 

Until next time 

Lx

Summer 2016: Adventures in Europe, Part 3; the Netherlands 

Day 4 – Saturday

Location: Alblasserdam, NL. Private aire €15 all services inc 100mb internet and toilets and showers GPS n51.86106, e4.65799
Miles Driven:  Ronquieres – Alblasserdam  116m

Weather: cloudy with a couple of rain showers 

Bluebell the motorhome is parked up alongside a harbour, just south of Rotterdam on a very swanky aire. The main reason for pointing Bluebell in this direction is the lure of the UNESCO Kinderdilk Windmill site, a collection of 19 picture perfect windmills/pumps sat upon waterways that rival our beloved Norfolk Broads.


We had a slightly disturbed sleep last night in our free aire in Ronquieres with boy racers making a racket into the early hours, although thankfully not doing wheel spins in our aire, they at least stuck to the roads, but their exhaust pipes blasting us out of our sleep too many times to count. We must have slept longer than thought though as we both woke at 07:30 feeling refreshed. Before heading off we took the walk up to the panoramic viewing platform and watched in fascination from our elevated position another boat making the journey down the incline slope. It really is amazing to watch this engineering in practice. It takes a boat only 40 minutes to make the complete journey- seeing as it took boats over 4 hours to get through Neptunes Staircase locks in Fort William, you can see the appeal- gawd knows the cost to travel on it though. 


We hit the road by 10.30am and navigated our way round Brussels and Antwerp (with the biggest ring road I’ve come across- 7 lanes in one place going in 3 different directions!) Just before 1pm we arrived at our aire, filled up/emptied, had a sausage and onion baguette and by 2pm we’d made the desicion NOT to get the bikes off and cycle to Kinderdilk but instead to go by foot on the water bus. If we had cycled we’d have been treated to a 4km off road cycle path the whole way- I’ll tell you how I know this shortly…!


The journey on the water bus was SO EXCITING. Having not been on a catamerang I had no idea how fast we would go- it felt like a speed boat!! We got to Ridderkirk in 5 mins (it cost us €2 each (single fare) and Jazz was free) where we changed to a smaller slower boat to take us to Kinderdilk for €1.70 each. If we had bought our bikes.. ahem.. They would have been free. 


Kinderdilk was absolutely breathtaking. I am so pleased we made it, the weather was a bit dull but it didn’t matter one bit. The sight of all these perfect windmills stood proudly alongside gorgeous waterways, with lily pads full in bloom and reeds rustling, was amazing. It’s free to visit if you aren’t fussed about going inside the museums etc, which we weren’t, instead preferring to enjoy a walk up the main avenue where you can enjoy the views. We picked up some local cheese from a local seller in the shop which was delicious. 


It was soon time to try our first Netherlands beer, and what better to try than a local Heineken. We noticed a local geocache so went off to find it before attempting to get back. We saw our boat depart as we signed the log, not realising it was of course, the last of the day. Whoops. Because of the placement of the stops on the other side of the river we were stranded and so mustered up our last bit of energy to hike back 4km along the bike path. By the time we were back to the van, via Lidl for some bits and bobs including a very strange looking but tasty cooked sausage and some €0.33 bottles of lager, we were exhausted having worked up 8miles on foot today! 

I rustled up sweet and sour chicken for tea and thoughts have turned to tomorrow. The fact that we don’t need to leave our aire until 5pm has opened up the possibility of visiting Holland’s oldest city, Dordrecht. 

Day 5 – Sunday
Location: Park and Ride  Eindhoven NL. Motorhome aire €3/24hrs no services apart from grey waste empty GPS n51.435160 e5.424920

Miles Driven: Alblasserdam – Eindhoven 60m

Weather: cloudy with sunny intervals. The late afternoon was clear blue skies & sunshine

Bluebell the motorhome is parked up on the outskirts of Eindhoven in a Park and Ride site where they have space for 10 motorhomes to stay overnight. We are officially on “Project Market Garden” following the route that the 101st airborne and others took back in September 1944.


This morning we had a lazy ish morning as we wanted to visor Dordretch before leaving, but didn’t fancy the 20km round cycle, so waited for the first water bus, being Sunday this was 11:35. We did a couple of Geocaches and watched the world go by on the river, busy with cargo barges but also large, posh (by the looks of it!) River Cruise liners. 


We arrived at Dordretch, Holland’s oldest city, just before 12 and enjoyed a self guided tour around the small city. The architecture here is lovely, the cobbled streets are lined with grand town houses dating back to the 1600s, and many are edged by waterways and boats, reminding us of Venice. We were somewhat surprised how quiet it seemed, I know it’s Sunday but it felt abnormally quiet. 

We managed a couple of geocaches, one of which involved Keith dangling over a harbour wall in return for finding a dinky little coffee grinder cache. Goodness knows what passers by thought! 



We chose a picturesque spot near to the Waterbus stop and had our packed lunch in the sunshine before making our way back to Bluebell, and hitting the road. Next stop was Eindhoven, less than an hour’s drive. We quickly located our night stop on the edge of town, CoPilot navigation app is a godsend allowing the option to input GPS Coordinates from the Camperstop book, we are coping well with the offline map feature, it’s brill.


After a quick cuppa and a cake, Keith had unloaded the bikes for the first time this trip- we were off for a short cycle of 5km into town to see if we could see anything left over from WW2. He had prewarned me that there may not be anything of interest as obviously this area was badly bombed. As we cycled in there was no sign of anything, in fact it was quite 60s, which made sense. We followed the Route Eindhoven, a well signed off road path- and as we got into the centre there seemed to be nothing to commemorate the war, other than the centre square being named 18 Septembre Plaza- a shame really considering how many died. 

We made it to the river, and probably the point in which was secured during the war- a smallish stretch compared to the size of the river we were on earlier today. Keith looked on to check if we’d missed something but sadly not, Eindhoven seems to have made the decision to move forward without looking back. He was happy to have visited though, tomorrow we will go to Arnhem where there is lots to see (apparently), so we will be following the Route of Liberation – not sure if such a trail exists yet, if not it will be a DIY job! 

 
We enjoyed Spagetti Carbonara for tea with an extra twist of some German cooked sausage which was yum. We had a chuckle at the name of Dutch double cream. 


Day 6: Monday

Location: Arnhem, NL aire on the river Rhine just to the side of the John Frost bridge. €9 pn with electric. GPS n51.973000 e5.916220. Full service point 1.5 km down the road at Shell garage.

Miles Driven: Eindhoven – Arnhem 50 milesWeather: woke up to heavy rain, cleared up, sunny spells, a thundery downpour then clear!

Bluebell the motorhome is parked up beside the Rhine with a magnificent view of Arnhem bridge. 

Today dawned wet and miserable but it didn’t matter as we were set to drive to Arnhem to visit but we had an hour’s drive first to get there, time for the rain to stop, which it did. We were making a quick stop at Nijmagen so Keith could experience the route that the allies made back in September 1944.

 After a quick photo stop near the bridge in Nijmagen over the Rhine, we then drove over said bridge and onto Arnhem. Keith was especially excited when we drove over the John Frost bridge in Arnhem, the bridge that allied forces managed to hold for 9 nights, but went off the scale when he realised our stopover for the night was near enough underneath the bridge! 


A quick lunch of bacon and egg baguettes after which  we set off to explore the sites on our bikes. The aire is right by one of the main memorials, and also a small museum detailing the stories of those who lost their lives. Next year it looks like there will be a whole new centre being opened – something which is needed, as although we spent nearly 4 hours tying to find various memorials etc sadly there is a real lack of information points here and it made the day much harder work than we’d have both liked.


Highlights of the day were the location of the aire, seeing the bridge, cycling over the bridge, seeing some of the remaining  pre war buildings (however there are very few of these obviously), enjoying a beer on the main square, seeing the British John Frost headquarters (despite it now being an awful 60s office block) and last but by no means least, in fact my personal favourite of the day, the most breathtaking sunset behind the bridge right from our motorhome window. 


Steamed salmon, new potatoes and greens for tea in our room with a view, and as tonight is our last night in Holland thoughts are beginning to turn to Germany.

Don’t forget you can follow our journey in realtime on a map, using our tracker app by clicking here

Until next time

Lx