Vicky 'n' Will's Travels

2 people. 1 dog. 5 years. Touring Europe in a motorhome. ~~~~~~~ 🧔🙋‍♀️ 🐕🚙🌍🛶🚲 ~~~~~~~ 👍https://www.facebook.com/vnwtravels/ 📽
  • Day929

    St Georges-sur-Cher

    January 11 in France ⋅ ⛅ 3 °C

    The electric heater is humming away happily and our living area is snug and warm. The medium sized, compacted yellow gravel aire at St Georges-sur-Cher provides free electricity, so the leisure batteries are getting a good charge, together with the rest of our electricals. We look out onto an open area of grey gravel and grass where cars park during the day. To our right, the main road is backed by a plantation of skinny poplars and far enough away not to bother us. Close by is the boulangerie, its red sign for 'pain' lighting up at night. An archway, whose christmas decorations are still illuminated, gives access to shop frontages in a small square with a limestone brick church. A fleuriste, boucherie / charcuterie and little supermarket; nothing remarkable, but it feels open and welcoming. One thing we especially love is the token system for the service point. An information board advises that 'jetons' for fresh water are available for free in the shops. It is a great way to foster a good relationship between business owners and the town's temporary residents.

    The day we arrived we had set off promptly in order to try and get Will a fishing licence. The system seems very complicated, with no national permit, but ones obtained from fishing clubs. Regional lines restrict the reach of permits from all clubs, but many have agreements with other regions, allowing licence holders to fish their waters. Will found a club that had agreements with every region but the next hurdle was the online application form. This was so tortuous that following many failed attempts he decided to visit somewhere he could buy it in person, thus the prompt start to the day. The skies were grey and showering Martha with rain. Perfect for travelling, as we didn't feel we were missing out on anything! On the way we saw several gilets jaunes encampments at roundabouts but they caused no trouble.

    The sat nav first took us to a residential street in Tours, which after 15 minutes of searching on foot, we concluded was not concealing anywhere that might sell fishing licenses. Following directions from Google Maps, we drove 4 kilometres accross town, parked and walked half a kilometre to find a somewhere that could feasibly, in the past have sold permits, but was now, most definitely, offices for a graphic design company- grrr! Back on the road and after parking up at St Georges, much persistence and €96, Will finally managed to purchase a fishing permit that would allow him to pursue his pastime throughout France for the coming year. All we've got to do now is find somewhere to print it out! It wouldn't have been worth the time, cost and effort if we were here for a matter of weeks, but we'll potentially be spending a lot of time in the country over the coming months, waiting for and travelling back to medical appointments in the UK.

    We decided to stay longer than usual St Georges-sur-Cher, mainly because of the electric hookup. Will had found a restaurant with good reviews but sadly Vicky's energy levels were very low, so we didn't make it. She stayed in the van while Will explored the town and made use of his new fishing permit and the fishing trousers, stool and bait catapault he got for xmas. On Sunday morning the car park filled up and people made their way through the arch with round, woven grass baskets and bags - it was a Sunday market!

    We joined the flow of people and saw a dozen or so stalls selling oysters and other seafood, veg and plants, roasting chickens, Chinese street food and honey. Vicky didn't make it round but was able to sit on a bench and watch the comings and goings while Will queued at the busy stands and picked up some produce we liked the look of, including a white petalled kalanchoe from the florists to cheer her up. There were a few people going into the little church and as we passed the open door we saw them huddled around a large candle at the end of the aisle, crystal chandeliers shedding their soft golden glow on the chestnut coloured wooden pews, while daylight shone in through the stained glass window, picking out its indigos and blues.

    Knowing the boulanger would be closed the following day we went in to pick up a loaf and decided to get one of the delcious looking (if a little expensive) puff pastry tarts that had filled shelves in several towns we'd visited. When cutting it open we found a ceramic tile inside. Puzzled and curious, Will took it back to the baker to ask what it was. The baker explained it was a traditional 'fève' (a bean). The tile had a moral inscribed on it which translated as "doing well is better than saying well"; actions speak louder than words. With a little research we discovered the tart was a Galette de Roi (King's Cake), eaten from epiphany / the 12th night onwards. The person who finds the fève becomes king or queen for the day, with special privilages. Will even got to wear a paper crown supplied with the galette. We love discovering new things and learning while travelling!

    Out of a maximum allowed stay of 7 nights, at Saint Georges-sur-Cher we stopped a total of 4. We'd begun getting itchy feet after 2 but it was good to just spend time relaxing and 'Being' in a place, instead of just passing through (especially as it came with free electricity!)
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  • Day928

    Châteaudun, Centre-Val de Loire

    January 10 in France ⋅ ☁️ 4 °C

    We are sitting in the shadow of the impressive Château de Châteaudun (well, we would be if there were any sunshine). Its grey brick walls rise to a neck-craning height, just over the road from the parking de camping cars. It's lower sections are built into the rock and covered in green lichen. They have but a few small inlets guarded by rusting iron bars; the dungeons perhaps? Upper storeys are mostly free from growth and punctuated by tall rectangular windows, some framed in archways and decorated with demure carvings. Impressive as it is, it looks in need of a little TLC. Over the other side of our car park the brown River Loire runs through an artificial basin. A canoe clubhouse perches on the bank and slalom poles hang in place, ready for when the weather warms.

    Like its castle, Châteaudun appears slightly run down; plaster flaking from the sides of buildings. On the way in we passed several houses, originally built into the cliff but now dilapidated beyond habitation. We also drove by the entrance to the Grottes du Foulon; a cave system renowned for its geodes (hollow rocks containing crystalline formations). In the case of the Foulon caves, they contain quartz and chalcedony; a microcrystal such as onyx. If we'd have been staying longer we would have visited. We'll have to put it on the 'return to' list!

    With Vicky feeling weak, Will set off to explore Châteaudun on his own. It is split into a lower and an upper town. Both are inhabited but the lower is the more modern and busy, with garages and noisy traffic driving through its streets. The upper is more touristy, its main square offering charcuteries and chocolatiers, its old quarter a pocket of history, with characterful, timber framed buildings and high sided stone walls. Cars are absent from the cobbled lanes and a well signed 'circuit touristique' leads you past the domineering historical buildings of the château, a hotel, the old town hall and more. Being the kind hearted bloke he is, Will decided to pay a little back to Châteaudun by having a beer at its old town café - well done Will! 😂 Before leaving, Vicky managed to make it up the steep stone steps and take in some of the sights. The streets were quiet in the feeble light of early morning and a delicate drizzle added to the olde worlde atmosphere.
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  • Day927

    Nonancourt aire

    January 9 in France ⋅ ☁️ 6 °C

    Nonancourt feels very familiar to both of us but we've never stayed in its free aire before. It offers 6 places near the Town Hall, looking out onto the tall trees and lawns that make up its grounds. We are alone here to start with and it is quiet, the only cars that pass, crawl slowly to the small Town Hall car park. Sadly the fresh water tap and electric points are turned off but we can survive without them.

    Snatches of sunshine light an otherwise overcast day so when the clouds part at around 1:30pm we go exploring. Unfortunately the lunch time closing catches us out and most shops are shut but we enjoy gazing up at Nonancourt's higgldy piggldy houses, leaning this way and that. Timber frames of brown and black preside and lead down to the central square, where a cheese seller is just packing up their van. It looks as if there might have been a market on in the morning. We cross the two channels of the little River Avre that runs an artificially straight course through the lower end of town. High sided houses rise out of the water and many have private bridges, a little larger than gangplanks, that lead from their back doors, over the Avre to the street.

    Nonancourt is obviously on a popular route because back at Martha Motorhome, as the daylight faded, we were joined by 3 other vans, all with GB plates. Now, it is customary for those in motorhomes to give each other a friendly wave when passing on the road and to at least acknowledge each other with a nod when pulling up in an aire. Our neighbour, who resembled Mr Smithers from The Simpsons, studiously avoided all eye contact, then proceeded to fill his bucket at the river and use a long handled brush and mop to give the outside of his van a full wash, in direct defiance of the signs forbidding it. At least one other left their waste pipe open to dribble grey water over the tarmac. No, it wasn't the end of the world, but it was disrespectful and made us ashamed to be associated with them by way of our nationality.

    After a frosty night Vicky got up, did Pilates then went to fetch freshly baked croissants and a baguette from the boulanger on Grande Rue, whose information board promised they would be open at 6:45am. At 8:15am there was no signs of life but fortunately the lights of the artisan boulanger next to the grey stone Église Saint-Martin were spilling out onto the main square and had croissants aplenty that we enjoyed for breakfast.

    Before finally departing Nonancourt, we returned once again to the cobbled alleys and timber framed buildings to pick up a few groceries, then a couple of hyacinths from the florist's to brighten up the van.
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  • Day925

    Poses, La Seine

    January 7 in France ⋅ ⛅ 8 °C

    We've crossed into Normandy and have found a spot aside the Seine. It's a wet and potholed layby off a dead end side track but there is a lovely view out of our front and side windows. The river is wide, but it is only when we look at the map that we realise the opposite bank is actually that of an island; one of several in this large meander loop. Further channels flow around the tree topped isles and occasionally huge transport barges can be seen ploughing their way upstream before disappearing behind the landmasses. Accross the water, rural hills rise up and a couple of outcrops of bare chalk stand prominently, one of which has been carved out to house a gun emplacement, presumably last used in the world wars.

    Before leaving our lakeside aire this morning we bit the bullet and sorted out the van insurance, which was up for renewal at the end of the month. Since Will turned 50 (nearly 15 years ago now) we have been using SAGA. Unlike most policies, theirs allowed us to spend as much time as we liked in Europe, but the premium rose to nearly £1000 last year after Vicky scraped a parked car and this year's quote was more than half again at £1529 because the company had not yet resolved the case of someone driving into the back of us in July in Denmark, despite 20 years protected no claims bonus. It was a big price hike so after ascertaining that they couldn't reduce it, we looked into other insurers. Adrian Flux would insure us for under £800 but restricted our roamings to 270 days a year, however, Comfort has a specialist full timers policy for £1300 whose only restriction was that you couldn't spend more than 6 months in any one foreign country each year. The thing that swung it for us was the unlimited mileage. Saga's quote restricted us to 16,000 miles and we'd always made travel plans with this in mind. So, Comfort has taken a big chunk of money from our credit card this month, but lifted a big weight from our minds.

    Insurance done and dusted, we set off this morning towards an Intermarché Will had found on the sat nav and were disappointed to find it closed. Several other supermarkets we passed were also shut but after a hunch and a small detour, Will found an open Super U. Vicky was feeling weak so let him go in by himself. After a long wait she began to think she'd made a mistake; we haven't done a 'big shop' for months and Will does tend to get a bit carried away. She wasn't reassured when he came out with a trolley full of purchases and a faux innocent look on his face!

    Once we'd squeezed the trolley load into our little cupboards and tucked into the french stick for lunch, we set off once again through the region's wide open fields and outcrops of barren winter trees. Passing by Rouen we managed to spot the island we'd stayed on and canoed round several years ago when we visited France in our old motorhome with Poppy and our ancient chocolate lab, Bronwyn. Today we were looking for somewhere out of the way, so followed the Seine to Poses.

    Upon arriving, Vicky was unsure about staying so close to the campsite that our road runs adjacent to, but it was closed for winter so we stopped for 2 peaceful nights, having agreed to slow down our travels. Giving ourselves more time at each place is good for getting things done and Will was feeling very productive. He fixed his broken clothes drawer, sewed up the hole in his trousers and attached the tape lights Vicky had got for Christmas, to the van's electrics via a switch he'd bought at Super U. Vicky carefully positioned them above the rotating driver and passenger seats and peeled back the cover from the self adhesive tape, sticking them into place. She'd chosen a warm white light and we were both surprised at how bright they are. We'd previously strung battery operated fairy lights around the cab but they didn't output much light into this previously dull area of the van. We are really pleased with the tape lights, we just hope the glue holds!

    It wasn't all work, when we saw the sun peaking out we set off downriver and managed to make it to a huge wier that had a footbridge, where you could stand and look down on the rushing water. Temperatires are still in single figures but it was good to get out, especially as Will is continuing to improve after his hospital visits. The route took us through woodland corridors and past a range of old and expensive looking detached houses set within their own grounds. Many had private terraces over the water and one even had a swimming pool in the back garden. Away from the homes were guest moorings for large boats, and a few permanent ones that looked like livaboards.

    On the last morning Vicky went for a walk through the village's quiet streets and emerged between two lakes just in time to catch the sun rising over Lac du Mesnil. All in all Poses was a good place to wild camp for a couple of nights.
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  • Day924

    Étang d'Incheville Aire

    January 6 in France ⋅ ☁️ 8 °C

    We've treated ourselves to a paying aire. €9.50 gives us 24 hours of electric hookup, fresh water, and all waste disposal facilities including glass and packaging recycling. Through our windscreen we can see Incheville Lake stretching up its small valley. It is wonderfully quiet, no main roads run nearby and grass surrounds the tarmacced parking area that we have all to ourselves.

    Before the light fades we set out on the 3km track around the lake. It is a dull day, with no direct sunshine penetrating the thick cloud layer to highlight winter's colour; the valley's woodlands, fields and few houses appearing as if in sepia. There are many wooden fishing pontoons projecting out from the grassy bank. They appear to be on long term loans to individuals, like allotments. Most have fencing or hedges and a gate shielding them from passers by and many have sheds. We encounter lots of dogs and their walkers enjoying a Sunday stroll and exchange friendly 'bonjour's. We are beginning to be able to enjoy seeing other dogs and be happy for the many wonderful walks we shared with Poppy.

    An unusual feature of Étang d'Incheville is the flocks of fake waterfowl floating on its surface. We've never seen them before, but there must be hundreds on this lake, fanning out in groups of about 30 from anchored buoys. With Geese, Eiders and Mallards, they look very realistic but we can't find any information boards that shed light on why they are there. Is it to encourage migrating birds to land and nest?

    Incheville was a nice spot but there were no shops within walking distance and we were running low on food, so we set off south, hoping to stock up at a supermarket on the way.
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  • Day923

    Campagne-lés-Hesdin Lav'car + laverie

    January 5 in France ⋅ ☁️ 5 °C

    Our hands are red and stinging with cold but Martha Motorhome is shiny white again! The aire at Campagne-lés-Hesdin is part of a 'Lav'car'. It has a special high, van washing hose and even a platform you can climb to reach your roof! Our mud and salt splattered home was well overdue a good scrub so we donned unflattering waterproof trousers, braved the chill and got on with it. How the locals manage to look so well dressed while they do this is beyond us!

    We chose the coastal route to get here, the journey taking us through soft dunes and towns comprising of holiday developments and run down local housing, before turning eastwards to bypass the built up suburbia of Boulogne. We passed numerous friteries along the way and at midday our resolve finally crumbled when we saw a group of people queuing outside a catering trailer. Two large and delicious portions later, we were on the road again and pulling up at the aire before too long. Vicky made use of the on site laverie to do a couple of loads of clothes washing and we treated the batteries to 6 hours of electric hookup for €3, plugging in our phones, laptops, power packs electric heater and anything else electronic we could find to take advantage of the mains supply!

    It wasn't a peaceful place to stay, with drivers washing their vehicles well into the night. If we had been holidaying we would almost certainly have moved on, but we are full timing and the services were more important than a bit of peace and quiet or scenery for one night. We liked the van wash so much that the following morning Vicky got up onto the roof to scrub the hard to reach areas before we gave the whole van another going over with the pressure washers, focussing on the areas we'd missed. It was a useful exercise as she found a puncture in the roof, probably caused by a tree branch, that she was able to cover with a blob of silicone. We've simply not found these facilities in the UK so we hope you'll forgive us for getting a little over excited at this one!
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  • Day921

    Wissant, France

    January 3 in France ⋅ ☁️ 5 °C

    We've made it to France and have found a spot in the popular free aire at Wissant, 30km south of Calais. The crossing was fine, the ferry's Christmas deccies still in place, having not yet reached 12th night. Rainy downpours greeted us as Martha's wheels touched down on French tarmac but our hearts lifted a little as we left the razor wire and dour high rises of Calais behind to wind our way through rolling green fields toward the distant blue cleft where the Channel met a changeable sky.

    The van parking at Wissant is surrounded by a thick screen of small trees, their bare winter branches providing a good network of perches for robins and little brown birds. It is quiet, save for a little road noise and occasional squawks and screeches of waterfowl somewhere in the distance. It doesn't have fresh water but it does have bins, glass recycling, grey and black water emptying facilities. A slightly muddy footpath leads between the gardens of nearby houses and small streets provide passage into town.

    We arrived mid afternoon on Thursday but didn't leave the van until late Friday morning. The cloud of Poppy's absence still hangs over us, dampening the excitement we would usually feel embarking on a brand new tour. It always takes some adjusting from staying with friends and family to being by ourselves, but being without Poppy is making it all the more difficult. Our moods swing, as one moment we feel like doing something radical (for us), such as leaving the van and taking a flight somewhere and the next moment we have a strong urge to shut the world out and do absolutely nothing. We know time heals and are just trying to focus on the good memories we have.

    A cockrel's crows heralded Friday's eventual dawn. France is an hour ahead of the UK so it isn't light until after 8:30am. Vicky blogged while Will used the leftover cream from Christmas Day to make butter (as you do!?), then we slowly meandered through the streets toward the beach. Will needs to be careful not to overdo things since his operation, but we made it to the soft yellow sands and gentle rolling waves of the English Channel. High dunes topped with tufts of maram grass divided coast from countryside as people milled around, taking in the sights. Walking back through the quaint town of Wissant, with its cream or white facades, terracotta rooves and splashes of colour on the woodwork, we passed signs for a summer oyster and champagne bar, as well as plenty of seafront restaurants. We can imagine the place would be heaving in high season. After picking up a few necessities at a small Spar we saw a sign advertising direct sales from 'the boat'. A small shop, open to the outdoors on one side, had an iced counter with a selection of fish and seafood on offer. We treated ourselves to half a dozen oysters and a cooked crab that we enjoyed for lunch back at the van with bread and salad - MmmMmm!

    We found ourselves needing to run the engine for a while in the afternoon because the leisure batteries were getting so low. We really could have done with that solar panel! With Will's post op appointment in mid February, we've decided to stay in France for the next 6 weeks instead of venturing further afield. What we hadn't decided on was where in this very large country we were going to go. Well, we still haven't exactly decided but on the final evening at Wissant we booked a ferry from Santander to Portsmouth, a few days before the appointment. We've only ever brought Martha Motorhome over the channel because all other routes would have required Poppy to go into onboard kennels. This 27 hour crossing from Spain us a little more costly than we are used to (£420) but it allows us to meander south at our own pace and enjoy the winter sun when we are there instead of worrying about when to start making our way north again.
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  • Day920

    Canterbury Park and Ride

    January 2 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 4 °C

    Feeling shell shocked at both the loss of our dog and a trip to A&E for Will on New Year's Eve, we said our goodbye's to Will's sister and her family on New Year's Day. We'll be forever grateful to them for looking after us through this difficult time.

    With a few tears we made our way to the motorhome aire at Canterbury. It is incorporated into the city's Park and Ride complex, is one of only a handful of dedicated motorhome facilities in the UK and probably the largest, with capacity for over 70 vans. We'd been keen to make use of it for a while and having a few days to spare before our ferry from Dover, made now the ideal time.

    We are not planning to get another dog while touring, so had decided to donate Poppy's effects to Dogs Trust Canterbury. It was only once we'd entered the aire via the barrier that Vicky found the kennels were closed the following day. She therefore packed up Poppy's things and we whipped out to drop them off. We made it back with just enough light not to have to use our headlights, which Will had switched for continental ones at Orpington- phew!

    The aire is a quiet place, which is usually something we value, but on New Year's Day it was near silent and Poppy's absence was all the more obvious. Vicky had resorted to cleaning and tidying to keep her mind occupied and the van felt far too sterile without our very furry friend.

    For £3.50 per day (charged midnight to midnight) the aire provides fresh water, bins, waste water and toilet emptying facilities as well as unlimited passage for up to 6 people into and out of Canterbury city centre on buses that run every 8 minutes.

    The following morning dawned with venus and a waning crescent prominent in what promised to be a blue sky. Vicky did half an hour of pilates (for the first time in several months) and we rode into Canterbury. Will needed to take things easy as he was still recovering from his operation and the complications that followed, but we strolled slowly around the city's streets, soon finding our way off the main stretch to the cobbled lanes, where we found a range of interesting shops. On the King's Mile we discovered Unboxed; a small grocery store whose products, from rice to tomatoes, were all free of packaging. The sun was shining on the wall of the cathedral courtyard but with a fee to enter, we admired from afar.

    After a while we came accross Lily's Bistro, an ethical café advertising seasonal, locally sourced food with zero waste and vegan options. We chose a table in the little bay window and watched the people go by. Our toast with toppings tasted great and we chose to buy two 'pay it forward' soups to be given to the homeless, some of whom we'd seen earlier huddled in a doorway. As we were moving on to tea and apple crumble cake a couple came in with a French Bulldog. It had been years since Poppy was well enough to explore cities on foot and we would usually only leave her for up to 2.5 hours. Now it is just the two of us we have a whole lot more freedom but we would swap it in a second to have our Poppy happy and healthy with us.

    We really enjoyed visiting Canterbury's characterful lanes and would definitely make use of the aire again. Prior to leaving we used our credit card to pay the machine £10.50 for 2 nights and the barrrier opened automatically when it read our number plate. An easy to use and effective system. Next stop Dover!
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  • Day907

    Our Christmas break. Goodbye Poppy

    December 20, 2018 in the United Kingdom ⋅ 🌧 5 °C

    We spent a total of 8 weeks back in the UK, docking at Dover on 31st October and travelling as far as Alnwick on the North East coast. The trip began well with a diagnosis for Vicky's poor health; premenstrual syndrome with severe secondary dysmenorrhea, probably due to adenomyosis. She has been referred for a procedure, but when this isn't likely to be until March.

    We had a roller coaster ride of quality time spent with family and friends, including 2 fireworks displays, 4 birthdays, a canal boat trip, 2 horse rides, walks, meals and drinks with loved ones. We got to watch Will's grandaughter's first ballet show and Christmas day was spent in the North East with our two brothers and sister in law. A HUGE thank you to everyone who made time to see us, took us in, fed us, gave us use of their drives, sewage drains, fresh water and washing machines and generally made us feel so welcome!

    Even with the best laid plans, not everything worked out as we would have liked. We missed seeing some people we'd planned to see and found we'd be unable to fit the roof mountable solar panel we'd bought for the van until temperatures rose above 18°C. We managed to get our passports renewed but only after a palava with the photos, similarly we managed to get Will's new prescription glasses but only after navigating cancellations and store closures. We had aimed to get the van bumper fixed on the insurance from when someone drove into us in July, but it turns out 2 months isn't long enough for SAGA's garage to get the part delivered! Thank goodness we got the MOT done and dusted! The sudden closure of our Doctor's surgery left us in a pickle and the cancellation of Will's surgery on his piles and polyp once he was in hospital and prepped, put a spanner in the works. We managed to have it rescheduled close to Christmas, but stitches coming out, tearing and infection meant two trips to A&E, one on Boxing Day and one on New Year's Eve.

    By the 30th of December we were ready for our ferry crossing to France and a little rest and relaxation. However, we were woken early by a very poorly Poppy dog. She had lost control of her back end, couldn't stand and was very distressed. Given that her health had been declining and she'd had two seizures within a month, earlier in our visit, we decided that enough was enough. We postponed the ferry and she recovered a little, but with her future quality of life in mind, we had the vet put her to sleep. They came out to the van where it was parked on Will's sister's drive on New Year's eve, so she encountered as little distress as possible in her last moments. We are glad to have been able to end her suffering, but are feeling very lost and sad without her. She's been part of who we are for more than 15 years and loved travelling as much as we do. Things just won't be the same without our stubborn, demanding, wilful, intelligent, beautiful and loving dog 😢
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  • Day857

    Goodbye to the Netherlands

    October 31, 2018 in the Netherlands ⋅ ☀️ 9 °C

    After a summer spent with the Danes, October was dedicated to the Dutch. Out of all the countries we've visited and have yet to visit, it would be fair to say we were least looking forward to the Netherlands. As we've frequently mentioned, we attempted to stay at a coastal car park here many years ago, only to be woken by armed police, who demanded to see our papers and issued us with a fine. Although we've passed through countless times since, first impressions have a lasting impact and this was certainly not a good one. Now that we travel full time, we ensure we are a little better informed about camping regulations.

    So, did the Netherlands manage to win us over this October?

    Motorhome facilities:

    👎Overnighting is restricted to designated spots, which were in high demand. Luckily we only had to move on once due to lack of space, but we saw plenty of others arriving and departing as the camperplaats was full. Not knowing whether we'd be able to stay at our intended destination caused a certain amount of worry.
    👎Because the majority of camperplatzen are in towns, there was the inevitable urban noise and bustle around the van. We were grateful for these free spots, but coming directly from Denmark, where there are hundreds of opportunities for secluded and peaceful countryside camping, we couldn't help but compare.
    👎Many places we stayed had restrictions of 24 or 48 hours. Even the paying camperpark at Diepenham had a 5 day restriction, so we often needed to leave sooner than we would have liked.
    👎We worked our way from north to south but as we progressed there were fewer camperplatzen and a greater proportion were just a large parking spot in a car park with no facilities.

    👍Using mainly the CamperContact app, but sometimes Park4Night, Will managed to find a decent number of small camperplatzen that offered a free stay and facilities.
    👍Many had electric hookup and a few didn't even charge for it. With autumnal temperatures similar to the UK, this really came in handy, reducing the strain on our 2 leisure batteries, whose power is quickly quickly depleted by the central heating.
    👍With wildcamping off the cards we were often parked with filling and emptying facilities on site. When this was the case we didn't need to worry about the amount of water we used or how much space the toilet had left.
    👍Camperplatzen were mostly situated in small towns, giving us easy access for a mooch in the interesting independent stores and a chance to pay the community back for their hospitality.

    Accessibility:

    👎While spoken English was excellent, very few signs / information boards were written in our language. We are firm believers in trying to learn at least a little of the native tongue, but deciphering regulations was definitely more tricky than in places such as Denmark.
    👎 We've found that the approach a country takes to roadworks makes a big difference. Dutch roads are well maintained but we encountered several that were completely closed and the diversions were often unclear or non existent.

    👍 The number of people who spoke English and the level at which they conversed was flabbergasting. Denmark was good but the Netherlands was better, so we didn't need to worry about a language barrrier.
    👍 Another area the Netherlands excels in is the amazing cycle network, giving access to both town and country. More than a quarter of journeys are made by bike and this increases to over a third in big cities. The country boasts 32,000km of cycle paths, meaning noise, congestion and pollution from motorised vehicles is noticeably reduced.

    Sights and Activities:

    Compared to Denmark's quaint, thatch roofed cottages, we were left uninspired by the Netherlands' brick built buildings on the whole. Saying this, traditional Dutch barn style houses lining the canals did catch our eye and the village of Edam was chocolate box pretty.

    After learning that this was the most densely populated country in Europe (aside from the micro states) we feared tightly packed urban areas whose boundaries ran in to one another. Instead, we were pleasantly surprised to find well planned settlements surrounded by plenty of open countryside, crisscrossed by kilometres of canals, whose towpaths one could invariably walk or cycle along. Will bought himself a small fishing licence for under €20 and downloaded the app that showed him where he could cast his line. He spent hours sat happily on the canalside or riverbank and even caught a fish or two!

    Meanwhile Vicky got to indulge in her yarn based hobbies by delving into a plethora of lovely little wool shops. We frequently enjoyed strolling along the highstreets of the towns we stayed in. There seemed to be more variety than in the UK and a thriving small business scene. The Dutch are particularly keen on their markets, which of course included the obligatory cheese stalls, bowing under the weight of the huge rounds stacked high, ready to be sliced and packaged. Fish stalls were also popular and we happily discovered that the Netherlands is the only country we've visited so far (other than Gibraltar) that batters cod and serves it with frites in a style similar to the much loved British fish'n'chips. If there wasn't a market on, there was always a choice of cafés, often with a range of loose teas available. Will did very well to stick to his diet, while Vicky made it her mission to sample as many traditional sweet treats as possible. Caramely biscuity stroopwafels became a firm favourite and the much anticipated stopover at one of the country's pancake houses didn't disappoint.

    Amsterdam was undoubtedly the highlight of our Dutch tour. We parked up for the weekend at the city motorhome park in the arty and alternative NDSM district, north of the river. Free ferries transported us and our tandem to the city centre to mooch around markets, stroll the canals, visit the sex museum and, fuelled by vegan blueberry space cakes, take in the city lights at night!

    Although overall we enjoyed our time in the Netherlands, we found ourselves feeling rather uninspired as we travelled over its flat landscape. A collection of factors unrelated to the country worked against it; the season had changed and the temperatures were dropping as the nights drew in,
    Vicky was in poor health the majority of the time and we came straight from Denmark, that we both agree is our new favourite country. We were also preparing to head back to the UK for a long visit in November - December. Our minds were partly reliving the highs of the Danish summer and partly planning the visit home, so we didn't invest much mental energy in the present opportunities for travel and exploration. However, the tight regulations on motorhomes meant we focussed more on where we could stay, than where we wanted to visit. Unfortunately we found that overall the attractions in the Netherlands just didn't have enough 'va va voom' to overcome our apathy and inject a feeling of excitement into the tour. Amsterdam has earned its place on the list of cities we want to revisit, but other than this we left the Netherlands with a feeling of indifference towards it. We certainly wouldn't be adverse to staying over while travelling to somewhere else, but we wouldn't go out of our way to return.
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