17th April 2017. Vianen, The Netherlands.

It is so peaceful here.  We found the perfect place to stay to do some work, it’s nice and quiet at night with enough passing ‘traffic’, mainly cyclists and dog walkers, to keep it interesting and it’s very close to the town.

We finished off a few things this morning then went into town for coffee.  We entered the town down the little cobbled road nearest the aire, it was a pretty little street.  As we’d expected the shops were all closed as it was Bank Holiday Monday so we had a walk around.  We walked round the back of the second big church this time and explored the cobbled lane that ran along the back.  During our walk three people smiled at us.

The first was a man who was gardening, he called out a greeting as we passed him, shortly afterwards the lane turned a corner and there at the end was the other church so I stopped to take a photo.  Just as I was putting the camera down  a young girl of about 12 years old and younger boy, who looked like he may have been her brother, cycled up.   She noticed the camera and, like the people yesterday, apologised for getting in the way of the photo she then gave us a HUGE beaming smile before waving and cycling off along the lane followed closely by her brother both on bikes that seemed far too big for them. Just as they were about to turn the corner she turned round and waved to us again.  It was so lovely.

The clock in the church in front of us played a very pretty tune on the run up to 11 o’clock and it chimed on the hour.

We walked out of the walled town to see what was out there, it wasn’t very exciting until we caught sight of a fenced area which had sheep, deer, ducks and chickens wandering round inside.  We’ve no idea what it was about because the signs were written in Dutch but the stag had some stupendous antlers for his size.  Needless to say we spent quite a long time there watching the stag strut around with his ‘wives’ huddled together watching his every move.

I could have stayed there for ages except coffee was calling, there were a few more people in the town when we got back, I think everyone had just come out of the churches, however there were only two places open for food, one was a kebab shop, we love kebabs but we thought it would be nice to sit outside in the sun so we chose the restaurant near the town wall.

It was a very good choice.  The waitress was such a sweetie, she greeted us with a smile and was incredibly helpful when she realised that we didn’t speak Dutch.  I asked her whether there was anything on the menu without fish or meat in it and she said she’d pop in and get the chef, he would make something for me!  That was so kind of her but I felt embarrassed  that the poor man had to come out to discuss his menu with me.  However he was as equally as lovely as she was and the food he suggested sounded wonderful.

While we waited we had coffee with a little Easter egg, which made me extremely happy.  It doesn’t take much!

Our meals were gorgeous, I had homemade hummus with roasted courgettes and roasted tomatoes in a very nice bread, it was beautifully laid out on the plate, Darren had a homemade burger.

While we were sitting eating a family walked past, they were all dressed up in their finery, they were even wearing hats and all looked lovely,  we assume they’d just come from church they smiled and said hello as they passed by.  During the time we sat there a few people passed by and said Hello.  This seems such a friendly town.

I was thrilled to discover that we could see the nest on top of the fancy building and after a while a stork popped up.  I zoomed in with my camera only to discover there were actually TWO storks in the nest, that kept me entertained for a long time.  They became quite vocal at one point as a helicopter flew overhead, they both put their heads back and made loud ‘cucking’ sounds.

Unfortunately for our tummies, but fortunately for our budget, the waitress said they didn’t have any deserts but she would go in and ask the chef if he would make us something.  We declined her kind offer, I felt embarrassed enough that he’d had to come out to talk to us earlier,  there was no way we were going to be even more of a pain in the neck, instead we had another coffee before we left.

While we were having coffee she stood and chatted with us, which was very nice.  We asked about places nearby that we could cycle to, she pointed in one direction and said that there were two villages in that direction, she lived in one of them and she said they were tiny and not very interesting!  She suggested going over on the ferry to the other side of the canal.

We enjoyed our meal tremendously.  As the sun was still out we decided to go back to the van and get our bikes.

As we crossed the bridge Darren made the error of pointing out the mother duck with her babies.  They were SO cute, I’ve never seen such a mix of colours, two of them had orange heads, how do they hide when they’re so brightly coloured, it’s almost like they were wearing a beacon saying “I’m here, eat me”  luckily after about 10 minutes the duck managed to find a route down to the water so her babies could follow her into the water and they swam off along the narrow channel beside the town wall.  The babies were funny, they started out swimming in a neat line behind her then they would start to lag behind and suddenly have to put a spurt on to catch up with her again.  When they caught up a lot of jostling for position would break out.  This carried on until they were out of sight.

Unfortunately as soon as we got back to the van it began to rain.  We kicked around in the van until the sun popped out again and then took our chance for a cycle.  It was VERY cold out, we had forgotten it would still be cold at this time of year.  We left the aire and cycled over a fancy bridge across the canal to the ferry but just as the ferry came in we felt a spit of rain and decided that crossing the river wouldn’t be a sensible option, as we turned to cycle back to our van it started hailing on us!

As we neared the van the sun suddenly came out again so we carried on cycling over crossing the canal via another bridge this time to see what was over there, it turned out to be a shopping precinct and flats, the only thing we saw that caught our attention was the sight of three ducks huddling in a tiny puddle beside the road!  The question we had to ask ourselves was WHY?  There were two HUGE canals within waddling distance so why choose to drink out of a muddy puddle behind a car!

In our usual disorganised fashion we cycled back over the bridge to go back to the van then noticed an enormous barge going along the main canal and a number of people cycling towards us along the dyke so we crossed the bridge for the 3rd time and set off in the direction of the motorway along the dyke wall, it didn’t look very promising but it turned out to be a great ride.

Across the fields we could see huge ships making their way slowly along the main canal and we passed a heron beside the tributary at the base of the dyke, he only hung around long enough for me to take a couple of photos.  We also saw a large herd of cows, a small pony, a field FULL of gaggling geese and further along we passed two little girls playing beside the road, they were very sweet and called out “Hello” as we cycled past, we’ve had lots of lovely greetings from children as we’ve travelled round Europe, it’s always a pleasant surprise.  It must be something children enjoy doing,  when our children were young they and our neighbours two little girls, Rachel and Laura, used to stand on our five bar gate and say “Hello” to the few people who walked their dogs down the lane, it kept them entertained for ages, beats sitting in front of the TV.

As we passed under the motorway bridge and rounded the corner we noticed a large structure in the distance so decided to cycle up to that.

It turned out to be a lock and dam structure which was very interesting to look at, there were also some geese hanging around there, they looked so cute sitting amongst the daisies that I had to photograph them.

We were in for a bit of a shock when we started to cycle back, the cycle to the dam had been easy and we discovered why, as we cycled back along the dyke we were heading into the wind and it was VERY strong, I’d liken it to one of those swimming pools where swimmers swim against the ‘tide’.

However it was well worth it when we saw a bird of prey soar close over our heads.  I lost sight of it as it hung in the air behind the trees.  Darren saw it land on the ground for a moment before quickly taking off again and skimming low across the field being followed in hot pursuit by an outraged hare!

I eventually saw them both.  The bird of prey sat on a fence at the side of the field, every so often issuing a pitiful cry and looking warily behind him whilst the hare stared ‘daggers’ at it from the ground.  They sat like that for a good 10 minutes before the bird finally flew off with the hare still watching it.  The hare then waited for a while to make sure it had gone before he lopped nonchalantly off into the undergrowth!  I hope all his fellow hares celebrated his bravery that night!

When we finally got back to the bridge after fighting against the wind we were lucky enough to see a large barge and a smaller boat make their way into the lock.  The large barge was full of bicycles so we think it must have been another of the cycle tour barges.  We spent a long time watching the lock do its stuff and then the bridge lifted up further along the canal to let them both through.  The barge had put his masts and fake funnel down to go under the bridge at the beginning of the lock but whilst he was waiting in the lock he put them back up.

The rest of the evening passed without any excitement except seeing a cyclist do a ‘wheelie’ all the way along the lane in front of us, that was impressive.

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