Hellevoetsluis

Hellevoetsluis

Day_8_Hellevoetsluis_03.JPGThis morning we decided to have a bit of a lazy morning, as in not getting up early to go out somewhere. Lazy for Kas still involves going for a run. Lazy for me and the girls involved walking to the supermarket to buy some things to make fajitas. Then there was some cleaning up and some eating breakfast involved at some point.

We decided to spend most of our day at Hellevoetsluis, partly because it looked like a nice old town centre, partly because the kids wanted to go back to the wonderfully named Quackstrand to play in the sand and the waterpark, and partly because there’s a nice looking course of geocaches running from Hellevoetsluis to Quackstrand. A bit of something for everyone then.

We started by parking in the old town right next to the lightship, which is home to the cache called Lichtschip 12 “NOORD HINDER”, which proved to be a slightly challenging find eventually discovered by Kas.

From here we crossed over the canal/moat to an open garden where I’d calculated that the end point of a multi-cache should be. It wasn’t. Quite frankly, I’m too embarrassed even to admit which one it was. The multi concerned involved quite a lot of walking to do “properly” and I didn’t want to make this bit of the day just about caching. So we applied the 10-minute rule and moved on.

Day_8_Hellevoetsluis_18.JPGWe found ourselves next to a swing bridge over the mouth of the inner harbour, and as was a theme for the holiday, the bridge started to open just as we were toying with walking across it. So we waited. Actually this one was quite good to watch because you could stand right next to it.

From here we walked along the western side of the inner harbour up to an old dry dock containing a fairly substantial vessel, and a geocache called Droogdok Jan Blanken, which proved to be a little hard to find, mainly because the hint was totally unhelpful to an English speaker. The English translation referred to some little known Dutch cultural character and it meant nothing to me at all. Eventually I found it using the “where would I put it” method, and I’m somewhat disappointed I didn’t do that straight away. It would have saved some of the grumpiness that the kids were exhibiting. They didn’t complain about walking around the village or picking up a couple of caches per se, but they were walking slowly, complaining about being too hot, or their feet hurting, or being thirsty, or needing the toilet, near constantly and they were generally showing no interest in anything whatsoever and looking impatient, like they had somewhere else to be.

I suppose in their minds they did have somewhere else to be. They wanted to be at the beach. So we walked back to the town centre with the intention of stopping for an ice cream before Kas took the kids to the beach and I started walking there to meet them. When we got there though there wasn’t anywhere we liked the look of, so Kas went straight back to the car so they could go to the (known) beach bar at Quackstrand, and I stopped for some “provisions” in a local store before starting to walk. But not before I’d waited for that swing bridge to open and close again.

I won’t list all the geocaches I passed along the way because if you look at a map you’ll be able to see them. Most of them were a part of the series that eventually leads you to Quackgors bonus, and cunningly I was able to derive coordinates for this despite a couple of the bonus clues being missing from the traditional caches. About halfway along I met another cacher coming the other way. He was doing them back to front, so I hope he had made the guess that the bonus would be west of the series not east, and as a result had parked appropriately to avoid too much backwards-and-forwards-ing.

I eventually made it back to the beach after about 30 minutes or so more than I’d hoped. Kas and the girls were in transition, having just been off the beach for a drink and come back again. So I went for a drink too and then dropped down onto the beach for a fairly long period of sitting, logging, and watching the world go by.  The first available slot in the waterpark was at 6pm (it was about 4:30 when I got there, I think), so there was a lot of waiting, but we had promised Ami and I did want to make a point of living up to our promises so we could take the moral high-ground a bit after the grumping the kids were doing earlier in the day. Anyway, it’s not like we had much else to do. If we’d have gone home we’d have been in the swimming pool inside 10 minutes, so we might as well stay here.

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While Kas and Ami were in the waterpark, Izzy and me had a quick plodge in the lake and then I sat and took a few photos and did my caching logs while Izzy continued with more plodging. I offered her a trip to the bouncy castle but she wasn’t bothered. In the photo above you can see the six windmills with the challenges at the bottom that we’d done a couple of days before – see Windmills.

By the time we were finished at the beach it was well past 7pm, so we jumped into the car and drove the 15 minutes home, this time managing to avoid any opening bridges, whereupon I made some fajitas while the girls all got cleaned up. I think we did some breadcrumb-coated chicken steaks for the kids, but because they weren’t absolutely identical to the ones Tesco do then they didn’t like them. Their loss. They were quite nice.

And that was the end of another day. It was busy in a sort of relaxed way. There was a bit of grumpiness, which I assigned to the twin terrors of a late night and a morning activity that could never match up to being on the beach. Such is life.

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Capital Cities

Capital Cities

If you’re in a new country you’ve really got to allow time to make at least one visit to the capital city. The Netherlands is blessed with two of these, by some accounts. There’s some debate over whether Amsterdam is the capital because it’s the biggest city, and the major commercial centre, or whether Den Haag is the capital because it’s the seat of government. Wikipedia says that it’s Amsterdam, so that’s where we decided to go.

As it’s about 80-90 miles from our gaff in Zeeland up to Amsterdam we got up fairly early and managed to get ourselves to the car for 9am. From here we had a reasonably quick and uneventful drive around Rotterdam and up to Amsterdam. The only missed opportunity was a new motorway running from the Beneluxtunnel at Schiedam directly to Den Haag. It wasn’t signposted, so we missed it, and had to drive a few miles west to the motorway by the airport, and then back across again. Not a big diversion, but somehow we failed to find it on the way back too.

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When we reached Amsterdam I was expecting it to be rather fruity finding a way into the centre, but as it happened we found a direct route that lead up to an area with lots of car parks and fairly close to the Central Station. The station is a major tourist attraction in its own right, being built, as it is, on a series of wooden piles and other doo-dahs that stop it from sinking into the water. It is the most visited national heritage site in the Netherlands. I would hazard that many of those visitors visit it in about the same way we did though, i.e. they walk quickly through the building to/from a platform, possibly via a chain coffee shop and then do a runner (or a trainer) somewhere else. As a piece of architecture, though, it’s worth a few minutes of your time.

Day_7_Amsterdam_17.JPGBefore visiting the station to buy something from a chain coffee shop we bought ourselves some tickets for a canal boat tour, which started in the little harbour shown on the big photo above. No need to be walking too far, is there ? We had an hour before our boat ride and it had been a while since breakfast, so it seemed like a good time for a coffee, a cake and some bicycle rotation.

On the way out we availed ourselves of a simple geocache stuck under an armco on the station forecourt. Not the best cache ever, but a good location and it seemed a shame to walk past and not sign it. Ami got to it first.

Our boat trip lasted an hour, and involved a waterborne highlights tour of the harbour and some of the inner loops of canals. The driver (or pilot, or captain, possibly) was doing his best to keep us entertained and there was an informative if slightly out of time commentary provided in several different languages. It was an hour spent doing what you might describe a “lazy” tourism, but it is one of those cheesy things that you just have to do on a day in Amsterdam. There are very many companies offering very many similar tours.

When we’d finished the boat trip we went for a bit of a mooch around the streets where we’d just been sailing, but without any particular purpose. There was a mighty fine geocache involved at one point, and then Kas had the bright idea that we should stop for lunch. We found a cafe with outdoor seating on the street actually over the top of a canal, and aside from a fairly noisy and arrogant sounding group of young urban professional (and British) males the location was very nice. The food wasn’t bad either. And nor was the weather.

Day_7_Amsterdam_28.JPGWhich left us with the tricky matter of deciding what to do with the rest of our day. We set off at a gentle stroll in the general direction of Dam Square and while we were doing this the girls first raised the twin requests of finding a tat shop to buy some badges and souvenirs, and finding a hair braider (because they always get hair braids done when we’re on holiday).

The tat shop was quite easy – they’re everywhere. We stopped at one on the corner of Dam Square.  No hair braiders around here though, apparently. So we walked on a bit more in the general direction of the station again, looking for hair braiders but also attempting to steer clear of Amsterdam’s more famous tourist attractions (if you can call it that). You know, the one that involves all the ladies sitting in windows. Not sure I was particularly attracted. I’d been there before and wasn’t particularly attracted that time either. I did get offered some herbal tobacco at one point. But back in the here and now we still couldn’t find a hair braider. So in the depths of our despair and apparent failure, little lights appeared simultaneously over mine and Kas’s heads as a thought made itself known. “Why don’t we go to a beach resort instead?” I said. “It’s not very far to Zandvoort or Scheveningen and it isn’t really far off the route home at all”  “Let’s go to Scheveningen” said Kas, “it’s not so far out of the way” – Sounds like a plan then.

Day_7_Amsterdam_42.JPG So we legged it back to the car and discovered quite why it was so easy to find a car park in the middle of a major city in the middle of the day. 35 Euro for under 5 hours ? Your havin’ a giraffe, Jan, surely. But Jan wasn’t havin’ a laugh. Well, he probably was once we’d paid up and left the place.

The drive out of town was more entertaining than the drive in. Firstly we got lost. We completely lost all road signs, and eventually we decided to head in a straight line until we found the loop motorway and figure it out from there. Secondly, we started to encounter a phenomenon which is normal in Europe and is getting more popular in the UK too. A tram up the chuff. Followed by another tram up the chuff. The problem with trams is that they can’t change lanes. The problem with Amsterdam trams is that they don’t know whether they have the road to themselves or whether they have to share. It can alternate within a few hundred metres along the same stretch. And as a driver you have to resist the temptation to follow a tram when you get behind one. They have a nasty habit of shooting off up a bit with no tarmac (just rails and hardcore). There is nothing worse than a chuff tram at 4 o’clock in the afternoon.

When we eventually did reach the loop motorway we were on a road that had no junction with it, so we had to quite a lot of looping around ourselves to try to find the escape route.

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Once we did get out though it was a pretty easy drive down to Scheveningen, a drive which skirts the edge of the Netherlands’ other capital – the one that isn’t really one even though the government is there. Scheveningen itself is a remarkably popular seaside resort given it’s location (both it’s latitude and it’s proximity to major population centres). It’s not exactly scenic or pretty. It just happens to be by the sea, and for many people that is sufficient to warrant a day out.

It was easy to find parking, and somewhat cheaper, but it did involve a bit of a hike. It wasn’t too bad though, and we ended up on the seafront promenade at the north end and started looking for hair braiders. It must have taken us all of, oooh, five minutes at a slow amble to find one. Job done. The other job done was that she seemed to be doing herself out of a lot of money by charging a ridiculously low price. The ones in Weymouth last year cost at least twice as much for a shorter braid. As I write this post in mid-October both girls have their braids in still. Let’s see how good value they really were.

The braiding took a while and Kas suggested that I go look for a cache or three while I was waiting, but Scheveningen seems to be one of the few places in Holland that doesn’t have many. The closest was right next to where we parked, nearly a kilometre away. So I didn’t bother until we walked back to the car.

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We didn’t walk straight back though. It was late (gone 7) and we hadn’t had dinner and we were going to be late enough that the kids would need bed straight away when we got back, so we fed them up with some wonderful chips from a stall on the prom, which were smothered in far too much ketchup, and we picked our way back up the hill to the car, leaving a trail of red splodges as we went.

The cache on the hill right next to the car was an easy find for me and Ami while Kas and Izzy stood by the car finishing chips and watching the rapidly descending sun.

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The drive home was bathed in very bright sunlight directly in through the windscreen for most of the trip, making seeing other cars a bit tricky, and we eventually got home at about 9:30pm. The kids did their usual trick of falling asleep in the car about 10 minutes before we got home.

And when we got back they went to bed, and we sat in the lounge picking at a quiet beer and playing on the interweb.

My thoughts about Amsterdam remain the same, I think. I didn’t like it a huge amount the first couple of times I went and this trip didn’t change that view much. There’s nothing particularly wrong with it, I just personally don’t find any of it especially impressive. But now at least all four of us have been and can make up our own minds. It was a good day overall but Amsterdam itself sort of fizzled out once we’d had lunch. Maybe we were just too tired. And having looked at both Zandvoort and Scheveningen on Google street view I’m glad we went to the latter.


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Windmills

Windmills

Kas decided not to bother going for a run this morning, which meant we were all up, dressed, fed and watered by the surprisingly early time of 10am.

We’d done a bit of discussion the previous night and decided that today we were off to Kinderdijk, one of the most quintessentially Dutch of all Dutch places. It has the full combination of windmills, canals, rivers above your head, flat land and clogs. Probably cheese too, if you buy the right thing at the cafe.

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From where we were staying it was a moderately long hack over there around the south side of Rotterdam along the A15. This road runs through the heart of the Rotterdam Port area, passing several oil refineries and other sites that have a lot of metallic twiddly-bits. Since I last lived here they have also added a not inconsiderable number of wind turbines, which means this is probably the Netherlands’ biggest concentration of power generating equipment. It’s good to see all this renewable stuff mixed in with the oil refining.

On the way there we managed to get lost once, at the short section where the A15 and A16 converge and then diverge again. The problem was that there are, quite frankly, a lot of lanes there, and because the map we had conveniently hid that section it wasn’t obvious which signs we needed to follow. In fact, going to Kinderdijk, you don’t follow signs for the A16 at all. So we overshot by one junction, got off, and came back again, right into the middle of the same total confusion of tarmac. This time however we were primed with the knowledge of 3 directions that we most definitely did not want to go, leaving the fourth as the only feasible option. All we had to do then was shuffle across several lanes of traffic on more than one occasion to get into (and stay in) the correct lane. Seriously, it’s not a good motorway junction for local traffic.

Sport aside, though, it took about an hour to get there. When we arrived (after seeming far too long on a little local road from the motorway), we were directed into one of the few remaining spaces in the official car park for the princely sum of 5 Euro for the day. This might have seemed a bit steep, until we got to the ticket office and realised we didn’t need a ticket unless we wanted to go inside either of the “working” windmills – meaning the two where they have some geezers in period costume showing you how the windmills used to work. So 5 Euros covered the parking and entrance fees for all of us, and also included a free coffee at the museum. Not bad for a whole day out at a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I won’t explain why there’s so many windmills in the one place – just follow the Kinderdijk links on this page and read about it on Wikipedia.

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So we started off by buying some tourist tat for the girls (technically, they bought their own) and taking photos of them standing in monstrously huge clogs. After this we walked out along the main pathway for however far it is, enjoying a sunny and warm stroll through reed beds and passing lots of windmills.  There was supposedly a multi geocache here but I took one look at the requirements (about 12 stages and a walk well beyond the normal tourist trail) and decided not to bother even starting it. I didn’t really want the time at Kinderdijk to involve that much detailed searching for non-windmill things.

So we walked out as far as the part where you can get the “classic” view of Kinderdijk – the point where there’s a junction or angle between two lengths of canal and you can see a long line of windmills disappearing off in two directions.

From here we walked back to the entrance and then around the end of the canals to have a look at the museum and maybe grab that free coffee. The museum seemed a bit dull, not really focusing on the site but generally on bits of old Dutch culture. And the cafe wasn’t really a cafe. It was a kettle, from which we could obtain a cup of instant coffee. Hmm ! We were expecting a little more. So we didn’t bother stopping there, and instead we walked back around to the cafe and shop by the entrance and grabbed some ice cream / coffee and a bit of a sit down. At least there was a giant National Geographic logo for the kids to sit in.

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This took us through to mid-afternoon, and too early to go home but too late to do anything else “big”. On the way out though we’d passed a nice looking beach on the landward side of the Haringvlietdam, so we decided to head there to finish off our day.

On the way, heaven forbid, we had to stop for fuel, because the car was complaining it only had about 60 miles left. Given that this was the first fill up since leaving Milton Keynes I was quite happy with that. I was even happier when the car topped out at somewhat less than 50 litres, which indicated that the fuel gauge was being quite conservative. Maybe 60 more miles before the fuel light came on rather than 60 more before the car stopped working. Anyway, that means the car had done all the distance from Milton Keynes via the Channel Tunnel, northern France, Bruges, up to Port Zelande and then running around the place for 3 days on about 50 litres. The trusty old car would need to be filled up at least twice to do that distance.

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The beach in question was the wonderfully named Quackstrand near Hellevoetsluis. It is sheltered behind the Haringvlietdam and has a few things to keep the general population entertained, such as bars, bouncy castles and a waterpark. From my perspective it also had a series of challenge caches attached to the bottoms of 6 wind turbines running along the seaward face of the dam. So I asked Kas to drop me off at one end and I’d walk back doing the caches and meet them on the beach later. Well, it didn’t quite turn out that way. The caches concerned are :

Kas dropped me off on the landward side of the dam, near where it looked like there was a path you could use to duck under the main road where the dam turns into sluice gates, so I headed off that way, and indeed there were steps, and a pedestrian tunnel under the road. On the other side of it, there was a fence. About 9 feet high and with padlocks on the gate. So I presumed I was not supposed to climb over just here or, indeed, walk through. This meant I’d got to now walk about a mile back along the dam on the landward side to reach the “proper” foot tunnel, and then a mile back along the seaward side of the dam to get to the geocache on the very end windmill. “Bum !” was not a word I used, but I’m not allowed to type the ones I did use. It’s a family show, folks.

Apparently Kas could see me walking all the way back along the road from where she was sitting on the beach, but by this time they were all settled into beach type activities so I had no expectation she’d get up and fetch me. Anyway, walking is good for you. Probably. Especially if you get to do some swearing under your breath while you’re doing it.

Eventually I found the correct way under the road and found myself walking along the reinforced seaward face of the dam. About halfway between sea level and the top of the dam there was a flat tarmac road (actually the whole seaward face was covered in tarmac, but the part halfway up was the only part flat enough to drive/walk on) which had the six wind turbines built in. Initially I wasn’t sure I was supposed to be there, but then I assumed that if the CO had managed to place caches then you must be allowed to walk along. The case for the defence was strengthened a couple of hundred yards in when I saw some people with dogs walking back towards me. I also saw something to potentially scupper the mission though. Two of the windmills appeared to have vans parked at the bottom and people working on them. It looked like I was going to need to practice my best Dutch to try to say “do you mind if I furtle around the bottom of here in a highly suspicious manner for a few minutes while you’re attempting to go about your business ? Honestly, I don’t want to nick your power tools. There were 6 turbines and the vans were at numbers 2 and 5 from the direction I was walking. To be honest, something else was threatening to scupper the mission too. It was quite windy and the turbines where whizzing rund at a healthy rate. Now, in your heart of hearts, you know you’re not going to get your head chopped off , but there’s still a little bit in the the back of your head that tells you to duck down whenever you’re right underneath one. And to be honest, the noise of the blades spinning round gives me the willies. It made me really want to walk quickly and get the caches found as soon as I could manage.

Number one was the challenge cache that I’m not eligible for, so I continued my walk up to number 4 before deciding to try to “get my eye in” by searching for one. It was remarkably easy to find, and this proved a useful exercise, especially when backed up with an identical find at number 6, because it meant I now knew what kind of container I was looking for and where it was likely to be. So on my way back to #5 I noticed the workmen were both upstairs actually inside the bottom of the turbine, and I quickly grabbed the cache and then walked off to “stare at the sea” while I signed the log. It was then equally quick to snap the cache back into place and move on without them noticing me.  #3 was the same, and fairly quickly I was on my way back towards #2. It seemed here that the workmen were in and out, up and down a bit more than on the other one so I was beginning to work a strategy for asking them, or for asking the CO if I could have the find without signing it, and just as I was taking evidence photos I noticed the workmen come down the steps and get in their van. So I waited a bit, and took a couple more photos, and sent a text to Kas, and by that time they had gone. Phew ! Potentially uncomfortable moment avoided. It was the same find as the other 4. So was the last one. Although I was technically not eligible for the last one the page says it’s OK to make a speculative signature and then turn it into a “Found It” log when you do qualify. So I thought I might as well. I’m a long way off the requisite 2000 foreign finds but if I didn’t sign it here I’d have to come back again to sign it. Anyway, I was standing right next to it by the time I’d run through all these points in my head.

This was about enough for the hot, sandy, windy walking for one afternoon, so I retired back under the road and onto the beach, where I met up with the girls, who were deeply embroiled in some beach-type activities of sitting in the sand, plodging in the lake, and soaking up the sun. Ami wanted to have a go in the waterpark so I went over to discuss at the ticket office and managed to determine that entrance was on a strict hour or half hour basis (to make it easier to know how long everyone has been in and to control total numbers). I also determined that Ami could have a half hour slot, but because she couldn’t present a Dutch Schools Swimming Certificate then she’d have to be accompanied by an adult and have to wear a life vest. Probably sensible. Anyway, if she came back in 5 minutes she could catch a half hour session.  Izzy wasn’t so bothered about the splashy zone so she settled for a half hour in the bouncy castle instead. Kas went with Ami and I sat in the sand waiting for half an hour and soaking a few rays. It was all quite pleasant.

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When the half hour was up the clock had ticked its way around to 6pm, so we retired from the beach into the nearest bar for some ice creams and drinks. Again, all very pleasant.

So Kas drove us home, a journey made more interesting by having to wait for a bridge to come up and go down again, and once home seeing as the girls were all covered in sand and I wasn’t they all went upstairs to get cleaned up while I made a very creditable Spaghetti Bolognese using slightly alien ingredients (where’s the jars of Dolmio then ? I thought they were supposed to be a Dutch company) and a somewhat less creditable garlic bread. Less creditable because they didn’t have garlic butter in the supermarket so I tried to use garlic, and butter. This is dangerous, because when I do this I invariably get the balance wrong and end up producing something that could kill Dracula at 50 yards. The fact that there wasn’t an oven to bake it in probably made this effect worse. Still, the spag bol was OK.

After which the girls put on an impromptu dance show, as they often do, before heading off to bed, which they rarely do willingly.

That was quite a long day.


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Deltapark Neeltje Jans

Deltapark Neeltje Jans

We were greeted this morning with weather that could best be described as “inclement” if you’re being polite. It was coming down like stair rods.

So we had a breakfast of feeling a bit depressed and agreeing what we could do on a wet day. As it happens though, for once, we’d primed ourselves and had a bit of a think about this the previous night, once we’d realised that the weather forecast was wet.

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Our choice was to head for the DeltaPark Neeltje Jans, which is in the middle of the next estuary down from where we are. It’s only about 10 miles away and it claims to have a number of exhibitions and an aquarium which are indoors as well as a selection of outdoor activites should the weather happen to dry up.

On the way over to the car we invented a new word to describe the general state of the paths – “floodle” – we use it for a body of water which is too big to walk around but not big enough to drown in. Bigger than a puddle, smaller than a flood. There were a lot of them around on this particular morning. The drive to Neeltje Jans was a bit wet too and when we got to the car park we had to make a decision about whether to dash over to the entrance without our coats (and risk getting a bit wet) or to wear the coats (and so spend all morning carry them around once we got inside). We went for the former, but then seemed to spend much of the rest of the day going backwards and forwards from the car changing our minds. What we had with us was never quite right.

DeltaPark Neeltje Jans is a multi-themed theme-park situated on an artificial island called Neeltje Jans which was constructed as part of  the Oosterscheldekering project. The island was originally used as a huge dry dock in which all the concrete piers for the barrier were constructed before being floated off into position. Some (but not all) of it has been subsequently filled in to make it up to the level of the barrier and so it now forms a part of the barrier itself, right in the middle.

As with most things around here the main part of the park is on the landward side of the barrier and there’s a considerable hill you have to go up and over to get to the sea – up to 15m higher than the land behind, and hence well able to cope with the very wettest and stormiest of North Sea weather.

The first thing we did on site was to visit all the expos about the barrier inside the main building. There was quite a lot of it, including a very old-fashioned seeming public information film – you know the sort – all sweeping vistas and slightly faded colours. This gave the history of the barrier and the reason why it is needed. It also showed the visiting dignitaries who were invited along for the formal opening in the mid-1980’s, including HRH The Duke of York and his wife of the time. All of this is sort of preparing you for, what was for me, the main event. I know there’s probably a few people who go there and don’t make it as far as the actual storm barrier, but that would be such a waste.

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By this time we were getting a bit hungry so we retired to the cafe for some slightly over-priced but fairly generous portions of chips and probably some healthy food too, which we ate inside a very large an very empty seating area. Given that it was the summer holidays and it was raining I was expecting the place would be full up, as (in my opinion) there’s not a lot else to do on a rainy day around here, but it just goes to show how wrong you can be.

After lunch we made another change of jumpers/coats and walked outside in some now relatively light rain to walk our way down to the actual barrier. On the way down there were a few things to do and look at, such as lots of over-sized bits of building equipment and some “experiments” demonstrating the effects of levers and pulleys. We also caught the back 10 minutes of the Birds of Prey show, which involved, as you’d expect, a number of birds of prey being coaxed into flying ridiculously close to the population on the promise of getting half a dead mouse at the other end (other bird foods are available). They really were flying quite close to the people. Duck !

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Once you get to the flood barrier you get a much better sense of the scale of it, which is to say, it’s big. Very big. The Oosterscheldekering has three sets of barriers, and you get to walk to the “middle” end of one of those. The barrier was designed to be open to the tides under normal conditions, to preserve the tidal wetlands behind it, but when there’s a predicted storm surge which brings the water 3m or more above normal level then the barriers are dropped down to prevent flooding inland. Clever, isn’t it ? There’s a total of aboput 4km of opening parts and about the same of closed barriers and islands. The result of this is that the water flow into and out of the estuary is constrained somewhat, resulting in what can best be described as a very brisk tide in one direction or the other most of the time. Once you get to the end of the barrier you can enter and walk through a little expo in the room under the road deck running between the first two piers, and then once you get outside again you can walk back along the external steel gantries (right over the water, but still slightly out of the rain because of the deck above you). It’s when you’re down here that you can really see the speed of the tide coming in or going out. You finish up by climbing onto one of the piers where there’s a brass plaque marking the occasion of the formal opening ceremony and listing the “big nobs” that Queen Beatrix invited along. It’s also the Ground Zero for the Oosterscheldekering Earthcache based on the barrier and the estuary. It’s possible to do this by standing on the road deck rather than paying to enter the expo, but we were inside anyway…….

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Next we walked pretty much back to the main building and swapped over clothes again, as it was now getting quite sunny. And then we went to the seal show. It involved a few pinnipeds rather than the well known London born singer. In Dutch they’re known as Zeehonden, (“Sea Dogs”), which is a bit crazy, but they managed to give a killer performance. OK, enough already with the crap Seal jokes.

After the seals we wandered back to the birds of prey area and watched the first 10 minutes of the performance, which this time had a few introductions in English and a few birds that we didn’t see at the end of the previous performance earlier. Otherwise it was much the same, with lots of swooping and munching of bits of meat.

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By now the sun was fully out and it was getting quite warm, which was most welcome after earlier. We walked from the birds of prey around a low footbridge around to the sea lion show. The Dutch use the same name as we do – Zeeleeuw. There were about 3 sea ions, I think, but they only came out to play one at a time. They are quite impressive beasts, but I’m not sure how I felt about them being captive and being trained to behave like this. I’m sure their welfare is good and all, but the show just consisted of them doing a bit of jumping and swimming and quite a lot of pretending to clap and begging for fish off a guy who looked like the hairy one of the food critics off MasterChef.

We had a quick look in the Aquarium too, but compared to the excellent ones we’ve visited at La Rochelle or St. Malo this was a bit of a weak effort, and we didn’t stop long.

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Anyway, it was time for the daily ice cream.

And then we drove home and went swimming in the Aqua Mundo tropical pool before having tea and beer and putting the kids to bed.

The rain didn’t last that long really and it proved to be the only daytime rain we had on the whole trip. The DeltaPark had just enough different things to do to keep the kids (including myself) entertained for the day.


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Not a Lot Happened

Not a Lot Happened

Day 4 was a day that could best be described as “chilled”. There was definitely no agenda whatsoever, just a load of mooching about, not getting entangled in anything complicated, and not rushing much.

Kas started her day with a run. I started mine with some breakfast and finishing off the Terry Pratchett book I’d been reading. The girls started theirs out on the beach.

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After which we all went for quite a long session in the swimming pool during which I managed to cut my finger. We then went home to grab some lunch, and while eating hers Ami’s tooth dropped out. It had been wobbly for a few days but I think she was deliberately trying to keep it in there to get her first ever overseas visit from the Tooth Fairy. Apparently the Tooth Fairy always buys British teeth with Sterling.

We then went and spent a couple of our free “toppings” on a round of mini-golf, which was a bit of a laugh. On the way back from there it was time for ice creams.

I then went out for a walk along the Brouwersdam to grab a handful of caches while the girls all chilled at home. The ones I found were :

When I returned we all got cleaned up and we went for dinner at the “All You Can Eat” restaurant in the Market Dome. In this instance, all we could eat proved not to be very much. The starters of meats, cheeses and salads were quite good but the cooked options were pretty much all of the “overcooked slop” variety, and I think we decided fairly quickly not to go back again. We also completely failed to communicate Izzy’s drink order correctly and she ended up with an iced tea rather than apple juice, and I have to say our waitress was a little over enthusiastic in insisting I’d ordered iced tea. It may be what you wrote down, but it’s definitely not what I said……. And to cap it all, I somehow broke a chunk off one of my teeth and left myself with a nasty sharp edge which was grating my tongue for the rest of the holiday.

After all this excitement we retired to our chalet and contemplated the following day’s weather forecast, which was not very good at all. Ho hum ! Let’s see what it’s really like and deal with it accordingly in the morning. Good night everyone.

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Old Haunts

Old Haunts

Day 3, and after 2 days of mainly travelling it was time for a bit of relaxation.

Kas was up relatively early to engage in her usual form of relaxation, running. And when she’d finished I went and did the same, only not for so long, and with more wrong turns. I suppose they weren’t really wrong turns as I hadn’t really planned a route – I just set off thinking I wanted to run about 5 miles and I managed a nice outbound route for 2.5 of those but then took a different (note, not wrong, just different) turn on the way home and added an extra half mile or so by the time I’d realised and turned back.

Day_3_Brielle_03.JPGWhile we were doing this the girls were enjoying some of the delights of having a chalet right on the beach. We measured it as a whole 20 of Kas’s steps from chalet door to sand underfoot. The beach in question faced out onto the lake (Grevelingenmeer) and hence had an absence of currents and tides. It did have some rocky jetties to cordon off various bits from the passing boat traffic, and “our” beach was suitably located behind one of these. For this reason we were perfectly happy telling the girls they could wander anywhere along the beach or into the water so long as they were inside those rocky jetties. We were content with this because Izzy could walk out nearly all the way and the water only came up to her bum, so it seemed pretty safe out there.

After our two runs we were feeling a bit hot and sweaty so we all got changed and decided to go and try the Aqua Mundo indoor tropical swimming paradise. I’m basically a non-swimmer because I don’t really like the sensation of the water, so swimming is something I rarely do. In here, though, swimming wasn’t really necessary for me anyway. The deepest part was only 1.4 metres so I could comfortably walk all the way. It was a nice pleasant temperature and there were a couple of features that made me feel it wasn’t so bad after all, namely, the two water slides – one involving big rubber rings and a dark tube, the other involving a big slide down on your bum. I have to say that once I tried these I was hooked. It was a strain getting any of us to leave, but we couldn’t really stay in there all day.

Day_3_Brielle_04.JPGSo we retired to our chalet for some lunch and then headed off to my former stomping ground of Brielle, where I lived for about 18 months between the end of 1988 and the start of 1990. Well, I remember it being a nice little town, worthy of a visit, and it’s always nice to show the family bits of my life from before I knew them. In fact, when I was working there Kas was still in secondary school.

Brielle is famous in Holland for its liberation from the Spanish on April 1st 1572 by the Watergeuzen (“Water Beggars” in English). The liberation is still celebrated in Brielle every April 1st, when the town is closed off to traffic, and everyone dresses up in sixteenth century clothes, ties goats and sheep up to metal rings in the middle of the road, and generally engages in drunken debauchery whilst watching a bunch of blokes fire bags of flour out of the guns on a fake sixteenth century warship, which coincidentally spent the rest of the year tied up on the canal outside where I used to live. I experienced this twice, in 1989 and 1990, and have to say that on both occasions the proverbial “beer scooter” was my chosen means of transport when going home.

One thing new since I lived there was a great big car park on the eastern edge, outside the town walls. I think that might have been the only new thing there though. The rest seemed much the same.

First up I walked the girls along to where I used to live, at Turfkade 34. It took me a little while to recognise it, as it was a bit further along the canal than I remembered, but as soon as I saw the building I recognised it immediately. Next up we walked into the small market square, where the girls grabbed an ice cream and Kas and I grabbed a coffee. It was a sunny day and we could feel the sun starting to burn a bit, so we didn’t stay too long.

Day_3_Brielle_13.JPGNext, we decided to have a look at the very impressive Church, the Sint Catharijnekerk. This is a very, very large church given the size of the town, and I have to admit that in 18 months of living there before I never once went inside. When I lived here before there was quite a lot of beer involved, and relatively little time spent locally on tourist activities. Isn’t that always the way though ? As soon as you live somewhere it ceases to be of interest.

This time though, spurred on by lots of renovations and the fact that there’s a geocache at the very top, we went in for a look. The church is very impressive from the inside. It’s a bit brighter than English churches tend to be because the interior walls are all rendered and painted white. We also all decided to go for a climb up to the top. Above the first 40 or so steps it’s a single stone spiral all the way up to the top, passing 3 or 4 doors on the way up that contain various bits of the carillon. This would traditionally be a bit of a flappy, panic moment for Izzy, but she did extremely well with a bit of encouragement and she made it all the way up to the top. I counted 333 steps. From the top there’s a seriously good view of the town and (on a clear day like this) all the way over the Europoort area into central Rotterdam, where the tall buildings were just about visible through the heat haze. There was also a geocache, which was duly located and signed.

After all that climbing, and struggling a bit in the heat, we decided that we were allowed more than one ice cream today, so we retired to a nearby (and much nicer than the first) ice cream parlour. It was on the junction of the road that lead down to the place in Brielle where I spent the second most time while I lived there (after my own flat) – the pub called “‘t Kont van Het Paard”, which translates roughly as “The Horse’s Arse” – I do remember having a number of discussions on the subject with Dirk the Barman while I was there and the best we could come up with was that the Dutch word used in the name (“Kont”) is a bit stronger than “bum” or “butt” but not quite as strong as “arse”. So “The Horse’s Arse” it was ! This is the kind of discussion that it’s very easy to fall into in a speciality beer bar in Holland with a barman who liked to serve, drink, and talk about all things beer related. For our part, we introduced him to the English word “tab” – I lose count of the number of times we got up at the end of a drunken evening and asked him for “het tab”. We also had a convenient arrangement whereby if we went in on a busy night (usually Friday and Saturdays) we could go help ourselves from the fridges if he was busy and he’d mark it down on “het tab” when he had a spare moment. I’m sure there was also a rule that if it was a weekday and you were the only people in there (which was very common) then “het tab” was never allowed to come to more than 4 beers each, regardless of how many you actually drank. Nice that, if rather bad for the waistline and the brain cells. But all that is, as they say, water under the bridge, or beer down the khazi.

Day_3_Brielle_17.JPGAfter all that it was time for a bit of a walk. We seemed to have a bit of indecision on which way and who was up for how long, but we ended up on the west side of the town walls and slowly made our way round to the east side (where we’d parked). Both the girls and I seemed to be magnets for doo poo though, so it wasn’t as nice a walk as it could have been. I scooted off into the bushes looking for a couple more geocaches but ended up failing to find as many as I actually did find. Eventually I’d had enough and stopped trying – it obviously wasn’t going to be my day and the girls weren’t interested that day.

We passed into the town on the north corner, as you must, and crossed the nice lifting bridge, before walking out along Molenstraat to the windmill. I guess the name of the street is a give away. Notice in the photo that Izzy took of us with my camera that she managed to perfectly capture the girl in the background jumping off the bridge into the canal.

At the windmill we had a short break for the kids to play in a little play park before we continued our walk around, becoming ever more conscious of the time and the fact that we needed to buy some food to make it through the evening. We saw a very conveniently located outlet of Albert Heijn and popped in for a look. It turned out to be a good sized supermarket and had more than enough to keep us happy for a few days, so we stocked up (and paid for a few more plastic bags in the process) before walking bag to the car with ever lengthening arms and driving back home.

We then got even longer arms after having to park a long way from the entrance and hence having to walk miles over to our chalet. “Boooooo!” And “Hiss!”

All of this had put Ami in the mood for another trip to the swimming pool, so I obliged her while Kas and Izzy mooched about at the chalet. We did a bit less swimming than planned, mainly because I forgot the tickets and Euro coin and so had to run all the way back to fetch them. It was at this point that I also banged my forearm on the handle of the patio door and generated a painful bruise that was to stay with me for the rest of the holiday.

When we returned Kas and Izzy started making some tea while Ami and me got showered and dressed again. We had a selection of sausages, mash and some salad. Plus beer. And it all went down very well.

By this time it was getting quite late, so we allowed the kids to play outside for a bit and then got them into bed before retiring for a bit of reading and some more beer.

Blimey, that was a day of being on holiday. No particular agenda, not a lot of rushing around, and several ice creams and beers.

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Over The Border

Over The Border

Day 2 of the holiday began in no particular hurry. Breakfast was open quite late and after a long day yesterday we decided to just lie in until everyone woke up. This was about 9am, give or take. We went down for our traditional assault on the hotel breakfast buffet and this one wasn’t found wanting.

We were in no particular hurry to get away either, because by this time we’d guessed it wasn’t going to be a long journey to Center Parcs at Port Zelande and we weren’t allowed into the cottage until 3pm anyway. So we decided to have another lazyish walk around Bruges for a couple of hours before heading off.

If anything it was a bit warmer than the previous day, even in the middle of the morning, so we dressed for summer and whipped out the suncream before heading off. As we had to evacuate the hotel we also lugged all our bags back underground and loaded the car up before starting our walk.

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The girls (especially Ami) have decided that the most appropriate souvenirs to get from anywhere we visit are keyrings and sew-on badges (for the Brownie/Guides camp blanket). This is fine by me because they are universally available and don’t cost a lot, which means I don’t mind treating the kids but also they are able to buy their own from their own money that we get them to carry when we go on holiday. In Bruges there are plenty of good tourist-tat shops selling the very things, and we stopped in about the second or third one we saw as we walked from the hotel back towards the Grote Markt again. Job done. I treated myself to a small bottle opener, which I managed to convince myself was a valid addition to my caching toolkit.

As we passed through the Bruges Museum Kas spotted some bits of architecture that looked exactly like two of the photos from yesterday’s caching conundrum, so now we knew which two photos weren’t taken in the Grote Markt. However, we sort of guessed that yesterday and tried the likely combinations without success. We must be doing something wrong.

So armed with this new information we couldn’t really not have another go at the cache – there’s only so many different ways you can arrange three digits (six ways, to be precise). As we got to the site of the cache – RV 5.08 Brugge in case you’d forgotten – we had renewed confidence. And it turned into success when just as I was about to start grumping Ami pointed out that I hadn’t tried all of the possible arrangements of the three digits yet. Sure enough the next one I tried was the right one. Woo-hoo ! A smiley. And while we were standing there we were approached by a couple from Knokke-Heist who were looking for the same thing. They were just approaching the bike having found the correct 8 photos, including the one I never spotted. It was as plain as the nose on your face if you looked at the right thing. Anyway, nice to meet you !

Flushed with success, and partly with the heat, we retired to a nearby ice cream parlour so the kids could keep up with the official Holiday Rules. Strange kind of place but the ice cream was good. After which, we made our way back to the hotel via a cache I’d done the previous afternoon (but the girls hadn’t). And after a quick wee break in the hotel lobby and some horrendous amount of money to liberate my car from the car park we were off on our merry way. Kas was driving, I was riding shotgun, with the map book in hand.

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We decided to go cross-country and up through that confusing bit of the Netherlands that’s on the south side of the Western Scheldt estuary, where it really should still be Belgium. After three quarters of an hour or so in the car we made a decidedly uninspiring passage from Belgium into the Netherlands (the border sign was all but hidden behind a tree) and made our way over towards the town of Terneuzen. It was a bit slow driving around the town because of roadworks and a random opening bridge over the Ghent-Terneuzen Canal. The rest of The Netherlands can’t be reached from here without traversing either some water, or a bit of Belgium. We chose the former, and traversed under the bottom of some water by driving through the Westerscheldetunnel]]. This required a small toll fee, but was otherwise a fairly pleasant experience. Our route from here took us through the province of Zeeland, passing Vlissingen and then up onto the Delta Works, one of the wonders of modern engineering. To reach our destination we had to cross over the singularly impressive (even after 30 years) Oosterscheldekering – a great big tidal barrier that can be used to close off the Eastern Scheldt estuary when the sea is up. But there’ll be more of that in one of the later posts. And from there we passed across one island and then onto the less spectacular but equally important Brouwersdam. Brouwersdam is obviously not regarded as particularly important by the English speaking Wikipedia world though, as that page needs to be written.

We didn’t have to cross the whole of Brouwersdam though, because on an artificial island in the lake behind it lies Center Parcs Port Zelande, our home for the next 10 nights. Just as we arrived we’d conveniently allowed the clock to tick around to 3pm, so we could go straight in.

None of us had been to a Center Parcs before, so at first we were a bit confused, but eventually we concluded that we were allowed to take our cars inside the perimeter today, because it was a changeover day, but the rest of the time it would have to stay outside in the car park. Probably just as well, given that the roads were narrow and the parking outside the chalet was a bit tight. But we got in without hitting anything, and unloaded all our worldly goods and chattels into the chalet as fast as we could. And then we piled back into the car and drove it back to the rather full car park. We got a bit lucky this night though, and found a space not far away from the route back in.

As we were walking back through the Market Dome place we decided to stop for a swift drink and a bit of a snack, as we hadn’t really had lunch. It was OK. I renewed my acquaintance with Palm beer. After this we had to go grab some provisions from the on-site supermarket so that we had something to eat for breakfast at least. And some beer.

And then we went back to the chalet for a bit of unpacking whilst watching the rain. We were, much to the girls annoyance, too late really to go swimming, so we got dressed up a bit and legged it over to the Market Dome to have dinner in the pizza place. This proved to be reasonable quality and reasonable value, so we were happy.

And that was the end of another day – a fairly uninspiring one in the grand scheme of things, but the girls were sufficiently excited by the prospect of the next 9 days here that I think we got away with it.

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On Our Way

On Our Way

Time for our much awaited family holiday in Holland. Technically it might be The Netherlands but then Holland is a bit of that anyway, isn’t it ? Also, on an unrelated and rather pedantic technical point, this particular post isn’t about Holland at all, because it only describes our first day travels through England, France and Belgium. So sue me !

Day_1_Bruges_01.JPGWe’d booked a “well early” transit through the Channel Tunnel at 5:50am, so we needed to be up even earlier. “Even earlier” proved to be nearly last night, so that we could get away at 1:45am, thereby leaving ourselves 3 hours for the drive down. By the time we finished packing the previous night it was nearly 10pm, which left us a whole 3 hours in bed, and I think the total amount of sleep gained between the four of us was approximately none at all. We stopped for coffee at the local BP garage on the way out to the motorway, remembering to drive to J14 on the M1 instead of our normal J13 because of the horrible roadworks.

It’s 120 miles or so from our house, which you ought to be able to do in a couple of hours except that 60 of those miles are around the M25 and therefore very unpredictable. Or predictably slow, depending on how you look at it. The usual problem this early in the morning is that there aren’t enough toll booths open at the Dartford Crossing, and so it proved this morning. All went fairly well until we reached the northern approaches to the bridge, at which point we ended up in a traffic jam and queued all the way over to the toll booths. Once we passed the toll booth all was plain sailing again, and we ended up down at the tunnel by about 4:15am. It really only took us just over a couple of hours, but you can never be too sure. A little later in the morning and it would have been the morning rush hour, and therefore a nightmare disaster scenario of biblical proportions ( starring Charlton Heston and Elizabeth Taylor).

For the first time I can remember we were not offered an earlier train than the one we booked, and therefore we found ourselves with an hour to kill at the Folkestone Terminal. Not much was open there, to be honest, but everyone’s favourite coffee shop named after the First Mate in Moby Dick was open, so we retired for a coffee/hot chocolate/water/cake stop for a bit before going back out onto the car park to watch a fairly impressive sunrise. Here’s a photo of it.

Dr Evil.jpg When we piled back into the trusty old car – oh, hold on, not the trusty old car anymore – I changed it……
When we piled back into the spangly new car, which had been suitably cleaned and polished by 500 Polish blokes the day before and still smelled somewhat of cleaning products, sherbet and rubber (I bought rubber mats the day before too), I took over the driving from Kas, who’d done a sterling job of getting us this far.

Off we pootled towards the “official” bit of the tunnel, where we nearly got tail-ended outside the police post while I was having a bit of trouble deciding which side of the building to drive. The guys behind decided before me, and started to pull around my outside where I couldn’t see him. No harm done other than a slightly sarcastic comment from Constable Sitting-in-the-Hut. Surely, if someone runs into the back of me then it’s their fault not mine, even if I was dithering.

After this point the officialdom officially ended. There was, I presume, supposed to be some kind of passport check for entering France here, but we appear to have arrived too early for them to be bothered, so we passed that bit, and the customs post, and drove straight up to the boarding lane, and then pretty much straight onto the train from there. Fair to say though that I wasn’t impressed at having to squeeze up onto the top of a double decker carriage in my nice new car. Too much scope for losing a wing mirror.

I was so relieved at not damaging my car that I fell asleep in the driver’s seat on the way across. Obviously I was a good boy and put the headlight converters on my car before falling asleep, ‘cos you have to. And so France seemed to arrive quite quickly from my point of view. By the time we drove out it was properly sunny and I had to get my sunglasses out, especially as we had to drive due east along the A16 and hence were heading directly into a rising sun.

This part of France was fairly uninteresting. We needed a breakfast stop but there were no services on the motorway in France at all. We crossed the border into Belgium with a general whisper of disinterest and found ourselves at the rather minimalist service station on the E40 between Nieuwpoort and Gistel. By this time it was about 8am local time, about 7am UK time, and we needed food. The cafe there was basic but did all the necessary goodies, which in our case involves toilets, coffee, orange juice and pastries. We blagged our way through ordering in half-cocked French / Dutch and then had to return to buy something else so that we had enough loose change to get into the toilets. This became a bit of a running theme for the holiday, with one or other of us seemingly always having to rummage in our pockets to find a selection of coins adding up, usually, to four lots of 30 cents. I think the girls might have cheated a few times though.

Day_1_Bruges_03.JPG After three quarters of an hour or so we were back on our way and heading for our overnight stop at Bruges. We decided to make an overnight stop partly after several trips to the west coast of France, which takes ages and can’t be done comfortably in a day, and partly to extend the holiday out by a couple of nights. The first reason proved to be total dross – we’d obviously payed no attention to the fact that Bruges is only about 75 minutes drive from Calais. With Kas navigating us into the town in fine style we found ourselves in the car park at our hotel at about 9:30am, which meant it took us under 7 hours from home to get there, even including a coffee stop, an hour and a half at the tunnel terminal and a 45 minute breakfast stop. In the immortal words of Spike Milligan, “what are we gonna do now?” Surely the hotel won’t let us into our room this early.

They did let us in. They obviously weren’t full the previous night and our room was already prepared for us and ready to move in. Magic! We carted all the bags upstairs (it took all of us) and had a quick clean up before heading on out for a bit of Tommy Tourist Time. It’s ages since I’d been to Bruges and I don’t think any of the girls had ever been.

Being a weekday mid-morning you might expect it to be fairly quiet, but it must have been tourist season because the central area was actually quite busy. We didn’t have any particular target in mind for this day, so we gently ambled our way along past some strikingly large churches until we found ourselves in the Grote Markt, with it’s very impressive belfry. Not long after arriving there the girls found themselves in a cafe for early lunch / second breakfast, and I found myself looking for a geocache, as I often do. In this case I found myself considerably before I found the cache, and even then I couldn’t actually sign it.

Kwak.jpg RV 5.08: Brugge involves a certain piece of transportation equipment and some combination locks. One of the locks opens using a code on the cache page. This, however, just leads you to a box containing a field puzzle which has to be solved to open the second combination lock, and this is where I started to struggle. The puzzle involved identifying which 2 out of 10 photos were NOT taken in the Grote Markt. I found about 7 of them, which should have been enough, but I just couldn’t get my head round the required combination. I went off to find the girls and had lunch before trying again, but eventually we gave up, because the kids weren’t really in the mood to do caching today.

My lunch was entirely of the liquid variety, if you know what I mean. Two bottles of the rather lovely Kwak ale (with the entertaining glasses), to be precise. It’s better to be precise before two bottles of Kwak though. In my experience, precision becomes somewhat less precise after two bottles of Kwak. So after giving up on the cache we mooched about a bit more wondering what to do and generally feeling a bit kippered. Eventually we decided that the girls were going back to the hotel for a bit of a snooze, which apparently included a swim in a freezing cold outdoor pool as well, and I headed off for a bit of “light” geocaching to kill a couple of hours. I mainly walked the circle of canals surrounding the town centre, including a little series of three at the railway station and then a series of little trads through a park running alongside the canal. These required me to keep crossing bridges and doubling back a bit. I found 10 or so going around this way before deciding I’d had enough and started to make my way back through the old town centre, via a couple more caches, and back to the hotel. One of those couple was in a little park, where there was a small “incident” involving my shoe and some canine by-products, so as I walked back through the centre of Bruges there was a distinct aroma following me. So much so that when I got back to the hotel I really didn’t want to walk on their nice carpets, so I sat outside and used a small screwdriver from my caching bag to winkle all the poo out of the soles of my shoes and into the nearby smoker’s bin. That should have put a few people off the habit. And when I got into the room I immediately took said shoe into the bathroom and washed it in the sink to remove any lasting residue. This meant that one of my shoes needed drying out over night.

Day_1_Bruges_02.jpg Day_1_Bruges_04.JPG Day_1_Bruges_05.JPG Day_1_Bruges_06.JPG Day_1_Bruges_07.JPG Day_1_Bruges_08.JPG Day_1_Bruges_09.JPG Day_1_Bruges_10.JPG Day_1_Bruges_11.JPG Day_1_Bruges_12.JPG Day_1_Bruges_13.JPG Day_1_Bruges_14.JPG Day_1_Bruges_16.JPG Day_1_Bruges_18.JPG Day_1_Bruges_17.JPG Day_1_Bruges_19.JPG Day_1_Bruges_20.JPG Day_1_Bruges_21.JPG Day_1_Bruges_22.JPG Day_1_Bruges_23.JPG Day_1_Bruges_24.JPG Day_1_Bruges_25.JPG Day_1_Bruges_26.JPG Day_1_Bruges_27.JPG Day_1_Bruges_28.JPG Day_1_Bruges_29.JPG Day_1_Bruges_32.JPG Day_1_Bruges_31.JPG

By this time it was time to get washed and changed and head out for some dinner. The girls were more or less there already when I came in, so it didn’t take us long.

We ended up in a nice little restaurant (name forgotten) down on Walplein, all of 200 metres away, where we availed ourselves of some jolly fine food and beverages. It wasn’t cheap, but it was nice, and we got to listen to the sound of horse-drawn carriages plodding by outside on what turned out to be a nice warm evening.

After dinner we extended the walk home by walking in the wrong direction (deliberately, I might add) for one street before looping back in. When we got back to the room we all jumped in bed and gradually drifted away whilst listening to the Commonwealth Games coverage on the BBC. England seemed to be winning.

And that was about it for our first day. It had been a long day all-in-all. We’d been out of our of beds for 18 hours by the time we got back to the hotel room, having been through 3 countries and under the sea, and having done a fair amount of eating and drinking. Enough-ski. Tomorrow we’ve got to go to another country.

Day_1_Bruges_41.JPG Day_1_Bruges_36.JPG Day_1_Bruges_37.JPG Day_1_Bruges_38.JPG Day_1_Bruges_40.JPG Day_1_Bruges_42.JPG Day_1_Bruges_43.JPG Day_1_Bruges_34.JPG Day_1_Bruges_33.JPG Day_1_Bruges_35.JPG


Holland Next >>

Europe’s Low Points

Europe’s Low Points

Netherlands.jpg

In the Netherlands – where I come from – you actually never see a pig, which is really strange, because, in a population of 16 million people, we have 12 million pigs. And well, of course, the Dutch can’t eat all these pigs. They eat about one-third, and the rest is exported to all kinds of countries in Europe and the rest of the world.

Christien Meindertsma

On Our Way

Over the Border

Old Haunts

Not a Lot Happened

Deltapark Neeltje Jans

Windmills

Capital Cities

Hellevoetsluis

On Yer Bike

Old Trams

Grevelingenmeer

Atomic

Coming Home

Ghent

Scheveningen

In late July and early August 2014 we took a family holiday in Holland, driving through the Channel Tunnel and staying at Center Parcs in Zeeland. We loved it !

On Our Way

On Our Way

The start of a "road trip" holiday in the Netherlands, involving a very early start, a tunnel, and then a lot of wandering around in a very warm and sunny Bruges.
Over The Border

Over The Border

A lazy morning in Bruges, followed by a change of country and a drive across the Deltaworks to reach our destination at Center Parcs in Port Zelande.
Old Haunts

Old Haunts

In the late 1980's I used to live in the small Dutch town of Brielle. On this day I took the girls to see where I used to live. It has changed remarkably little.
Not a Lot Happened

Not a Lot Happened

Every holiday has a least one day where nothing really happens. This is the one.
There was a lot of laziness and a bit of geocaching.
Deltapark Neeltje Jans

Deltapark Neeltje Jans

The only bit of dodgy weather on our whole trip. It wasn't bad for long. We filled the time by learning about water management in the Deltaworks and by watching a few well trained aquatic mammals.
Windmills

Windmills

Kinderdijk is one of the most stereotypical (or iconic) places to visit in the Netherlands. It is the very epitome of the historical Dutch approach to water management. It's well worth a visit.
Capital Cities

Capital Cities

Somehow the Netherlands has ended up with a debate about which city is its capital. Is it Amsterdam or is it Den Haag ? To avoid confusion, we went to both. On the same day.
Hellevoetsluis

Hellevoetsluis

An afternoon in the lovely little town of Hellevoetsluis, followed by walking past a few caches to reunite with the girls at the wonderfully named Quackgors Beach.
On Yer Bike

On Yer Bike

Well if you're staying at Center Parcs and you're in Holland, it's practically mandatory to hire some bikes and go exploring the Dutch countryside.
Old Trams

Old Trams

A morning out at an enthusiasts museum of the Rotterdam Tram Company, followed by an afternoon of geocaching around Ouddorp.
The Grevelingenmeer

The Grevelingenmeer

A boat trip around a lake created when the Brouwersdam was built in the 70's and 80's, followed by a short drive to gain a different perspective on the same lake.
Atomic !

Atomic !

Rather than mooching around in Holland we decided we'd take the girls to see Brussels' best known landmark. I'd never been there on a sunny day in the summer.
Coming Home

Coming Home

We began the final day of our holiday in Ghent, somehow expecting it to be like Bruges. It isn't.
So we went to Dunkirk instead. Dunkirk is also nothing like Bruges, but at least it has seaside.

Alcester Dash

Alcester Dash

A nice warm day in July and a good day for a spot of tupperware hunting.

I arranged a trip out with Wavvy over towards Alcester to complete the OTT series by Delta68 (see #01 OTT).

We went over after I’d done parkrun in Milton Keynes in the morning, so I was already well warmed up by the time we reached the location. We parked at about #10 on the series and walked a clockwise loop (as you must, to avoid the demons).

Overall we walked about 12.5km on the loop and it took us around 5 hours. All the way round Wavvy kept having flashbacks to a previous series he’d done here a few years ago. I guess it happens.

By the time we got back to the car we’d had enough walking so we slipped into “Church Micro Mode”, as is often the case. To this end I also requested we cross the border into Worcestershire so I could colour in a new county on my stats map. So we did the church micro at Inkberrow, which Wavvy had already done before. As we were leaving here the weather started to look decidedly stormy, so we were glad to be back in the car and heading home.

Overall it was a pretty decent day, with 51 total finds, a new county and 5 more Church Micros. Too many finds for me to be bothered with adding links for each one though.

CM5354 Warks Welford-on-Avon.JPG

CM5324 Warks Weethley.JPG

CM4483 Worcs Inkberrow.JPG

CM1403 Warks Arrow.JPG

CM4485 Warks Wixford.JPG

Caches we found on the day were :


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