MITZY GOES TO HOLLAND
I have to confess to being a little nervous as I rocked up in the layby at 0630..... I'd agreed to go away with 19 folk I hardly knew. Some would look at this as total madness but if we are all motorcyclists then it would be fine..... I repeatedly told myself. I started to wonder if I was lurking in the wrong layby but I was just early and the others gradually arrived and we set off to Fleet Services. I soon settled down - this lot were great - courteous riding with each other and to other road users. By my first holiday coffee I was very happy with my new riding gang. On to Maidstone services to gather some more and on to the tunnel.
Hot sunshine as we rode across France into Belgium. Antwerp was our first overnight stop and I would be delighted if I never went there again..... the traffic was awful - huge lorries mainly but with good fortune and a touch of magic we managed to filter and gather safely at the Ibis Hotel in the centre of town. Tony, our leader, is a very experienced guide and was like a Mother Hen with her chicks..... checking we were all together and pulling over where safe. Dinner outside enjoying the warm summer evening with plenty of noisy banter. The following morning there was time to see the Cathedral while a new tyre was sourced for one of the group. This gang were mainly very experienced travellers and quietly adjusted their agenda and sorted any problems. No dramas.
Escaping Antwerp, where the traffic chaos was worse than yesterday, we headed to Rotterdam. Another Ibis by a canal for cold drinks in the sun before dinner on the deck of the V11 - a boat built in Dartmouth in 1951. One lady on the floor - she maintained she missed the seat but possibly the result of too many G & T's...... no damage and time for photographic evidence before assisting. An after dinner stroll then back to the hotel to watch the barmaid massaging the single men and bets were placed to see who would get lucky...
Saturday started at a leisurely pace - time to explore the local markets. The displays of fresh fruits and flowers were stunning - I was just tasting the Dragon Fruit when Carol informed me it looked like frog spawn - lovely! As we sat outside having coffee the local security police stopped by to warn us to keep all valuables out of sight (Brits abroad stand out a mile!). Obviously there was an unsocial element around. Fine Dining included various salad pots eaten on the pavement in the sun followed by a nostalgic trip to C & A. We then had to have a tour of the Cube Houses - the sign said you had to be special to live there and that was so true. A strange sensation - plenty of head ducking but a feeling of spaciousness due to plenty of natural light and minimalist design. Some of the lads visited the Keringhuis Lock and enjoyed this magnificent feat of engineering. An evening at the Italian where we raised the noise levels and then back for Jazz Night in the hotel.
Sunday and off to Delft by train. Stroll through the city and Delft Pottery Tour which was fab and then we were collected by a Canal Boat (how do the lads do it?) for a Tour before lunch in the main square listening to a Beatles Tribute Band. The evening saw the group split as it was hard to find somewhere for 20 - walking deep into the centre smelling heavy of something you just don't get in Budleigh!
Early start on Monday for Amsterdam - all on the train were trying to tick the box of seeing windmills - locals assisting us! A walk round the city was very educational ..... canals, old houses and the red light district where girls were selling themselves. We ventured into a Museum of Prostitution where the story unfolded of how this line of business became legalised giving the girls protection along with paying their taxes. Some visited the Heineken Factory. Another canal trip in the sunshine and then back to the hotel for dinner and presentations to our tour leader and birthday cake for one of the lads.
Someone stole the sunshine on Tues so various plans were made and I linked up with two of the lads for a mystery ride...... think it was a mystery to the leader too but all very relaxed and I fell into normal holiday mode - my plan is to keep up - simples! We headed for the Dams via Rozenburg where we were the first tourists in a local cafe..... they made us very welcome although their English was limited and our Dutch non existent. They had never put a bacon sarnie through their till and they served buttered toast with side salad. We stopped to admire a windmill and then had a ferry crossing to some lovely scenery and very challenging winds. My little bike with her big metal panniers acting as sails ended up on the wrong side of the road but I managed to get her back before the oncoming traffic became an issue. The car behind was considerate and gave me plenty of room - guess I was providing good entertainment.. We stopped to admire a plane - known as the Widow Maker due to its small wings..... one of the lads thought it was going to be a museum but it turned out to be a scrap yard.... they know how to treat a girl! There was payback in mickey taking when he went to pay for his fuel and hadn't taken the pump number - he told the girl it was the red bike..... no wonder she looked confused - they were all red. I was glad to get back into the city (don't say that often) where the buildings provided respite from the winds and over celebratory drinks for arriving safely back I was told I was officially one of the lads in this gang now - I took it as a compliment! Our last dinner altogether as 3 lads were off on an adventure to Iceland. We dined on a floating hotel and the laughter just got louder and louder..... at one point a lad asked for Tena for Men - the tears were almost rolling down his legs. It was all to do with sharing a cheeseboard and you really had to be there to appreciate it. The music was good accompanied by drunken swaying.
Wednesday and we waved off the lads and 3 girls were heading home by train - one was poorly and the other two escorted her safely back ... again quiet efficiency - no drama just practical tlc. The remaining bikes split into two groups and after a wild, wet and windy start our gang moved swiftly on for lunch at Jabbeke and were in Dunkirk by mid afternoon for a stroll around and all gathered for dinner in a lovely restaurant.
Thursday and two groups headed for the tunnel - each getting on earlier trains and all landing safe and sound. Many thanx for a fantastic week - your company was brilliant - a kind, caring crowd who all got on well together, mucked in and certainly made the most of the break. Looking forward to next year!