A soggy start…
It’s finally time to cross the Channel again and start our tour for the 19/20 winter season. We’re excited to be travelling again and we’re especially excited to be travelling in our new motorhome, which we’ve named Ritzie (as in Glitzy Ritzie Rapido because we think she’s a bit posh like the Ritz hotel!). Most of all, we’re excited because we’re starting this year’s tour early enough to go North for a little while and hopefully catch some good weather in the Netherlands to spend time with family before we head south.
Well, all best laid plans and all that… As it turns out, it’s rather wet in the Netherlands. We have a very soggy start to our tour indeed! Luckily we have good waterproofs which we put to good use!
We spend some time on a campsite in Warmond, close to where relatives live. We have a great time spending quality time with family and in between showers we manage a walk on the beach and a visit to Leiden. We get drenched cycling places, going to the ‘Kermis’ (travelling funfair) and watching the nieces play football. It’s totally worth it though as it is so great to see people and spend more time than we usually do.
We haven’t put a limit on our time in the Netherlands so we feel we have plenty of time to explore. We take a week to visit the northern half of Holland, starting with the Zaanse Schans. It’s one of the most touristy places you can visit in the Netherlands and it gets really busy, especially in spring so probably best to avoid when the tulips are out… There is a free ‘Camperplaats’ (dutch Aire) nearby.
Zaanse Schans is a collection of historic buildings from the region which have been rebuilt in a single area to show how life used to be and what the villages looked like. There are a number of museum-shops which are all free to go in. The prices are especially for tourists though, so best to get your goodies from the supermarket. There are a number of museum mills which cost approx. €5 to go in, or you can buy a combination ticket to see all. They also sell a ‘Zaanse Schans’ card, supposedly giving you discounts etc but as it looked like it didn’t include entry to the mills, I really couldn’t see how it provides value to whoever buys this card, so steer clear of that one! Apart from the tourist schemes to avoid, Zaanse Schans is very much worth a visit, so don’t miss it!
Deciding where to go next was a bit tricky… We’d been to Alkmaar before. Maybe Enkhuizen..? It does look good but we’ll have to go next time. We decided to head straight for the ‘Afsluitdijk’, a huge sea-defence of 32 KM long, connecting the province of North-Holland to the province of Friesland. Quite the engineering feat! We stopped on the Dijk for a coffee before continuing our journey to Sneek, a town in Friesland. We find a camperplaats at a hotel and wander into the charming little town. Friesland has many lakes and canals and Sneek is also a water-based city, although some of its main canals have been filled in since. The old WaterPoort (Watergate) is still there, looking amazing and giving a glimpse of what the city walls may have looked like.
The next stop is one I’ve been waiting to visit for a very long time: Giethoorn. A little village on the edge of a nature reserve, built along canals rather than roads. Here, family come to visit and spend the day exploring with us as it’s a Flipflop Birthday. We spend the morning walking around the village, followed by a very traditional dutch pancake lunch. We decide to work off those pancakes with a bike ride around the nature reserve, Weerribben-Wieden. Luckily, the rain holds off for once so we have a great day exploring.
The next day we move on to Hooghalen. We find a campsite (camping Tikvah, ACSI) close to Westerbork Concentration Camp. A visit there is a very sobering experience. To visit the camp itself is free, but it’s a 2-mile walk/ride there from the museum. A ticket (€9.25 at time of writing) includes a visit to the museum and the bustrip to/from the camp, where they do guided tours at set times. A guided tour really helps to understand what the camp looked like and what it was like to live in the camp. It was a very sobering experience.
Next to the village of Westerbork, a few miles south, lies the museum village of Orvelte. A collection of historic buildings and farms are made into a museum village showing how people lived in the past. It’s a quaint little place, with interesting buildings and a lovely bakery. It’s also a nice, happy way to balance out the sadness from a visit to Westerbork Camp.
It’s nearly time to head back to where we started; the little campsite in Warmond, as Stuart is flying home to the UK for a family occasion, while Luna and I stay put in the Netherlands. We start driving south for one last stop at the Vinkeveense Plassen just east of Amsterdam. A lovely place to stop when the weather is good; a big lake with little beaches and play parks, although it’s all just a bit muddy on this occasion. After another rainy night we make our way back so that Stuart can catch his flight.
Even though it’s been very, very wet indeed, we’ve managed to see and do a lot! A point of note; The Netherlands is not a cheap country for travelling. Campsite prices often don’t include tourist and environment taxes so it’s worth checking the final price. Aldi and Lidl are everywhere so groceries can be cheaper. Fuel is quite expensive but diesel is cheaper than unleaded. And public toilets tend to cost money, 20 to 50 pence so carry a coin in your pocket!