Tuesday

Holland

Holland I can't remember where the photo below was taken but I like its balance so I'm putting it in..... O.k. so it's a bit arty farty but get used to it ..... it's my blog and I'll farty if I want to.
Anyway, here we are - on the continent. Well you know what they say - Harwich for the continent - Ripon for the incontinent.......................Sorry!
We docked at Hook of Holland this afternoon and we've made it as far as Dordrecht. On arrival Jenny throws a bit of a wobbly and refuses to look round the place, so Phil and I go for a bit of a wander. I'm excited to be in a foreign country at last and I like the look of the place. We return to Myfanwy and look for somewhere to stay.
We're in a great campsite in the outskirts of the town/city? and in celebration we've garlanded half the site with my gaily fluttering washing, cheering up the other campers no end. We plan to head into town for some food. By accident we stumble across a brilliant place called the Grand-cafe Boekmans which serves really good, simple food and good wine, but it is without doubt the service which makes the place what it is. The waitresses are smiley and chatty and enjoy using English - they even have a menu in English - Ein Englische Karte - Needless to say we have a great time and I'd go back like a shot. This is a view of Dordrecht.

Holland, as many of you may know, has a tendency towards the flat. And as you can see, not only are the roads flat but they are unchallenging in the steering department too. This piece of straight went on for at least fifteen miles! Despite an unpromising landscape, this is a country I really like. The people we meet are unfailingly friendly and love to speak English and I would very much have liked to speak Dutch back to them, even if only a few words but we are here for such a very short time.And then of course, there are canals. They carry the biggest barges I have ever seen and they are still very much used for carrying commercial goods, thereby freeing up the roads, though the one below may have seen better days.
My first ferry crossing - The first of many. Notice the cycle route: These are all over the place here and it does make for safe cycling. Some of the routes are by the side of roads and quite a few are separate and make for easy, quiet cycling. The attitude to bikes is different here - they are a legitimate means of transport, rather than an oddity. Wed 28th May

Not the best of days. Set off from Dortrecht this morning and got as far as Woudrichem where I had to catch a ferry across the river; I waited 45 minutes only to be told it was the wrong ferry and I would have to catch a smaller one up river. After half an hour's searching I found a small boat tethered to a jetty but the place was deserted I wandered about shouting and getting very cross when the ferryman appears. He’s the most surly, monosyllabic old ……..I’ve had the misfortune to be afloat with and is clearly employed to prove the rule. I pay the man and cycle off in a huff, past the unremarkable Schloss Loevestein and on for a few miles until I get a puncture. Aaaaaagh! Phil comes to meet me and we fix it but as I reach Beneden-Leeuwen where we are scheduled to have lunch it becomes clear that there are further problems with the bike. Bizarrely and very fortunately, since this is a small place there is a bike shop. Phil borrows some tools to affect a repair but it soon becomes clear that the problem is more serious so it’s back to the shop. Michelle, the owner, sends me across the road to the workshop where his Father is hard at work surrounded by bikes – he doesn’t look pleased to see me.
“Er, hello”. I say. “Did your son phone to say I was coming?”
“Yessss”.
“I have a bit of a problem”.
“And now I suppose your problem is going to be my problem”.
It’s not a promising start and I stand around nervously for what seems an age until he’s finally ready to look at my bike…..Apparently it’s his first day back after his holiday and the work has piled up.

Michelle

Arnold in his workshop
We get chatting and he begins to thaw a bit.
“It could be bad news”. He says. “Or it could be very bad”.
It turns out that Arnold worked on the Dutch national cycling team’s bikes in his younger days and he’s been doing the job for 44 years. He clearly knows what he’s about. He dismantles the rear hub, sucks his teeth, tuts, changes the bearings and various worn out bits and pieces and then begins to check the rest of the bike.
“Where you are going you will need new brake pads”. He says worryingly but by now I know I’m in good hands and we’re getting on well. When the time comes to pay, he and Michelle insist on giving us discount and we shake hands warmly. If you’re ever in the area even without your bike, pop in to ‘Geer Tweewielers’, they are great people.
We push on to Nijmegen.


A genuine dutch windmill.Here's a barge that doesn't move.
And here's one that does!
video
Our second and final night in Holland is spent at an all singing & dancing campsite outside the town of Groesbeek, near Nijmegen. The showerblock is a memorably misguided extravaganza of Trompe l'oeil and lurid coloured plastic plants, but the facilities are good and we are able to wash all my cycling kit as well as ourselves. Also, when the campsite owner learns that we are raising money for autism he waives the whole fee. Good man! The weather has improved a bit so we can sit outside the bar near the campsite entrance and contemplate tomorrow and Germany. I think the border can only be a couple of Km.
My time in Holland was far too short and I'll be returning for a longer visit soon. It struck me as an open, tollerant and fun-loving society and though the landscape can be a little monotonous the towns and cities are lovely. Also, we found a great wine bar in Dordrecht called the Book Bar or Library Bar or something like that,so if anyone from there reads this- email me the details would you - you were all great. And the girl that served us our drinks and meal smiled a lot - not something I was to witness often over the next week or two.