We woke up at 6 and got ready to leave and a leisurely pace. Roland drove us to the airport. We printed our boarding passes and joined the queue to do the self service baggage drop off. By the time we had gone through security, passport control and got into the lounge 45 minutes had passed by and we had only walked 0.8km! We had breakfast in the Aspire Lounge. We bought a bottle of Talisker Skye at duty free and boarded the flight. We upgraded to premium economy and it was well worth it. We are on the Dreamliner Boeing 787 which has seat to seat chat function and a cockpit viewer which shows the flight path, speed and altitude. The indication was that we flew at 37000 feet above sea level. The airport is 11m under sea level and we got to sea level when we were doing about 330km/h. It’s the first day time flight we’ve taken together and the onboard flight tracker is really great. Cloud cover prevented us from seeing much of Europe. There is meant to be wifi on board but there was some error with it and did not work. We were given refresher towels and lunch was served at 12. We had chicken in mustard sauce, a warm roll, cheese and crackers and profiteroles with cream and chocolate sauce. There was also a salad but it didn’t appeal to me as it had raisins and pineapple. Dave thought it was off so only had one bite. The sky cleared over Africa and we could see the vast desert space. The window glass has a darkening feature that I would not mind for home. We were served water and juice at 3pm and then an egg and cheese salad roll followed by ice cream and hot chocolate sauce. Juice and water were offered at 18:00 followed by refresher towels. Supper was served at 19:45. This is a really nice plane with an sensor flush for the toilet which is very sensitive to movement and a basin that drains automatically. We disembarked and went through passport control with no problems. Bumped into the Kimmel’s while waiting for our luggage and met Phil as we exited the arrivals. It was an easy drive home. I forgot to pack keys so Dave got the spare keys out the lock safe to let us in. It was a great holiday but I’m glad to be home!
There was lightening and rain during the night and it was fairly cold when we woke up after 7. We did the usual breakfast and shower routine and left at 9:15. We barged straight through Maarssen where there are some massive houses. The bridges all opened as we got to them. We went past the Nijenrode Castle and Guntenstein Castle from the 13th Century before Breuklen. We turned right back into the unsignposted Mijndensw sluis, paid the €5 fee and did not have to turn our engines off. We tied up in the barge basin at 11:45 and finished the formalities of cleaning everything off the barge and the payment by 12:15. We caught the 121 bus back to Hilversum station at 12:38 and arrived at 13:07. The bus shows connecting times and platforms of the busses and trains at the station. There is a large chapel in Hilversum which we saw on our way back in. We went back to Amsterdam to have lunch at Pancakes Amsterdam. Mark and Dave had American waffles with bacon and maple syrup. I went for the traditional Dutch pancake with ham and cheese. Mark walked back to the station with us and we said goodbye and caught the 14:45 train to Hoofddorp. It arrived at 15:05 at a not very clean station. We got the 145 bus ten minutes later and in ten minutes we were at the Beemsterstraat stop. We had a short walk to the bed and breakfast which o can highly recommend if you have to overnight for a flight out of Schipol. Roland showed us to our room and Dave caught up with work and we relaxed. We took a walk into the city centre where the shopping district is. We decided on having supper at Vrienden van Marktzicht. They have two South African wines on their wine list and we each had a glass of Roundhouse Sauvignon Blanc. Dave had Hollandse ossenhaas for his main course and I had Zeebaars. It was uncomfortably hot in the restaurant and we left as soon as we had finished eating. We wanted an early night as we need to be up early in the morning for our flight home.
Our tie up point got busy quite early on. We woke up after 7, had breakfast and got going shortly after 9 when the bridge opened. We went into a lock which went down one metre then crossed the large canal again before going straight into a lock to go back up one metre. The lock keeper gave us a map for the old city of Utrecht. The bridges in and out of Utrecht operate very infrequently. Every 30 minutes and at the first bridge on De Vaarste Rijn we tied up and I washed dishes. We got through at 10:35 and then went past an old water tower and through the next bridge at 10:50. We were lucky as the next bridge opened as we got there. After the Vaste Brug we made a sharp left to Passentenhaven and tied up at 11:15. Fifteen minutes later after putting the camera battery and a few other things on charge, we started by walking to the museum quarter. We had to pay to walk up the Dom Tower so chose not to do that. We ate Nederland Frites from Manneken Pis down at the main canal. We then found ourselves in a huge shopping mall which goes from the station, over the old part of the city. We bought meat and houmous for lunch and sat in the park next to the centre and ate a picnic lunch. We walked 2 blocks back to the old city and looked at Museum Speelklok. We went back to the main canal for beers at De Muntkelder. Dave had La Chouffle, Mark had Duvel and I had Vedett Extra White. There is a lot of building work going on. We went back to Albert Heijn and did the supper shopping. We walked through the park and back up the main road to the barge. We topped up with water – both water and electricity are free of charge – and left at 15:40. We went back the way we came and did a sharp left to go through the main canal up the middle of the old city. There are plenty of houses and businesses up the side which go under the streets with canal frontage. We had a long wait at the hand operated lock which finally opened at 16:40 and took us 20 minutes to go nowhere slowly. We then had to wait 30 minutes for them to open the bridge. I would recommend leaving Utrecht at 16:30 if you aren’t going to stay the night. As we had to wait, Mark and Dave walked across the road to get ice cream from Mulino Ijs. Dave chose blueberry cheesecake for himself and truffle for me and Mark had limoncello and white chocolate. After we got through the bridge at 17:30 the next two bridges opened straight away. All the way to the next bridge was a solid row of boat houses, some of which don’t look residential. We tied up at 18:25 just after Oud-Zuilen for the night. It was such a pleasant evening. We enjoyed the last of the watermelon, had snacks and then went inside for dinner. Dave made pasta with mushroom sauce. After strawberries and cream we went back upstairs and sat outside finishing off the limoncello. We went to bed after closing everything up as a storm was expected in the night.
We woke up just after 7 and after breakfast and showers we walked back into the centrum of Oudewater. There was a street market and we bought croissants and bread from Ambachyelijk Brood. From the fruit seller we got lovely looking strawberries. At Bakkery Snyman we had espressos which came with a really nice biscuit. The bakery has been family owned since 1670. We bought ham and baked sausage from Keurslagerij Bas Ultee and beers from Gall & Gall. The last three shops are permanent fixtures. We could not find a supermarket in the town and no one here sells bottled water. We got going at 11 and went through some large farm area. After the swing bridge into Montfoort we tied up. If you turn left off the barge and right up the street you will find a large supermarket. We walked through the old city and found Kasteel Montfoort which was built in 1170. We had a beer break at Het Oude Stadhuis. Brand Lentebok for Dave and Mark and Affligem Blond for me. Then an ice cream from Daan’s droomijs. White chocolate and bosvrucht for Mark, bosvrucht for Dave and doemij diemaar for me. We bought a small watermelon from a fruit stand and headed off at 14:15. We tied up under a tree ten minutes later and had lunch. We left at 15:20 and went past the recommended sleeping point for the night at 16:00. The large harbour does not appeal much to me. We arrived in Ijsselstein at 16:10. The bridges close between 16:30 and 18:00 and we managed to get through the second one which is manually operated at 16:21. We tied up, headed towards the bridge and if you walk away from it you will find the old city. We had a second beer break at Joris Bar – Brasserie. Given the heat Dave and I went for Heineken extra cold. Mark chose a Brand Weizen. We left at 17:45. There is a very sharp left hand bend with a house on the corner, well protected by bollards. I would suggest tying up somewhere along this small canal for the night. We went on to Nieuwengein. The lifting bridges are camera operated and close at 20:00. Mark got caught by the current going through the open lock. We tied up alongside the road with the help of a Locoboat barger. We went for a walk down the main road after having some snacks and got ice cream at Yssalon Toscane. Mark has snicker and caramel, Dave had caramel and I had kers kaneel. Dave made filled pasta with a sauce for dinner. We had strawberries and cream for dessert and went upstairs to finish off our wine. We had limoncello and headed off to bed.
Mark woke up at 7 and made coffee and we got going at 8 only to be stopped 5 minutes later as the first bridge only opens at 9! We had breakfast and watched the bridge keeper tolling the cars €0.50. It’s a hand operated bridge and the fee for us was €1.75. We went past an old fort and the next bridge we got to in the book told us was operated by camera but in fact you have to call them using the button on the mooring post. We went into a shallow lock where the fee was €2.50 and we had to tie up! The next bridge works on a call button and we decided not to go in to Alphen aan de Ryn. The next bridge is serviced by camera twice an hour for 10 minutes. Thankfully we had a very short wait. It lifts straight up and two guys used the opportunity to lubricate the mechanism. This is a container canal and so the speed limit is 12km/h. We had a short wait at the next bridge where we past some sailing vessels. We sailed over an underground section of a motorway. The next bridge tells you what time it’s next opening so you know how long the wait will be. We turned towards Gouda and went through the Steve Biko bridge and a shallow lock which took a long time. We tied up after the next bridge, topped up with water and put things on charge. Services here are free. The old part of Gouda is so pretty and the historic buildings have plaques to let you know what they are. We had lunch at Gouds Kaashuis. Dave had twee black angus krokketen met friet, I had goudse kaassoep met stock brood and Mark had geitenkaas, bacon en honing tosti. We each had a Heineken and the bill came to €24.20. At Gouds Kaashuis I bought a 24 month aged Gouda. I wish I could bring home with me the six year one! At La Vanezia Dave has a citroen gelato, I had amaretti and Mark had a cone with witte choco, stroopwafels and after eight. We did our shopping and got going just after 16:00. We called the bridge keeper who didn’t take long, and he called the lock keeper for us. It was quite a deep lock but very slow. The next bridge is higher than the books stipulated height of 2.7m which meant we could go under it. We went straight through a lock and had a short wait at the next bridge. The bridge after that was a long wait. I washed dishes and Dave and I both had cold showers. It has been over 30 degrees (Celsius) here. The bridge eventually opened at 18:00. The bridge into Oudewater cost €2 and we managed to get the last mooring and tied up just after 19:00. We walked into the old town centre to stretch our legs and got ice cream for the walk back from Yssalon Roberto. Dave had pistache and Mark and I had amarena. Wine with dinner tonight was Château Moulin Rompu 2014 Médoc. Dave made chicken casserole and for dessert we had strawberries and cream on the deck. Our after dinner treat was stroopwafels and stroopwafel liquor that Mark had bought and then limoncello. It was still hot when we went to bed.
We woke up, had breakfast and left just after 9:15. The first bridge was a very tight fit height wise. No sooner had we got going we tied up in Oude Amstel to do shopping. This old city has historical plaques on buildings of significance. At Slagerij Bart Ridder Mark bought locally made craft beers. We bought a baked sausage for a snack and plain pork sausages for dinner. We did grocery shopping (you can moor right at the store) and left just after 11. We detoured to Oudekerk and in order to get the hand operated lifting bridge to work you have to press a button to call the bridge keeper. The detour was not worth it, but we discovered a bakery at the bridge. At Bakker Out we got tea time treats. Aardbei Schelp for Dave, Roomboter Pecan Koffiebroodje for Mark, and Sacher Punt for me. As we were leaving the bakery the bridge keeper arrived for another boat. Luckily for us he did not mind having to lower it to let us cross and then lift it straight away. I eventually managed to get into the shower just after 12 as the water needed to get hot. There are ferry crossings across the river and one is chain operated which we had to wait for. We are so close to Schipol that we could see planes taking off. We went through a swing bridge and past Uithoorn before tying up for lunch. We got going again at 15:00 through quite a narrow section. We came across lots of people swimming. We had to make a very sharp left turn into a shallow lock. The lock fee here is €1.50. We then stopped so Mark could have a swim. We decided to go into Woerden. You have to make a sharp left turn and the two lifting bridges are worked by the same man, who sits at the first one into the city. This part looks quite run down. The second bridge is manually operated and after it you can moor free of charge along the quay. We walked into the old city to De Reehorst for beers. Dave had Paulaner, I had Brand, a dark blonde, and Mark had an Amstel. We got going and phoned the bridge keeper to come open for us. He must have not understood so Dave called back. The telephone number does not include the international dialing code! There are lovely houses leaving Woerden and we tied up in a quiet residential area just after 20:00. We had the baked sausage on crackers while the sauce reduced. The sausages were excellent and Dave made a leek, tomato and pancetta sauce with cream to accompany them. I made a plain salad of mixed leaves, red bell pepper and vine tomatoes.
We got up just after 7am. Neither Mark nor I had a good nights sleep. We had breakfast, showered and got on our way just before 9am. The canal is well signposted and the speed limit is 9km/h. We went through two lifting bridges and tied up in Weesp. A classic car rally was driving alongside the canal and I’m sure they weren’t pleased about having to be stopped at the bridge. Holland is very tourist friendly and it was easy for us to find our way to the station and get train tickets. Our first stop was Pancakes Amsterdam for espressos. Dave and I had American pancakes with maple syrup. Mine had bananas in it. Mark had a Dutch pancake with bacon and maple syrup. It is important to remember that bicycles have right of way. The smell of dope is prevalent and the pipes etc. in the coffee shops are really stunning. We walked through the red light district and went into a few cheese shops. They are ridiculously expensive. We then walked through the flower market where you can buy bulbs of all sorts. We stopped at Het Peleis for Heineken on tap and then went to Ann Frank Huis. After that we did our shopping and walked through a residential area. The streets were less crowded but the canals were hectically busy. We then went back to the station via another shopping district and saw the massive bicycle park where you can leave your bike for a maximum of 14 days. Some look like they had been there 14 years! Mark and I popped into the chemist for mozzie spray and then we got the train back to Weesp. We left just after 16:15 and the first lifting bridge indicated there was a €3 charge at the next one. The bridge keeper rode his bicycle to meet us and handed us a clog for the payment. He also manned the next bridge. We had to cross a huge river that goes into Amsterdam. It meant turning right, going down a bit, making a u turn when clear and then turn right back into the canal. We had seen a huge container barge from the train which we had to wait for at the ‘crossing’. The locks on either side are always open and the lifting bridge on this side said if it was not manned all you had to do was push the button on the bridge. Mark could not find it and either Dave’s hooting or the camera alerted someone somewhere to push a button to open the bridge after quite a wait. We then went under a series of bridges under motorways and railway lines and one pedestrian bridge, some of which were a tight squeeze height wise. One lifting bridge works off a distance sensor and you can hear the bell sounding to warn the pedestrians and cyclists and motorists the booms are closing. On this section we saw a house built on a boat base, and a barge with a smaller barge extension. We crossed into the Amstel River and encountered rowers in training. The coaches ride along on the cycle path shouting instructions. We tied up for the night next to a cow field, 13km from Schipol and close to the motorway and train lines. It was amazingly quiet. While tying up Mark dropped his sunglasses in the canal and he jumped in and found them. He then demonstrated his Poi skills which are brilliant. I had a cider with elderflower and mint while Dave cooked supper. The wine tonight was a bottle of Swartland Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot which was not fantastic. Supper was a simple rocket and pea salad and pasta with a fresh tomato sauce.
The hotel had a really nice breakfast selection which included cakes. We left quite early as all the on ramps to the A7 are closed in the area. We took the back roads towards Milan and had an easy drive. There is a petrol station at the entrance to Linate and our total fuel cost for the holiday was €70. The airport is not very well signposted and there was a long queue for check in. Once that was sorted we had the last of our cheese and biscuits before going through security and into the business class lounge. Once we were on board the flight was delayed half an hour as Schipol was too busy for us to land. We flew over glaciers and lakes in Switzerland and as we got over Holland all you could see is water and some windmills. Mark met us at arrivals and as the train was delayed we could leave nearly straight away. The best way to get to the barge basin at Loosdrecht is via train to Hilversum and then the 121 bus to Mijnden stop in Loosdrecht. We walked into the park, got the barge sorted and managed to leave at a reasonable time. The first lock is right at the basin and cost €5. After the first lifting bridge we tied up at the last bollards on the left. We walked down the side road to the first main road and turned right. A short walk later we were at the Jumbo store. We did the shopping, came back and three lifting bridges later Dave realized we didn’t have pasta for our supper. He and Mark walked towards where Google maps showed a shop but the bridge keeper said it was too far, and the rest would be closed. There are lots of really pretty houses and everything is well maintained. We moored up at 19:15 and Mark had a few beers and we had a South African cinsault, ruby Cabernet blend. Dave made burger patties with mushroom sauce and we had strawberries and cream for dessert. After a limoncello each we went to bed.
After breakfast Dave went to the market to get rolls for lunch and we packed up and left by 9:30. We made use of the cars built in satnav and headed for Cinque Terre.
There are olive groves and grape vines clinging to the slopes of the mountains. We passed a little open car train that takes you up into the park, and moving carriages that take the harvest baskets down the mountain. The road at Vernazza is closed due to needing repairs after the flood! We drove on a very narrow mountain pass for a 20 minute detour and joined the ‘main’ road which was just as narrow but with no barriers. We eventually got onto a double road about 10km before Levanto. We stopped in Levanto for coffee and fuel. From the top of the mountain it looks like there is a nice beach in Levanto. We passed a man filling up water bottles from the fresh mountain water that’s freely and easily available through most of Italy. The scenery here is unreal. We drove into Sestre Levante, past via Baden Powell and headed toward Pavia. It was very built up most of the way with plenty of speed traps. We stopped in Calvari for espresso and had lunch on the side of the road. We drove through Tortona, across the 45′ parallel and the River Po. In Pavia there was a market blocking the one road we were meant to go down. We drove to look at an agritourisma place but it didn’t look good and was way out of town. We chose an hotel in the old city but the car’s satnav also doesn’t know the one way streets. After close to an hour of driving around we discovered the hotel doesn’t exist. We chose one close to the station, found parking and the Hotel Aurora had a room for the night. After relaxing for a bit we walked to the old city and got gelato. Pistacchio for Dave and cioccalato for me. We went to the Duomo which was commissioned by the Sforza family in 1488 and finished in 1930. We had prosecco and snacks behind the Duomo at Loft10 Lounge Caffe and walked back to the hotel.
We decided to walk to Riatorante Peo for dinner which is right next to the hotel. I had ravioli di brasato Gatto di Peo alla Piemontese and Dave had the baccalà con vongole veraci, gamberetti e julienne di zuchine. I had storica torta al cioccalato di Peo for dessert and Dave had an espresso. We enjoyed a bottle of Pino Grigio from a local estate and had artisanal grappa after our meal. The man who makes it makes six or seven bottles a year. It was a straw colour, smooth after dinner drink. The bill came to €61 without gratuity.
Our morning started at the market buying lunch and dinner. Dave and I have taken to using the lift to come up two street levels and walk down half a flight to the apartment.
We then caught a very crowded bus to Porto Venere and sat with our feet in the sea while eating lunch. We went for the most expensive espresso we have had so far. €3 at Bar Gelateria Doria. We walked up to the Church and down to Grotto Byron and Dave swam. Our plan was to go to Lineri for a swim in the afternoon so I decided to wait till then. We walked the the old city, stopping for gelato. Dave had cinque terre and I had porto venere.
Our bus back was less crowded and went via La Grazie. On our return trip we could clearly see the acqua culture and how large the naval base is. We went back to the apartment and changed our plans for the afternoon. First we went to check whether the parking meter was still broken. Sometime during the day it had been fixed. We fed the meter and took a walk to Castello di San Giorgio but chose not to go in.
Instead we walked back to the old city for gelato. I had cream stevia nocciola gentile and Dave chose stracciatella. We walked in a new direction, stumbling upon a stunning Church. This time we had our Prosecco at Caffè Centrale. €10 for two glasses and a large variety of snacks.