Week 29

Day 197 – Friday 21st September 2018

Cfor met some dogs today, he wasn’t particularly impressed.

The van was a rockin’ this morning as storm Bronagh lashed Northern France. No problems though driving from Calais to Knokke (pronounced Cur-knocka).

It was still an extremely blowy day when we motored into town on Zippy.

We’re here because I saw this place described as the St Tropez of Belgium and that intrigued me. Even though you could spit on The Netherlands from here they speak French rather than Flemish or Walloon.

The gale blowing in off the North Sea meant the beach was deserted.

The truth is Knokke is absolutely nothing like St Tropez. It is more like Cannes – restaurants filling the beeches and the town itself full of expensive clothing shops.

Apparently Frank Sinatra used to holiday here; was he banned from the real St Tropez?

It’s true café prices in the town are as high as St Tropez but you could say that for the whole of Belgium; this is not a country to be peckish in. You’re unlikely to get a coffee & a slice of cake for a tenner.

As well as lots expensive clothes shops Knokke has lots of expensive food shops, Watermelon Oil, absolutely lovely!

Day 198 – Saturday 22nd September 2018

Grey start to the day.

It started to piss down on the way to The Hague

The campsite in The Hague is okay but they don’t allow any animals so….

Cfor is in hiding for the weekend

When the rain eased off I took Zippy into the seaside resort of Scheveningen. Big mistake, I got absolutely piss-wet through.

I had to take shelter…

any chip shop in a storm

These weren’t great chips and mayonnaise is a poor substitute for curry sauce. 2/5 and I’m being generous

It continued to bucket it down so I had a nose around the pier. I last visited the town in about 1973ish and at the end of the pier then there was a giant helter-skelter.

Times change. I wonder if Julie wants a go seen as she is so bloody good at sky diving 😉

Scheveningen from the pier

The rain refused to stop so in the end I got even wetter getting back to the van.

To make matters worse the BBC weather app says today was just rain; tomorrow it’s going to be heavy rain. Deep fuckin’ joy.

Day 199 – Sunday 23rd September 2018

The route into Scheveningen and The Hague by road is a bit torturous and involves a few one way streets while the cycle track is straight forward.

Little 25cc mopeds are allowed on Dutch cycle tracks but if I get caught on one on Zippy I am liable to get a ticket and The Hague being the capital I thought they’d be plenty of police knocking about so I decided we’d hire some bikes and cycle into town!

The bikes

When Julie tried to ride her bike it was too big for her so she swapped it…

… for a child’s bike. Does this make me a paedophile?

The rain was awful and I’ve decided that from now on Northern Europe is a no no from the start of September to the end of May.

Cfor is still in hiding.

Day 200 – Monday 24th September 2018

Up and off to Amsterdam today. The weather forecast is for sunny intervals and a light breeze. Idea sightseeing weather.

The drive to Amsterdam was no problem.

This is the motorway to Amsterdam and Schiphol airport on a Monday morning. That’s right it is a 6 lanes wide and almost empty. The M25 & M4 are log jammed every weekday morning. Beginning to think we need to put the Dutch in charge of our transport policy.

The trip into Amsterdam from our campsite is just a 10 minute ride on Zippy so we nipped into town to get the lay of the land.

Boats and bikes, the classic Amsterdam

The old town is very touristy and they have supermarkets that seem to sell little but bongs, large Rizla papers and space cake.

Fridge Magnet Centraal

We took a turn off a main drag and found ourselves in the Red Light district. Julie was shocked the women were stood in the windows in their underwear.

These are the glass doors the women pose behind.

Personally I can’t think of anything sadder.

An appalling misuse of an apostrophe

Quite a few of these in town

They were okay but at €4.74 with chilli sauce a little expensive 3/5.

We wandered around for the rest of the afternoon while Julie took photos…

Like Venice the old houses are built on wooden piles and they lean a lot.

Julie had to buy another Hard Rock Cafe tee shirt

Hard Rock Cafe tee shirts aside yellow is Julie’s new obsession!

Day 201 – Tuesday 25th September 2018

Lovely morning, we motored into town for our walking tour.

We were the only Brits on the tour, the rest were Germans, but our guide Marcella did the tour in her near perfect English.

Marcella explained that the Dutch had always been a tolerant people especially when money was involved. We started off at the Old Church where we were told the Catholic Church used to sell forgiveness to the sailors who frequented the city’s prostitutes. Just at the back of the church was a street known as Big Mama Alley and true enough the girls in the windows were on the chunky side. There was also a large kindergarten on Big Mama Alley.

It is considered rude to photograph the girls and your phone might end up in a canal.

Apparently up until recently the city had over 500 working windows but that has been reduced to 280. The girls hire the windows for a shift and they will typically have 15 customers a shift. Each encounter entails a suck and a fuck, costs on average €50 and lasts on average 8 minutes. Marcella certainly knew her stuff!

Marcella warned us there are transgender sex workers working in the town. There’s something for everyone in Amsterdam

These little cars seem to be allowed on cycle paths too

Walking around Amsterdam can be dangerous. There are 1.2 million bikes in the city and most of them are used daily. There must be well over 100 bikes for every car. They ring their little bells to warn you to get out of the way but being Brits we are not used to diving for cover at the sound of a bicycle bell 🙁

The Bells!

This is how they do the school run in The Netherlands although I can’t see the mums of Surrey giving up their status symbols Range Rovers

Marcella touched on the drugy side of the town. People can carry up to 5g of weed and everyone in The Netherlands can grow up to 3 cannabis plants but she said it was no big deal and most people didn’t bother with the stuff.

Shops are full of Space Cake though.

Never seen this stuff on GBBO

Day 202 – Wednesday 26th September 2018

Beautiful if chilly morning, autumn is well on its way. Off into Amsterdam to visit the van Gogh museum.

The museum itself

They don’t allow photography in the van Gogh Museum – The Sea at Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer

Oi, shift!

My fave, Wheatfield with Crows

van Gogh was only an Artist for 10 years. Before that he worked for his art dealer uncle in The Hague, London and Paris

When he started he liked to paint peasants – The Potato Eaters

He ended up living in Arles, just at the top of the Camargue where he had a little Yellow House.

Bedroom in Arles

It was here he had his mental health issues that resulted in him cutting off his ear after a row with his best mate. He died aged just 37 from a self inflicted gunshot wound.

Of course no visit to a museum is complete without a visit to the gift shop

It doesn’t matter how revered an artist is no museum gift shop is complete without fridge magnets

Van Gogh being so popular they have really gone to town with the merchandising

A van Gogh Rubik’s cube anyone?

Well, he was Dutch

Out of the gift shop, with her new yellow van Gogh sunflower glasses, Julie bumped into some fashion friends from Beijing

We had a pleasant lunch in the Rijksmuseum garden

Afterwards we visited Coster Diamonds where they tried to flog us some very expensive stones.

A diamond being cut, surprisingly low tech

We rounded off the day by visiting the Banksy exhibition at the Moco Museum.

They don’t mind you taking photos in the Banksy exhibition and I’m not surprised

While the odd thing is witty…

… most of it ain’t

there’s also a lot of repetition

And it’s not very technical, it’s the artistic equivalent of drawing a Hitler moustache on a photo of Margaret Thatcher. I reckon van Gogh would easily have Banksy in a paint-off.

The audio commentary of the exhibition said Banksy sees graffiti artists, such as himself as rats, hated by authorities but impossible to eradicate from the cities. Really??

Get your Banksy fridge magnets here!

It strikes me Banksy isn’t as ‘street’ as he likes to make out. With all the merchandising and the celebrity friends he’s more than likely a bit of a champagne socialist.

On the way out of the Moco there was a pleasant surprise.

A 3D mock up of van Gogh’s Bedroom at Arles by Roy Lichtenstein

 Day 203 – Thursday 27th September 2018

Beautiful day. Once we’d sorted the van we popped into town for a boat tour on the canals.

The good ship Sunshine, Where’s Wally?

Amsterdam has changed a lot since I last visited. It’s much more touristy and they city has cleaned itself up, a little.

They only have 2,500 houseboats in Amsterdam now. You buy a berth and put whatever you want on it.

The Sea Palace Chinese restaurant used to be the other side of Centraal Station.

The girl mixing the drinks said the canal water was perfectly drinkable, she wanted a volunteer…

Julie wouldn’t risk it for the camera but there was no stopping this gobby Swede.

An old boat in the historic dock

The Walter Suskindbrug bridge

Trip over we had a walk to the Nemo building and Julie had a coffee on the roof terrace.

Amsterdam from the Nemo building roof terrace

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