Tag Archives: Hilma

Bretagne and back – Day 3

Dramatic coast, mist and a moustached bale.
Brittany in our grasp – 25th June 2019

Leaving Treguier was a little sad as it was such a lovely spot – we could easily have stayed another day or two and explored further, but we had an appointment to keep at Camping les Abers near Landeda. Once again, the coastline was dramatic and the views tremendous as we trundled (we can’t say ‘sped’ or ‘zoomed’ in Hilma because she just doesn’t do that) along the D786 stopping at St Michel en Greve, a huge bay, to watch some tractors and diggers performing what can only be described as mesmerising to-ing and fro-ing, scraping or digging up mud and depositing it further out in the sea by the low tide mark. It’s one of those moments where one has a little inkling of why something is happening but don’t really know the full picture – a bit like life really.
Moving on the weather was slowly improving and we stopped for mid-morning Kuoign Amman cakes – speciality of the region, meant to be the fattiest cakes in Europe – lovely.

HANDS OFF – it’s mine. The wonderful Kouign Amman – burp!

The sea mist was rolling in on this beautiful bay (Baie de Kernic) creating a real ethereal view with white sand and turquoise water.

The mist was rolling and changing the view every 5 mins – Baie de Kernic

There was a strange ‘farmers’ type construction advertising goodness knows what which was quite amusing – not sure about the moustache – perhaps it was a local barber’s advert? Perhaps it was to ward off those holiday makers like us so we don’t spoil their landscape! Whatever it was for – it certainly made us laugh.

What the heck is all this about? Strange moustached bales warding off the incomers? A barber shop advert or the young farmers messing about?


The Kouign Amman (pronounced Queen Amman) was delicious and I think the calories will hang around for a few days. When fitness programs talk about burning calories off, well I reckon this one cake would need a firestorm before they were gone.
Camping de Abers is a wonderful site, small compact hedged off areas taking 3 to 4 caravans or motorhomes, gives each section an air of privacy. We have a fantastic view over looking the bay and Hilma is literally 50 yds from the beach – heaven.
The weather was warmer, the sun was shining, the wine had been cooled, life was good.

Shoes off and away we go – the beach goes for a long way when the tide is out.

This was taken at about 22:30hrs – beautiful

Bonnie Scotland – Day 2

Monday 20th May
I can’t believe it’s not a ‘work’ day, HURRAH!
Went for a very gentle jog this morning through the woods – nothing too strenuous mind, it’s been a year since I did any serious running so i’m being careful. Today we are off to Blairgowrie – why so many ‘Blairs’ in Scotland? (and I don’t mean an ex labour party leader / prime minister) – well I’ll tell you (save you looking it up like I did – it means plain. So tony Blair was just a ‘plain‘ man. What has that got to do with this trip – absolutely nothing, I just wondered why there were so many Blairs.
Anyway, we wandered off and took the low road and before we knew it we were in Bonnie Scotland – bluebells galore and yes, the rain (but not too much mind you). We went a little astray before lunch but sometimes going astray is good, you find good places to stop, great views and above all a sense that it didn’t matter if we went ‘off-piste’ we will get to where we are going anyway.
A beautiful spot for lunch next to the River Almond (no I’ve never heard of it either) on the A822 between Crieff and Dunkeld. Plenty of birdsong – Cuckoos calling along the valley, Wood Warblers and lo and behold right next to Hilma a pair of Great Tits nesting in a tree hole!

Great Tit nesting

A nice view of the Great Tit’s bottom as it enters the nest hole

Great Tit nesting

Ha – who’s that nosy git looking into my home – away with you – damn sassenach!

And all this for going in a different direction – be different, it can work for you.

To the Auvergne (now on our way back) – Day 17

26th September (Day 17)
A restful(ish) day

Woke up this morning to see the moon setting and the sun rising – the photographs don’t do it justice. The reason my uploads have been few and far between has been the lack of t’internet. I did manage to load some more £’s onto the SIM card as it had run out – but straight after doing that and getting on line Microsoft decided it would be a good idea to update my computer – goodness only knows how many GigaBytes that took and so within 48hrs I was back to square one, having to wait until I got some WiFi access to put more data allowance onto the SIM card. Microsoft – YOU DARE!
These are our last couple of days before the ferry back to the UK and we are taking it easy. We deserve it – so far, in less than 3 weeks, we have covered 1,904 kms (1,190 miles). It does not feel like it was a strain, although I am glad for these last couple of days. Janette is happy to drive Hilma but I have to admit to being a nervous passenger (especially on the continent) so I have done the driving. We have been sensible though, roughly the maximum we have done in any one day is about 150 miles if we wanted to push on, mostly less (usually between 40 – 60 miles) and with our planning each morning on the route to take, then feeding key villages or towns into Mrs Garmin, meant for (in the most part) stress free motoring.

Cayeux-sur-Mer beach huts


Off come the bikes this morning and we cycle along a track into Cayeux sur Mer, along the seafront and on into a small bird reserve where strangely they are proud of the fact that it is a nature reserve yet it is also clear there is shooting alongside. Back into town, find the obligatory boulangerie, Pain et Patisserie and back to Hilma for coffee. I decided to put my Boy Scout whittling badge to good use and hacked away at the cork to eventually bung up Hilma’s water inlet orifice (as for the ferry crossing I will use the lockable water cap for Hilma’s Gazole orifice). I was impressed – it worked and seals the said hole very tightly.

I knew my boy scout ‘whittling’ badge would come in handy at some point in my life

Cayeux-sur-Mer cycle ride – La Manche


The cycling here is wonderful – we continued in the afternoon in the opposite direction and ended up at a pretty inlet called Le Hourdal before turning around.
A walk in the evening down to the pebble beach and we saw the most wonderful sunset, captured on the phone which struggled to get good definition.

Cayeux-sur-Mer sunset

To the Auvergne (now on our way back) – Day 16

25th September (Day 16)
A dash to the coast

With only three days left now until our ferry back to blighty we thought we would head for the coast and put our feet up for a couple of days. We are going to stay near Cayeux-sur-Mer below Bolgne and get the bikes out, a bit of bird spotting, basically chilling before the inevitable horrors of driving on the M25.
Before we set off we look at the route and decide to have a look at les Andelys on the Seine as it looks like it has some fantastic views from a chateau on high. At the back of my mind though is the gaping Gazole hole that needs sorting out. The drive down into the valley is spectacular and we arrive in les Andelys looking for a garage – I pull into one but it really just a tyre outlet but they direct me to a motor spares place in town. This is a very busy place being on a main route to Rouen. Having negotiated heavy traffic we found ACE motor spares and I enquired about a ‘Bouchon Essence’ for Hilma – some strange looks but we get there in the end pointing to a picture of a temporary cap in the book he presented to me. “Aprés-midi monsieur” as they did not have one in stock. I declined, I did not want to wait for a couple of hours (probably more) as we wanted to crack on.

Janettes sweety face – cheering me up after the lost Gazole cap


Next stop was an agricultural supply shop in a town nearby (I had decided it would be better to try and sort this out before doing any more touristic stuff). A very helpful mademoiselle said they didn’t have any but came out and had a look at the size of Hilma’s orifice (most rude I thought) and went returned to the shop with me in tow. A couple of shelf visits later and we came to – the corks! Well, not parfait, but I bought a pack of two and intend to ‘whittle’ one into shape later with a spare in case I make a cock up of the first. All exciting stuff this motor-homing malarkey you know, what with pumps breaking down, lost gazole covers and smaller mishaps like breaking glasses it all adds up to an adventure itself, let alone the touristy bits.
We drive through Normandy content that we have corks to block up Hilma ( will swap the water cover to the gazole cover and use the cork on the water – ingenious I thought and when we get back to blighty order another – unless we see a camping-car outlet en route).
I didn’t realise just how rolling the countryside could be in Normandy with some spectacular views. Eventually we arrive at la Mollière d’Aval opposite a campsite and settle down into the Aire exclusively for motorhomes for €7 a night and €3 for a water jeton. For that we get to use the campsite toilets and showers with a view of the dunes.

La Manche – on our way back to blighty now

To the Auvergne (made it – and now returning) – day 15

24th September (Day 15)
Lily pads and impressionism abounds

What a treat we think we are in for today – we are off to Giverny where Monet painted his famous series of the lily ponds. We’ll get to look at the house where he stayed and the famous garden where he painted those famous images countless times.
Before that we wake to lovely sunshine in contrast to yesterday’s awful weather – only to find when we stop for lunch Hilma’s Gazole cap is missing. Yet another thing to sort out on our travels. That’s the one thing about motor-homing, if you haven’t yet got one you do have to think that sometimes things will go wrong and be prepared to mend and make do for a little while. After all it’s like carrying your home on your back and things go wrong at home as well. Gaffa tape is always a must have item when travelling – it can patch something quickly until you are able to fix it properly – so Hilma’s Gazole hole is now gaffa taped over. I need to sort something before the ferry back as it might be frowned upon if some official spots it before embarking.
Janette has been yearning to go to Giverny for a few years now and as we are now only a few km’s away we will get over there and take a peep. Well what a peep it turned out to be, I’m not sure I can turn such a spectacle into a literary picture for you.
I can say however that we were spellbound by the variety of colours in the garden and the house full of paintings (mostly copies) from some of the the most prolific and famous artists of the impressionist period. The gardens were a riot of colour and when we arrived at the lily ponds – well, breathtaking with the weeping willows trailing over the ponds just like in his paintings. A very peaceful place at this time of year (I can’t imagine how crowded it might be in July & August).

Monet’s House at Giverny

A wonderful walk through Monet’s garden – you get the feeling that not much has changed

The lily ponds at Giverny

Soaking up the atmosphere we continued to the Museum of Impressionism, a few minutes walk, where there was an exhibition of the neo-impressionist artist Henri-Edmund Cross who settled on the shores of the Mediterranean and used the light in the region to good effect in his work. Not an artist I had heard of before but well worth a ‘Google’ if you get the time.

My digital Monet


We left Giverny contented and once again feeling like we did at Aubusson, there is more enrichment in life when there is an appreciation of the arts. Onward to our overnight stop which was another ‘France Passion’ one night stay at Surcy (close to Giverny) in a farmyard. A warm welcome from the old lady whose son ran the farm and he was still out in the fields.
The nights are getting colder now and Hilma’s windows are steamy in the morning sun.

Hilma at Giverny, not quite a Monet – but in my eyes just as pretty (sticks fingers in throat).

France 2018 – to the Auvergne (made it!!) – days 12 -14

21st September (Day 12)
What a day – wine, water, pumps and STRESS

When in the comfort of our homes we tend to take for granted all that happens automatically – like turning a tap on and water comes out. I’ve been on about the water pressure for a day or two now, suspecting the battery bank after being on AC connected power – thinking perhaps the elektroblok was not doing its job properly and the batteries were being overcharged thus affecting the output.
So, this morning the water refused to come out the tap at anything but a dribble and then not at all as a motor-homer that’s just about one of the worst case scenarios – not the worst I’m sure, it certainly focuses the mind on getting it sorted pronto. Before that though we had to say goodbye to Sophie our Passion France host on the ‘Francois Jourdain’ vineyard (Domaine des Moreaux) and of course sample some of their wares (not too much with driving ahead of us) – we tried three whites and two reds spitting out lots (shame) and ended up buying a 5ltr box of red to drink on our travels and 4 white to take home. So one might say that it was an expensive overnight stop at €43 but we would be buying wine anyway and why not from our hosts who have been kind enough to let us stay for free – if we had stopped at a campsite it would be €20 anyway.

My little Sunflower on the ‘Francois Jourdain’ vineyard (Domaine des Moreaux)


A spot of lunch before moving off and I decided I needed some connectors to test the water pump, stopping at a Supermarché I found a few and decide I would have a go at the pump whilst Janette was shopping for supper. Off came the water tank cover, the pump connectors looked a little moist so I thought it might be shorting out. I did a quick test with the voltmeter and when Janette returned got her to switch the tap on – there was current going through but the pump was intermittent or sometimes dead. I decided to renew the connections and try again – same thing, so having eliminated the connection (13.6v was going to the pump) my suspicion was the pump was on the way out. At Blois we called into a Fiat dealer having been told by a garage owner that they serviced Hymers. A very kind gentleman who did not speak a word of English understood my ‘pompe electrique pour l’eau est mort’ pointed me in the direction of a Camping-Car retailer about 15km away. Last chance saloon as it was now getting on for 4:30pm and without water we would have to book into a site rather than an aire. Again my ‘pompe et mort’ managed miraculously to get someone to point me to the pumps on the wall. Bingo – having had the offending article out earlier in an attempt to shake some life into it, I saw the very pump on sale (not a Hymer original but exactly the same shape and size). With my pocket €65.40 lighter (or rather my credit card account) I skipped back to Hilma with a new present – she would think it was Christmas or her birthday – what a treat she was in for but she would have to wait. Time was pressing so we decided to motor to our original aire destination at Montoire-sur-le-Loire and settle in before attempting a pump refit.
We were the last on site (although the French usually manage to squeeze a few extra in when they want) – I really wanted a beer after the stress of the day but prudence meant (actually Janette’s insistence) that I try the new pump before any alcohol passes my lips (didn’t want to wire it up wrong and blow the fuses).
Hooray for Hilma – she has a new water pump – probably the first in her 17yrs of existence – and it worked. Positively blown away with the pressure we took glee in watching it spurt out, then we realised we needed to be careful with the water – it’s not on tap you know!
BEER TIME 😊

Bad, bad, naughty pump (but then it may be 18 yrs old).

You can’t see it but our brand new pump is in there and what power, boy what power she has

22nd September (Day 13)
Hoping for a better day

I arose early and tottered off to get my morning baguette and found the town square getting ready for the market. With moving on every day or two it’s pot luck whether we come across a market or not, so we wanted to make the most of this one. A quick breakfast and we launch ourselves into the fray of ‘combien monsieur or madame’?, attempt to not look like tourists by going to the local’s café (ha ha) – and stand out like a sore thumb!

Montoire-sur-Loir market produce


We get into buying mode with the veggies and discuss the possibility of an evening meal out, finally deciding on a huge slice of tuna and some prawns to cook on the Cadac (gas barby). We did eat out at lunchtime and with all the bread I am eating (I love French bread – how can you not) I’m noticing a little spare tyre starting to appear around the midriff. Since my marathon in April (in 25°C heat) I have only run 2 or 3 times and feel decidedly unfit. This boulangeries and patisseries are not helping!
After lunch Janette had identified a small town within striking distance of our bicycle fitness level – Troo. The guides showed it was full of ‘Troglodyte’ caves? Troo is a village built precariously into a limestone hillside. The village consists of many (and I mean many, many) staircases taking you up and down into different parts of it. Nowadays the caves that were originally hewn out for homes are used as storage cellars – one or two were even used as bakeries and café’s in the past and have been semi-preserved for historical importance (and to attract the tourists like us). When we (eventually) reached the very top of the village after a couple of wrong turns we were rewarded with a fantastic panoramic view over the Loir valley.

Troo – caves and all

Time to head back and work off in advance some of that choue bun (religeuse) that I would be eating after supper – really I ask you – what am I doing to my body!

La Religeuse – more like the ‘devil’s’ cake to me

23rd September (Day 14)
A travelling day

Nothing to report here really. The weather was so awful we decide to make a run for the North and make up a day of travelling so we can put our feet up and try a camp site on the coast. Well, that’s the plan – but this is a fluid holiday so we’ll see. We do end up for the evening in Rugles which has a lovely write up in the Aire book but we felt didn’t really inspire us so we will be moving on tomorrow.

France 2018 – to the Auvergne (made it!!) – days 10 & 11

19th September (Day 10)
Aubusson & Tolkien

10 days in and we have finally made it to the Auvergne! We are stopping at Camping La Perle about 12km from Aubusson – the most prominent tapestry and weaving centre of Europe, in fact a UNESCO site.
After a morning walk we drove into Aubusson ready for a 2hr lunch at Les Maison du Pont followed by a walk around the 2 main museums of tapestry. One houses some contemporary tapestries in 6 rooms of a very old house which is the Office du Tourisme – the contrast between an old building and more modern tapestries was fascinating. It was here we found out that the artist who creates what is called a ‘cartoon’ for the weaver to follow and in traditional Aubusson style is done in reverse.

The Tapestry Museum in Aubusson – the amount of colours being employed is amazing


Inbetween the two tapestry museum visits we came across a tiny studio with the artist producing some very different pieces of work. They reminded me of the Cirque du Soleil and on discussing this with the artist (in my best french of course) he enlightened me and told me they wee after the style of Cirque de la Luna (is there such a troupe? – I’ll have to google it!).

Strangely different sculptures to be found in a little studio – Aubusson

The sculptor at work


The second venue was the Cité Internationale de la Tapissaire. It can take anything up to a month for 1 sq metre of tapestry to be completed – when you see the size of some of the works one wonders how they keep motivated. I guess it’s like a painting, you slowly see it develop. We learnt such a lot in such a short space of time I could not do justice to it here. My suggestion would be to get online and have a look. One of the most amazing projects the venue is tackling is turning a series of J.R.R. Tolkien’s original illustrations into tapestries. Since negotiations with the Tolkien estate started in 2013 they have chosen 14 illustrations and have manged to complete the first in April this year after starting it last November. The technique harks back to the 16th & 17th Centuries when tapestries were used to tell a story – also they are utilising the colour styles of those centuries (5 only in a group of greens or blues or reds, etc) which leads to a more co-ordinated pallet.

The first finished Tolkein tapestry along with studies for the next

The ‘cartoon’ as it is called along with colour swatches to be used by the tapestry experts.


Absolutely fascinating and absorbing, so much so we said we would return for the final tapestry being completed in 2021! A very uplifting and energising day which has given both Janette and I food for thought regarding inspiration for future artistic projects when we finally cut the bonds of work.

20th September (Day 11)
Hoping for more of the same

Having rested Hilma for a couple of days we are off again on another search for a France passion site. We have our eyes on a bio-culture farm.
Before that though we want to look at a small Benedictine Abbey in Moutier d’Ahun. What a pretty village, plenty of money here we guessed. A river running through it, an old Roman bridge, the abbey with it’s beautiful wooden carvings, a restaurant – whats not to like? Unfortunately this late in the French holiday season the abbey was closed so we had a little wander through the village and learnt all about the old mill and oil press.
We head for our overnight stop and arrive in the afternoon only to find piles of soil, a straw shed, some old tarpaulins and a large wooden hut, also a route barré chain across the drive – no thanks. So off we go again on another Plan B- this time aiming for a vineyard producing Vins de Tourraine. Upon arrival we were greeted by Sophie who was also busy trying to organise a coach tour so got her Mother-in-Law to show us to our designated parking spot overlooking the vineyards of Francois Jourdain. Fascinated, we watched the grape harvesting machine work late into the evening (only to be woken by it again at 6:00am – ahh the romantic life of a motorhomer. Settling down for the night I was perturbed by the lack of power in the water taps – I couldn’t figure it out, the battery voltage was high enough, we had enough water – oh well, will have to sleep on it.

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.
Well it is now 3 months since I last updated the Dutch trip section of Hilma’s blog. Strange that my right arm muscle was playing up so badly – two things come to mind. A few years ago I pulled a muscle / damaged the tendon in mu right shoulder and it took a long time to heal and I have never regained the full strength in it. The second is some for of RSI – perhaps my laptop on Hilma’s table is too high? I don’t know, anyway I won’t go on about my woes but try and remember what happened 3 months ago (I have trouble remembering what happened 3 minutes ago never mind 3 months).
On our 2nd trip into Amsterdam we decided to visit a couple of musems – the Van Gogh Museum and the Van Loom Museum which is a fascinating look into a Merchant House of the 17th Century. In the rooms you will find portraits, beautiful furniture, beautiful silverware and porcelain from various centuries. Behind the house is a beautiful garden. The garden is laid out in the style of the 17th century and is closed by the beautiful facade of the coach house. A unique entity that you will not find anywhere else in this original state.
The Van Gogh museum was fantastic – but be warned – if like us you are a technophobes where phones are concerned be prepared for a frustrating time getting tickets – try and do it in advance. We had a hell of a time! That’s all I can say on the matter – I ripped into their website comment form when they asked for feedback!!

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

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.

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 😊).

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

To Alsace & back – Days 10 & 11

Rocroi to Embrey – 15th October

The last of our Kugelhopf was consumed at exactly 13:55hrs today. What the heck am I going to enjoy now?
On a more sobering thought we stopped en-route today just outside Arras where there was a British Cemetery dedicated to the fallen in the First World War.

First World War British cemetery at Duisanes, nr Arras

Many, many people have visited these special sites over the years, many, many tourist, motor-homers and residents cannot help but be moved by these beautifully manicured spaces of remembrance. Although sad, they are a fitting reminder of our past and worthy of an occasional visit to show our respect, also to remind us about the horrors of war. So many, so young, so sad – I do not know of anyone in our family who fought in either the first or second world war, yet I shed a tear for these brave young men, not only British, there were boys and men from all over the commonwealth and respectfully German graves as well. More than 3000 people are buried here, this a tiny plot given by the locals as a token of their respect for helping to liberate their country.

I do not know this person or their family – I just thought it fitting to remember him. Maybe at some future date I’ll look into his history.

I hope this is not an intrusion for the family.

Nothing I can add

Onward to Embrey – today was a 150 mile drive, I’m beginning to think this is about my limit when driving in France. Janette did offer to drive for which I am very grateful, I just prefer driving than being a passenger. Embrey is a wonderful little aire, about 50 miles from Calais. We came across the first British motor-homers, David & Joyce who were on their way home after a 10 week European trip which included Croatia. Seasoned travellers.
When we left Rocroi we tried to fill up with water from the Urba Flux point – what a nonsense, two euro’s stolen from the card and still no water came out. This was the first time we had attempted to use the service point at an aire, before we came away I was worried about these things – this did not fill us with confidence, however, we had plenty of bottled water, so was not really a problem. When we arrived at Embrey there was a ‘Fot Bleu’ machine so we gave this a go – much easier, a machine to dispense ‘Jetons’ bought with our euro loaded card, pop the jeton into the machine and hey – ho, easy peasy, we had some water.

Ferry back to UK – 16th October

Because we were only about 50 miles away and our ferry was at 14:00hrs we took a slow drive along the coast from Bologne to Calais. Neither of us had driven this before and it was an absolute joy. Such a change to hammering down the ‘peage’ worrying about getting to the ferry on time.
A beautiful day – gave Hilma a last drink of French Gazole, we then topped up our tummy’s with some pain-au-raisin as we stopped overlooking La Manche in glorious sunshine. We had never stayed in this region before and were very surprised by the diversity – just inland rolling hills and valleys whilst within a few miles dunes and beaches, definitely worth a couple of days stopover in the future. There I go, planning what to do next. Well I think at the end of a holiday that is a normal thing to do. We are already thinking about Ireland, Brittany and the Camargue – how are we going to fit it all in?
We will!