07 John and Kris' Europe Trip 2014

Hopefully I've attached a link to a video of a ride we did from Schipluiden to Maasland along The "Gaag" ( a canal) in the Netherlands.   It feels a bit weird riding on the right hand side of the road.  This particular road is two way, single lane with bicycle lanes on both sides.   The footage was taken by Kris holding a simple compact camera and taking the footage from the pillion seat.  The bike was a Yamaha Super Tenere which my cousin kindly lent me while we were over there.  An interesting feature is that the water on the left is much higher than the fields on the right. 

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A summary of our trip 

In June and July Kris and I went to The Netherlands to visit family and friends and to commemorate the 60th anniversary of my migration to Australia in 1954.   We got to do some motorbike riding and visited some interesting places.

On arrival in Maasland (a small village near Rotterdam) my cousin Peter very generously made his Yamaha Super Tenere available for me to use whenever I desired.   It proved to be a great bike for getting around on two up and carting a moderate amount of gear when away for a few days at a time.  The ergonomics were great for me but then again I am over 190cm.  The boxes and seat height could make it awkward for a shorter person.    The Garmin he had fitted to it was also of great benefit finding specific addresses and also finding the way back to highways.   The fact that all instructions were in Dutch was a bit of a challenge for me and I wasn’t game fiddle with the settings.     Despite that, I was able to find a really obscure location in Germany and then find my way out again so thumbs up to Garmin.   A day after arrival we hopped on the bike and headed towards central NL to go visiting and got to test my skills riding on the right hand side of the road, using freeways with speed limits of up to 130KPH and generally get used to the Yamaha.   

We were invited to attend a wedding in Gouda and believe it or not the bride arrived on a scooter and no prizes for guessing who may be in charge!


We took in some very dutch sights


and several days later we returned by a more circuitous route and enjoyed riding the narrow road atop a levee bank with a canal to one side and fields (polders) much lower on the opposite side.  Not a fast ride, but very scenic and enjoyable.




The video link showing this road is just short of 8 minutes.

 

We then joined up with another cousin and drove to the Perigord region in the south of France by car and paid some quite high toll fees either side of Paris.  Getting through Paris was quite congested.   At one stage we were passed by some gendarmes on bikes who were escorting a car carrying an organ donation.  The car even had its mirrors folded in and it was amazing the way the gendarmes forced room through the traffic jam for the transport car.    Very impressive.

We spent a week touring the Perigord which had some beautiful scenery and fantastic roads.


Whilst visiting Brantome, which is surrounded by roads which compare favourably with the spurs east of Melbourne I noticed several groups of up to a dozen bikes being escorted by gendarmes in uniform on marked police bikes.




They even stopped for coffee together as groups.  It seemed they were doing something similar to the escorted training rides around the Yarra Ranges.  It seemed a very positive way of maintaining good relations and enhancing road safety at the same time. 

Soon after returning to NL, we flew off to Belfast with Peter and his wife and enjoyed a couple days there including a visit to the dry dock in which the Titanic had sat before its fateful maiden voyage.  I found that very interesting and the very enthusiastic English girl who conducted the tour really added that special something to the visit with her enthusiasm.



The tour of the area around the “Peace Wall” was also extremely interesting and I was staggered by the fact that they still lock the gates each night on the 15 metre high wall that separates the Catholic and Protestant areas.


That meshed area is actually someone's backyard!

At the time of our visit, the Protestants were preparing huge bon fires for the annual celebrations of the victory of William of Orange back in 1690.


I was again staggered by how close one of these very large timber stacks was to a petrol station!

We also toured (by car) the Ard Peninsula south of Belfast which had some lovely bike roads and scenery. 


We then toured the north coast of Northern Ireland which again had some spectacular scenery and roads which would have been great on a bike and also into the northern sections of the Republic which again had great scenery and roads plus pubs.  











After a week in Ireland we flew back to NL.  On arrival, there was a festival celebrating windmills, so we visited several working 400 year old mills which are still used for milling grains or pumping water.

The construction of wooden gear wheels and bearings was fascinating.  

Kris and I then availed ourselves of the Yamaha again and rode to Detmold in Germany to visit friends.  We crossed into Germany near Hengelo and came across a giant traffic jam near Osnabruck which appeared to have trucks and cars stuck for hours.  We lane filtered and at times lane split on the bike and the attitude of drivers actually checking mirrors and moving over to allow motorbikes to pass was fantastic and quite different to behaviour I have experienced here in Oz at times.    I won’t detail our social visits, but will add that we stayed in a converted barn which had been built in 1801.



The ceiling in the upstairs room we slept in was very low and I have the scars to prove it!   After several days in Detmold, it was back on the bike and back to NL by a totally different route.   The road houses / fuel stops in NL are very good with waiter service plus the food and alcohol are very reasonably priced.  The fuel in Germany was considerably cheaper than in NL but still way more expensive than here. 

After a few days rest and socialising, Kris and I then headed off by ourselves to somewhere completely different – Malta for a short week.  Malta was very interesting again, but not the place for large bikes, quad bikes and scooters were the norm and traffic was chaotic.   My initial impression was that Malta looked very parched, dusty and dishevelled with many abandoned farm properties and tumble down stone fences.        The road surfaces were often similar to what I had previously experienced in Croatia, in that the bitumen had repeatedly melted in the heat and it left a very smooth shiny surface which glistened in the sun and was extremely slippery even when dry, let alone when wet. 






I joined the people swimming here but I'll spare you the pic


Having said that, it really grew on us, the people were friendly, food and drink were great value, getting around on the water and walking around the ancient cities and fortifications was fascinating.   Malta has enough churches to enable you to visit a different on every day of the years and there is no shortage of religious festivals. 


  The island of Gozo was more fertile than Malta itself and even had some vineyards which produced some quite nice wines including one labelled “Ulysses”.  


We then flew back to NL and spent the last fortnight of our vacation, visiting relatives, friends, a trappist brewery, socialising and enjoying some day trips on the Yamaha.





Those yellow "cube" houses above the old harbour of Rotterdam are actually occupied!

flower shops are common in NL


Somewhat different directions at a canal side cafe 



My generous cousin , Peter


I also enjoyed some walks around the lovely canal lined village of Maassluis which is well over 400 years old and where we even saw children swimming in the canal outside their front door. 









The use of bicycles in the Netherlands is a whole other story.  They are simply part of the culture, a primary form of transport, a whole infrastructure is set up for them and helmets are not compulsory.










Vehicle parks at rail stations are also entirely different!     



We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, then the 8 weeks was over and it was a case back home to Oz.    

               

What a fabulous trip John.  I

What a fabulous trip John.  I thoroughly enjoyed your article and photos and will now spend the next 8 minutes looking at the video.   Thanks for sharing.  Cheers, Raymond

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