OR HOW WE WENT TO SEA WITH A CARAVAN
DFDS Seaways with sailings that serve Scandinavia, Holland and the UK is one of the oldest established companies on the North Sea.
For people who live in the north of the UK sailing with DFDS from Newcastle is convenient, and as a bonus you get to see just how things have changed on the River Tyne.
A few of the tower cranes that used to be associated with ship building (for which the area was famous) still remain, but now attractive housing has sprouted up and desirable residences line a sparkling marina development.
From the ships deck, motorists enjoyed the views from a new angle. Then as we reached the ancient Priory on the headland at Tynemouth a light mist rolled in, we passed the light at end of the harbour bar, and entered the North Sea.
We watched it all slip away as we shared a bottle of wine at the afterdeck bar .
Already some folk were up on the top deck and swimming in the pool that was sheltered behind the brid may be a car ferry but on our over night journey the experience was close to what you would get on a cruise ship. From sauna to cinema it was all there and the latest films too with the motion of the ship adding a bit of realism to the intergalactic battles.
On arrival at IJmuden near Amsterdam we joined the others at the deck rails and watched the morning bustle of the port,
A fast moving police launch shot past, cargo was craned out of the hold of a freighter and nestling close to a large ship sat a couple of tugs.
One seemed to be crewed by a family, the wife bringing a mug of coffee and bacon roll to the wheelhouse.
Beyond it all, from our high vantage point we could see the sands of the Netherlands' beaches stretching invitingly into the distance, we knew that we would soon be on them and with the sun shining on our faces we felt that we had struck lucky with our Autumn weather.
For the first time in my life I was towing a caravan behind the car and although we were almost the last to be loaded at Newcastle, we had the advantage of being first away in the morning.
The Netherlands is densely populated and you are into busy traffic quite soon, so we were glad to take the easy option by basing our caravan at a nearby campsite at Bloemendaal aan Zee near Zandvoort.
Suffice to say it was al done very quickly and within two hours of leaving ferry we were body surfing on the waves like happy porpoises.
The water was just warm enough, not quite like the Mediterranean, but certainly a tad less chilly than what Scotland had to offer.
The sand stretched for miles and it was obvious we were in the area that provided the local beaches for Amsterdam.
A teddy bear symbol on a pole was just one of the ’animal’ location markers provided to prevent children getting lost in what. In summer, I should imagine would, there would be quite a large crowd, however in September there was plenty of room.
The folk around us had pitched their beach brollies where they could be handy for the café at the top of the dune.
It was an agreeable affair and we enjoyed eating at a table on the terrace.
We watched an ever increasing number of bicycles arrive and their owners make their way down to the strand.
It was we concluded all very Dutch - a practical way of getting there, keeping fit and avoiding paying their Euros for the car park
Down on the beach a tractor arrived towing a stall that sold cooked seafood.
It offered quite an exotic selection and the aroma of grilled squid tempted quite a few to rise from their be
Having unhitched our caravan we set about touring. We had heard about the Alsmeer to Amsterdam floral parade. It is an annual event on the second Saturday in September. You can get a relaxed and close up view of the various floats as the parade assembles in Alsemeer on the Friday afternoon.
We had a pleasant time, just sitting drinking coffee at pavement café.
It was truly amazing what had been crafted out of the flowers that adorned transport that ranged from mini cars to tractors
The police skilfully diverted traffic as street after street in the town centre filled the with sweet smelling works of art and local shoppers resorted to pushing their bikes.
To find the best of rural Holland we headed east and beyond Arnhem to the Gelderland province.
We did as the Dutch do and spent a Sunday cycling through the network of farm lanes and small country roads.
Listening to the sound of bells drifting across the flat land, we enjoyed the ride and stopped frequently to admire crops, animals, and gardens. It was ‘neat’ in both senses of the word.
A gaggle of children cycled swiftly past us chattering as they went.
The bike wheels seemed to be part of them, a girl deftly fixing her hair with both hands.
Round a corner we came to an farmer herding half a dozen cows across the narrow road. A smile and a wave and we were on our way exploring more of the lattice of paths.
It all seemed a long way from the bustle of the motorways around Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Utrecht.. and yet it was not, for the Netherlands is a small country.
The next day we were able to travel just a few miles and slip across the border into Germany and watch the massive barges push up the River Rhine at Emmerich.
There is an excellent museum there that gives you some understanding of the mighty waterway that crosses the continent. There are hundreds of models and tucked away in the corner of its yard you find, a one man U-Boat, complete with torpedo.
This relic of the World War 2 was unsuccessfully, deployed against Allied shipping in the further north near Dutch harbours.
Holland, we found was compact enough for us to have breakfast in Germany and be back on the Dutch coast for our evening have enough time to visit fascinating towns along the way.
Report by Allan Rogers
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