So time to start thinking of a route. Since our last circuit of Europe, our Son Matti moved from London to Amsterdam, working as a chef in a swanky wine bar/restaurant, he seems to be doing very well & enjoying it, so we will plan to visit him. Then it will be ‘U’ turn, plough through France (sorry again Catherine, France will always be there), clip San Sebastion, then on along the north coast of Portugal turning south, weaving down towards the Algarve. Beyond that, we’ve not really planned in any detail, but Morocco is defiantly on the cards. Exciting times. Looking forward to a proper look at a new(ish) country to us, we’re going to ‘Boldly go where we’ve only briefly been before’ Portugal. We’ve even splashed out on a copy of the latest ‘Rough guides’ to Portugal to help with the planning.
Now the tricky bit. I’m so far behind with the blog (at least a month) I need to speed up time a little, so…”engage warp drive Mr. Sulu”, (insert whooshing sound ad make the screen go all blury)
“Yes captain…approaching warp speed one” (whooshing sound intensifies and lifts in pitch). Canterbury and it’s expensive Cathedral whizz by (Durham 1 – Canterbury 0). The ‘last fish & chip supper’ is washed down by the ‘last real pint’ and we’re into the Chunnel. We lose radio 2, Ken Bruce’s ‘Pop-Master’ becomes a distant echo…bye bye Ken, (one year out!). We’re transported forward in time by an hour, ‘miles’ are a memory, as speed limits go to metric and a pound is now worth a Euro. Drivers favor the right and roundabouts need special concentration. Looking on the bright side, diesel fuel is now just over a quid a litre and traffic seems to have mysteriously disappeared. We’ve found some of it at strange large parking places at the side of the motorways called ‘Aires’, all have free toilets, bins and some even have free showers, this is an alien world!
“Warp 2 captain!” as Dunkirk, Bruge, Ghent, and Antwerp fly past the window without a second thought (another day…your not so far away). The roads get smoother, wider, faster, flatter and all of a sudden bicycle lanes appear…what’s going on? All the tulips have been stolen and mice no longer dwell in windmills, but it’s all going on, bikes, dikes, wind turbines and full-size models of garden furniture. But the gnomes have all left town, they’ve been digging canals for the past millennia. All over the city there are canals & bridges, bicycles and foot traffic…cars are banned. Bad cars…bad, bad cars,.. off to the suburbs with all of you, here we need clean air, electric trams and free water taxi’s rule here. Ding ding!.. ding ding!
“Bring us into geo-stationary-orbit Mr. Sulu” (the whooshing noise slowly fades, the screen clears), Amsterdam’s city Motorhome park comes into view and we can see…canals, rivers and rain. An automated machine relives us of €60 for a car park for 3 nights, it’s an extra €4 /pn for power, if the sun doesn’t come out, we may need it, but the batteries are full for now and the rain has just stopped. It was late in the afternoon, Matti was at work until midnight, so we batten down and are slowly rocked to sleep by a gusty wind.
The morning breeze was tolerable and no rain, so top of the hit list, get hold of our son Matti. In true dutch style, long lost off-spring arrives on a bike. Taller, hairier, confident as ever and hopefully wiser. He’s barely 2 decades old, but this city seems to fit this young man perfectly, he knows it, every back-street, every short-cut, every good bar, every bad one, it fits like a glove. This is where it’s happening, this is where it’s going on! It’s youthful, I worry we are not quick enough to keep up, but we manage. We deploy bikes (in an attempt to blend in), Mat guides us through a city tour, the cycle lanes are manic, ..ding-ding…ding-ding. Don’t hang about, get where your’e going, everyone’s got better things to be doing. Have we spent too long in the suburbs of sleepy Norwich?
There are multi-story car parks full of hundreds of thousands of bikes, every bridge railing has them 3 deep, lamp posts surrounded, park benches too. Only tourists walk and there are plenty of them. Shop deliveries, by bike. Kids to school, all on one bike, food to go and pizza delivery on weird contraption just made for the job. Bread rolls to ‘dial a priest’…you got it, here the ‘ding-ding’ is king.
After 2 hours of ‘blending in’ we’ve see most corners of the city. Thanks Mat, we love the place you live and (we think) we’ve lived the place you love, jealous almost. The thunderous clouds rolled in, heavy and threatening, rain clouds with added wind too. Time to about face, ‘U-turn’ and away, to latitudes less numerous. We had a great couple of days with Matti in Amsterdam, we’d love to do it again, preferably when the rain’s not coming in sideways. More mice in windmills next time please.
Well done Matti…your doing well Son and we’re so proud of you. XX
“Warp 3 Mr. Sulu…set a course South-West” … Honfleur here we come. Time to blast across France yet again.
Amsterdam City Camp – n52.39780 e4.90100 Very secure & perfect position for free ferry into city. €20 water & waste (+ optional E4 for EHU)
Brecht, Belgium- n51.35170 w4.64217. Car park next to a VERY noisy church bell, which rang all night. Free, no services.
Honfleur, France- n49.41960 e0.23950 Official aire at marina (hundreds of MoHo’s) €11/24h, free EHU if you’re lucky. Water & waste services inc.
Fontevraud-l’ Abbaye, France – n47.18093 e0.04657. Large car park/Aire, all services, great free FON WiFi.
Taussat, France-n44.71710 w1.06987 Quiet car park at end of beach lane. all services. No 3g signal.
Labenne, France. Camp Sylvimar.n43.59810 w1.45720 Not ACSI but we like the pool 🙂 3 day treat €22.68pn.inc free WiFi.