Category: Netherlands

End Of Trip

We were surprised how the rules for mask wearing varied from one European country to the next. When we crossed a country border we had to watch carefully to see what people were doing so we could comply with local rules. We felt so much happier and more comfortable in Sweden where hardly anyone wore a mask – we felt the protection the masks offered was vastly overrated. In Germany they were very strict and masks were compulsory indoors and a lot of people wore them outside too. In one German shop we were requested to adjust our masks to ensure our noses were completely covered with the masks reaching right up to our eyes. The Germans were allowed to shake hands though.

We postponed our return to the UK until we no longer had to quarantine for ten days upon our arrival home. Repatriation proved to be very expensive – even for us double jabbed oldies. If you couldn’t pay you didn’t travel and we witnessed some extremely upset people at the Eurotunnel terminus. The two of us paid an additional £300 for a Covid test in Calais and another Covid test for Day 2 after our return including the additional cost of the Eurotunnel crossing, the price of which rocketed within a nanosecond of the announcement of the government’s change of policy.

Tony Could See the White Cliffs of Dover
A Quiet Spot At Sangatte Aire

We stayed overnight in the Aire at Sangatte, thus avoiding the Cité d’Europe where we always used to stop in happier times. Then we would do a big shop at Carrefour and have a meal in one of the restaurants in the shopping centre. However, the last time we parked at Cité d’Europe, a Border Force officer advised us to move to Sangatte because of the aggressive behaviour of the young migrant men.

French Police Discouraging Migrants

Sangatte provided a lovely parking area set at the top of the windswept cliffs. The site was full of campervans but we managed to find an isolated spot in the corner. We noticed a couple of police vans were parked on the beach. They told us they were deterring migrants trying to cross the channel to the UK. Later that day three policemen called at the truck, they were very friendly but we were very aware that we were being checked out to ensure we were genuine tourists and not people smugglers.

That evening we walked the few hundred yards down to the the local sea food restaurant where we enjoyed a large plate of oysters, a perfect ending to our stay in France.

Blog ends . . . .

Time To Leave

We almost lost the will to live when in October 2020 PM Boris announced a second lockdown affecting the whole of England. That meant that perfectly viable businesses were being snuffed out of existence on the say-so of a group of middle aged men at Westminster, comfortable on their salaries and generous private pensions – paid for by the tax payer. Their bizarre male “group think” was aptly illustrated by one of their new rules: “Visits to your home or garden by your friend, granny, aunt or daughter are forbidden” but, hey, your cleaning lady could come! I rest my case.

We felt it was time to leave the UK. We were confident of keeping ourselves out of harm’s way – our lifestyle whilst travelling was naturally self isolating but our toughest challenge was having to wear the wretched face masks whenever we were out and about.

Not only did the mask partially suffocate us humans, they were extremely harmful to wildlife.


We travelled to France on Eurotunnel and stocked up with supplies (wine) in Calais before driving on through Belgium, Holland and on to Germany, Switzerland then Italy. We stopped each night amongst the truck drivers at motorway services. We only ventured away from our vehicle to purchase supplies and (Tony) to use the loo. One evening we did “eat out” in Germany at a Burger King. Our confidence on the safety of this meal was not increased when the “yoof” who handled our cash also then served our food. 🤮

We stopped for a couple of days at Lake Como, Italy. The weather was beautiful. We took the ferry to the town of Como and were saddened to see every café was closed with the exception of a few brave establishments serving takeaway – but without being able to provide somewhere for customers to sit. Oh how we would have loved to sit outside in a sunny piazza with a coffee and, perhaps, a pastry . . . . or a spot of lunch. Instead we bought delicious fresh pasta from the supermarket and ate in the truck.

Deurningen

We called on HPC Hydraulic in Oldenzaal as one of our levelling rams was leaking. They replaced the ram and two hours later we were on our way.

We spent the weekend at a natural park in the forest where there were miles of steep trail bike tracks, as well as wider paths suitable for regular cyclists. The park was a haven for hikers, dog walkers and horse riders. There was a large lake where where there were several man made sandy beaches and plenty of play areas for children of all ages. We were surprised to see so few people using the park, just the occasional hikers and dog walkers. No-one was swimming in the lake. It may have been the weather which was damp and dull with some heavy rain showers – or the Covid virus may have kept them away. The goodbye message on the park sign was “Gute Fahrt und bis bald”.

Blankenberge

We turned towards the UK and stopped on the Belgium coast at Blankenberge, a traditional seaside town with a long sandy beach. At the end of the bustling promenade was a marina. Tucked away behind the marina was a seafood restaurant called De Oesterput where we had a wonderful lunch.

Eurotunnel was less frantic than when we left the UK, the terminal was open for refreshments – and the toilets. We usually paid £140 to travel on Eurotunnel one way. This excursion cost £218.00 outbound and £350.00 to come back – how is that for price inflation? A rip off.

Blog ends . . .

Boekel

We were heading for Holland, to a company called Outbound, who were manufacturers of insulated doors and windows for overland vehicles. We needed some modifications to our door and Maurik, the boss man, welcomed us warmly and they immediately got to work removing the door and placing a temporary closure in its place. They were very helpful and allowed us to stay in their car park for the two nights needed to complete the work, electricity and water included as well as use of their toilets.

The town of Boekel was ten minutes walk away and hairdressing salons appeared to be working normally. I was able to have my hair cut (cut and finish) at a large unisex salon on the High Street. Customers were well spaced apart but there was no sign of the dreaded masks, aprons or gloves although there were Perspex screens between the washbasins. It had been seventeen weeks since my last hair cut and I felt wonderful – it was well worth the €28 I paid. We walked on and had lunch at a café in the square. We sat inside and again, no masks in sight, just well spaced tables.

We were surprised at what appeared to be a casual attitude to the Coronavirus compared with our experience in the UK. Maurik told us that Boekel had been badly affected with 30 cases amongst the 8,000 inhabitants. One youngster who worked for Outbound had been ill for some weeks, but not one person had died. There were reminders everywhere to keep 1.5 metres distance but not a mask in sight.

The Dutch were a pragmatic race, all ages were out and about on bicycles with their distinctive upright handlebars. Not one of them, young or old, was wearing a cycle helmet. It was the same for youngsters riding motor scooters (Lambrettas), no helmets required. We found it very refreshing compared with our British attitude to “ ‘elf and safety”.

Eurotunnel

En route to Eurotunnel we took the opportunity to call in on Jill and Alan, friends we had not seen for over a year. Jill had needed a serious operation at the height of the Covid crisis and, although her timing was unfortunate, the treatment went well and we found her looking extremely healthy and serenely convalescing under the strict supervision of Alan. The four of us put the world to rights over a few glasses of wine. It was so good to see them.

Jill and Alan in their beautiful garden

Normally we pre-booked our journey on Eurotunnel but, on this occasion, we had been unable to access their website. So we just turned up and discovered that there were delays because only one train per hour was running, due to staff shortages. We had followed on-line guidance and downloaded a Health Declaration form which no-one asked to see. We also had our masks at the ready as we were travelling on public transport – but they were not required either.

There were long queues of vehicles waiting for trains. This was no hardship for us with the truck – we could make a cuppa, use our loo and even take a nap, if necessary. People packed into cars were not so fortunate. Bizarrely, all the toilets on site were closed and taped off. People (men) could be seen urinating (or, perhaps, worse) in the surrounding shrubs. It was almost three hours before we were finally able to board a train – the toilets on the train were closed too. It was so unlike Eurotunnel to do anything to cause inconvenience to passengers and the decision to close the toilets was unforgivable and would have caused huge embarrassment to many of the elderly / female travellers.

We left Calais without any further checks and drove on unimpeded through Belgium and on to Holland.

Auf Wiedersehen und gute Fahrt

I should have grown out of smirking at the sign we regularly saw as we left motorway services in Germany, but a childish giggle bubbled up from nowhere! The German word for “exit” was Ausfahrt so we saw that word everywhere on motorways. I didn’t learn German at school so maybe my inappropriate amusement could be put down to ignorance.

Whilst in self critical mode I have to confess two chores that I had completely abandoned whilst we had been travelling – I think many will concur. Firstly, except for moisture cream and sun screen, I had used no make-up on my face. Secondly, I had not ironed any clothes – clothes were washed, dried and folded and, after wearing for a short time, the creases were barely visible. Tony didn’t appear to have noticed any drop in standards. Any comment from him about wrinkles in either department would have had serious consequences!

When we reached the Calais area we saw the usual groups of young migrants walking along the roadside and generally hanging about. We parked overnight in the car park near Carrefours, designated for camper vans with no height limit at the entrance. Whilst we away shopping three migrants were seen looking over our truck, climbing on the roof, opening outside lockers and trying to undo the motorbike cover. On our return Tony spoke to them and they told him they were trying to get to the UK. They were polite and well dressed and spoke good English. They told Tony they were originally from Sudan.

Later that evening there was a loud knock on the door and a security guard said they were closing the car park for security reasons and requested that we move on and park somewhere else overnight. We refused to move (it was 10 pm) and the migrants were everywhere, not just in our car park. Anyway, we felt no threat from these young men as our truck was very secure and Tony had told them to leave it alone! The security guards finally gave up and merely placed a light plastic chain across the car park entrance which they removed the next morning. We carefully checked outside the van in case we had extra visitors before we set off for Eurotunnel.

The migrants we talked to were from Sudan and were hoping to get to the UK

Blog ends.

Magdeburg

Stellplatz At Magdeburg

Lamb Chops

Magdeburg was our regular overnight stop on our journeys to and from Poland.  Stellplatz was the German equivalent on the French aire and the Magdeburg stellplatz was on the banks of the River Elbe, fifteen minutes walk from the shops and restaurants.  Our favourite restaurant was Hyaku Mizu, an Asian fusion restaurant.  The food seemed  expensive at €30 a head – especially after Polish prices – but everything was of the highest quality.

The Marina At Venlo

The following night we stopped in the Netherlands at a marina near Venlo and, after battling through heavy traffic we arrived in Calais the next afternoon.  We stayed that night at the car park at Cité d’Europe, did some shopping in Carrefours and had a meal.  We took Eurotunnel the following morning.

 

Blog Ends

Poland – Again!

We left the UK in early October 2018 with the primary purpose of visiting Posnań, Poland to see how far they were progressing with our new truck and to get an idea of when the project might finally reach completion.

Habitation Box – galley on the left looking aft to “bedroom”

Galley on the right looking towards dinette

We were disappointed – but not necessarily surprised – that progress was almost nonexistent. The vehicle had been languishing at a truck fabrication company for many weeks having a hydraulic rack fitted and the habitation box progress was stalled because they needed the truck to complete the installation of  the various domestic systems.

It was very frustrating but we refused to be downhearted and, having sent a few grumbly emails, we decided to leave Poznań and head north towards Gdansk on the Baltic Coast.

Homeward Bound

We left Poland and headed west towards the UK, stopping overnight beside the River Elbe at Magdeburg, Germany.  The following morning the weather was perfect and we enjoyed the sunny day travelling on smaller roads, slowly making our way across Germany.

Fürstenau, Nr Osnabruck

Stellplatz At Furstenau

We stayed overnight at a stellplatz in a small town near Osnabruck.  Stellplatz were the equivalent of French aires, where the townsfolk allowed campervans to stay one or two nights in the hope that the visitors spend their money in the town, buying produce or eating in the restaurants.  We obliged on all counts.

 

As we travelled we were constantly looking for an  internet connection as our own Wi-fi had run out.  Apart from camp sites, who were now usually quite good at providing internet access, we had to rely on motorway service stations for Wi-fi.  It often happened that, having refuelled and bought our coffee, we would discover that there was no Wi-fi available.  We eventually found that our best bet was Macdonalds who offered uncluttered seating areas and unlimited Wi-fi; the coffee was ok too – so they got our custom every time.  Anyone who knows us would be aware that we wouldn’t normally be seen dead in a Macdonalds, so for us two old fogies to be frantically searching the horizon for the famous Golden Arches was a shameful first!

We felt the German people, kind and helpful as they often were, seemed to resent visitors who couldn’t speak their language.  That is, of course, understandable – but from an English speaker’s viewpoint you would have to be a pretty competent linguist to be familiar with all languages of the European countries we visited.  I reckon on that short trip we must have encountered at least twelve different languages.  In order for the Swedes to communicate with the Poles; the Dutch to converse with Norwegians; the Greeks to understand the Serbians or the Belgians to talk to the Italians, there had to be a common language and, like it or not, that lingua franca was English.  Perhaps when the United States of Europe finally take over they should all agree on one common language, although I guess they would not want it to be English!

The following day we were in Holland and then Belgium.  The next day Calais and Eurotunnel back to the UK.

Poland – Spring 2018

We left the UK in the icy jaws of “The Beast From The East”, travelling north east through France, Germany, The Netherlands, Germany (again) and on to Poland.  We spotted patches of melting snow by the roadside but the roads were dry and clear and we felt confident that the worst of the weather was behind us.

 

John and Sabina Stalman at Paterswoldsmeer, Netherlands

We made three overnight stops in Germany – at Bad Bentheim, Hatten-Kirchhatten and Magdeburg and arrived in Poland on the fourth day.  En route we called in to Groningen in the north of the Netherlands to say hello to John Stalman, a colleague from our days in the boat business who ran Van den Bosch Yachting for a number of years.  John and his wife, Sabina, owned and ran a beautiful marina on the Paterswoldsmeer.  It had been almost ten years since we had seen John but he hadn’t changed one bit.

 

Dorset Fire Brigade Fire Tender On Low Loader For Delivery To Poland

We were travelling to Poland to see the progress on our truck that was being converted into an expedition vehicle that would replace our current motor home.  The project had begun over a year ago when we purchased a 2003 ex Dorset Fire Brigade fire tender from a dealer in Preston, Lancashire and had the vehicle shipped by low loader to Poland where they began the conversion by stripping back the chassis, painting and servicing the vehicle.  They fitted larger fuel tanks, an air pressure system for the tyres and they removed the rear twin wheels and replaced with single larger ones.

 

Cab And Chassis After Re-Paint

After settling into our campsite at Malta Lake in Poznan, we went to collect the truck from the local Mercedes Benz dealership where they had been carrying out some modifications to the vehicle.  We were very excited as it was the first time we had seen the truck since the day we purchased it.  Tony was able to get behind the wheel and, after a practice circuit of the dealership, we drove the truck on a forty minute journey to the company who would carry out the exhaust modifications.

 

Habitation Box At Camperspol, Poznan

We then visited Camperspol, the company that was building the habitation box that would sit on a specially constructed galvanised frame attached to the chassis.  The habitation box was being constructed using a grp foam sandwich.  There would be a lot of work on this box over the next few months, fitting it out with all the paraphernalia needed to keep the Morgans warm and comfortable on their travels.