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Friday, September 24, 2010

Rondje Salland en Vechtdal - Day 1

This being blogged *on the trail* from a public library in Bathmen, just east of Deventer. What's next? Twitter tweeting? The library is in the little town center, with a cafe and some closed shops. It's Monday afternoon.

For this trip to Overijssel, in the Netherlands' eastern heartland, I got a new notebook: a pseudo-Moleskin. Now I can be a pseudo-Hemingway or, probably more accurate, like the Spider character played by Ralph Fiennes in that David Cronenberg film. Always feverishly scribbling matters of great importance in his little notebook.

Nevertheless, I am genuinely excited to embark on another korte fietsvakantie, the Rondje Salland en Vechtdal in the Overijssel region.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Breda

Street party parking

Now on the Ginnekineweg, the last day of the Zomerfest, and more perfect weather would not be possible. One sees how closely knit are families, as I sit at a café enjoying a plate of poffertjes, to me the ultimate Dutch food, tiny eggy silver dollar-sized pancakes that are gooey inside, all sprinkled with confectioner's sugar. Some tables are occupied by big extended families, from little girls with ponytails to sixtyish matrons with wrinkled necks. It's a kermesse, a block party, and everyone's out on this perfect late summer's day.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Aa of Weerijs-route

Late summer afternoon in Breda
Gorgeous day so I opt for the Aa of Weerijs-route, west of Breda, but due to much hesitation, I get a late start. Here I am in the Mastbos, the forest south of town. The trail to point 5 is a broad sandy path through the forest which deposits me at a clearing by a small lake where in the bright afternoon sun, it actually feels hot. I remember that feeling. I sit at a picnic table and put together a mayonnaise-heavy tuna salad sandwich garnished with olives. Suddenly I find I'm joined by an old man, then his granddaughter; then a whole crowd of people congregate round the table, taking pictures. But just as quickly they disperse and I'm alone in the sun.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Brabantse Land-route, Day 3

Modern consumers in Goirle
Nice little town, Goirle, the southern bit of Tilburg, which is a prosperous industrial town but unlike Breda has no pedigree. Goirle has a very modern shopping zone in the center with cafes on a plaza. Spent the night at the home of Christine and Victor, she a sort of middle-aged earth mother, he an eco-architect of Indonesian origin. They have two adorable sons. The older one, Gulliver, just greeted me from his bicycle as I sit here on the plaza after chomping a very fresh herring. Last night I slept in an old camper/RV at the rear of their long yard, which is strewn with a tree house, brick ring swimming pool, trampoline and other family recreational options. Nice to have hosts I could actually converse with.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Brabantse Land-route - Day 2

Perfect late summer morning, great start. Excellent coffee provided by Gre (short for Margaret) Van Doorn in the northeast corner of Kaatsheuvel. Gre is more of a walker than a cyclist. She told me she had walked 500 km from the North Sea, clocking about 40 km per day. She lives alone in a large house with a pretty garden.

Heather on the dunes
It was easy to get going. Using the sun as my compass, I headed south, then east, past the Efteling, a huge amusement park that attracts people from all over the Netherlands, says Gre, though it is "not as sweet" as Disneyland. The fietspad took a woodsy path beside the dormant roller coasters. Then over the highway and into a national park, the Loonse en Drunense Duinen, whose claim to fame is the largest dunes area, of some kind, in Europe. On a clear, windless morning it's a delight to traverse, the path threading through woods of pine and oak, patches of purple heather on sand dunes. I like to move very slowly through the still woods, spying a red squirrel, hearing the intermittent cheeping of some rare bird. There are people too but not many: mostly old folks on bicycles or golf carts though a quartet of blonde girls just passed me. I'm heading east, beyond Tilburg, then looping around to the south.


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Brabantse Land-route - Day 1

Inner Rotterdam
The weather is supposed to be nice in the next few days, so I decided to go ahead with my plans for a Noord Brabant tour. (I was just reading in the newspaper that this August has been one of the worst in the past century, weather-wise, with an enormous amount of rain.) But today, Labor Day, it's overcast, and people on the train platforms are wearing jackets and sweaters. There is an autumnal feeling about the day. The modern Sprinter - more like a metro car than a train - glides south along Holland's industrial corridor - Haarlem, Leiden, Den Haag - between the factories revealing the usual flat fields full of cows and canals with wooden bridges.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Rondom het Grootslag Route

Arrival in Enkhuizen
I was planning to embark on a three-day journey through Brabant province today. But the forecast calls for heavy rain and strong winds tomorrow and rain through the weekend. My general policy has been to ignore the weather forecast when planning these trips since the weather in Holland is so changeable; it might always rain and it might always be sunny. But it seemed so unequivocally bad this time I decided to make an exception.

Instead I chose a klassiek fietsrondje that is not too far from Amsterdam, the Rondom het Grootslag route. It starts off from the harbor of Enkhuizen, on the east end of a peninsula that juts into the IJsselmeer, across from Friesland. I'm getting a late start - sitting in Centraal Station waiting for the 1:38 to Enkhuizen. But it's a mere 37 km, which now seems manageable after last week's journey to Friesland, where I did five days straight of 50 km rides.