Saturday, 20 September 2008
The night ferry from Hook to Harwhich was a very odd experience. The Stena Brittanica is a huge boat. There were very few passangers and very few staff. It felt a bit like a ghost ship. The only food available was a very chinese 'style' restauant that served baked potatoes and ham with noodles! The whole thing was very odd. It was also late getting into Harwhich (the wedding was at 3 O'clock). I have never been more delighted to touch English soil than I was that morning and I couldn't wait to see my family again.
Cycling from Harwhich to London, on the A120 and A12 however, was one of the most terrifying thing I have ever done. All joy I had at being so close to home quickly dissolved in sheer terror, as oil tankers sped past, just inches from my handlebars.There is no way cyclists should be aloud on A roads in this country. Certain sections had metre or so of verge but other's none. It was madness.
Why can the Government here not just build a cycle lane next to each new road? Would a metre wide asphalt path really cost that much extra?
Things got better on the outskirts of London and after a free meal of beans on toast at Little Chef I was ecstatic to pass under a road sign marking the London Borough of Havering!
I could feel myself getting closer to the heart of London. Tower Hamlets, Bow, Whitechapel, Brick lane, Cannon street station, The Strand. Trafalgar Square was within touching distance, and then, there it was. A huge crowd had gathered to watch the Olympics on a big screen and in front of them was my Mum, Dad and about 20 Chinese tourists to applaud my arrival!
Pictured here is my Mum telling tourists about the journey, they all cued up to have their photo taken with us! 5pm on Sunday the 3rd of August. ₤668 raised for Cancer Research UK.
Posted by scramblehead at 06:36
The Dutch coast North of Hook is a vast expanse of sand dunes and pine trees more reminiscent of Mediterranian France than Holland. At other points it stretched for as far as you could see and felt more like a dessert. A really beautiful, unexpected, area.
Pictured here also is a war memorial slightly further up the coast from Hook.
Posted by scramblehead at 06:14
Having rejuvinated myself with the riches of the Dutch Empire and the friendliness of its people I set forth ones more with home just a short breadth of water a away. Peter, a graphic designer who I had asked directions from at some traffic lights, cycled with me down to Leiden at which point I made for the coast road. We discussed many things and he was a good guide. Another thorougly good Dutch person!
Here is a pic of a bizzare flower festival I passed, a lifeboat factory, and an infatable statue of liberty at a classic car convention.
Posted by scramblehead at 05:48
The wind had completely wiped out my legs. I finally got into town at about half one in the morning and couldn't find anywhere to eat or stay. Once again the friendlieness of the Dutch blew me away and John-Paul the owner of the De Herberg pub cooked me a meal, on the house, despite his kitchen being closed, as a donation to my trip. The De Herberg was a Cheers style pub where everyone knew everyone and I soon became the focus of much curiosity. John-Paul's friend Arnold who lived a few doors down offered to put me up in his flat so I was sorted. Arnold was a youth worker in Amsterdam, a totally solid, 24 carat bloke. Staying at Arnold's also entitled me to free pizza from the takeaway place he lived above as well! Pictured here is one of Arnolds 2 dogs, Spicy.
Amsterdam is a lovely City but far too crammed with tourists. I think its a place to visit in the off season. I spent hours in the Rietveld designed Van Gogh Museum which was great. Van Gogh is probably my favourite painter and it was fantastisch to see so much of his work. The word Genius is over used but Vincent was the real deal. I came away with a far greater understaning of his life aswell.
The greatest treasure I found in Amsterdam however was the Rijksmuseum. Most of the museum was under renovation so only the highlights were on show. The museum houses pottery, silverware, furniture and paintings from Holland's golden period in the 17th century. Equisitley inlaid cabinets, Rembrandts, Frans Haas, Titians, Delft pottery, Piet De Hooch, Rubens. An extraordinary collection. If you are ever in Amsterdam, go there.
Posted by scramblehead at 04:50
Holland is flat and great for cycling. True, but its also unmercifally windy at times. Cycling into a gale force headwind totally exhausted my legs and somewhat soured my memories of eastern Holland (Hundreds of windmills, huge fields, canals etc).
The Dutch are a great bunch. I thought the Germans were cool but Dutch is where its at. They sound like a cross between Sean Connery and Alan Hansen. I was watching this Comedian on Dutch TV and I could hear thick Scouse and Geordie aswell. I chanced upon a private Sculpture park just outside Zwolle (www.anningahof.nl) which, despite the fact it was closed, I recieved a tour of from the owner Hib. Hib a former investment banker had jacked in his career to make a business out of dealing in Dutch contemporary sculpture. The park was huge and beautifully landscaped. A hidden gem. In Zwolle I tried Dutch East Indian food. Holland used to have colonies in Indonesia and the cruisine from this region had made its way back to Holland. Pork satayed in a peanut source with Fries and mayonnaise, which the dutch have with everything, delicious!
Here are some pics form Zwolle cathedral aswell.
Posted by scramblehead at 03:08