Thursday, September 25, 2014

Boating in Holland - Part 2

Boating in Holland - Weesp, Alphen a.d. Rijn and Gouda

Weesp
My husband gave me advance notice that we had to leave early the next day. He gets up and makes breakfast and I hold off until the last minute, then rush to get dressed and eat so we can leave in time.

Fortunately our friends on the boat are early risers. They had already been for a walk long before breakfast. We kicked off in good weather and headed for Weesp. Pronounced like waist but with a P at the end. Amazing, when the boat is still, it's quite warm, but the minute the boat moves, the wind chill factor kicks in and you need an anorak.
The back deck

We tied up in the city of Weesp along the canal. Great location except the facilities block was about 1 kilometre away. We all piled off the boat and went walk-about. First we had soup and sandwiches at a nearby cafe, then we found the VVV (Dutch tourist info) where we got a map. The bloke at the VVV suggested we go to the "gardens". Mmmmm, not quite gardens, but an interesting spot.

There was an old fort with a draw bridge going back to 1861. A map showed a collection of forts in an arc located around Amsterdam. After
Soccer Cup fever
walking whatever direction looked interesting, we went back to the boat to relax. Some of us had a nap, others read a book and one was pottering around. I had a nap and went for a short run. We trekked off to the showers and came back to make supper. Veg pasta with a big fat salad. And of course the obligatory sun downer drinks on the back deck talking about whatever. It was 21st June - Midsummer - so the sun only went down around 10pm. We went to bed around sundown.

The next day we had no idea where we would end up. My other half was wanting a wild stop. Not my first choice with a group on the boat! But there
Mooring at Alphen aan den Rijn
weren't exactly any marinas en-route to Gouda. We found a stop next to the side of a road and tied up. A family friend came by to visit us. He took us out for a mini drive and supper. He spoke about life in the Netherlands. I love living in South Africa. Can't imagine living anywhere else. But I can't help but be envious of a country that has infinitely less corruption. The Netherlands have long term plans and funds actually get allocated and spent. They are incentivise to make green and healthy choices. Education is a priority and you can see it. I can only hope that one day South Africa will be like that.

Shangri La at wildstop near Uithoorn
We intended to find what we thought was a marina in Alphen aan den Rijn for our next stop. We tied up next to what looked like a French style cafe. It wasn't. Turns out there were no facilities bar a rubbish bin. But we stayed because we liked the location. We all had a nice hot shower. (There was plenty hot water on the boat from motoring.) We put on our glad rags and headed to the local cafe. Holland was playing the third match of the 2014 Soccer World Cup against Chile. We geared up to watch the game at the cafe and got well and truly caught up in soccer cup fever. Local football fans dressed in bright orange clothes and
off to do laundry in Gouda
accessories filled the cafe. The cafe laid out snacks on the house.

The game began. The first 70 minutes were uneventful. Chile had the upper hand with ball control. They were at the point where they make substitutions . . . . when all of a sudden Holland scored a goal. And a few minutes before the end of the game they promptly scored again. Was lots of fun to be in a country winning such a big game. We went back to the boat and chatted on the deck until late. It's hard to know when to go to bed as the sun goes down so late.

The following day we had breakfast and walked with our friends to the train station. They were going to Rotterdam and then Paris. We went back to our boat and journeyed on to
Gouda
Gouda. I don't know why I expected Gouda to to be a small historical village. It's actually a really big place. Perhaps because there weren't too many marinas on the map? We found the only marina in Gouda and tied up. The havenmeester (harbour master) kindly lent us his bicycle so Patrick went looking for a laundrette. I went for a mini run. That evening we both had a long shower and caught up on comms. I made us a humongous salad with falafel for supper.

Another round of friends were joining us shortly. We had to get the linen washed. The marina didn't have a laundrette but gave us directions to one. We strapped our big blue IKEA "washing bag" to the bicycle and initially I rode it, but my legs were too short for the pedals. My other half took over and rode the bike while I walked behind him. We left our washing at the laundrette and went to explore Gouda. Do you know I actually think Gouda is nicer than Amsterdam. Why? A lot less tourists. Hardly any Coffee Shops. No Red light District.
Gouda
Gouda also has canals. And windmills. And cheese tastings. It's full of Dutch people.

For more on other places we have visited, go to the top of this page and open - My Holidays and Trips.

I will be back soon.

Greenie.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Boating in Holland - Part 1

Boating in Holland - Zwartsluis, Hardewijk and Naarden


Our first year on our boat was all about getting to know her. Make her our home. Our second year, we
First day was rain and more rain
planned to start proper travelling. Not that we hadn't done any boating, it's just we hadn't strayed too far from our marina. We left Shangri La behind at the end of 2013 with a list of improvements and repairs for our boat yard to do.

My husband had been planning our 2014 trip for a while. Our boat would be ship shape. We were doing 3 trips. We had already explored northern Netherlands, now we wanted to see Amsterdam,
Dressed warm two days away from Midsummer
the delta where the rivers Maas, Rhine and Waal return to the sea and the southern areas of  The Netherlands.

The first trip of 2014 was frankly a disaster. We ended up having only 3 days on our boat. The repairs we expected to be done, were not done. My husband delayed coming across to Holland to give the marina more time. That turned out to be a huge mistake. We actually needed to be around to make sure our work got done, something all the other people with boat repairs at the same place were doing.

The second trip my husband got to the boat a good few days before me, and to our relief all the work had finally been done. We had new curtains
Our mooring in Hardewijk
and upholstery, new mattress and carpets. My husband wanted mechanical and structural repairs done including the starter motor, window hinges, leaks, windscreen wiper, new fuel and water pipes. All this came with a hefty bill but he always says he's happy to spend money to keep the boat in good condition.

On the 17th June, I left home in Cape Town at 16.00pm and caught a bus to the airport, plane to London, plane to Amsterdam, train to Zwolle, bus to Zwartsluis and a walk to the marina. Twenty two hours later, with only 2 hours sleep in hand, I
New upholstery and curtains
got to see our boat again. And my husband. We had supper at the local eatery and an early night. The next morning we left around 09.00am and headed toward Hardewijk. 

Hard to believe it was a few days shy of midsummer. We were both wrapped up warm and the rain was pelting down. We managed 6 and 1/2 hours of motoring and got to Hardewijk, tying up in the pouring rain.
I was almost reluctant to see Hardewijk as all I really wanted to do was stay in with the heating on. But I'm glad we went up the road. A person never knows quite what to expect in these smaller towns. Hardewijk is an old historical place with a
Cathedral Hardewijk
big cathedral in the middle. We found the town square and had our obligatory Belgian beer at a cafe as we watched the locals doing whatever locals do. My other half had made a divine pea and potato curry which we devoured when we got back to the boat.

The next day we had a really early start as we had to be in Naarden to meet friends who were joining us on the boat. We feared another dreary day, but the rain soon cleared. Our friends brought South African sunshine with them. Naarden has a lovely big marina with excellent facilities. Also nice is that you pay a flat fee which includes shower,
Planes from Schipol airport passing over Naarden
electricity, water, etc. No constantly having to scratch around for coins to top up meters. We hardly tied up and our friends arrived. Our very first visitors! We had a few worries. Was there enough space? Where would we put luggage? Would they be OK with our veggie diet? Was their room warm enough? How would we all manage together in the confines of a boat for four days? We would find out soon enough.

The next morning my husband and friends were up early. We had breakfast and the blokes were playing boats. Not sure exactly what they were doing. Looked like checking maps and taking the
The marina in Naarden
canopy on and off. (No doubt important stuff.) I had a last catch up with e-mails, facebook and other comms. One never knows if and when you get Internet on the water.

We all sat on the back deck with snacks and tea for lunch. It was still helluva cold, but the rain had gone. Then we all went for a walk into Naarden. I wished we had more time there. It's a well preserved lovely old town. It had the usual moat around it. And an Arsenal. We also discovered big arches which must have been where the city once had a gate. Luckily we found a little supermarket and topped up with food before wandering back to our boat. We all had an early shower and then enjoyed sun downers on the back deck. We had veggie burgers and
The boys playing boats
salad for supper. Our friends had done the same flight over as me so we all had an early night. I always sleep well on the boat.

For more on other places we have visited, go to the top of this page and open - My Holidays and Trips.

I will be back soon.

Greenie.


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Brighton England - Part 2

Lanes
Travel in Brighton - 2014

Go back to the start of this trip - here.

Once in Brighton we looked for the Tourism or Info offices. There aren't any! You might want to go on-line and do a search of things to do before you get to Brighton. We found their local municipal offices where a man kindly gave us a map.

We took our map and headed to V Bites, a vegan cafe owned by Heather Mills. (Sir Paul McCartney's ex wife.) We ordered breakfast and looked at our map, deciding what to see and do. V Bites also sell vegan alternatives to animal foods. Think along the lines of vegan deli meats, cheeses and even . . .
More lanes
. vegan tuna.

Brighton is famous for it's "Lanes". Their Lanes are narrow, often cobbled alleys with old specialist shops selling antiques, crafts, hippie chic clothing, organic foods and fair trade coffees. I can't work out how many actual Lanes or lane areas exist as also found Lanes in Hove. You want to walk around in the area from the seafront up to where the station is. If a spot looks quaint, walk there, it might turn out to
Royal Pavilion
be yet more Lanes.

We found a place called hiSbe - short for - How it Should be - a fair trade, organic supermarket that focuses on sustainability. Wow! The next vegan place we ate was called The Loving Hut Cafe. It's a hut in a park run by an Asian couple. Expect yummy curries as opposed to toasted sandwiches. The couple are
Brighton Marina
committed vegans by the looks of things. Lots of anti-cruelty leaflets scattered about. Forks over Knives video runs over and over.

We walked past a good few other veggie restaurants but a quick glance at the menu was enough to put us off. Won't name them, but no way am I ever paying those prices for food. I don't care who the chef or owner is. Most nights we holed up in our room and watched
Loving Hut vegan food
our tiny telly. We had both been hit hard by a cold or flu. (Can never tell the difference.) We just wanted to sleep. And we did a LOT of walking in the day.

On a whim we decided to take a bus to Brighton Marina. The buses run from next to the train station. Our bus took a meander via council housing and residential areas to the marina. One doesn't realise how tidal the UK coastline is. Or how fierce the waves can be until you see the breakwater designed to shelter the boats in the marina.

Brighton Marina is a housing, boating, commercial, residential and social space. We walked around the harbour and along the breakwater. And we had a nice hot cup of tea at one of the cafes.

The promenade is quite a stretch. You can
Even more lanes
walk for hours if you like walking. The actual pier is a bustling place. It's bursting with games arcades, amusement rides and daft things to do. Expect flashing lights and tin can music. In the height of summer, people flock in their droves to Brighton. Apparently the 2008 Pride festival saw 150 000 people crammed onto Brighton Beach. Europeans love the sun. We're a bit more used to covering up and sun protection in Africa.

Another eatery we visited for a really early supper was Iydea. And what a good idea it was to visit that time. They
hiSbe
have a food "happy hour". Great food. Great value. There are two of them in Brighton.

Yet another area we went to was the Cultural Quarter. I really wanted to go to the Brighton Museum and Art Gallery, which is free. But it's closed on Mondays. We left it to our last day so never got a chance to go back. Sigh! It's set in lovely gardens. A great place to sit and enjoy a take-out lunch. Right opposite is the Royal Pavilion. A palace built in 1783 for the Prince of Wales. It
Brighton Marina
might be a British Royal Palace but this pavilion looks like something you would find in India. Like the Taj Mahal. I really don't what that Prince was thinking. It looks out of place to me.

I'm sure we missed out on so much. But we took in a lot. I'm glad we didn't go in the height of summer on a bight sunny bank holiday weekend. That would be my idea of hell. We picked the right time to go. Just the wrong place. Given it's proximity to London, good chance there will be a next time.

Go to - My Holidays and Trips - at the top of this page to read about other places we have visited. Or just click on - this link.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Brighton England - Part 1

What to do in Brighton - 2014

Beach huts on the Promenade
My husband has a 90 year old aunt who lives in North London. We go across to visit regularly. She loves having us come over. She also doesn't love having us around. She's lived alone her entire adult life. She wants to know we care. We help with things she can no longer do. But she gets a fright every time one of us pops up. She cannot get used to other people in her house.

Brighton Promenade



We decided to go to Brighton for three nights to get out of her hair. We chose Brighton because it was the quickest, cheapest and easiest place to get to from London. Plus my husband had never been there. My primary income is derived in South Africa. The current exchange rate is horrible. We're paying R19 for £1. I can buy four to five cups of coffee in SA for the price of one in the UK. It was my decision to stay in a hostel. My husband has never done so before. I used hostels in Scotland
Art deco buildings
and Orkney with friends. Read about those trips - here - and - here. The accommodation was acceptable to fabulous.

So I found us a hostel in Hove which is about 2 - 3 miles from Brighton. It looked fine on the web.
Greenie on Brighton Pier
We found instructions for the bus and got there easily. The guy who managed the place was a really nice chap and I feel bad for saying this, but the place was awful. He told me it was owned by a charity and all proceeds went to a good cause. He also said they were looking at fixing it up.

Our rooms were clean enough. The linen was garish and well worn. The shower had a gaping hole and no trap. I lost a razor down there. There were notices on the walls imploring people not to
White cliffs
make a noise. The communal area was dark and dingy. The kitchen cupboard doors had fallen off. I wouldn't use anything there or eat there.

I also suspect this place is used by homeless people. The same faces constantly lurked outside drinking beer and I could smell weed. Maybe that was the charity? A place of safety perhaps?

We decided that we were only sleeping there and resolved to get out as much as possible. Turns out
Seaside eateries
Brighton is a mecca for vegans, vegetarians and organic foodies. Who knew? Happy Cow listed loads of places to eat out. We walked along the promenade from Hove into Brighton instead of catching the bus. Much nicer.

There are brightly coloured beach huts along the way. As you come into Brighton you can see beautiful white cliffs. The sea was calm and flat that day. The beach is pebbled. A novelty for us. South African beaches are white powder sand. I LOVED the art deco beachfront apartments. I wouldn't be surprised if the Agatha Christie Poirot series were filmed in Brighton and Hove.
Brighton Beach

More on Brighton in the next post - here.



Go to - My Holidays and Trips - at the top of this page to read about other places we have visited. Or just click on - this link.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

York England - Part 2

The Shambles
What to do in York - 2014

Go to the start of this trip by clicking - here.

Our guide focused on historical buildings and Roman ruins. They have lots of heavy stone carved Roman coffins lying about. She pointed out cats on the buildings. Not real ones. Cat statues. They put concrete or metal cats on the walls in York. She took us through The Shambles, an area that used to trade in meat and produce. One can only imagine how it could have been a helluva mess. 

She took us around
Cat on building
the  outside of the Minster which is York's key attraction. I'm still
not sure what the difference is between a minster and a cathedral. However I now know that York Minster has the biggest stained glass window in the world.

Inside York Minster
We were in York during Easter. York Minster had a special Easter service. Access during a service is free. I really wanted to go. I'm not particularly religious but I love the drama of a full mass. I raced out the hotel only to forget my glasses. I couldn't read the song sheet. Felt a bit stupid mumbling as I had no idea what the words were. My other half meanwhile went to the railway expo. I met him there after mass.

We wanted to try as many vegan/meat-free eateries as we could. Good old Happy Cow on-line guide had a few. (How did we ever live without Happy Cow?) We ate at El Piano, a Spanish eatery that just happens to have an outlet in York. And we ate at Goji Cafe and Deli. 

For bargain food in the UK, you cannot beat Wetherspoons. A local pub and grub chain that is unbeatable for good prices. Food is OK. You get what you pay for. My favourite there is a Jacket Potato with beans or veg chili.

Of course a trip to York without a ghost tour is unthinkable. And there are plenty to choose from. The guides dress up in dark clothes with a top hat and tails. Our guide was a history boffin so his slant was very much about actual events as opposed to scary stories. He talked about grim happenings to Margaret Clitherow and Guy Fawkes who were locals. We were in York early in May. The sun goes down late, but it was bitterly cold. My teeth were chattering and my feet
River Ouse
were numb as we walked through
winding alleys. Much as I enjoyed the Terror Trail, I couldn't wait for that tour to be over and head somewhere warm.

There are so many museums in York. Too many. We always go for the cheapies and freebies first. Some of the museums, like the Viking museum were really tempting. But the entrance fees are steep and it can all add up to a LOT of money. We also skipped a boat trip up and down the River Ouse and walked along the river for free. Lots of lovely pubs line the river. Be sure to try a local craft beer.

Greenie walking the wall in York
You can walk on the sections of the old wall that used to surround York. Also free. The wall is not complete anymore but it's a lovely walk as you can see the city from higher up. Even local pubs have mini excursions in their dungeons. We found a pub in town that had Roman Baths underneath. Except they were closed the day we were there.

Apparently the first Easter egg was invented in 1798 by a Yorkshire woman called Esther Burnay. She painted an ostrich egg and threw it at the Archbishop of York. Turns out the world
York skyline with the minster looming large
  liked the idea of painted eggs but did not adopt the concept
of throwing them at clergymen. Chocolate comes from Yorkshire. The Rowntree, Cadbury and Fry families were Quakers who were in the Yorkshire area. We were told at one of the specialist chocolate shops that more Kit Kats are sold than any other chocolate snack.

York is apparently one of the top 10 cities to visit in England. Our guide seemed to think it had more going for it than Bath. So there you go. If you heading north, why not take a detour and visit York.

Go to - My Holidays and Trips - at the top of this page to read about other places we have visited. Or just click on - this link.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

York England - Part 1

Traveling in York - 2014
Gates to York

The main reason for us heading up to York was because my other half is a serious model railway enthusiast. Our coffee table at home houses tracks and locos. The whole setup actually works. Lights go on and his trains move around the track. A great way to start conversations in our house.

Train Museum
York has one of the biggest Model Railway Expos every year. My other half was all keen to visit the show. Not only that, York has the biggest railway museum in the world. And it's free! Sort of. They ask for a donation at the door. The train museum has so many trains and videos and information boards that you really need to put aside a fair amount of time to take it all in.

York is synonymous with the York Minster, Easter eggs and chocolate, Vikings, cats, trains, River Ouse, ghost tours, the Romans and Emperor Constantine who lived there. It's halfway between London and Scotland and was a favourite stop-over in days gone by.

We went by train from London's Kings Cross. Just arriving at York station is an attraction in itself. It's one of the most beautiful and well preserved Victorian railway stations in the
York Station
world.

We booked at our usual - IBIS Hotel, (no we don't get paid to say that). The IBIS in York is near the racecourse which turned out to be the venue for the Expo. We wanted to do a Park Run in York and that's also at the racecourse. So it was a good choice with hindsight. Park Runners will like the racecourse as it's flat. York have a big group. Park Runs occur every Saturday morning around the world for a timed 5 kilometre run. It's free, but you have to register and get a bar code.

Roman ruins
York is not a big place and we easily took in the sights on foot. Once we had checked in, we located the Tourism Info, loaded up on brochures and went back to the hotel to decide what to do. We had Internet in our room so also did a Google search on York.

We're both terrible at taking relaxing holidays. Every single trip, we do the same thing. We find out as much as we can, can't bear to choose and try to do it all. You would think with York being such a small place AND we had four nights at the hotel, that we would have had time to chill. But no.

York was originally called Yorvik by the Vikings who settled there. You can see where it gets it's modern name. They have a free tour every day given by volunteers. We figured that would be a great way to start. It was supposed to be 90 minutes but was more like two hours. Which was fine as we learned a LOT.


Church Goodramgate going back to 12th century
Apparently below the foundations of the city lie relics and artifacts that will never be recovered. Each time they excavate in York teams of archaeologists get involved as special items are discovered.

Read Part 2 - on this link.

Go to - My Holidays and Trips - at the top of this page to read about other places we have visited. Or just click on - this link.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Oystercatcher Trail Part 2

Bedroom at one of the Sandpiper Cottages

Black Oystercatcher Hike - 2014

Please click - here - to read from the start of this trip

The cottages were nicely decorated and comfortable. We had welcome drinks and snacks waiting for us. After a nice hot bath or shower we all met at one cottage for sundowners before heading to the Leisure
Bathroom at a Sandpiper Cottage
Centre where we had more sundowners on the deck and then supper. The tour organisers pride themselves on making authentic South African food. Food like Babotie, Karoo lamb, I really don't think they have catered for so many vegans before. If any at all. One chef bought a vegan recipe book and had been practicing. She did well.

Day Two was beach hiking
The next day we had breakfast at the Leisure Centre and were bundled into a van and taken back to where we finished the day before. We resumed our hike. If Day One was about the coast and cliffs, Day Two was mostly flat and along the beach. Day Two was 12 kilometres.

There is abundant wildlife in the area. Various buck, wild cats such as the caracal, mongoose and genets, penguins, eagles, cranes and gulls are amongst the creatures that can be spotted in the area. We were looking out for Southern Right Whales which are present from January to May and again from September to November. Dolphins are present all year round. Amongst the bird life are of course the black Oystercatchers. Turns they eat mussels and not oysters. They are unique to a strip of the South


African coast. The Oystercatcher Trail is right
Black Oyster Catchers
in the middle of this strip. We saw loads of them on the beach.

The key thing with a group of people traveling together is - getting along. It’s hard. People all want different things from a holiday. A sure fire recipe for tension. We had a nice group. We chatted so much we probably missed on wildlife spotting.
Preparing for a swim in a lagoon
Suppertimes were fun with lots of bawdy commentary. Our organiser asked us to have awards for dumb things. At first I wasn’t so keen. Seemed a bit, well, high school. But the guy nominated to give the awards did it in such a way, it was bags of fun.

Day Three was 21 kilometres. Um, that’s a half marathon! Not going to lie, I was a bit anxious about it. Especially shortly after we got going and scrambled up an almighty hill. Fortunately the rest of course was a LOT easier. That didn’t stop me climbing up a dinkum sand dune later in the day. How could I not?

The organisers brought us lunch al fresco. I’m talking a proper table with a cloth, stainless steel cutlery, pasta and salad, drinks and fruit.

Day Three
A person could almost never move again. But we got going and headed to the finale, which was a boat trip along the Gourits River.
The end almost never came. We walked and walked and just could not find the boat. And then - there it was. We took off our shoes. Stepped on board and went across the river. Very. Very. Slowly. Heaven.

On the boat were ice cold beers. A few brave folk were swimming in the river next to the
River boat on Gourits River
boat. Eish. On the other side the crew collected us and took us back to our cottages for a hot shower and if you wanted - a massage or treatment at the Leisure Centre.

The staff were amazing. Real warm proper South African hospitality. I loved the rustic charm of the cottages. The sincere efforts of the chefs to cater for vegans. They did a fabulous job. The beauty of the coast and time out to enjoy it all. It doesn’t get much better!



There is lots of info on the Internet should you want to do this hike. Google - oystercatchertrail.co.za.
Hiking up a dune Day Two








Go to - My Holidays and Trips - at the top of this page to read about other places we have visited. Or just click on - this link.