Zooming to the Netherlands
Trip Start Jun 22, 2011
1Trip End Ongoing
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22nd June – 27th June 2011
We are off for five days in the Netherlands to visit my parents. Dad got a contract in Holland over a year ago and moved out to Berger op Zoom, Mum followed a few months later. This is the first time since we have been back that we have had time to visit them. We only picked our new car up yesterday so this was going to be a proper test run for it.
We had an early start, ferry booked for 8am so up at 4.30am and on the road by 5.15am. We knew it was going to be a good day when we got free passage over the Dartford Bridge as we went over it before 6am....that’s £1.50 saved so far. We sailed through the check in at Dover ferry port and used our spare time in the queuing lanes to try and make sense of the instructions for our headlight beam defectors......we ended up just guessing where they should go.
We had a lovely smooth crossing, but as it was cold outside the only seat available inside where near the kids area, not a problem as we were able to watch Toy Story 3 on the TV. The only disaster we had was when I dragged a massive glass door over my foot on the way back from the toilets.....boy did it bleed! Our first aid kit was in the car so Gary when off to find the first aid officer on board.
The journey took two hours before docking in Dunkirk/Dunkerque. Once on dry land we entered Brugge into the Sat Nav as a lunchtime stopover. We are still using our Australian Sat Nav that we brought back with us, after tackling the very confusing Garmin website, I added the European maps to a micro SD card and installed it into the satnav....works a treat.
Brugge is an ancient walled city with an extensive canal system. The architecture is stunning and the narrow cobbled streets are so picturesque. We had trouble parking, mainly because we had no change for the meter and all the shops where shut because it was lunchtime. Gary went into investigate when we finally found a space next to a mini supermarket but it turned out to be residential parking only, he did however manage to get change by buying a snickers. We drove on and found a perfect parking space down a quaint little street. We walked around the market square and stopped at a street cafe for a lunch of mussels and chips....very Belgian. We had another stroll round the beautiful cobbled streets after our delicious lunch stopping for a tasty Belgian waffle before heading back to the car and on to Holland.
Dad met us just outside Bergen Op Zoom and we followed him through the unusually narrow streets of Holland. There are some odd road laws over here, one of the strangest is giving way to bikes on ALL roads and roundabouts. It is not surprising really when the majority of the population all ride bikes to work, school or the shops. Even the cycle tracks here are bigger than the roads... cars are the minority. We parked in their underground carpark and went up to see their apartment we had heard so much about but only seen on Skype. It was very impressive and the view of the lake from the balcony was lovely. We dumped our bags in our room and headed for the fridge for a taste of the local brew.....which turns out to be Belgian Beers. After dinner Gary and Dad when over the road to the supermarket to stock up on beer and cider, Gary came back with cherry beer.
The rain eased to a light mizzle and the wind had dropped now we were off the water’s edge.
We walked back to the car via a shopping arcade that use to be a theatre, it still had all the gold braiding round the walls and fantastic chandeliers hanging in what is now a shop. The rain held off late afternoon but it seems it had brought out all the local nutter’s as a procession of colourfully dressed people playing instruments or walking on stilts paraded past us. Back at the flat Mum cooked dinner and we all chilled out on the balcony with a few drinks.
We packed our bags, having been over the road to the supermarket to stock up on cheeses and beer. Mum waved us off as we left Bergen Op Zoom, taking care not to run any cyclists over on the way out. We did a detour on the way back to Dunkirk via Oostende, the weather was roasting 34 degrees, it was a good job the cars climate control worked.
By luck more than judgement we parked the car in an underground car park when we arrived in Oostende, which meant it stayed lovely and cool while we slowly cooked as we walked round the city. The town was heaving with people, most of them looking very red and sweaty, we tried to get lunch in two restaurants but they were both so busy we ended up walking out. No choice but to have McDonalds, Air Con and cheap food....what more do you need. We walked back to the car via the seafront, which like the town was full of holidaymakers soaking up the heat of the hottest day of the year so far.
Back at the car, we soaked up the cool of the underground carpark before headed off to the ferry port. DFDS kindly let us on the next ferry even though we were two hours early for our scheduled transport. We found seats and settled down for the two hour crossing, playing backgammon and Angry Birds on our phones to kill time.
Back in sunny Southend after a very enjoyable five days.....thanks guys.