Category Archives: Our 3rd year

Our 2nd trip to Amsterdam

Tiptoe through the tulips – Nederlands: 17th May – day 12

Lots of photo’s but no words yet – will update soonest – still have muscle issues I don’t want to make worse.

Amsterdam II – city tour day 2

Amsterdam II – city archive – 1926 facade

Amsterdam II – Van Loom museum

Amsterdam II – Van Loom museum – wedding portrait (part of)

Amsterdam – our 2 day tour routes by foot, tram and train

On to Almere – via Oostvaardersplassen

Tiptoe through the tulips – Nederlands: 15th May – day 10

Today was another moving day, we had decided to move closer to Amsterdam as we want to go and visit the Van Loom museum. A snapshot of Amsterdam wealthy merchant family in the 18th Century. Almere is a convenient spot as it is only about 30km from Amsterdam with good transport links, here we can get either a bus right outside the camp to Amsterdam Amstel and then a tram into the centre (about an hour) or a train direct from Almere centrum, about a 4km ride into the centre and then about 35mins on the train. We might take the bus and tram as it sounds like fun.
En-route and only about 20mins from the camp site we decided to call in at Oostvaardersplassen – a vast area of reclaimed land from the sea which was due to be developed industrially but the wildlife moved in instead – good on ’em! Easy to find the centre had a large enough car park to accommodate us (but don’t stay too late as the barrier is only 2.3m high which would have chopped Hilma’s head off! maybe a lot busier in the summer but we were tucked away in the corner nicely.
A spot of lunch and off we popped on our bicycles – I’m going to cut this and tomorrow’s blog short as I think I had some serious sun stroke the other day and all my muscles are aching and I have a real pain in my right upper arm and forearm when I try and lift things and I think typing is making it worse – so lots of pics – not many words – sorry!! I will update it when we get back to the UK (there are a couple of more days worth of pics so don’t give up on me just yet!).Here are the pics;

Oostvaardersplassen – wild horses (Konik)

Oostvaardersplassen – wetlands

Oostvaardersplassen – Great White Egret

Ommen, getting lost and garden sculptures

I’ve now run out of Dutch songs…….

Another cycling day – Ommen & back: 13th May – Day 8

Eurovision – did you see it? We didn’t but looking at the news app this morning (which we shouldn’t because we are on holiday) we found out that there had been some kind of protest whilst our girl SuRie was singing for her supper. Now I’m not a great fan of Eurovision but what is the world coming too – an innocent, happy ballady type song we can jig around too and inwardly smile at then some numpty turns it into a political event – Eurovision political? Never, surely not. We love you SuRie, just you remember that.

We looked at the weather app this morning and we were in for a 40% chance of rain from 1:00pm so we decided to abandon our planned 20km ride and go for a quick ‘in & out’ of Ommen back in time to catch the last rays of sun before the rains came.
Holland feels quite sleepy at the best of times – today it felt positively narcoleptic. We left at around 10:15 arriving in Ommen about 10:45 – the town was closed, well – it was Sunday. We cycled around the empty town centre which was quite pleasant, no pedestrians, not many cyclists and the Koffie bars were just starting to sprout customers.

Ommen – obligatory tourist photograph – windmill & canal

After the obligatory windmill & river photo we headed back into the centre for our coffee and apple tart with cream. After losing nearly half a stone in training for the London Marathon I was rapidly putting it back on – and no running since then didn’t help matters. But, I have to say in my defence I defy anyone NOT to like a Dutch apple tart and cream (that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it).
As the weather forecast for rain was gradually getting later we decide to take a slightly longer route back to Hilma. The ’cycle nodes’ were helping us until we missed 43, how could we do that? Here was me sprouting on about how easy it is and how difficult it is to get lost, well the latter is true but if you go slightly ‘off-piste’ it just takes you longer to get unlost.

No 65 – we were not lost at this point – I repeat not lost!


Whilst we were getting unlost and trying to find 47 we were pleasantly surprised coming across an artists exhibition centre (Beeldentuin Witharen) including a sculpture garden – amazing, if we hadn’t missed No 43 we would never have come across it. The moral is, when cycling in Holland, just go with the flow (or numbers) and you will find something interesting. It might be a bright orange and black caterpillar, it might be an open windmill, a craft fair, a bike ferry or simply some mating frogs, but you will find something.

Caterpillar – I have absolutely no idea what type but it was as wide and as long as my third finger


The artists spaces consisted of 3 outbuildings displaying different work, art, furniture and ceramics. The garden held an array of sculptures from metalwork butterflies flying on an unsupported chain to pottery Sumo wrestlers and African influenced pieces. Clearly some very talented people here, I’m glad I purposefully went the wrong way!

Beedeltuin Witheren – Garden Sculptures 1

Beedeltuin Witheren – Garden Sculptures 2


To sum up our cycling prowess today:-
Initial cycle plan = 9km
Revised cycle plan = 16km
Getting lost cycle unplanned = 22km!! – we were hungry.
We are now hunkered down in Hilma braving the alleged rain and thunderstorm heading our way – heard but not seen.

Dalfsen, Vilsteren, trucks & windmills

Smurfs – the greatest hits……go on, I dare you!

Cycling day – Dalfsen & Vilsteren: 12th May – Day 7

Using the Dutch ‘Node Network’ of cycle paths we planned a route that would take us to Dalfsen and back, to see how far it was. There were a couple of windmills (Molen) on the map and as it was Nationale Molen Dag we thought we might join in and take a couple of photo’s to show how much an important part of the historical and working culture they are. Little did we know at the time that we would be treated to a wonderful tour of one by Jos, a local miller – but more of that later. Our route was as follows: 61 → 60 → 69 → 8 → 90 → 59 , at which point we arrive at Dalfsen. The numbers relate to the junctions where there is a possibility of direction change on your route – you simply write all these on a piece of paper taken from an online map:- click here.
Here you can plan your cycle routes – so easy. The UK could take a lesson from this, I know we have Sustrans but the infrastructure really doesn’t exist in the first place to help them do the same. All power to the cyclists, get the politicians to listen!

A wander around Dalfsen, a coffee and a visit to a couple of chocolate shops and we find ourselves beside a Molen – built in 1818.

Dalfsen Mollen – 1818

We weren’t sure if we could climb up the steps inside as there looked like lots of signs that said you couldn’t! Instead we smooched around the craft fair below it, tasting and ultimately buying some local cheeses to add to our picnic box.

Cheese stall at the Nationale Molen Dag – Dalfsen

Then we noticed a load of trucks parked down a side street, all polished and shiny with numbers in their windscreens – a truck fest we thought? Asking some local girls we found out there were 81 trucks in all taking part, this was no competition though. The local truck owners all belong to a group who once a year take handicapped children and young adults on a trip around the town and surrounding countryside. We were touched.

Truck gathering – Dalfsen

After a spot of lunch by a large water course off we popped on our node route again – different numbers, different view. This time we cam across a bike ferry across the Vecht, a bike ferry and FREE, the two things unheard of in our own country. Joy of joys, all automatic, no ferryman, just pop on with your bikes (10 max) and press the button to go, the ramp rises closing you in the open cage and when it reaches the other side it simply opens by itself – clever stuff.

Bike ferry over the Vecht

Janette on bike ferry

We then cycled (on concrete paths) through meadows full of cows, buttercups and green frogs trying to mate in the ditches (the frogs before you start!), an idyll route which we both felt was simply beautiful. The route home took us past another Molen – Vilsteren, this was open to the public but only had 2 sails on (this was due to the health & safety people insisting 2 were taken off as the bolts holding them were not up to standard) – the thought of a 2 ton piece of windmill falling off doesn’t bear thinking about.

Vilsteren Molen (2 sails – not normal)

Once inside we were treated to a personal tour of the windmill by ‘Jos’ the local miller – we must have spent the best part of an hour with him. Amazing, despite the substantial pieces of inner workings Jos described it like it was a delicate machine and the slightest fault could upset the whole process.

Visteren Mollen – outer wheel used for turning the top of the mill – apparently with the gearing, leverage and bearings a child could easily move it.

We were taken right to the top of the mill (the bit that turns around) – the large brake wheel which drives the whole system was made in 1766 and still going today!

Vilsteren Mollen – huge brake wheel – made in 1766 (you can just make out the date carved into the wheel).


Vilsteren Molen – brake wheel


Vilsteren Molen – first transfer gear from the main brake wheel – ratio I believe is 2.8:1 – also number of teeth used on each wheel are prime numbers so they do not interlock at the same point on each revolution – clever clogs!

Who needs electricity – ahh, I do to put this blog up – doh! Anyway it was clear Jos was passionate and proud about his work and rightly so – to become a miller in Holland is a minimum of 2 years to qualify, more like 4 and you have to take a pre-test after so long to see if you can go on to take the big test! Goodness only knows what the big test is but Jos described as part of his job climbing out on the wooden sail slats to tie on the sails – no thanks!! Whilst we were on the outer deck the lorries we had seen previously drove by with the passengers sounding the horns all the way on their special tour.

Trucks – giving handicapped children a ride – Vilsteren


All I can say is a wonderful day out seeing Holland at it’s best, lorry drivers helping to give something back to the community and ‘Jos the miller’ showing us some history, culture and passion for his work.

When it’s spring again……

When it’s spring again we’ll sing again……tulips from Amsterdam

Hoping for the best to Eastermeer: 10th May – day 5

I think this one was a Max Bygraves special?
Today was a traveling day, we left the Op Hoop Van Zagan to other campers ‘Hoping for the Best’ – don’t get me wrong there was nothing wrong with the campsite, in fact a very convenient stop over for those wishing to visit the Keukenhof gardens or take a train into Amsterdam. The site was clean, well run but for us just a little crowded. After the aires of France and the small CL sites (5 vans) in the UK they don’t half pack ‘em in over here. I believe the Dutch are a great camping nation so I guess that is the norm over here – we have yet to find out as this was our first time in The Netherlands (and only our second time abroad with Hilma so what do we know). If you were to use this as a base then the train from Voorhuit (about a 35min bike ride from the campsite) takes about an hour with one change to get into Amsterdam.
Today we ventured into the north of Holland over the Afsluidijk a 30km dike built across the Waddenzee between 1927 and 1932 to keep the Dutch clogs dry.

Afsluitdijk a 30 km dike across the Waddenzee

From there we were inbound towards Leeuwarden and our first Dutch aire at Eastermeer, a beautiful little harbour we found in the Vicarious ‘All the Aires’ series. Not quite the French ‘free’ style aires at €10 but was certainly a very pleasant place to stay N53°10.538’ E006°03.307’.

Eastermeer – a lovely harbour aire – De Lits (camera shy Hilma hiding behind the trees)

The journey took us a little longer than expected and we were last on site, we counted 13 motorhomes in all, we parked next to a lovely old Hymer which made Hilma feel very young again.

Hilma and her ‘older’ friend

The reward at the end of the day for the driver

Eastermeer to Ommen : 11th May – day 6
Another travel day – we upped sticks and continued our journey heading south. When we initially booked the holiday we did not realise that around this time there were some school holidays so I was a bit nervous of not finding anywhere to stay over the coming weekend and so on the Tuesday after our arrival I booked online a 3 nighter in a Caravan Club approved site between Ommen and Zwolle. The drive this time was much more relaxing – we are getting to grips with planning a route and marking key junctions on the map. I think we would get terribly lost if not! We drove through some very pretty villages, we have noticed that there are very few white lines in the middle of the roads which makes you respect everybody’s space. None of this “this is my lane and your having none of it” UK type of thinking, drivers are generally very good over here.

A Hilma without an engine


We eventually found our destination and this time there is plenty of space at ‘Resort De Arendshout’ – we were welcomed by Michael who spoke excellent English (most of the Dutch do putting us to shame). The site is on the banks of the Vecht and is very popular with fishermen.
After settling Hilma into her spot Janette decide to wash some smalls and t shirts with which for drying we surrounded Hilma – she was not impressed!

The shame of it!


We are putting our feet down here for 3 nights and then moving on again. Looking forward to some nice cycling again (flat, flat, flat 😊).

I saw a mouse……………

I saw a mouse, where? There on the stairs, right there…

Off to the beach: 8th May
Another of those ‘old classics’ from the Ed Stewpot era kept creeping into my head every time I passed a windmill – and no, I haven’t taken the classic tourist photo of one yet.

Our original plan for today was to go to Amsterdam, but to be honest after the Keukenhof gardens yesterday we decided to have an easy day. As we are only 2.5kms (1.5 miles in old money) we deicide it would be a good idea to cycle to the beach (us and a thousand or two of other people as well). Still we weren’t to meet them until we arrived at the beach, a quick look at the ‘sardines in a tin brigade’ and we promptly turned around and headed for a beach hut type café for a coffee and plan B (which we hadn’t figured out yet).

On our way to the beach


A word on cycling in Holland – despite the excellent paths and marked junctions it can still be a bit of a hit and miss affair who has right of way sometimes. The Dutch are so adept at swiftly picking their line and damn everyone else you soon get used to getting out of their way and as your confidence increases – you try the same. Mistake – we do not have Dutch bikes – so the car drivers, scooter riders, pedestrians and any other road user instantly know we are ‘Johnny Foreigner’ and dismiss our attempts at boldness with a sniff and a tut, tut. There is a network of numbered junctions all over Holland so route finding is easy – get to any junction with a number on, look at the board and decide which number to go to next – easy, and if you get lost re-trace to the last numbered junction (yes, we did that a few times!).
After turning our backs on the beach we headed back towards Noordwijk aan Zee expecting nothing more than a mini seaside town just like in the UK. We were not far wrong – a promenade, hotels, ice cream parlour’s cafés, bars and souvenir shops – however, here in Holland the seaside town was clean. Please no e-mails about how wrong I am, I know there are clean UK seaside towns but I have to say the cleanliness here does make an impression. It was another hot day 23°C, so an ice cream was in order (I think I’ve managed one every day so far).

To save time getting to Voorhuit station in the morning to get to catch a train to Amsterdam I decided to do a cycling reccy to the station. Got a little lost but followed my nose and got there eventually, bought tickets for tomorrow’s journey – messed up at the ticket machine and bought a ticket I shouldn’t have – pocket was €16 lighter!

Voorhuit Station cycle park


Amsterdam: 9th May
Armed with 3 tickets (instead of 2) off we cycled to the Station to catch the 9:16am train to Amsterdam, somewhere I have always wanted to visit to see the architecture. Upon arrival I was once again foiled by the automatic ticket readers, I let Janette through on my ticket which meant I was stuck behind the barrier until she came back and let me out with her ticket. She could have just left me there and gone on her own – but I had the map, ha! I sometimes think it’s a miracle I can type this and upload it to t’internet given my propensity to mess up simple things like ticket machines purchases sometimes – my excuse – I don’t live in London.

Amsterdam Panorama

Colourful Amsterdam bike


As soon as we were out of the station we were ‘lured’ by the touristy canal boat trip – and glad we were too. An hour’s trip seeing some of the wonderful bridges, architecture and old houses of the rich Amsterdam merchants of the 17th century was well worth the ticket price. We had done some homework on what we wanted to do and although we do want to do a couple of Museums, we will do them later as we are passing by again after going up North. The walk devised took us past some of the oldest buildings and architecturally pleasing in the city – I would recommend a €4 map from the station – another purchase well worth it.

Typical Amsterdam canal scene

House boat – snapshot of canal life – Amsterdam


A spot of lunch on a Hansel & Gretel’s café balcony with half a carafe of Rosé, people watching, amazed how many accident’s didn’t happen – Japanese tourists standing in the middle of a major cycle junction taking the obligatory 1001 photographs, moped riders swerving around skateboarders, skateboarders swerving around pedestrians and large cars trying their best to be small at a very small junction – people watching at it’s best. Another ice cream and then a hot walk back to the station with 2 mins to spare before the train left.
A wonderful day out and a long-term wish achieved.

Leaning houses – Amsterdam

Amsterdam’s nightwatchmen

Another one for the ‘door project’

Tiptoe through the Tulips……….

Tiptoe through the tulips……………

Netherlands: 6th May
Some of you may recall that infamous song made famous by Tiny Tim (6’ 2”) in 1968 – for those hipsters reading this…. What the hell is he talking about …. Google it!
Off we go again in Hilma – last time we were out it was -3°C and 6 inches deep in snow. Now temperatures were soaring to +23°C. We have never been out in Hilma when it has been so hot – lovely. Overnight ferry from Harwich to the Hook of Holland meant we had some sleep before the very long journey the next day, all of……. 34 miles. Nothing seems too far in Holland, except that is the N206 road, which we decided we liked so much we thought we would go up and down it a few times just to make sure we liked it. Having eventually found the Op Hoop Van Zegen (‘Hoping for the Best’) – all ‘hope’ had been extinguished by that damn road. Anyway, less of my moaning – we arrived.
Not really our cup of tea after the delights of wild camping in Scotland and the free Aires in France but in my inevitable way of wanting ‘something to be organised’ (at least for the first 4 nights) it would do. The afternoon saw us cycle into Noordwijkerhout for provisions (a shiver ran down my spine as I thought we might have to cross the N206, but fortunately the Netherlands is blessed with cycle paths which steered us away from the dreaded road. A few cheap beers and tonic for the Tanqueray Gin off the ferry we were all set (oh yes, we did buy some salad and veg).
Deep sleep beckoned us that night – we were both knackered – nightmares of the N206 haunted me but not bad enough to wake me.

Kuekenhof: 7th May
Today we are off to some famous gardens – the name reminds me of that wonderful cake we found in the Alsace .We decided to cycle there as the information sheet picked up from the ‘Hoping for the Best’ office said it was 25 mins. We decided the Dutch cycle very fast – and yes, we did get lost again despite having all the appropriate cycle maps – ‘Hoping for the Best’s’ advisory 25 mins turned into 50 mins. But we were not disappointed – as soon as you walk in you are immediately hit with a riot of colour, although not in an obscene way. Some were strong and vibrant while others were soft and subtle and all made up from just tulips.

Creamy Delight – no, that’s not the name of the tulip!

Almost unreal

I say ‘just tulips’, these were the very flowers that brought many of Amsterdam’s businessmen to their knees in the 17th Century with Tulip Mania. A single bulb in the 1600’s could cost as much as a Porsche (or 300,000 bulbs) in today’s money – madness – all driven by greed. And yes, the market did crash, it always does.

Sometimes the softer tones shine through

Tiptoe through the…….

Pretty in Pink

Coffee, apple pie, mango & banana smoothie, chips and mayonnaise and ice cream kept us on the go as we wandered through the layers of visual delight. I have always thought the tulip a bit of a one hit wonder and not really appreciated it, I think when you see one or two poking their heads up in someone’s pot or border they really are quite unremarkable. When you see them at the Keukenhoff you see them in a different light altogether – and what light that is, dappled shade interspersed with the occasional burst of sunlight really does bring a new dimension in how to show off these (I now think amazing) flowers. It can take a grower 25 years to get the perfect specimen, me, I’ll just go and buy some. Well worth a visit if you are in the area, but I believe it closes mid-May as of course most of the flowers are over by then.

A muted palette is a real contrast to much of what is seen at Kuekenhof

This almost looks cheesy but believe me the colours are real