26th May– 29th May 2016. Venlo, The Netherlands.

We found an ‘aire’ at the harbour in Venlo, Holland.  It was beautiful and interesting.  There were huge barges being pushed by tugboats along the huge canal, they were even bigger than those we’d seen on the canal in Aalter.  We sat for ages watching a grab crane taking soil out of the barge and loading it into numerous lorries.  We were intrigued to see that once the lorries were full the side of the lorry lifted up and formed a lid over the contents as they began driving away.

We also spent a lot of time watching a coot and her babies swimming about the harbour.  We named them Austyn and Morgan after our two older sons because one of them behaved just like Morgan as a young child, always wandering off.  Austyn, the other chick stayed with his mum but Morgan coot constantly disappeared! Throughout the day we could hear the mum crying out trying to find him or we would see him all alone squeaking for his mum!  We were entranced by them during the four days we stayed there, it was a great feeling to sit with my feet up and do nothing except the cooking.  The downside of the whole experience was that although the site had seemed quiet on the first night inexplicably the noise from the nearby motorway suddenly became really noticeable for the next 3 days (after we’d paid for the next 3 nights, of course!) and we found it difficult to sleep.  There’s another lesson learned, take a bit more care before booking 3 extra nights somewhere!

We did go out on our bikes for the first time while we were here.  I was rather nervous about cycling on the other side of the road but it is BRILLIANT cycling in Holland, there are even cycle paths that go around the roundabouts!  The harbour master had suggested we might like to go to the market that was being held in the next village along.  We cycled on cycle paths the whole trip into the village where we bought some fruit and veg at a market and some gorgeous cheese which the young girl serving us told us was called bunker cheese because it’s made in a cellar.  We tried some as soon as we got back, we wish we’d bought a lot more.

By the time we got back to the van I was cycling standing up a lot of the time because I had a very sore bum! The next day we cycled into Venlo and all around it which was fun despite my bum being very tender, although we did learn another lesson, DON’T go into a large town on a Saturday because it will be HEAVING with people.

Nevertheless we met some nice people.  We had a wander around a big market where we bought some socks and chatted to the stall holder, she told us she’d been to Norway on holiday and loved it, apparently she’d caught a fish for the first time in her life while she was there and cooked it for her tea.  We took the opportunity to ask her if she knew of a bike shop, but she told us she didn’t live locally and she sent us over to the couple running the stall opposite who did live in Venlo.  They were also very helpful and gave us directions to a bike shop.

We bought a bell and a basket for my bike and some spare inner tubes, I’d hoped to get a softer saddle too but they didn’t have any!  After we’d left the shop we hopped on our bikes and Darren raced off while I discovered that having heavy items in my basket completely changed the centre of balance and I weaved dangerously backwards and forwards across the road.    It took me quite a while to get used to that but I love my basket now, it’s been so useful.

Unsurprisingly as we made our way around the town Darren sniffed out an ice cream shop, he LOVES ice cream and was having withdrawal symptoms from not visiting Dylan’s ice cream shop in Haslemere for so long.  I couldn’t believe my eyes when his ice cream arrived, it had been made to look like a plate of spaghetti bolognese.  I was boring and just had cake with my coffee.

I used my little twin tub washing machine for the first time at the site, it will be fine for underwear and anything that doesn’t need much washing but I don’t think I’ll use it to wash our bedding.  I used the harbour washing machine and tumble dryer to wash two loads of larger items, but Maddy and Nick had warned us that site washing facilities are expensive and the cost adds up so I won’t be doing that very often.  We finally worked out how to use the spin dryer, that’s very effective and certainly cuts down on drying time.

We had a nice German neighbour in the van next to ours.  We are sitting looking out at some people rowing a boat like the Oxford/Cambridge boats when our neighbour called out ‘Skol!’ and lifted his can of beer at us.  We said ‘Cheers!’ and he laughed and he chatted about how he used to come over to London as an exchange student when he was at school. He was very chatty and on the last evening said he and his wife had just cycled 40 km and seen loads of old British cars in a village they’d just visited, I wish we’d been able to cycle that far to see them, I was very impressed.  He asked us why in the UK we have a yellow number plate at the back of the vehicle and a white one at the front, we weren’t able to answer that question but I have since Googled the answer, whether it’s the correct answer is another question altogether!


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