I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move. ~Robert Louis Stevenson
OK, we’re perhaps a little bit crazy. The weekend before the baby’s due date we decided to rent a car and go on a trip. Where didn’t really matter, and in fact we had no destination in mind. We did pack the hospital bag and baby seat just in case.
By the time Dutch Boy got home and we got packed it was just after 9 pm. We decided to get on the road anyhow – our first stop was to be Bussum, to pick up a visitor’s parking pass from our friend AM who owns the place we’re staying in, since we’ll have to pay the parking fees for the kraamzorg, and in our neighbourhood that’s €3.85/hour, 7 am to 11 pm. The pass reduces the costs to a mere €1.40/hour. Crazy. By the time we were done there, it was close to 10:30 and we still hadn’t eaten dinner. After exploring exciting downtown Bussum, we found our only option to be McDonalds, which stays open ’til midnight to get the drunk people. Oh well, can’t remember the last time we ate there, and what would a road trip be without McDonalds?
Then we got back on the road and went looking for a roadside motel. Of course, the problem with being in a very small country is that there isn’t really a road trip tradition, which means no cheap motels like you find in the States or France. We ended up finding one anyway, though not terribly cheap, but not too bad – the Hotel Cantharel.
It was OK, but the bed was a little weird – instead of being one double or queen, it was two twins pushed together. Not sure of the reason for this. This wasn’t our room – I didn’t take pictures – in our room we even had separate comforters. Hmm.
In the morning we heard singing outside, songs Dutch Boy identified as Sinterklaas songs. I peaked through the curtains to see a group of parents and children gathered on the stairs chanting these songs. Eventually a flatbed truck with a big yellow American car on the back pulled up and a bunch of Zwarte Pieten (see link above) hopped out and threw candy into the crowd while Sinterklaas made his stately way up the stairs. Then everyone repaired inside. The whole thing took place too far away for any good pictures, but it was my first Sinterklaas experience.
Eventually, we got going and decided to head to a nearby village, Hoenderloo (Hoon-der-low) for breakfast. Dutch Boy wanted to go there because someone in his class had been from there and he’d been curious what kind of village it was. It was a cute and very quiet little place, but we found a good bakery. This is the view from the bakery with our little Peugeot rental car (of course, when he saw the car, Dutch Boy’s first response was, “couldn’t you get anything smaller?” How European!).
We then entered the Hoge Veluwe National Park. Hoge = high, and it is true that there was a bit of elevation, but not so a British Columbian would notice. Dutch Boy says about 80m, and it’s a gentle slope. But I guess here that’s still something. This is the road entering the park. It is nature, but just about every inch of the park has been modified by humans at some point. As you can see, we opted to pay the small extra fee and drive into the park.
The other option would have been to use one of the free white bicycles available at the entrances and the visitors centre. It would have been fun, but I wasn’t sure how much cycling I was up for – I think that might have been too much.
Back outside and wandering through the woods in the sculpture garden part of the Kröller-Müller Museum that’s in the centre of the park.
Area of shifting sands – famous wandering dunes. They came up because the heath in the area was farmed and the sand underneath got loose and started wandering. Then the forest was planted to contain the sands, which worked really well. Now they’re cutting down the forest to bring back the shifting sands as part of the park.
After we left the park we decided to take one of the only roads marked in green for scenic in the entire Netherlands (N304 between Ede and Apeldoorn) – I could only find two little fragments of green anywhere else in the country. Well, it was almost dark, but really, it wasn’t very scenic – just a road through the woods. I think the Rand McNally folks are slipping.
We then decided to go for dinner in Deventer, just up the road. It received city rights in 996 and grew to be a major trade centrebetween 1000 and 1500 and was in the Hanseatic League, before declining in importance. People may recognize parts of it from the movie A Bridge Too Far, which was set in Arnhem but filmed in Deventer as Arnhem’s historic centre had been pretty much destroyed in the war.
An old street filled with bicycles. BTW, I love my camera, a Canon SD/Ixus 800IS – the IS stands for image stabilization, and it works – I took this shot only bracing my elbows on my hips.
We had dinner in a place called the Volkshuis, a restaurant supporting people with disabilities, some of whom work there. The food was quite delicious, and all organic, with veggies grown in their own garden. Dutch Boy got the “menu” (the three course meal) – the desert was supposed to be a surprise, but it turned out most of it was as it didn’t meet the description. But it was really good. I had a lovely cheese fondue.
Then we decided to spend the night there instead of pressing on to who knows where. Armed with all the numbers of places to stay in town from the Gouden Gids (yellow pages), we soon found there was only one option – the Hotel Royal, on the Brink, the central square. The Lonely Planet said the rooms were basic but clean, so we went for it. If we’d read the Wikipedia entry on Deventer first we might have figured out the the Brink is also the nightlife centre of the town – there were drunk people outside hooting and hollering until close to 4 am. Since I’m having trouble sleeping anyway, this was not fun for me.
The Brink in the morning.
Our room. Quite a difference from the one on the website and probably not the one the Lonely Planet writer saw. The wardrobe was tilting and leaning on the bed. And this was the second level of expensive room – all of €80! It did come with a decent breakfast though, which is a necessity on a Sunday morning when nothing is open. And again with the twin beds pushed together! I wonder if it’s because this is the most Christian area of the Netherlands.
Jb Bussink’s Echte Deventer Koek (Jb Bussink’s Real Deventer Cake), 1593. Still in business. Still good cake – a honey fruitcake we had at breakfast, which made up for the store being closed on Sunday.
Our next destination was Giethoorn, a village that bills itself as the Venice of the North. The old part is car-free and all travel is by boat and bike path. This was old peat-farming land, which created the canals. Of course, the minute we got there it started pouring, so we waited out the shower in the car and then walked into the old canal bit.
This cute little place says Gemeentehuis (Town Hall) on it, but we weren’t sure if it still was.
This little house by the museum was apparently one that people would live in during the summer – it had a little stove and such. Dutch people, especially in this impoverished area, used to be much, much shorter.
A blurry photo of a “head, neck, chest house.” These were rich farmer’s houses – the head is the living quarters and the chest the barn, with the neck connecting the two. They were rich because they didn’t live with their livestock.
And our final daylight destination, the Wadden Sea at the ferry terminal to Ameland. I can’t tell you how much it eased my psyche to see the sea, even for such a short time and in miserable windy rainy weather.
After this, we made our way home, taking the long way around since I thought the road over the dike enclosing what used to be the Zuiderzee would be worth seeing. It mostly wasn’t really – just a long straight road – couldn’t even see the ocean side of the water due to protective diking, which, given the wind, seemed like a good thing. We then took the other dike road separating the IJsselmeer and the Markermeer and headed into Lelystad for dinner. Lelystad is a new city, founded in 1967 on reclaimed land, so lacks a historic centre. It does still have a car-free shopping centre, which we eventually found and walked through looking for dinner. We weren’t hopeful, which made us even more amazed to find a real live Vegetarian Chinese restaurant with excellent food. Apparently it’s only one of two in the country, the other being in Rotterdam. I’m already trying to plot ways to get back there – it’s only 40 minutes by car with no traffic, but is 1 hour 16 minutes by train. I’m sure I’ll find a way.
Anyway, after dinner, we headed home, our travelling over for now. On Monday, before taking the car back I used it to do a major shopping, laying in non-perishables for the coming sleepless baby months. But that little trip illustrated how having a car here in the central city would mostly be more trouble than it’s worth, with expensive and scarce parking (buying a parking place behind where we live would be €25,000) and confusing narrow streets, not to mention the price of gas, which is now €1.44/litre. Gas cost us about the same as the car rental itself (which was €70 for 3 days and much cheaper to book through Travelocity than the agency’s site). Nope, much easier to remain carless and rent when we need/want to, at least for now.
Oh, and for those of you who are geographically minded, here’s a map of our travels (except I couldn’t get it to go through the park, only around it. Sigh.
So, now, back at home, just waiting for the kid to decide to come. I’m ready, but the kidlet is apparently quite comfortable in there. I’ve been trying to reason with him/her regarding the amount of space available for moving out here versus in there, but to no avail so far. We’ll just have to wait.