Netherlands, old friends and new

Amazingly we’ve now been in the Netherlands almost three weeks, how time flies when you’re enjoying yourself. We’re missing the family as always, but it’s lovely to be back to our nomadic lifestyle on the road again.

It’s been a fun-filled two weeks since our last blog, but in those two weeks we’ve had chance to do a little bit of all the things we enjoy. With no particular plan for our Netherlands trip, we decided to travel clockwise around the country, making stops where there were particular things or places of interest, or where there’s been a nice place to stopover.

The weather for our first week here was fantastic, but the last two weeks it’s been woeful. When it’s not been tipping it down with rain we’ve had 70 mph gales. Winds that speed aren’t much fun in a high sided vehicle so we stay put rather than be blown about on the roads.

Highlight of the last fortnight was our trip to the village of Giethorn which is almost bang in the middle of the country. Giethoorn was originally a community of peat diggers. Now it’s a picturesque little village, where all of the houses are built on islands which were left when the peat diggers dug out trenches to remove the peat. There’s over 170 bridges over the canals, with most of the houses having their own bridge to get to their property. It’s simply beautiful with stunning views and the prettiest houses everywhere you look. You can hire little self drive electric boats to travel around the village, but the winds were so bad when we were there the only boats available were the bigger tour boats.  Not as much fun as the self drive, but a lovely hour spent touring the village

Some of the beautiful houses in Giethoorn

By an amazing coincidence, we met up with some fellow British Carado Motor home owners, Tony and Sharon, for our visit to Giethoorn. Chatting in our Carado owners group that morning, we realised we were all heading to the same camp site that day! (Seeing as

New Carado buddies, Tony and Sharon

there’s only 40 members of the group that’s quite a coincidence!). That made for a fun-filled couple of days as we made new friends, shared rather a lot of beer and wine, and a wonderful evening in the ‘Fanfare’, one of the Netherlands most famous ‘pubs’. We were fortunate to be there on a Tuesday night, when ‘The Flagellanten’, (yes, look that up!!) the village’s male singers, were providing live music for the night. What a fun night that was and what great ‘oom pa pa folk’ type musical entertainment they gave us.

Having had a lively couple of days, we headed for a camp site deep in the heart of the  Veluwe National Park. We parked up in a forest, surrounded by trees, a landscape far removed from the rest of this country which is generally flat, and criss-crossed by ditches, dykes and canals. This gave us the opportunity for some long walks and bike rides through the trees for some bird and wildlife spotting. We also went out one evening in an attempt to see some of the 8,000 wild boars roaming the Veluwe. We failed on that trip, but typically with things always turning up when you least expect, we saw one in a field the very next day, as we were parking up the van to do some shopping.

We did get to see some beautiful red squirrels playing in the trees above our van, but when they dropped acorns on our roof at dawn the next morning it felt like we were being bombed it was so loud!

 

Our Skiing buddy Wouter

 

Being so close, we also took the opportunity to call in on our old friend Wouter, who lives in a small village in the middle of the Veluwe. Wouter is a ski instructor in the winter, and taught us both to Ski in Austria in 2006. We’ve since met up with him pretty much every year in Austria to ski and renew our friendship. It was nice to catch up with him in his own home town.

We were fortunate with our timing to be near to Arnhem, on the 73nd anniversary of the allied Airborne Landings of 1944 – which later became the subject of the film ‘A Bridge Too Far’. As part of the commemoration four troop planes dropped a few hundred paratroopers, recreating in a small way what 2,000 British and Polish paratroopers did 73 years ago. We went primarily to see the paratroopers, but found the commemoration service to be a very moving and touching occasion, especially watching the veterans lay wreaths in honour of their fallen colleagues. It was also touching to see the honour and reverence the Dutch people still feel to this day, towards the British and Polish troops that came to aid their liberation.

Fishing in a shipping lane!

The  purpose of the HappiHalls starting this European trip in the Netherlands was for Phil to meet up with his fishing buddies in the last week in September for a ‘boys fishing week’. With that in mind, Phil’s been taking the opportunity to get in a bit of practice whenever he can over the past couple of weeks. The Netherlands has to be one of the most perfect places for a motorhoming fisherman to visit. There are lakes, canals and rivers everywhere and many of the camp sites, and aires are by the sides of the water. Finding places to fish has never been easier, and there’s been some success with the fishing so far.  While plenty of bream have been caught, top catch has been a two-pound roach – which fishermen will recognise as a very special fish.

What has been disconcerting has been the shipping. Phil’s used to small barges and sailing boats going past as he fishes. Out here today he’s been fishing at Willemstad, in a “river” over one kilometre wide, in a major shipping lane with 100m ocean-going container ships cruising past – they certainly create some wash and were the cause of more than one set of wet feet!

 

So that’s our update for the past couple of weeks, there’s lots more we could have included – check out HappiHalls Facebook post on the Windmills of Kinderdidjk – but this blog’s probably long enough already.

We’re now parked up on a site in Hellevoetsluis waiting for Phil’s buddies to arrive, then he’s heading off for a week, while Carol has a peaceful week doing just whatever she wants.

When we get back together in a week, we start the long drive down towards Lake Geneva, hopefully calling in to some friends in Belgium on the way through.

We’ve loved the Netherlands and will certainly be back to spend more time here. It’s not the most beautiful place we’ve ever visited, being flat there’s no amazing views, no breathtaking scenery, but it does have its own style, character and culture which we’ve loved. We’ve loved the freedom to cycle in safety on cycle paths and routes that are built into the country’s infrastructure.  And we’ve really enjoyed the people here who are so friendly. And as a boon to most language challenged Brits, pretty much everyone here speaks English.

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