HOLLAND TOUR 2017
DAY MINUS 2
Hassle free flight to Amsterdam and train to Sloterdijk. A slightly weird place with a lot of very recent college buildings but no shops or bars. Unaccountably the hotel receptionist didn't tell us about the one restaurant near the station but recommended buying something in from the internet! Comfortable room with kitchen. Met the rest of the gang and had a reasonable meal of chicken and vegetables with noodles.
DAY MINUS 1.
Nice day wandering round familiar places in Amsterdam. Met up with Robert van der Veen for tea at Cafe Americain. Got hopelessly lost in pissing rain on way back to Central Station. Canals never seen before.
Dinner in Sloterdijk but this time we had to send the food back to the kitchen before it was confirmed that there were indeed minute specks of salmon in it.
DAY 1 AMSTERDAM TO EDAM
Got lost following the GPS leaving Amsterdam but useful after that. It seemed like a whole country like Stratford on Avon but with windmills. Marx spoke of the abolition of the distinction between town and country. His wife was of Dutch descent. Maybe no accident.
Rode with Melissa on the long route in the afternoon and saw lots of herons.
Crazily ornate hotel in Edam. Had the W A Mozart room with busts of him, Beethoven and Haydn and lots of fancy bedding. A bigger room would have been better!
Very nice ravioli in restaurant near hotel.
DAY 2 EDAM TO ALKMAAR
Usual GPS problems leaving and also arriving in the afternoon. Judy had a delayed start after losing the key to her locked bike but the local bike shop came to the rescue. (The original key was returned to her with her luggage at the next hotel!)
Smooth steady ride including sand dunes and water everywhere.
Hotel very comfortable and spacious. Another good meal, prawn pasta for Ann, burger for me.
DAY 3 ALKMAAR
Rest day so we went to a riveting weekly cheese market where people ran back and forth with lots of cheese and tried to sell cheese. Took a pic of a man on a gondola (yes in Holland) transporting lots of cheese.
Delicious herring rolls for lunch. Alkmaar is a pretty town but very touristy and commercialised.
Jolly and satisfactory Greek meal with complimentary ouzo.
DAY 4 ALKMAAR TO ENKHUIZEN
Some rain in the morning and the first puncture of the trip – mine, when we stopped and I noticed bubbles coming from the puddle that my front wheel was resting in. Non traumatic repair job and I bought replacement tubes later in the day.
Afternoon good riding, a lot of it on a dyke along the coast where we saw kite surfers doing amazing things up in the air as well as in the sea. Also lots more pretty villages.
Another comfortable hotel and another reasonable meal in a bar/restaurant. The beer has also been consistently good.
DAY 5 ENKHUIZEN TO LEMMER
Another flat day, starting with an hour and a half ferry ride. Two other tiny ferries across canals later in the day. (A novel experience a couple of days ago was a DIY ferry where you had to keep a foot on a pedal and spin a wheel rapidly. Ok once we got the hang of it and I showed a woman coming back the other way how to use it. Had to jump for it as it started to move off. )
Lots of sail boats on the canals but on the horizon they just looked as if they were sailing through fields. Also lots of swing bridges.
Picnic lunch at a nicely provided table in the middle of nowhere.
Lemmer has a good beach and is very busy. Hotel more cramped than the spacious one yesterday. Average meal in Italian restaurant.
Gradually getting the hang of the GPS. It has systematically misleading displays which it is possible to compensate for. It would be very difficult to combine with map navigation.
The hired bike is a very light road bike with slick tyres. It is more comfortable than any of my own bikes.
Holland is just like Germany in respect of the huge number of people of all shapes, sizes and ages riding bikes, and especially old codgers. Also in respect of the courtesy, patience and consideration shown by people driving cars to people riding bikes. And of course in respect of the wonderful facilities available for the latter. The crisis in the NHS could be solved by spending a few thousand quid on providing safe cycling facilities and getting old codgers and others to use them.
DAY 6 LEMMER TO DWINGELOO
Much of the riding was on dykes into a head wind, with a section along a canal with a towpath like Avon and Kennet but with zillions of badly surfaced bridges. The worst surface is small bricks set in a zigzag - plenty of that.
Sight of the day was two hares tanking it across a field. Melissa spotted a black snake, also a stork and possibly an egret.
Ann's electric bike is working out very well. We can ride at the same speed and we don't trail in last every day. It points the way to the future.
We had a lunch stop next to what turned out to be a cemetery and saw a funeral with a long line of walking mourners.
Another very comfortable hotel room and a nice fancy meal there too - duck breast.
DAY 7 DWINGELOO TO ZWOLLE
The day started with a nice cooling ride through a national park forest - not many of them around.
Went through Gielthoorn, the Venice of the North where there were tiny paths for cyclists with masses and masses of tourist pedestrians, freaking Ann out a bit.
Lunch off a main road and up a path to a kind of viewing area for seeing endangered swans.
Rode through some lakes and up on a dyke. An effect of the electric bike is to make Ann think there is no wind. But there is.
Very well routed end to the day ending at the Art Deco hotel Fidder. Very tasty meal of chicken, then a frustrating dash across town to a gelateria before it closed. Got there in time, but you had to have a ticket to go through the barrier at the station to get to it. Crossed the road to Starbucks instead and got cheesecake.
DAY 8 ZWOLLE TO OTTERLO
The day started on dykes with a heavy mist in all directions which quickly burned off under the sun. Some more nice riding through a forest. A coffee and apple cake stop was eventually followed by lunch at a table which we decided didn't belong to the restaurant on the opposite side of the road.
Saw a beautiful garden of sunflowers and multicoloured dahlias - twice. The GPS took us round in a circle and we discovered later that some of the others had the same experience. Flowers, both wild and grown in gardens, have been a big feature.
The GPS also took us round in circles between two bridges over a river before we realised there was a ferry we needed to catch midway between them.
We also had a hill today which came as a bit of a shock, small though it was. Ann didn't notice it and left us trailing but we got our own back because the last part of the ride was downhill and we went above the 15 mph at which her motor cuts out !
Looking forward to the Kröller Müller museum tomorrow and a day off the bike.
DAY 9 OTTERLO
Rest day and finally a chance to visit the Kröller Müller museum. A walk to national park where it is located, then a ride on a free white bike within the park to the gallery itself. Ann couldn't get the hang of the back pedal brake and we didn't ride them on the way back.
The museum was excellent, loads of Van Gogh and pointillist paintings and much else besides including Picasso, early renaissance, sculptures by Hepworth, Moore, Giacometti et al. Rain curtailed our walk in the sculpture gardens. The only disappointment was that the Van Gogh drawings only come out every five years because of potential light damage.
Ate dinner at the hotel again where we had very good fish and chips but very bad service.
DAY 10 OTTERLO TO BENEDEN LEEUWEN
Mosquito bites arrived with a vengeance. Seven so far and a lot of itching at night.
There is more forest than I realised here and we rode through more of it this morning. Also found a viewing platform at the highest point. And at least for the first time on this trip there was some genuine freewheeling after it.
Everyone had some rough riding today. Whether on or off route we found ourselves on a dirt track which then turned into deep and clogging sand, hard to stay upright.
Had lunch picnic with a very nice view of the river and a church in the distance.
Rain on and off for a lot of the day, arrived at the hotel in good time. A bit of a mixed bag - very nice shower, comfortable room but they forgot to give us any tea or coffee and service in the restaurant was appallingly slow (an hour and a half from ordering to getting the main course).
Sight of the whole trip was just before we got on a ferry - a grandmother with a fully laden cycle camping bike and the granddaughter of about 6 or 7 with her own tiny bike complete with sleeping bag on the back. When we got off the ferry she went tanking off down the cycle path at high speed. What wonderful freedom at that age!
DAY 11 BENEDEN LEEUWEN TO BERGAMBACHT
Second puncture of the trip - mine again, discovered just as we were about to leave. The tyres are very vulnerable and give me a lot of anxiety. Melissa kindly waited so we all set off together.
A day of grinding wind which seemed to wear everyone down. There is never the reward of an exhilarating descent as in hillier terrain. But there was the reward of apple cake and hot chocolate mid afternoon which helped us on the last stretch.
The hotel is posh and renowned for its cuisine but expensive and everyone opted for a very nice place in town full of locals, rather like a place in Germany on the Rhine trip. Friendly service, much better than most of the hotels and good food.
DAY 12 BERGAMBACHT TO GOUDA
The day started with a salutary lesson. A large group of special needs people in the hotel at breakfast. First instinct was of sympathy but after 5 minutes waiting behind them in the queue I began to feel irritated. Then when I got to the head of the queue my arthritic fingers left me fumbling and irritated the guy behind me. Moral: we are not as different from other people as we think.
Less windy day's riding than yesterday. Rode through the Kinderdijk area remembered from the Rhine ride, even getting soup at the same place.
Lunch at a one windmill + three churches picnic viewing area.
Staying in Gouda, with dinner at a cheese and steak place in the town.
DAY 13 GOUDA TO LEIDEN
Once more into the Stratford-like Nederburbs of Nedertopia on leaving Gouda. Large well appointed and individually designed modern houses stretching down to the water. There must be poverty in the Netherlands but we haven't seen any on this trip.
Holland must also be one of the hardest countries in the world to get a piss. It is one of the most densely populated. It never feels far to a house and the fields tend to be wide open.
One stretch of deeply unpleasant riding with heavy traffic thundering past us in close proximity - but never any feeling of danger as would happen in the UK.
Mosquitoes continue to bite.
Arrived at Leiden which looks fairly like Amsterdam. So-so Italian meal but ice creams continue to keep up to scratch.
DAY 14 LEIDEN TO HAARLEM
Last day. A big change of scenery as we headed into a very extensive area of very large dunes, stopping for most of the group to dip their feet in the North Sea. No motor traffic but a lot of cycle paths and hundreds and hundreds of people out on bikes. Eventually came out on the North Sea coast again, picnic lunch looking out to sea.
Difficult navigation in places again because of construction work and closed roads. The GPS doesn't keep up with that so finding a way back on to the route is not easy.
The final hotel is reasonably spacious and comfortable. Dinner at a local place, mustard soup and lamb chops.
The riding position on my hired bike was massively more comfortable than on any of my own bikes - no seized up neck and shoulders, no pins and needles in hands and no hint whatever of saddle soreness. Will try to reproduce it at home!