Rhine Route - Netherlands

The Route of Eurovelo15 - Netherlands

Netherlands

Cycling in the Netherlands

Clearly cycling paradise. Cycling is a way of life here. From mums in high heels with two children on bike seats to ancient looking pensioners on equally ancient bikes, everybody cycles (and seem to ride faster than Isa). Tourists like us get very quickly spotted because of the fact they wear cycling helmets, and cycling clothes. None of this is for the Dutch.

One other thing about the Dutch: they are extremely helpful. It only took 20 mins cycling from the port for a lorry driver to stop and ask us if we needed help. Bearing flags on the back of the trailer helps too: people say hello or bonjour straight away. No pirate has approached us yet though.

We have used camping and youth hostels across the Netherlands. We were told about another good alternative too late to try it but we like the principle. It is the "Friends of the Cyclists" website. Like minded people offer bed and breakfast for cyclists (or other self-propelled travellers) for 19 euros a night. www.vriendenopdefiets.nl for more information.

And a last word on the Dutch cycle paths system... it is called "Knooppunten netwerk" or numbered junction network. Every cycle junction in the Netherlands is numbered and marked with a round green and white sign. Each cycle path is signposted to the next numbered junction. At many junctions there are map boards so in theory maps could be dispensed with. However, it is a good idea to write down the series of junctions to be followed and be aware that the signposting is not always 100% clear (we had some slight mishaps).

Holland has the best cycling network we have ever come across and travelling with a large trailer (2 seat Chariot) was not an issue. It felt a bit narrow at times when passing oncoming cyclists on Rotterdam cycle paths but everybody managed to squeeze past the big slow Chariot.

Knooppunten netwerk

Knooppunten netwerk - Every cycle path junction is numbered and signposts are provided along the route

Knooppunten netwerk

Knooppunten netwerk - a route is made up of a series of junctions - the list can be written on route strips as above

Children's Favourites

I shall start with the food as it has always been tricky to get our kids interested into trying new food. I am not sure their favourites are the healthiest choices: dutch pancakes, hagelpret (aka mouse poos) and bear-shaped ham! We have however convinced Louis to try a Dutch salad, mainly because there is some ham, lots of cream and mayonnaise and absolutely no salad in it!

The other big favourite were the sand pits in each play area and campsite we stopped at and Eindhoven massive swimming pool.

Helen

An unusual savoury meat design - sliced bear's faces. The kids seemed to enjoy them.

Hagelpret

A Dutch favourite with the kids - Hagelpret. Sprinkled over jammy bread they haven't failed to provide whoops of joy at breakfast time!


27th May - the big departure - Harwich to Hook Van Holland

And there was just 3 km of cycling involved. We took an overnight ferry to Holland. We all fell asleep to the sounds of two little voices saying in turn "I am sleeping on a boat"

Stena Ferry

Stena Ferry Arriving at Harwich

Cycle Lane

A typical Dutch cycle lane

Stena Ferry

Max enjoying the Stena Ferry Cabin

Rhine Side

Terry alongside the Rhine

28th May - Hook van Holland to Rotterdam - 30 km, sunny with strong Easterly headwinds

Flat, sunny, traffic free, what else could one cyclist dream of? We were welcome to the sight of many windmills (the modern type) and quickly realised that they were all facing in the same direction as us, so the going was a bit tougher than expected.

I am getting used to the sight of Terry growing small in the distance very rapidly. I have not managed to loose him yet but I think it is just a matter of time.

Arriving is Rotterdam is a sudden shock after cycling on the traffic free route along the Rhine. There are segregated lines for cyclists, pedestrians and cars in between which the tram intermingles. There are hundreds of other cyclists, quick to overtake, sometimes going the wrong way. Must remember to keep to the right! First trailer accident today: the trailer overturned (Isa reached a top speed of 5 km/hr and hit a corner). Thank you to Chariot for making such sturdy trailers - Max was slightly shocked but happy to carry on (not that he had many alternatives!).

29th May - Day off in Rotterdam

Buildings, bridges and boats bonanza. We love it. Today Louis had enough of bridges "too many bridges"! It's a nice change from yesterday "too many boats".

Eramus

According to Max "that boat is having a wee" - The Netherlands - Erasmus Bridge - Rotterdam

Rhine Route - Netherlands

Alongside the Rhine

Rhine

Louis demonstrates the current progress on the map printed on his t shirt (thanks Michael)

Warning Rhine

Care to be taken on the footpath

Rotterdam

Louis, Cube Houses, Scooter, Rotterdam

Rhine

Max tries (and loves) Poffertjes (pancakes)

Cube Houses

Cube Houses, Rotterdam - Our home for 2 nights


30th May - Rotterdam to Dordrecht - 44 km, Waterbus and Windmills

Bit of a cheat today... we decided that the kids would find the Rotterdam Waterbus entertaining. It allowed us to have one last look at the Rotterdam architecture without struggling through it's outskirts. We continued cycling close to Kinderdijk aka Windmill bonanza. It's a world heritage site with no less than 19 windmills dating from 1743. We could only count 18 but did not find the heart to complain, it was beautiful! Being engineers, we could not help admiring the size of the archimedean pumps in the nearby pump house (there are many around). Impressive, but it left us with a kind of uneasy feeling. The odd thing in this area was to cycle up hill for a good few meters in order to reach the river bank.

From Kinderdijk, we made it to the pretty town of Dordrecht, which was at one time famous for its sheep (five colourful specimens welcomed us at the harbour).

Cube Houses

Ready to leave Rotterdam

Windmills

Lunch at the kinderdijk windmills

Dordecht

Dordecht Sheep - they love sheep apparently. One peasant dressed a sheep up as a child to smuggle him into the town

Maas

Dutch landscapes - The Maas river

Terry and Louis

Terry and Louis Along the Rhine

Isa with Max

Isa with Max

Model Car and Train Shop

The first big hit of the trip for the kids - a model train and car shop.

Pumps

Screw Pumps at Kinderdijk. It's quite unnerving to realise how much higher the Rhine and North Sea can be!

Windmills

The Windmills of kinderdijk, near Rotterdam

31st May - Dordrecht to Almkerk - 36 km, Beavers & North Winds

We explored the Biesbosch national park with the kids on scooters. Very pretty, very flat, perfect for cycling. We wanted to see the famous Biesbosch beavers but they had a baby a few days before so access was not allowed. We had to content ourselves with a stuffed specimen, which looked friendly enough. We also met a couple of Swiss cyclotourists, Henri and Daniel. Henri was cycling in a Swiss farmer's shirt. He was the poshest cyclist we have ever met on our travels (despite his pants drying on his front pannier). We were treated to some Stoopwaffles to eat and Louis was given a wooden cow quickly baptised Henri too. Henri will travel with us from now on and will be fed grass and Worcestershire sauce as directed.

The afternoon was not as pleasant as our sunny breezy morning. A strong northerly wind started blowing and, well, let's say it, we got a bit lost in South Biesbosch, which is criss-crossed by smalls canals and under a massive construction project (it looks like the natural park is being extended). So lovely Biesbosch turned into a mini-nightmare and we were glad to reach our camping site in the evening. The only problem was the lack of shelter from the biting North wind. We discussed back-up plan in case of tent collapse before going to sleep (the toilet block was quickly selected as the best alternative, mainly because it was the only one).

Beaver

Louis face to face with a beaver

National Park

Biesbosch National Park - home to lots of bird life and plenty of beavers. Max and Louis getting quicker on the scooters.

Baboe

Child transport Dutch style

Ferry

Excitement waiting for a ferry

Isa with Max

Henri and Daniel the jovial swiss cyclists who kindly donated Henri the cow (one of 4 carved by an 80 year old swiss farmer)

Bags

Isa marvelling at the choice for Dutch (female) cyclists

1st June - Almkerk to Drunen - 38 km, Heusden (blown off course)

The tent did not collapse, hooray!

Cold cold cold. The children took both took shelter in the Chariot trailer, with all their clothes on plus Isa's duffle jacket on their legs. The north wind kept on blowing and we decided to sail with it. We deviated from the Rhine route at this point.

We reached Heusden at lunch time and spent a few hours visiting this impressive fortified town. The great thing with deviating from one's course, is that you have no idea of what will come your way and we were not disappointed in this case. Moats, cannons, derelict castle, windmills (of course), there was plenty to see. The tourism office treated us to stickers, mints, maps, campsite addresses and had a big model of the town, which the kids absolutely loved.

Campsite

First Campsite - and a biting North Wind. All clothes on for the kids and a change of direction for the bicycles!

Cobbles

A block paved, cobbled road

Heusden

Heusden Harbour

Veal

Not a something you would see in a British campsite - Veal crates (at least there is some room to move)

More Cobbles

More Cobbles - Heusden

Heusden

Max with the model Heusden windmill

2nd June - Drunen to Oirschot - 34 km, Desert

The wind was still blowing, we kept Southwards in search of more sun, which we found in the Drunen Dunen natural park. Lots of sand in the middle of Holland and no sea to be seen to the children's great disappointment. A bit further, we crossed the Kampina natural park, with heathland this time.

One thing that really keeps the children entertained are the farm animals that are kept close to the cycle path in small fields. As it is spring, there are plenty of foals, calves, ducklings, chicks and all kind of cute fluffy things to look at.

Flowers

Isa's bike with the added weight of flowers

Heathland

Kampina heathland

Henri

Henri and clogs

Desert

Desert of Drunen Dunen

Camping

Evening sun hides the North Wind

Camping

Dutch campsite entertainment

3rd June - Oirschot to Valkenswaard - 28 km, Peacocks and Dinosaurs

The Dutch are a friendly bunch. To start the day, the kids were given a souvenir from Holland, i.e. a crocheted Dutch crown and flag knitted by our camping neighbour. Later on that morning, a lady called Helen invited us to look at her impressive collection of birds, including white peacocks. She had rabbits, one turtle, one horse, two cats and a few dogs (and just in case you wonder, she is a air hostess). The kids left with a some peacocks feathers (which now adorn our trailer and bike seats) and a dozen fresh eggs (still in one piece at the time of writing!).

Not much to report around the Eindhoven area, other than an unexpected bunch of dinosaurs in an industrial estate!

Granny

A granny who presented crochet crowns and dutch flags to Louis and Max

Helen

Helen - the chicken and peacock breeding Air hostess

Chicken

Max with a chick

Dinosaurs

Unexpected triceratops in an Eindhoven industrial estate

Chicken

Chicken

Chicken

Louis with a chick

Feathers

Max & Louis with Peacock feathers

Tank Tracks

Playing in the tanks tracks of the military training area

4th June - Day off in Valkenswaard

We found the biggest swimming pool of the Netherlands in Eindhoven. Best ever according to the children!

Childrens Pool

Terry, Louis and Max enjoying the facilities in Eindhoven, Tonglereep pool

Red

Terry and Max on a Red Run

5th June - Valkenswaard to Weert - 31 km, Heathland and Naaturkamping

Most of the day was spent crossing heathlands along the border with Belgium. Another pleasant ride, totally car free.

We stopped in Budel and spent some time looking around the small smuggling museum set up in the tourist information office. They had the back side of a cadillac on display. It was extracted from the town church in 1960 after the driver (a smuggler) was shot in the head by the border police (the Dutch were not as relaxed as now in the days). Amazingly, the smuggler is still alive and blew his 97th candle last year!

Best camping so far in Weert Naaturkamping. No cars, sandpits, toys and children sized showers and sinks.

Heathland

A big, scary highland cow crossing the cycle route

Woodland

Lovely quiet cycle lanes through woodland on the Belgian border

Cooking

Cooking Helen's eggs - a new recipe "Omeletti" (omelette disguised so that Louis eats it)

Heathland

Heathland and sunshine and a lovely spot for a picnic

Belgium

A quick diversion to have a look at Belgium - a "cyclists paradise"

Toilets

After a long day's cycling everyone could do with sitting down for a bit

6th June - Weert to Swalmen - 45 km, Hot, Thirsty and more Naaturkamping

In the morning, we went along and across the Maas river to Roermond and took a ferry dedicated to bicycles (it almost seems normal now after our stay in Holland). We stopped North of Roermond in another Naaturkamping set in Bertha's farm. We met again some friendly people who took the children with them to feed Elvis the horse and the rabbits.

The landscape is getting slightly more rolling now, a sure sign we are about to leave the Netherlands...

Dirty Washing

Airing the laundry

Ferry Crossing

A pedestrian ferry across the Maas river - a tricky manoeuvre with trailers

Lock on the Maas

A lock on the Maas river

Tired

A tiring day in the sun

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