Having been up so late the night before, we had a lie in, then Henri directed us in making a delushuz cooked breakfast. The sun was (mostly out), so we ate on the rooftop patio in the sun. Absolutely lovely.
Sunday afternoon we headed on the bikes, to a cheese tasting. We were supplied with the correct wine for each cheese, and we were supplied with several varieties. We learned to cut it thinly with a little cheese guillotine, and then how to smell and taste like a proper connoisseur. It was all very yum.
As part of the cheese tasting, we also got to ride a canal boat, which was a very enjoyable meander through the canals. The sun even came out a few times, and it was all very pleasant. The cheese and canal tour all up was 22 euro, which I feel was a pretty good deal, considering the amount of cheese I ate, along with a glass of red and white wine, and a glass of port.
After the cheese and wine and boats, we wandered back through town, and did Rick Steve’s Audio tour of the Red light district, and right to the start of the town. I honestly don’t have a lot to write about the day, so here are a bunch of photos of canals, boats, and crooked houses! It was just very enjoyable and relaxing, biking around, wandering, and the boat trip was definitely fun, a good way to see a lot of the city from a different view.
Henrietta made us another lovely dinner, mostly cheese and potato, but with a few colourful veges thrown in. After dinner, we took the cameras out and biked around in the dark, which was actually very fun, if a little chilly. Did some night photos, and the main thing I realised is that I need a tripod!
Breakfasted on more bread and cheese. Europe can be a hard country to dine in. Stepped outside to chilly weather, had been raining overnight. Was quite chilly. We headed off on our bikes to the Rejikmuseum. Bike to it, then through the little archway, parked our bikes with the hundreds that were already parked, and headed in. Stayed till about 1pm, lots to see.
It was a lovely building, very pretty, both inside and out. Lots of amazing paintings. Lots of people too.
Went to burgermeester for lunch, quite good. They sell ‘mini burgers’, so you can buy three of those, in different flavours, instead of one big one. Very good. Burgers.
Then went and saw a windmill, The Grooyer. It has a brewery/bar next to it, with tons of people lunching. It was built in the 1600’s, was moved around a bit, and renovated a few times. It was used to grind corn during WWII, when there was no power. It is apparently the tallest wooden mill in Amsterdam. The blades still work well, but it no longer grinds anything.
Biked around a bit, went to an island via some bridges, and admired the lovely bike lanes everywhere. Missed the rain, as we were in the supermarket (buying more bread and cheese). Went home about 5pm and had a nap.
Set out about 8.30pm to go find dinner. A very pleasant bike ride across town, to a restaurant called Seasons. Overall, a very good experience. A little pricey, but the food was scrumptious, and the service excellent. Food came out in a timely manner, and they were happy to cater to special requests.
After dinner, which ended just after 11pm, we headed over to the red light district for a wander. It was definitely interesting. There were a lot of people., though the general crowd had changed from tourist groups and a few families, to rowdier people out for the nightlife, and a few simply curious tourists like us.
Prostitution is legal in the Netherlands, so it is all out in the open..as in, literally the girls will lounge around in front of their shop front full-length windows, winking and smiling to entice people over. There is a lot oc skin showing, but somehow all the important bits are covered. Even if only with suspenders.
Most windows are basically a full length glass door, usually with thick and heavy curtains, a stool or chair, and a red light above. Not much else. A display window, if you will. When the woman is looking for customers, her light is on, and curtains are open. They don’t let just anyone into the door, I saw a few talking to them, and then the door closing and them moving on their way. If you’re rude or rough, they call security on you.
It was a little surreal biking home, through the outskirts of the red light district.. There were still plenty of locals biking around, lots of people out in the streets, and windows with red lights and girls. No pictures though, they don’t appreciate pictures!
We woke up kind of late, as we were all a bit tired, we had gone to bed late, and we had gone forward a timezone.
We wandered off down the canals until we found a Lidl supermarket, where we bought many yummy things, and went back to eat breakfast. Pastries, cheese, bread and butter. The best sultana bread rolls I’ve ever had.
After breakfast we headed, wandered through town, enjoyed some canals, and watched one of the bridges go up and down, including pigeons getting almost stuck in them. We ended up at Max’s Bikes, where we rented 4 bikes for the weekend. They are much like all the other Amsterdam bikes, they are upright, one gear, and pedal brakes. We spent the day biking around, enjoying the not rain.
We went to Vondelpark, which is a lovely green park. Apparently, Central Park, in NYC, was based on this park. It was pretty, we saw some herons, and we found a bunch of green parakeets, who were flapping around, and arguing over who got to sit in the hole in the tree. Dale and I found an adventure playground where we clambered and climbed, and then watched the local doggies run and bark. Lots of people wandering through, and spring flowers were poking up everywhere. Mostly bluebells and daffodils though, and not many tulips yet.
After the park, we visited our first windmill. Though it no longer looks like they use it, is a bit run down. Pretty, nonetheless.
We headed into the main part of Amsterdam city, to Dam Square. So many bikes. It was a little intimidating, especially if you are not used to pedal brakes and driving on the right hand side. There were a million people on bikes, and all the locals are fast and zippy; where we would stop and look both ways, they would just continue at the same pace, and zip across the road between traffic.
There were also a few cars, mostly taxis, and a millions tourist pedestrians, all walking, meandering, and stopping in random places. Very exciting.
It seems the best way to bike around is to act like the locals do – ring your bell a lot, and zip through all the people. Don’t bother to wait for the pedestrians, just go around them. Be confident, and just keep biking.
Biking was good, we got to cover a large area in a shorter time. When it wasn’t too busy, it was very pleasant to pootle down the little cobbled streets. It was very busy at dam square, a million bikes, and probably that many people. Another billboard sign, warning everyone not to buy cocaine from people on the street, as a few tourists have died from being sold white heroin instead, without knowing.
When people used to move into buildings, they would use a rope pulley over a hook at the top of the building. Most buildings seem to still have them. This is because the staircases in most canal houses are too steep and narrow to get anything up. Nowdays, it seems they use a platform conveyer belt thing.
Rain didn’t dampen biking much, everyone still seemed to be out. Quite a range of people: old guys with long white hair, middle aged and younger, going to the supermarket or park, parents with a kid in a seat on both the front and the back, many with a simple crate tied on the front, for carrying anything from bread and groceries, to the family dog, who sits peacefully, watching the world zip by.
Later on, people in their work clothes, people in nice dresses and heels, heading out for dinner.
Also, nobody in Amsterdam wears helmets!
We caught a short afternoon flight over to Amsterdam for the Easter weekend. We flew with British Airways, which was different to our usual EasyJet, and we actually got given a drink and a snack! Lots of nice views out the windows, of the English countryside, and of general smoggyness. Saw a whole bunch of wind turbines in the ocean. An offshore windfarm. It looked quite surreal.
A easy trip in to town via the railway then the subway, to our adorable air b n b apartment, on one of the canals.
We wandered the canals in the dusk, past cute, cute little houses, and many bicycles.
I know that bicycles are a thing here, but knowing and seeing are different. There are tons of cycle lanes, which is cool. Roundabouts have a dedicated separate cycle lane around the outside. There are cycles locked up everywhere. There are plenty of cycle parks, but still, not enough. Cycles on all the front fences, cycles lined up on the footpath.
We went out to dinner at a restaurant recommended to us by our host. It was quite cool. It was well known for it’s cocktails, so we had to try, and they were delishuz. I had a ginger and pear one, and it was the most gingery drink I had ever had. Fiery as!
Dinner was delishuz, though service got exceptionally slow after our mains, and it took forever to get dessert then the bill. They also called meringue pavlova, which turned out to be very disappointing for me.
Our last day! We awoke early, and were on the road by about 8.30am. This was our last day, and we definitely had to make it to Dieppe in time for the ferry. Our map led us past another pretty cathedral, and then up a hill. A Very Big hill. Most of us ended up walking up it, coz it was quite steep! Silly hill. We decided that Rouen was kinda in a hole, so the way we were going, any way to get out was up a hill. That made us feel slightly better. We had 60+ kms to get to Dieppe, so thought we would get a nice start. Once at the top of the hill, it was pretty easy after that. Lots of cute, old houses, and even a few with thatched roofs, and grass growing on top. We found another tiny town, another patisserie, and got a bit carried away again.
All the french people seem to go out and by their breakfast from the patisserie every morning. True, that theyre mostly buying baguettes, and not all the yummy tarts and pastries, but we usually had a bit of a wait, and there was usually a line, to buy all the delishuz things.
Breakfast was a long time in coming that day, and 30km later, we found a little pull over place to sit and eat. Turns out it was the place that the local French people came to fill up their bottles with spring water, as in the half hour we were sitting there, four separate cars came, pulled out their boxes of empty bottles, filled them up at the spring, loaded them into their cars, and drove off again. We followed suit, emptying all our bottles, and filling them up with delishuz french springwater.
Lots more biking, a couple of bright squirrels, and a squished snake on the road, lots of cute houses, and we eventually made it back to the place where we had tea and coffee, near a little lake, at the beginning of our trip. Looked a bit different in the day.
We headed in to Rouen, where we discovered all shops are either closed on Sunday, or close at 1pm. We biked around, praying to find a pattiserie, and luckily we did, where we stocked up on our last lot of bread, cheese and pastries. The lady in the pattiserie looked very, when I managed to ask for everything in French, including saying ‘That’s all”. The range of response when trying to talk to the locals in French was always interesting. Pretty much all were pleased when we actually tried, though some would just talk to us in English, once they realised we spoke it. The smaller towns were always interesting, as often the locals would speak little English, if at all, so we would definitely have to try.
At the last moment on the way to the ferry, we found a little market, where we got the last of our provisions (IE cheese to take home, and drinks for on the ferry), and then headed to check in to the ferry.
Going from England to Europe, they don’t seem to care all that much. However, going from anywhere in Europe, INTO England, man, they ask a lot of questions. Who are you? How long are you staying? Where have you been? What is your job? Where is your husband? What do all your family members do? Will you promise me your first born child?
Well, not quite that extreme. But I usualy have to tell them exactly where I went, and why, how long was I away, and why I want to re-enter England, who I am travelling with.. . I think they ask more questions than even the USA did.
Anyway, again with the weird biking through customs, weird exciting. We headed onto the boat, found comfortable seats, and proceeded to spend the four hours: eating, yum, playing cards, watching the sunset, napping, reading, and being tired. Off the ferry in NEwhaven, then the bike back in the dark, along the undercliff trails, to home! Arrived about 11.30pm, all ready to go to work tomorrow.
We awoke bright and early, and finished the last of the Raclette on some baguette, (sub standard baguette, becoming bread snobs!), with the promise of buying more, better, baguette in Ry, then heading out somewhere pretty to eat it. After saying goodbye to our lovely hosts, we headed down the hill to Ry. One thing I noticed around a few places, were little shrines, just by the side of the road, in the middle of nowhere.
In Ry (An absolutely adorable little town), we stopped at the local patisserie to get (More, Again) baguettes, and pastries. This place was one that I just wanted to ask for one of everything, in a large sack, if you please! Everything looked amazing. After filling up our bags, we headed out of town, until we found another littler town, where we found a nice flat area to sit and eat our spoils.
We then pottered off towards Rouen. We wanted to arrive at a decent time, so we would have plenty of afternoon for Touristing in Rouen, and we arrived just after lunch, I think. We stayed at the Ibis in the middle of town (got a cheap deal), and quickly showered and changed.
Rouen is lovely. I wasn’t expecting anything, as I hadn’t done any research, what with being busy with other things. It is an adorable town, with streets preserved as they were in medieval times, with their crooked beams and leaning houses and narrow streets.
It is also home to Monet’s Cathedral – the Cathedral that Monet painted a series of impressionist paintings, all in different lights of the day. Google it, if you don’t know what I”m talking about. It was very impressive, so much detail and intricacies.
It was also interesting to read about the bombing of it during the war, and see some of the windows that were plain, as the pretty stained glass ones had been broken. It had been bombed by the Lancaster bombers, which was interesting and relevant to me, as we had actually seen some examples of the Lancaster Bombers flying at the Eastbourne airshow, a month or so ago.
There was also a large ornate building in town, that still had all the mortar shell holes in the sides of it. I find it very interesting to see these actual bits of history, rather than just hearing about it, or reading it in textbooks. It was like when we were in New York seeing paintings that Picasso had painted, then while on a walking Tour in the Montmarte area of Paris, and standing in front of the house where Picasso had actually painted that picture.
Anyway, Rouen! Rouen was also the place where Jeanne d’arc – Joan of Arc, was imprisoned, and then burned at the stake. There is a church and a memorial dedicated to her.
We wandered town, ate yummy things, and enjoyed the sights, before heading back to the hotel for some extra layers of clothing, and a nap before dinner. We ate at a lovely restaurant, overlooking the Cathedral, and it was all lovely.
Friday we woke at a decent time, got up, and, as you do, went to get breakfast from the local patisserie. More cheese, bread, pastrys, oh no!
It did take us a while to get all sorted and out the door, as it was our first proper morning, but we weren’t in a particular hurry, and the whole day was kind of like that, just pootling around, looking at whatever we felt like, going wherever. The weather was beautiful, sunny and warm, with just enough of a breeze to keep you cool. I imagine summer would be quite hot.
We headed back over to Avenue Vert, which turned, very suddenly, from wide, paved, smooth, to rough grass with a bit of a dirt track in the middle. It was certainly interesting, but you wouldn’t want to follow that forever. Quite bumpy. Lovely and peaceful though, heading through the farmland and trees, with no city noises or car noises.
We got back onto normal roads, then kinda lost the trail a bit, headed down a few little side roads and had a bit of a map consulting session, before we headed off down some more back roads. We saw a tiny town up on a hill, and off-roaded it up a steep hill to have a look. La Ferte-Saint-Samson, a tiny little village on a hill, with very cute buildings (tudor style, and Henri reckoned with Germanic influence), probably 15th-16th? Century. It was quiet and lovely, and we biked around for a bit.
Headed to the top of the hill to check out the cute little church, where the bells rung for midday. Whoever was ringing them, seemed to enjoy it, and they went on for quite a bit. Found a little orientation statue thing, and a very old tree, which I climbed. Carefully. It was so lovely and peaceful and sunny.
Someone at some point during the morning had mentioned that we hadn’t had any flat tyres or problems yet, so heading out of town, Henri got the first flat tyre of the trip. We went back to the pretty village square to fix it, so not a bad view to have to endure.
Finally managed to leave town, looking forward to doing some decent biking, and Dale got the second flat tyre of the hour, just down the road. There was a french horse, whom I greeted in French, although he was quite uncommunicative. He didn’t mind that I brushed all the flies away from his face though, and we had some pats, before parting, and we continued on our way.
One thing I noticed, and kept noticing throughout the trip, was that even in the peaceful quiet of the countryside, there always seemed to be some passenger plane or other going overhead. Just the sheer amount of plane traffic in the sky above Europe is amazing. So. Many. Planes. So many people going places. It is honestly a bit ridiculous.
More lovely countryside, green rolling hills, farmland, and the occasional bit of wooded forest. We had a vague destination of a local castle, though google maps couldn’t pinpoint it, and we ended up biking around in a big circle, before stopping to ask directs from a local French lady. She spoke lots of fast french words, until Henri asked her to slow it down a little, and we ascertained that we had to go down the road, left at the corner, then a few kms along, then you couldn’t miss it. I think we were a bit excited about asking and getting directions in French!
We eventually found the castle, Chateau Bremontier-Merval, which was a massive four storey thing, very pretty, which is now a school. It was on a hilltop, surrounded by lots of huge, old trees, all leafy green and knobbly.
After the castle, we headed towards our destination, somewhere to the South and West. We stopped for lunch in a little town, I think was called La Feuillie. There was one patisserie, where the lady didn’t speak much English at all, but we managed to get all we needed. We met a Brit, who had lived in France for a while. There was no supermarket, but we managed to find a couple of dairy/4 square type places (I’m not sure what you call them in England.. Newsagents maybe?) where we bought enough food for dinner and breakfast.
We had to follow some main roads, which really wasn’t as fun, but not much choice. We had a lot of trouble finding our destination – gmaps doesn’t always like French places. Eventually, our lovely Airbnb hosts came to pick us up, which honestly made me happy, as the lived at the top of a massive hill. They were very happy, as we were the first bike tour people they had had stay with them, and also the first New Zealanders.
Our accomodation was an adorable little cabin, with all the amenities, a pull out couch, and an adorable little loft bed up top. We had a quick dip in the pool, met the local ponies, goats, geese and chickens, and then got clean and dry for dinner. Henri made us a lovely, lovely dish, of layers of potato and raclette (we had this in Bordeaux, it is the cheese that is for melting, it is so, so delishuz). For the sake of feeling better about ourselves, we also had some stirfry veg. And baguette. I put the raclette/potato mix on the baguette. It was amazing. Lovely pastries and tarts for dessert, and I think we also had some macaroons.
I guess I should have felt bad for the sheer amount of food I was eating, but I really didn’t, because, hey, so very delishuz. Also, we were biking like 50km a day.
We lay out on the deck chairs, surrounded by the gathering dark, and watched the stars start to twinkle, and the bats flitter about through the trees. Bliss.
We must have seen half a dozen planes go by while we were lying there (plus one shooting star). Do they ever stop?
Another decent nights sleep, however this time, we intended to be up and gone early the next day, so we could get to the next town with plenty of time to look around.