Haarlem & Amsterdam – The Netherlands

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11th April 2019 – 17th April 2019

First stop after waking up in France was to buy a pillow as I had left mine behind. Not a good start but could have been worse. We then made our way to our first destination Antwerp. I have probably mentioned before that being in a Motorhome it is not easy to park near any big cities, therefore we headed to Brasschaat a beautiful upmarket town where we could catch a bus into Antwerp. However, when we arrived at a stop over, entry was barred by red tape and barriers. Motorhomes were parked and when I asked, there was a weekend Belgian Motorhome Rally and basically no room at the inn. Luckily we were allowed in to stay overnight as it was quite late, but had to leave the next morning when all the motorhomes were arriving. That completely ruined plans to visit Antwerp as there was no other safe parking nearby. New plans were swiftly made, the famous Bloemencorso 2019 or Flower Parade was taking place at the weekend and it was on route. We found a perfect place to stay near Haarlem. The lovely owners told us roughly when and what time the parade would be passing that afternoon near where we were staying. We had visited the famous Keukenhof Gardens last year and when the parade weekend is on, the whole area attracts thousands of visitors. The procession consists of about twenty floats and over forty luxurious and special vehicles richly decorated with flowers. Several bands play within the procession to give it a real carnival atmosphere. As the parade was not until the afternoon we cycled into Haarlem in the morning. A beautiful city which has several museums including The Teylers Museum which is the oldest in The Netherlands. We love The Netherlands, the people, the architecture, stylish gardens, their love of everything cycling and the houseboats which David and I swooned over. In the afternoon we headed off to Bennebroek with the procession passing according to the owner of the site at approx 4pm. We cycled like mad thinking we would be late; we arrive with my heart pounding to find all very, very quiet. Had we missed it ? David then finds out that the procession will not be passing until 6pm. So, what do we do, curse the owner of the site and then start cycling towards the procession as we did know the route. We met two nice Russians on the way, also looking for the procession and then we start seeing more and more people. We catch up to the procession at Hilleom. To say I was knackered is an understatement. The procession started to arrive 15 minutes later and it was so amazing. The designs, the flowers, oh the flowers and the beautiful smell. How did they grow them all and the time it must take to put the designs together, it was just fantastic. Poor David on the other hand was standing back and continually sneezing from all the pollen. He must love me. The brass bands gave it such a carnival feel. Although the weather was bitterly cold, people were out on the streets with table and chairs, food and drink and enjoying the festivities. By the time we had cycled back to the van we had cycled 30 miles and my legs knew it ! So, what do we do the next day, we cycle some more. On the Sunday all the floats are displayed in Haarlem and as if I didn’t have enough we cycle into the city once again. It was so, so worth it and I said to David ‘A day for the memory book’ It was lovely to see the floats close up, all the detail and even more beautiful smells. There was street entertainment, food stalls and musicians and although it was really busy, the whole area just had such a lovely carnival feel to it. We ate our first herrings and they were delicious, drunk the most expensive coffee and cake on our whole adventure to date, getting us prepared for Norway !

After resting my legs for a day, we caught the bus and train into Amsterdam. This was David’s third visit and my first. Like any large city it was busy and as we had left Chloe behind we knew we had to do a whistle stop tour. We boarded a tour boat that took us around the city’s canals which gave us a great flavour of the city. An hour later we headed on foot to the old town. A beautiful lunch outside overlooking the canal, how do they make a simple sandwich taste so good?. We watched and laughed at a group of young people with glazed eyes and legs that didn’t seem to take them in the direction they wanted to go and belly laughing. It was so funny to watch and obviously they had made use of the all that Amsterdam has on offer. Cities like Amsterdam need a full weekend to immerse yourselves and it’s on the growing list of cities we hope to return to. After 5 nights we headed off to the town Urk.

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