Monthly Archives: June 2015

Hollands Best Bloemstylist!

Arrival back in Europe

Arrival back in Europe

The overnight ferry slipped in past Hoek van Holland and we were back on European soil! How time flies!  It only seemed like yesterday that we’d departed. Heading north we observed amazing house after amazing house north of Den Haag, no shortage of money in that area. We had settled on Edam as our destination and spent a couple of nights in the area. If cheese is your thing, this part of Holland is the grail. Not to mention a gorgeous town to stroll about!

Cheese Shops

Cheese Shops

Canals

Canals

Clogs

Clogs

The historic fishing village of Volendam is only a few Kms away but 200 tour buses in the car park along with quantities of tourists following little coloured umbrellas around in numbers equaling that of a full blown colony of fire ants, took the edge off the charm a little.  Further along, Marken Island is advertised as where you can observe clogs being made in the traditional method! Hmmm, a fully automated modern CNC wood lathe wasn’t quite what I had in mind! Both places interesting but Edam took the prize! IMG_8610 2 Nonetheless, we enjoyed our visit, although I’d have to say much of it was spent people watching, rather than soaking up the locations! Amsterdam.  Well, if you’ve been then you know what it’s all about. A fascinating mix of old buildings slowly and steadily sinking into the soil, angled windows and twisted facades, it really is a one of a kind. A city criss-crossed with Canals  and of course the coffee shops!

Iconic Amsterdam

Iconic Amsterdam

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So many Bicycles!!!

So many Bicycles!!!Clog BikeClog Bike

Smoke bellowing out of any small crack or window in plumes reminiscent of ground zero during the eruption of Mt Vesuvius. Seriously there were a couple of moments when I thought I was in a Cheech and Chong movie – people walking around with their chosen variety of plant rolled into something reminiscent of a cone of kitchen towel!  They were all smiling and the odd one looked rather dazed so maybe they have the right idea, hmmm? IMG_8661 2 IMG_8669 2 IMG_8691 2

What happens when you lose a bet!!

What happens when you lose a bet!!

As the clock ticked into the late afternoon the windows were filled with the ladies of the night, beckoning you forward should you make eye contact with the lure of their scantily clad bodies and no doubt skillful emptying of your wallet! Wandering around this metropolis really is something I suggest you submit yourself too at some stage if you’ve not already.

Ahhh - Tulips!

Ahhh – Tulips!

I can’t think of another country that is so law abiding, clean to the point of being fastidiously so, with lovely little towns filled with neat well kept homes and gardens! And yet has an alter ego that is so polar opposite! That is how Amsterdam feels compared to what we’ve seen of the remainder of the Netherlands! I guess any people with a native tongue that calls a shopping trolley a winklewagen and has a TV show called “Holland’s Best Bloemstylist” sporting very well groomed men competing in the art of flower arranging has to have a sense of humor and a flair for the unusual, that’s the Dutch. Another visit with Jen’s family in Veghel and we managed a full repack of the Patrol and camper. We also picked up our new Froli bed system from Eric at Adventure Trucks and installed it. Basically turns a foam mattress into an innerspring version without the weight – love the Germans for design! And yes it’s sensational – they will be in every camper we either build or own from now on!

Installing the Froli bed system

Installing the Froli bed system

Now that we are back in Europe and I’m eating into my 3 month Schengen visa again, we were keen to hit the road for Norway.  After a lovely few days with Jen’s family, we spent our last night with Eric and Mieke from the above mentioned Adventure Trucks as they’d kindly invited us to dinner.  We were keen to spend some time with them and peruse maps of Norway and other destinations as they’ve travelled extensively and are very much like minded!

Back at Adventure Trucks!

Back at Adventure Trucks!

They shipped an 80 series Land Cruiser from the Netherlands to Oz in 2004 for the big lap over 7 months and having looked at their route and photo’s, there is no doubt they’ve seen more of Oz than a lot of locals! They are also heading toward the land of the Viking in June and we hope to catch up with them again somewhere.  We had a great night and a 3am finish will tip you off to how our evening went! Recycling bins need to be larger in the Netherlands! Hahaha! With a tip from Eric we headed northeast toward Germany and made for a campsite where you could apparently have a campfire and it turned out to be just what the doctor ordered! Camped in a small pocket of forest and indeed with a campfire, we were able to relax back into life on the road.

Forest camp with campfire!!!

Forest camp with campfire!!!

Look closely.....

Look closely…..

Surprise!!

Surprise!!

Into Germany and a night was spent in Bremen.  We were surprised by just how lovely this town is. A majestic central square with magnificent old buildings supporting an old town on the surrounds full of small lanes with cobbled streets. It’s always nice when you’re not expecting to be surprised.

Beautiful Bremen

Beautiful Bremen

Full of surprises!!

Full of surprises!!

Nair does work!!

Nair does work!!Old Town BremenOld Town Bremen

IMG_8777We decided to avoid Hamburg and head north to Bremerhaven, I’d heard the old harbour was worth a visit and we were fairly sure there was a German U boat there. The harbour was definitely worth the visit, sporting many examples of old time sailing vessels along with numerous other maritime marvels. But for me the real attraction was indeed the only surviving U boat of it’s type, a complete vessel unlike one in the UK that has been cut and made into a form of theme park! For us it was an interesting visit, obviously a symbol of tyranny and dark times but also of technological advancement.

Bremerhaven

Bremerhaven

German U Boat

German U Boat

IMG_8797IMG_8801 Onward Ho, another ferry across to Gluckstadt and we made a fairly straight run through Denmark to Hirtshals in order to catch the ferry to Kristiansand, Norway and what we hope will be the jewel in the crown of the Scandanavian countries.

Another Ferry!

Another Ferry!

Not often you see a tank speed limit....

Not often you see a tank speed limit….

Pretty Danish Town

Pretty Danish Town

Lovely Cobbled Streets

Lovely Cobbled Streets

 

Men at Sea Memorial

Men at Sea Memorial – Esbjerg, Denmark

More friendly Dutchies...

More friendly Dutchies…

Tales from the fjords to follow!

Rather have a Panda than a Prince!

Back in 2008, a group of us ventured into the central deserts of Western Australia for a couple of weeks of solitude! Well not quite solitude as Jen and I were providing the support vehicles for 3 friends on KTM motorbikes as they bonded with each other (boys will be boys) in a ride of a thousand or more ass smacking KM’s on rough tracks!

Anyway, one of those intrepid adventurers was John who at the time was living in Norway and made the journey to Western Australia for a Desert experience.  Now with a family and responsibility, John finds himself just south of Aberdeen with his lovely wife Katharine and daughters Sophie and Abigail.

John and Family

John and Family

Having stayed in contact, John had kindly issued us with an invitation before our journey began to stay a few days should we find ourselves in his neck of the woods.

So with a few days before our auspicious reunion, we had a pleasant enough amount of time to make our way south. Loch Ness was loaded into the Sat-Nav and soon enough the tourist mecca filled our windscreen, well the parts of it that you could see between the tour buses is probably more accurate!

Loch Ness

Loch Ness

Box ticked is all I have to say regarding our quick visit before we departed for Inverness. From our campsite we were afforded a lovely walk along the River Ness crossing small footbridges between islands separating the fast flowing and very dark tannin filled waters. Really nice!

Many of the RV Parks often have a small food van or mobile fish and chippy on site over the weekends and there was one such van on this site at Inverness.  The lure of a bacon buttie was too great and whilst awaiting our order we were discussing the general feeling in Scotland regarding their English overlords! The chef told us that at the time Princess Kate was in labour with her first royal baby, there was also an expectant Scottish public awaiting the arrival of a baby Panda at Edinburgh Zoo. There happened to be a soccer match taking place between Scotland and England and those chants that we hear coming from bellowing fans at such events was on this occasion heard to announce “We’d rather have a Panda than a Prince” I guess that makes some of the feeling quite clear.

Whisky, an acquired taste! And I acquired it a very long time ago.

So finding yourself in Scotland is like walking across the Middle East to the Waling Wall, assuming you’re into such things!

Refurbishing Bourbon Barrels for Whisky Production

Refurbishing Bourbon Barrels for Whisky Production

However, due to the taxation of alcohol in the UK, Scotch Whisky is certainly not cheaper in Scotland and in fact is far cheaper in Germany and even Australia. Similar to winery cellar door sales in Margaret River, neither is it a better deal at the distillery. However a tour and tasting had to be on the agenda. We chose Glenlivet as it’s one of the oldest whisky distillers and we enjoyed a great afternoon observing single malt production and most definitely tasting some of their finest. First £200 bottle I’ve ever tasted and probably the last also, sadly!

Departing the distillery, I was definitely unable to operate vehicles or any other form of machinery.  Luckily, I had a chauffeur.

A drive through Aberdeen on our way to Stonehaven and we found ourselves in the entrance of a lovely home overlooking the North Sea!  Purchased as a run down ruin a few years ago, John and Katharine certainly had vision, saving the dilapidated house on site and finishing the whole build off to a level that might even cause Kevin McLeod to struggle for words!

BBQ Scottish Style

BBQ Scottish Style

Lovely house by the Sea

Lovely house by the Sea

Dunnotar Castle

Dunnotar Castle

Sculpture in Stonehaven

Sculpture in Stonehaven

Out of our 3m square box and into our digs, we considered squatting and forcing John to seek legal advice in order to extricate us!

Whilst Jen had been researching her family history, she had found that just south of Stonehaven is the tiny village of Caterline, the base for a coast guard station in which one of her distant relatives served as a boatman. Ever efficient, John treated us to a tour of the area and, would you believe, managed to jag Jen a ride on a replica of one of the boats used by the coastguard back in the day.

Caterline Coast Guard

Caterline Coast Guard

We departed this Oasis with hopes of returning to once again enjoy some Scottish hospitality and as it turns out, there may be another chapter involving John, as it would seem that we might be meeting up again in Utah next year! – More to come on that front hopefully.

St Andrews was our next stop and it started with an impromptu drive (legally) across the 18th hole of the Old Course! Stunning place full of tourists trying to battle the age old first world problem of deciding whether the golf equipment they intend to purchase should have St Andrews emblazoned on it or not? Aside from golf, it is a pretty place to visit and the ruins of the cathedral are quite amazing.

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Where Kate Met Wills (Apparently)

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Edinburgh! a must visit destination, and beautiful! The photos will suffice, I’m sure.

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Blackfriars Bobby

Blackfriars Bobby

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Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle

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Back in England and we headed along the “Castle Coast” to Cragside Estate, listed in our National Trust Guide and sounding interesting.   Wow!! What an amazing Estate. It was the first house in the Victorian era to have hydroelectric power.  This provided lighting and many other modern conveniences that we take for granted. The whole estate was absolutely amazing and worth a Google if your bored!

Preston Mill

Preston Mill

Bamburgh Castle

Bamburgh Castle

Dunstanburgh Castle

Dunstanburgh Castle

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Interesting Geology

Interesting Geology

Alnwick Castle

Alnwick Castle

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Cragside Estate

Cragside Estate

We were approaching a bank holiday weekend in the UK and the ferry prices were timed to increase with the extra demand, not to mention the battle that lay ahead in finding the ever necessary RV park for the long weekend.  Knowing full well they are all filled to capacity with sun seeking Brits we decided enough was enough and managed to beat the price rise and depart Old Blighty for Holland just in time to avoid the holiday madness!

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Jam Packed

Jam Packed

Cheers for now – another update soon!