Monthly Archives: April 2013

The Kindness of Strangers

So after handing Alejandro back around 11.30 (later than I wanted) I set off from Geldrop! Just as I did it started to rain…then didn’t stop the whole day. I was given directions by the guys at the Camper Van place, as I didn’t trust the map/directions I’d printed off. Turns out I was right to, as I’m useless at following maps. Luckily I had my sister’s Sat Nav as back up.

Made it into Belgium

Made it into Belgium

 

After passing the Dutch/Belgian border, about 2.5 hours in, I stopped at a little cafe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A tad wet!

A tad wet!

The looks I got from the elderly locals playing bridge, or whatever it was they were playing, were curious to say the least! Not surprised really, I looked like a drowned rat.

Luckily the word coffee is pretty international…in Europe anyway, so I sat there being stared at whilst I sipped the coffee and tried to warm up.

After sending a few messages to say I was still alive I went on my way.

Around 5 pm I thought I should start looking for somewhere to stay for the night. There weren’t many hotels/ guest houses around at all, so I was happy to see a sign half an hour later. What I wasn’t happy about was the price of the hotel- a little above budget to say the least.

The lady at the desk, a lovely Russian woman, sympathised and helped look for somewhere cheaper. The next place was 20 miles away. “No chance”, I thought! Just as I was about to give in and just pay for the room she said she’d call her friend. Strange I thought…

10 minutes later, her friend’s husband (Leo) arrived to take me to their home so I could stay for the night. How lovely that these complete strangers wanted to help me so much.

Not only did they welcome me into their home and provide a warm comfy bed, but they made me dinner, which was delicious, and then breakfast in the morning. Leo wouldn’t even let me wash the dishes!

Tania came home later on (Leo’s wife) and surprised me even further by offering me a dressing gown, slippers and then ensured I had food to take with me the next day.

The kindness was overwhelming. It’s so nice to witness true good natured generosity from total strangers.

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Monday 8th April

 10:00 Coffees in France?

our bed for the night

our bed for the night

So after a delightful night’s sleep, under Alejandro’s watchful eye, Shell and I woke up in a random French service station  with the view of a derelict barn, some suspicious looking ‘roadies’ and a petrol station.

what a view to wake up to!

what a view to wake up to!

In desperate need of coffee we head over to the service station to replenish our alarmingly-low caffeine levels, where we were greeted by a very friendly guy who made us two exceptional lattes. Ummm. After we’d paid, we thanked him; “merci beaucoup”. The friendly chap had a puzzled look on his face. Surely our French wasn’t that rusty? After awkwardly repeating, he went on to tell us that their language is Flemish, quite rightly so as we were in Belgium, not France. His words exactly were “No, you’re not in France, you’re in a better place now”! Oh dear.

 11:00-14:30 (ish) Next stop: Lekkerkerk

 After establishing what country we were actually in, Shell, Alejandro and I hit the Belgium highway en route to our next stop: Lekkerkerk (an uberly cute and quintessentially Dutch town an hour out of Rotterdam where Shell’s friend Marco lives). The journey consisted of: Shell’s god-awful tunes, Belgium waffles and camper van dancing.

 14:30 I heart Lekkerkerk

 So we finally arrive at Casa de Marco in Lekkerkerk. Not a massively infamous Dutch town, but imagine rustic windmills, green fields, seas of vibrant tulips, white picket-post fences lined with flowers and old people sat on benches. This is Lekkerkerk. So after a quick whizz around, we pick up Marco (who is joining us for Amsterdam fun times later on) and drive him to his university in Rotterdam. On the way Marco tries to educate Shell and I on ‘nice’ or ‘super’ Dutch DJ’s. I pretended to think they were cool. After dropping him off we head north for the one, the only minx that is Amsterdam.

 16:30 Hello The Dam’

 Yes! We have made it. After finding a random car parking spot on the outside of the city (after attempting to park 4m tall Alejandro in a car park that has a maximum height restriction of 2m) we do as the locals do and tram it into the bright lights of Amsterdam. Oh yes. Bidding goodbye to Alejandro we pass this awesome city, tulips, smiling faces, coffee shops promising ‘happy times’, museums, trendy arty types and a lot of canals.

 17:30-18:45 Lost

 The next hour and fifteen minutes is in all honesty a complete blank. Seen as both Shell and I work in travel, neither of us deemed it a good idea to print out the address for our abode for the evening (The Hans Brinker Hostel), so as a result we proceeded to get horrendously lost asking randoms for directions and generally not having a clue. Eventually we found it, checked in and got acquainted with the locals. These locals can only be described as ‘Ladz’. We checked in to reception and heard the painful sound of shit Dutch chart music mixed with a group of 30 or so 18 year olds chanting “Wheeeeeeeeeeeeey, jagerbombs, jagerbombs.” Ut oh.

 19:30 – unknown time

Tonight we let loose on Amsterdam. In list formation this evening involved;

           Overpriced Mexican food

          Overpriced beers (the local beer was Heineken in case you didn’t know) SHELLS ADDITION: Roxy actually asked a barman what the local beer was. ha ha ha ha.

          Happy café

          Mysterious space cakes

          Random chats

          Hot ears

          Spinning

          Red light districts

          Breasts

          Being on a lilo

          Zzzzzzzzzz

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Alejandro, The Co-Pilot & The Nutter enroute to the ‘Dam

I thought it’d make things more interesting if the pre bike part was written by Roxy, so without further ado….

Sunday 7th April

14:28 – ‘The Phone Call’

“Sh*t Rox I’m going to miss the train.”

So this was how the trip was to shape up and quite frankly I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Alarm bells should have been ringing at this point, but thankfully my caffeine levels were sufficiently high enough and more than capable to diffuse Shell’s panic-stricken mumbling. I casually bumbled over to Clapham Junction’s ticket office where I was greeted by a charming woman (I’m being sarcastic – this woman couldn’t have been less helpful if she tried) who told me that my tickets were not refundable or amendable and in fact all trains running from Clapham to Brighton that day were not direct and had a rail replacement bus from Three Bridges. Hmmm I thought, this could be interesting seeing as though Shell has a bike!

“Rox I will meet you on Platform 15, I might make it.” (Shell actually got off the train at Platform 1!)

“Dude don’t bother, the ticket office have just told me that all trains from Clapham to Brighton are…”

(Shell hangs up)

The verbal ping-pong with the unhelpful lady continues until she tells me at 14:38 that she’d actually got the information wrong and in fact the only train that would be operating a direct service would be at 14:39, so in a minute’s time. Oh sh*t. I grabbed my bag and ran like the wind to Platform 15, calling Shell en route who told me she was there. I made it to Platform 15 about seven seconds before the train rocked up.

“Ahhh where are you Shell?”

“I’m here, just get on the bloody train!”

I bundled onto the train and just so happened to get on the same carriage as a girl whose pink jumper matched her face, complete with excessive bags and a bike – “Shell!!” After a quick hug, we were finally on the way.

Made it!

Made it!

18:03 – ‘Am I In Third Gear?’

After a quick tour of Alejandro (this will be explained at a later, more appropriate time) and a toilet stop at Keith’s (from THL Campervans) in Brighton we were all systems go, well almost. Shell and Alejandro were bonding nicely, well for about a hundred yards or so until Alejandro wouldn’t go uphill, couldn’t decide whether he was in first of third gear, made Shell nearly pull her hair out and smelled of melting plastic. The campervan showed us who was going to wear the trousers on this road trip and naturally we thought with its feisty and temperamental personality this campervan had to be male, from Latino descent – meet Alejandro! After a quick call to Keith and a few out of date sweets later we were all sorted and Alejandro was back on board. Next up, the not so legendary Cliffs of Dover.

Dumb & Dumber

Dumb & Dumber

21:00 – ‘Dover is rubbish ’

So the three Musketeers pull up at Dover ferry port, greeted by unimpressive sights of the White Cliffs of Dover (that’s because they actually were just cliffs and not actually the White Cliffs of Dover, ahem Shell). We join the queue of other happy campers and kill the next half an hour before departure with witty banter, more sweets and general horsing around.

22:00-01:00 – ‘ Viva La France’

Ferry time – this involved gate crashing the ‘Roadie’s’ only area, random chats, Shell sleeping and drooling on a bar’s sofa, aimless walking around, looking out the window and me reading ‘Heat’ about three and a half times. Alas, we arrive in Dunkirk and make our way to our sleeping spot for the night……

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First Practice Run

My friend Roxy and i are embarking on a fun road trip, driving a Maui Camper Van from Brighton to Geldrop (near Amsterdam).

Whilst discussing this in the pub, of course after a few beers with friends, it was decided i would cycle back! I made a pinky promise and everything!

I’ve never even repaired a puncture before or cycled further than 60 miles (London-Brighton). I have a road bike, not a touring bike, with no equipment, no plans of where to stay or idea how to begin planning the route; it’s fair to say that it may have been the drink talking when i agreed to this at such short notice.

Either way i’m doing it! We’re getting the train to Brighton on Sunday, ferry over to Calais, then the road trip will commence. I’ll be doing all the driving and my trusty co-pilot will be providing entertainment and snacks along the way!

We’re going to be tourists in Amsterdam for the day, then stay at the ‘world’s worst hostel’- Hans Brinker. Next morning, (with sore heads i’m sure) well make our way to Geldrop to drop off the Camper. I’ll then leave Roxy to get her flight and i’ll begin my cycle  back to Dunkirk, where i’ll catch the ferry! I’ve an idea of my route, have started buying bits of kit i’ll need but have no idea where i’ll stay.

Rox and me up to no good!

As i seem to have been saying quite a lot lately…”what’s the worst that can happen?”

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Dream Bike

Dream Bike

Long Haul Trucker

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