Wednesday, 9 September 2015


We found ourselves back in Holland much earlier than we would have liked. With 12 days left to the end of the trip, we had time to kill - if we could find somewhere to pitch the tent or a hotel to lay our weary heads after another long drive.

Holland does have signs for both hotels off the motorway and camp sites. We pulled off where we saw a turning to both. The hotel was a motel where conferences are held and weary motorists stop to rest, and just up the road there was a camp site that looked like a place made in heaven for children to have fun. It was hot, crowded, and very noisy but we thought if we couldn't get into the motel then we would stay one night to at least get us off the road and rested.

The hotel only had an over-priced executive suite left so we declined and headed to the camp site. We pulled up near the reception and didn't even get through the door before we were stopped by a big man sat in the heat outside. There was no room, not even a piece of grass for a small tent. This was the height of the holiday season. He was full and could not be persuaded to let us stay so we had no choice but to drive on.

Before long we noticed that we were less than 70km from Amsterdam. I wanted to stop if we could find somewhere but my husband was happy to press on even if it was getting late and then we saw another camp sign that led us past a McDonalds to a huge site that we hoped could find us a space. We had no idea where we were but the receptionist told us the place was called Enspijk. The site had just about everything you needed. A variety of entertainment and activities for children, a shop, bars and cafes, and a nearby self service restaurant, La Place, which sold delicious if somewhat expensive food when you're on a budget.

We camped by another fishing lake, past streets of static caravans that looked like people's own homes, and at the edge of the site which offered us the kind of peace and quiet we needed. The next day began with drizzle rain and grey clouds. We took a walk around and saw that there was a market and on stage was a scary looking clown handing out prizes to children and young people against a backdrop of probably un-politically correct black minstrels painted on the wall behind.

None of the above at the Rotonde site was of much interest to us oldies so we decided to leave the site and have a look at the surrounding area or maybe even find a town to walk around.

We decided to head for the countryside instead of the town we thought might be in the distance. The sun came out and it got hot again in the afternoon as we walked. We found the delightful village of Enspijk with a church in the centre of what looked like a small village green with a handful of thatched roof houses scattered around. We were following a sign that looked like a symbol for a castle but after two and a half hours of walking, we never found it and ended up at a part private and part public country park called Marienwaerdt. It was delightful and worth the walk even if we expected a castle but found a couple of hay barns, beautiful bronze sculptures of two fine horses, and some vintage vehicles instead.

It didn't look as if the village had changed much since this scene painted by Dutch artist Justus Versteegh now in the Royal Collection

After a while, we decided to head back and even though our feet ached, we knew we probably had another two and half hour walk back to the camp site. We followed a sign for Enspijk that didn't involve retracing our steps and after about five minutes walking, we came to a dead end at a river. Then a small ferry crossed from the other side with a couple of cyclists on board. It cost a euro each to cross over the narrow river and we found ourselves back in the village green by the church. We'd clearly walked the very long way around to the country park but we didn't mind. We both enjoyed that day.

The next monring, with 10 days left, we packed up and headed on towards Amsterdam and arrived at noon. Again we hoped to find a hotel but a camp sign found us first. We followed it and ended up at Camping Vliengenbos which was heaving with campers which appeared to have congregated into groups on the three camping fields. One looked like it was full of stoners - they were very quiet - another was full of families with children, and ours appeared to be for real camping enthusiasts - the sort of people with pop up tents who pack everything into rucksacks on their backs and then walk away.

We chose it because it was the most spacious when we arrived - until a group of about 20 schoolchildren arrived and camped all around us, so close in fact that we had to pull up our tent and move away from them for a bit of space between us. We went out for the day and when we came back later, there was a mound of canvas in the only space left that looked like a collapsed tent which we thought had been left by someone who had gone off and probably intended to pitch it up when they got back.

The schoolchildren were very noisy and singing camp site songs until 11pm when the camp warden came along and asked them to be quieter. They obeyed and disappeared into their tents and went to sleep. My husband went to bed and I sat up a while. A few minutes later the owners of what we thought was a collapsed tent came back. There were loads of them. The canvas was just lying over their bedrolls and sleeping bags. They laid it out, put their beds on it and then got into their sleeping bags and slept in the open air under the stars. Lucky for them it was such a beautiful clear night with not even a hint of rain on the horizon. True camping heroes. They were gone before we stuck our heads out of the tent the next morning.

When in Italy I drank wine and ate olives, and when in Germany I drank beer and ate bratwurst, and when in Holland I had to do what people tend to do in Amsterdam and headed for one of the coffee bars. I might not be allowed to smoke tobacco indoors but marijuana without tobacco in it was perfectly acceptable.

I'll write more about that in the next post plus the brilliant music festival in the park we stumbled across in Rotterdam and how the grey skies and rain found us in Belgium, followed us home, and have blocked our access to the sunshine since.

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