(Originally posted Thursday 19 April, 2007)
This is the countdown for departure from Rotterdam 1600hrs from the Stadthuis [Town Hall], Saturday 21 April.
What does one do in Europe as final preparations for a big ride? Go off to Germany of course to cruise the Rhine and Moselle Rivers – check out a few castles, taste some Riesling, visit some museums, bask in the sun…oh, and go for a cycle or two.
We have ridden the fietspads [bikepaths] around the province of South Holland prior to our sojourn away. The handmade Koga Miyata trekking bikes are HOT. Not having to wear a helmet is odd though, given we are dodging cars, pedestrians, horses, dogs and other bikes.
Did an 80km trip with neighbour Piet to the next island south of our base in Rockanje. Plus a quick 40km circuit of neighbouring towns Hellevoetsluis, Brielle and Oostvoorne. In between there were genteel trips around farms on a special agricultural open-day, and shopping trips to local markets…mmmm… koeken [cakes].
[Oh, must thank friend of the family Sietze, who did a mechanical check on our secondhand bikes purchased in Holland. They are running well mate!]
Other sightseeing excursions have been to: Europoort [the industrial and shipping transport hub of Netherlands, and Europe really], De Kuip Stadium Rotterdam to watch famous football club Feyenoord get absolutely trounced 0-4 by Groningen, polder city of Lelystad in the north [home of the sailing ship Batavius – know your history of Dutch mariners?], Netherlands Open Air Museum at Arnhem [showing provincial life from the 1600’s to now], and the famous Bloemen [flower] Parade of 50 floats meandering 40km through villages near Haarlem.
And if that isn’t enough…did I mention the trip to Germany? It has been sensational tourist weather, highlighted by a sun-drenched morning cruising the main castle stretch of the Rhine north of Rudesheim. Beautiful, brilliant, amazing, superb, relaxing, fun. Just what a holiday is meant to be. Had great company too with ‘mein hosts’ Richard, Margaret and family [old friends from Uni days who are currently living in Dusseldorf]. They organised three fantastic days of travelling: Cochem on the Mosel, Trier [old Roman ruins], Burg Eltz [one of only 2 castles in the whole of Germany basically to have survived intact from the 1100’s], and as described – the cruise.
We paid them back by baby-sitting for the weekend, while they went to run the Paris Marathon with 30,000 others! Richard had achilles troubles prior to leaving and knew he would not be able to complete the course, but Margaret endured the crowds and finished well under 4 hours.
Back in Dusseldorf we had a less taxing time checking out the city sights – great place – and because of the 30 degree spring weather every person and their dog/bike/skates was out and about.
I got to drive on the autobahns too. Middle lane naturally. You can’t expect to toddle along at 130km in the outside lanes – they are reserved for the BMWs and Audis doing 160ks plus.
Just in case you think it has all been wine and roses, there have been a few reality checks. An email from the tax office via the accountant [that cannot be good], and news that it has been 30 degrees on the farm in Dartmoor too, with no rain.
To perk us up Monica called from the Geelong City Lions’Club to say the group had donated $500 to MSF Australia as a result of our visit and talk en route from Mount Gambier to Melbourne. Legends one and all, and thanks!
OK. Better pack the side-saddles and ensure our letter we are carrying from the Australian Ambassador in Holland to the Aussie Ambassador in Italy does not get squashed. Amazing what you can get if you ask nicely – see copy elsewhere on blog site.
See you at Anzac Day in Belgium or the following weekend in France when we speak at Villers-Bretennoux about the construction of the Great Ocean Road by returned Diggers from World War One, and the work of MSF internationally.