Travel StoriesThe Netherlands 2016
By Ren Withnell
Zeeland is a province of The Netherlands, it's the bit in the south west with lots of peninsulas and islands. Zeeland means sea land so it's the bit where the sea meets the land. Genius. As such it's the holiday destination of choice for the Dutch and apparently many Germans too. Think of it as Cornwall for the Dutch.
We're camped near Kortgene which is not by The North Sea but along the shores of Veerse Meer. What? The Dutch have been messing around with their dykes and their damns and their drainage for aeons so the stretch of water I'm looking across this morning was *probably* part of The North Sea once or at least a river mouth but now is protected and isolated by dykes from what I can work out on the maps.
I can actually see it this morning because yesterday's rain has stopped and there is sunshine struggling through the clouds here and there. The forecast is mixed, some rain, lots of cloud, maybe a hint of sun. I stand in the common room with the patio doors open looking over the waters as the occasional boat saunters by. Our gear is almost dry, I've checked the bikes over and they're surviving and Sharon's slowly dragging herself out of bed. We've nothing specific to do today so I'm quite chilled but running close to getting bored.
This ain't a bad start to the day is it.
We're going to look around the area, see what's what and maybe find another campsite for tomorrow night. We'll return here this evening as Camping Zandkreek has everything we need so there's no need to load the bikes up. Sharon decides she's going to take it easy today and come on the back of my 125. I'm glad she still likes to pillion sometimes. It allows her time to look more deeply at the places we pass through as she doesn't need to concern herself with traffic, junctions and gears. It suits me as well as I only have to consider my riding and not both our ridings (I don't think "ridings" is a word is it?)
We set out in sunshine then sure enough a light rain starts so we put on the waterproofs, oh well. We wander across the vast open farmland and along the roads and lanes and fall purely by accident into Colijnsplaat. I'm unsure how it's pronounced it but we like "Colin-Splat". There's a marina, a very small town and a Spar store where we purchase a bite to eat.
Colin Splat harbour, the rain has abated for now.
Domburg is a larger town with a beach on The North Sea. While the rain has stopped the clouds are heavy yet as we approach the beach I'm reminded of Newquay in Cornwall. They're not twins, not at all but I'm feeling that same vibe of sea, seaside, surf, ice creams, cafes, bluffs, holidays, wet suits, cheap dinghies and seagulls. The beach is quiet due to the weather which means the shops and restaurants are filled. If the sun did come out and the surf rose up then yeah, Cornwall. Oh no, hang on, flat Cornwall.
Cafes, lifeguards, sand and sea in the south west of a country. No pasties though.
No surf and little sun today. A splendid and clean beach though.
Doing the Dutch thing I throw the bike into the side of what looks like a walkway on top of the dyke that leads to the beach. Sharon disappears to make use of the toilets and as I sit on a bench a police bike rides up the path, makes a loop, stops to look around then looks at my motorcycle. Briefly. He then looks around some more and rides away. I was at least expecting a polite "move ya bike" if not a ticket and a fine. Nope, he barely even noticed my bike. I wonder if things might have been different if it was a 1000cc tarmac shredder. I guess I'll never know.
Bicycles are everywhere, even at the beach.
There's a couple more small towns we pass through heading west then south along the coast, they're nice enough but there's nothing really to report. Vlissingen and Middleburg sort of merge into one another to form a small city or a large town, nothing really to report. The last hope of interest is Veere.
Dutch style I park the bike in the bicycle parking spaces this time. Like Edam Veere is big enough to be interesting but small enough to avoid being a hustle and bustle place. The harbour is lovely with big Dutch houses just as you'd see them in brochures. The church is austere and solid while the town hall is grand, showy and flamboyant. Some buildings look old but being Dutch they're all in excellent repair. Cafes spill out onto the weed free block paved roads (or footpaths, you can never tell).
Veere offers The Netherlands just as we're told to expect it, and it's lovely.
The town hall's tower is just show-boating and showing off.
We spend an hour walking around then sit a while on a bench on the dyke looking across the waters to "Schotsman" and "Rancho Grande". I laugh as I conjure up an image of a kilt wearing sunburnt ginger Scotsman entering a dusty wild west ranch. At least the tablet's map app is working now the rain has stopped. This is easy. I'm liking this. I like Veere too. I'd be totally relaxed save for the fact I keep on looking back at the bike, fearing a traffic warden or policeman will stop to put a ticket on it. No-one does, the locals don't even bat an eyelid and while we're there several youths park their mopeds as they come and go. Different country, different attitude.
That evening as the sun drifts lower in the sky we walk around the Zandkreek campsite. What looked as bleak as a shipwreck in the misery of the storm turns out to be a peaceful simple campsite set by the water's edge. The most remarkable thing to note are countless empty and broken crab shells along the concrete flags that form a path by the shore. We soon work out the local seagulls use the hard flags to smash the poor crabs open before devouring them. From a crab's perspective this is like the scene form a horror movie. We on the other hand are happy to enjoy the cool evening air and a little light exercise before bed.
Prologue - The Netherlands 2016
Why are we going Dutch? What's that peculiar box on Ren's bike? Why are we taking our 125cc motorcycles? Is there even a plan? Find out more...
The first day of our trip is not the start we would hope for. Yet with some luck and the desire to improve his mindset Ren manages to keep a calm and positive outlook.
Crashing Out To The Netherlands
This is Sharon's take on the first day of The Netherland's trip. Oh the best laid plans of mice and women.
No News Is Good News
It's an ordinary day of ordinary travelling for our dynamic duo. Sometimes a lack of excitement can be a good thing doncha know.
Sharon covers the second day of the trip to The Netherlands. She moves from discomfort and bruises through nervous and fear to luxury and comfort. All in one day!
Hades - I Mean Amsterdam
Ah The Netherlands, fields of flowers, windmills, tranquil canals and leisurely cyclists. Or is this what the tourist office would have you believe?
Crying In The Rain And Laughing Gonkeys
Sharon's first time motorcycling on foreign tarmac is a baptism of fire. What on earth is a laughing gonkey anyhow?
We Are Tourist
So what is Ren's take on the popular city of Amsterdam? Will he survive the bicycles? Is he a wild traveller or just a tourist?
The Lost Experience
Once again Ren's expectations get the better of him. Once again Ren gets completely lost. Once again the rain is coming down. Is there any hope at all? Actually it's not all bad.
Smiles In The Rain
The friendly Dutch folk mean that a rain filled day can still be a worthwhile day.
Bicycling De Hoge Veluwe
Will today be a tortuous day stuck in the tent waiting for the rain to stop? For the sake of Ren's mental health let's hope there's some good weather.
Urk? Is That The Sun?
A break in the weather brings a positive feel to the day along with pleasant places, friendly faces and new acquaintances.
A Big Dyke With Edam
What is the Afsluitdijk for? Why would you name a town after a cheese? All these questions will not be answered by reading this.
Edam, Marken, Tourists and Symmetry
Ren and Sharon visit a town named after a cheese. Why would you name a town after a cheese? Weird folks these Dutch.
Sunshine, philosophy and an alternative kind of campsite.
Drowning In Zierikzee
Philosophy, friendly people, terrible rain and salvation all in one day! Not bad really for pair of wastrels on 125s.
We're chilling out and exploring Zeeland 2-up on a 125. Is this the Dutch Riviera?
A Short Hop To Oostkapelle
How do you get lost in 15 miles on a route you already know? How do you upset a German camper? How do you do all this and remain content in yourself? It's called getting old.
Dodgy Dutch Drivers
Their last full day in The Netherlands sums up the whole Dutch experience. "The nicest bad drivers you'll ever meet".
It's time to leave The Netherlands and return to good 'ole Blighty. There's some shocking news that might change things for the future though.
So, What About The Netherlands?
After 2 weeks of riding around The Netherlands on 125s what does Ren think of the country now?
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Travel StoriesThe Netherlands 2016