A new day and a new country. After the frustration and budget-breaking last couple of weeks things could only improve! Apart from blasting through on a motorway, it’s been many years since our last trip to the Netherlands. I’d forgotten what a bunch of neat-freaks the Dutch are. Everything is so tidy and manicured! Even the odd bit of graffiti you might see features geometric typography instead of those stupid scrawling tags graffiti “artists” usually prefer. At one stage, I think I saw a blade of grass out of place, can someone give the address of the relevant authority? I need to write a letter of complaint.
“Wild camping” is frowned upon in the Netherlands because motorhomes have too many odd shapes and ruin the streetscape. Joking aside, you can understand it in such a densely populated country that also has a love of the motorhome. The Dutch enjoy their motorhomes in other countries. Without looking for the “NL” sticker (that’s the Netherlands for those people who incorrectly call it Holland – stop it, it’s wrong), there is a good chance the occupants of a motorhome with bikes hanging off the back are Dutch. No life-style mountain bikes or crossovers, just sensible upright machines with comfortable seats to get you from here to the bakkerij and back.
So it’s by the (guide) books for places to sleep in the NertherHollandDutchLands. The first motorhome service point was easy to find. Perfect! At a filling station, so a top up of fuel, drive around the back then empty the grey water and toilet. My time-and-motion obsessed uncle Pete would love this. Now let’s top up the water, it really is time for a shower. Ah, the water was turned off for winter. Not the end of the world, but cause for concern if this is becomes the norm in northern Europe at this time of year. Next down the list in our little guide book was a lovely looking little town which has no service point but does have a large allocated parking area for motorhomes. Well, that’s what the guide book said. Oh dear, there was a lovely big empty space and a recent looking sign politely telling us where to go. Not there, the local campsites!
Disappointed, but not beaten, we unleashed the big Euro camping guide book. So off we drove again to the next town. Pulling in to the campsite it had an air of lights off and nobody home. Thinking it’s low season and perhaps the one staff member on duty is cleaning the shower block for me, I gave them a call. “No sorry we or closhed for de sheason”. So this year’s guide book is already out of date! I decided to call ahead for the next campsite. Same problem. Next! Third and most expensive campsite, was open – for a few more days. Now driving with the evening rush hour(s) traffic, we made it just before reception closed, drank beer and fell asleep. Next morning I had one of the most expensive showers on our trip. I have to say though, the toilet and shower block was the cleanest public facility I’ve ever seen. A model for the rest of the world. It even featured toilet paper and disturbing 1980’s pop through a dodgy speaker. I forgot Whitney Houston’s, I Wana Dance With Somebody, had that awful talky-laughy bit in the middle.
Earlier than planned, we decided to retreat south to Ravenstein. Home of old friends Edward and Leny. Edward was my old photography and package design tutor. A one year exchange to Australia from the Netherlands. Was that really more than 20 years ago?! Familiar faces and a familiar town were a relief after recent trials.
We’ve kept in contact and always pop-in to see each other on our respective travels. Our meetings over the years have usually consisted of talking about photography, gadgets, old Citroëns, eating and drinking lots of coffee. The eating often involves me and Edward experimenting with how many different foods can realistically be combined with the fiery Indonesian paste sambal olek, whilst the ladies watch and roll their eyes in disbelief.
Ravenstein is a beautiful little town on the Maas. It has cobbled streets, is very neat of course and has all the things you need to exist happily without having to venture onto the busy roads of the Netherlands too often. It has all the little shops that so many UK towns of this size wished they had if only they hadn’t killed them off by using the large out of town supermarkets.
If you don’t want to use the main roads and your bike is broken, just use the river to get there! Huge river and canal barges are a common sight in the low countries. It’s not a holiday choice, these are homes combined with the serious business of transporting large heavy loads such as gravel.
Did I say we were in the Netherlands?
After visiting the town’s museum/gallery of glass and enamel (who’s owners we have to thank for allowing us to park Hans on their driveway – I hope the postman didn’t drink the bottle of wine we left on the doorstep for them!), we walked out to local artist Katinka’s workshop. It was very interesting to see the tools and industrial looking workings behind such delicate and beautiful glass work. If I could find her card, I’d place a link here, but alas my filing skills are sub-standard. Since writing this post, Edward to the rescue (see, told you the Dutch are organized): www.katinka-waelbers.nl
Another work of art by NSU in 1959. Bought new with his first ever pay cheque, Edward’s brother was given a serious talking to by their father for wasting his money on silly things. But look at it!
We thank Edward and Leny for their hospitality and generosity. A nice little holiday from our travels. One of our parting gifts was a huge bag of walnuts. Mmmm, walnuts and sambal olek….