02 September 2014

Hoge Veluwe national park

Big cat
Cycled to the national park, and around it all day. Lucky the bikes had kid attachments so the kids did not need to really pedal. Ollie could push me, him and the whole rig just by himself, the little beast. At the end of the day, they were tired of the whole thing, and complaining, so good we could get them home easily.

On the way in the park
The park is lovely, green, and with a nice kids park in the middle. Ours really liked the sand dune, which has to be maintained "otherwise the forest will take over again". They like the reminder of the pioneers.

The streets around town have a path beside, or one car lane and two bike lanes. The cars have to swerve into the bike lane to get past each other, then they go back into the one and only middle lane to keep going. Seems to work ok!

On the way to Hoenderloo, near the park, awkward for the cars


The bikes with tag alongs at the campsite
Multi coloured tatts, nice work Marie
Then we went to Hoenderloo, near Hoge Veluwe national park. After we set up camp, then the music started up at 7pm. 3 people wheeling a stereo rounded up the kids. Then they went to the pool for aerobic type dancing fun. The kids here are used to the routine, and chant something, until eventually the guy climbs out then bombs into the pool. It's a nice difference: in France you can't swim in shorts, you have to use budgie smugglers. A lifesaver is there to make sure. Maybe they're a budgie smuggler saver. In Germany you can wear what you want, but there is no strictly no diving and ropes are right around the pool, so can only enter at the ladders. Dutch have no such rules. Even the kid minders are bombing in the pool wearing normal swimming shorts.

Hired bikes this day. Had a Mr Whippy style ice cream. Me and Ollie went for a short ride into the forest just near the camp. It was a bitumen path in there all the way, and super smooth concrete on the other side. Kids are having the greatest time ever in the pool.

Rocket tatt by Lou
Hoenderloo main st. One lane for cars, t. rific!

Crossing the border into cycle central

As soon as you cross over into the Netherlands, bikes are everywhere, as are the orange paths. All the time in all directions, there are odd ones, couples, bunches. It's a huge difference to Germany. Driving is a nightmare as we don't know where we're going and don't know where to stay. It's like driving in an endless suburb of Canberra at 50km/h.

Arnhem after WW2
For us the nightmare continued for an hour as we just get lost looking for a camp site in Nijmegan, which looks great in the pictures, but seems like an industrial dump where we are. New roads appear, old ones are blocked off, and the canals block all. We keep rolling out of town, then give up and stop at the first B&B. This is in some bizarre backstreet, nowhere and is the first one we saw. The owner is not expecting anyone, so goes off down the road to buy something for breakfast tomorrow.

She tells us where there is a restaurant that's open in the seeming suburban desert. The pancake place is really beautiful, next to a canal, perfect hedged fields - it would be impossible to find unless you know it's down one of the country lanes. It's called Aan de Linge. It seems like a chain, but I like it.

The historic centre of Arnhem
Today we drive to Arnhem, 18kms away. On the way there's couples cycling together side by side. Most seem to be making great efforts to get moving, bowing down to the steerer. We saw 2 guys in lycra even. The more I see of the place, the more it reminds me of Canberra. 4 lane roads in the city and not enough cars to fill either lane. Speed bump intersections are everywhere. Would be harder to smash at speed.

In Arnhem, there's a nice pedestrian area that's a big version of a suburb of Sydney, like the shops at Lane Cove. The nice historic centre is surrounded by 60s style 5 story office blocks.

01 September 2014

More industrial museums

Aquarius water tower
Today was the Aquarius Water Museum in Oberhausen. It's in an old water tower. They are still used sometimes in case of over pressure in the system. This museum explains where drinking water comes from, how it is gathered, how much it takes to make a car, how the tower works etc. Lots of touch screens. The boys liked it. Lunch is outside at the curryworst van. The lean to side is handy when it starts up raining again. Bratwurst, curry wurst, chips, tomato sauce, and a chat to a local lady truckie.

Arvo is the industrial museum at Oberhausen, not bad. Big presses, drives, drill stands, casting moulds and a ladel/pot thing for molten cast metal. Then we drove off to the Netherlands.

Another cog in the machine

Interesting large drive

A magic steam engine made in Essen

Holding up the tower

31 August 2014

The only UNESCO listed coal mine around

Near the cafe at the coking plant - awesome!
This day we visited Zeche Zollverein, an old coal mine + wash plant + coking plant. It's been painted, stabilised and cleaned up. Trees, bike paths, old train lines, huge machines and odd parks dot the 100Ha site. It's a UNESCO world heritage site, chosen as an excellently preserved example of an industrial site. The coke plant is enormous. Lunch is excellent, and the view along the coking plant is oddly magnificent. We got lost and walked right around the site.

How's it hanging on the spinning wheel.
Next day we went to Dortmund. The industrial museum is closed. Now we know all museums are closed on Mondays in Germany. The city is modern, no historical centre. It's rainy today, and we're not hanging around. So we go back to Zech Zolverein and the Ruhr Museum there, which is open and interesting. A history of industry, the area and the people. The view from the top deck is awesome. You can see smoke in the 3 stacks of a coking lant nearby. The valley is still pretty brown in the air. Still raining. Shame we couldn't time it for the tour in English.
One cool coal mine.

The other end of the coking plant

About 2 hours walk later...

The boys and Marie at the left

Where's Willy Wonker? At the top of the wash plant

Some of the amazing old machines in the wash plant

Driving along the Rhine

Louis, Oliver the dog, Ollie and Teo, and me on a car ferry.
Along the Rhine river, there are a lot of picture postcard towns, castles, vineyards, and trains like a toy railway.

Louis fell asleep, so we pushed on to Essen. When we arrived, the campground was having some disco night with a big disco tent, sausage and salad for dinner, and 1.80 euro beers. The hits from the 80s, and a few popular German songs, play until about midnight. Louis bops to the rhythm. Everyone loves it. A nice German man arrives at our table to give the boys some colouring in books, whistles, balloons and magic sketch pads (the erasable kind). Super!

The Rhine river and another beautiful village.
We met a man and his kiddie on a mini bike tour in town camping next to us. He's a divorced pest exterminator. His kid's bike is better equipped than mine, with mudguards, and dynamo lighting. Too cool.

Reasons Germany is tops:
-no speed limit in places. When going at 150, people still overtake like you're standing still.
-everything works and is clever
-in general, everything is made in Germany
-they say "Das is good" for real
-the food is very good everywhere

Rhine river.

Happy we're visiting his town, an Essen man 

Rüdesheim am Rhein

The view from our car on the ferry.
We keep driving towards the destination Bingen. Then we see a nice town over the Rhine river, and head for there instead. We would have stopped at other places, but it's hard to read the tourist signs in German at 130km/h. Had Chinese for dinner, pretty terrible. The camping ground is superb! Thick mown grass (we're used to dirt in France), and blue skies. The toilet block which is nicer than 95% of the hotels I've ever stayed in. At the top of the stairs on the way in, there is a little fountain. Inside there's 3 colours of paint, and it's always immaculate. Not sure how it's possible.

Kids playground entry right behind in the shot
We are the only car in the place with French plates. No-one is saying hello to us much. Is there something about us, or is this normal? One Dutchie from Rotterdam thinks French are so arrogant; they think they have the best food, best language, etc.

The oldies soak up the sun, moving their chairs around while the shadows move. We stay in the shade, stuff that. We went to the pool just up the road. It has 2 slides in the kids pool. In the big pool, there's a slide you can swing into for more speed, a whirl pool, various spouts to get a massage and diving boards. The best day ever, followed by more time in the playground, 5m from our tent.

Main street.
I went over to take some snaps of the mini-caravan, towed by a Smart car, shaped like a tear drop. The owner, Rina, is too happy to show us the amazing little kitchen in the back, with cabinets, a dishwasher, fridge, and it has solar panels on top. We stay for a beer while the boys play. We can't see them, but Louis's laughter is loud. They made a friend from Scotland and ask if they can visit, no probs. After Rina, and then Frank who arrives after an 800km trip to get some Smart parts (that's her business), we sit down with Yvonne and Christian. She's Scottish and the two live up there. He's from this area, missed the place and would like to come back. She's a tour guide, and wants independence for Scotland. Apparently it was 20-22 in Scotland, the first time they've ever had a real summer. They're loving the heat, shame about all the weird weather though. They had a tour bus in 30 degree heat in Ireland, and didn't know what to do. The bus had no a/c. They'd never needed it before. They thought about smashing out a window even. In Rudesheim, it never used to rain here in summer, but now it's raining at odd times all the time. Global warming is happening now.
Average homes in town.

This morning the boys are off to play with their Scots mate. Ollie has the Uno cards in the sandpit. The Belgians next door won't say hello. Is it because of our French plates? Eventually they hear enough english that they pop over and ask, so where are you guys from? We don't find out what they're thinking, as they speak Flemish, like German with a weird accent.

The grass cutting man pushes the industrial mower around with a bottle of either coke or fanta. He swigs all day but is still skinny, amazing. It's rained a bit. The tourist office says that it never rains for long. If it goes for more than 2 hours, they push the clouds off to France. More negativity for the Frogs? Poor Froggies.

Scotland vs Australia.
We're surrounded by 90% caravans. Pretty much everyone has a bike packed on. The park has a gate leading straight onto the bike path that rolls along the river. It's lined with trees and is a dream in any season. It's 100% away from the cars, shady, and sealed all the way to Mainz. The Rhine river route rolls right across Europe. What a nice place to stay.

Went to the pool for the second time. Even going with the kids in the kiddies pool is fun. Another thunder storm at 16.00 had everyone ordered out of the pool. Left, had a shower to warm up and got cold again on the way to the tent. The temperature keeps going from 15 to 30 and back again. not sure which I prefer. I have a total of one long sleeved top, so it is going to stink for sure. The boys do school puzzle books in the tent while waiting out the rain. The fly is criss crossed with lines and holes but mostly waterproof.

On holidays with 2 Bullitts, 2 kids, 2 trailers, 1 tent.
Spoke to the couple touring with 2 Bullitt cargo bikes, 2 trailers and 2 kids. They're living the dream. Living in Frankfurt they're doing about 150km along the Rhine river, about 30km per day. The biking is good as you can talk to the kids as you go. They get to see everything as well. They've now done 2 camping trips by bike, and all works fine. Turns out you can go on holidays without a car, provided you are in a country that solves problems. CO2 screwing the climate? Simply switch the whole country to renewable energy. Screw the expense; there is a problem to fix. Super. They want to go to Croatia next, but I have to tell them that it's not the best cycling. I can't remember there being any paths at all, and the drivers don't care much.

All our stuff fits in the car -  a miracle! Time to be regular tourists again. Oh well that is still syupa fun.

Getting soaked in Switzerland

Rain soaked Zurich.
Switzerland is one of those places where there seems to be no-one around, but there's heaps of traffic on the freeway.

We set up camp next to the lake in Zurich. The ground was soaked. It was not raining, and we picked up some things for dinner. When we got back it was raining steadily. Dinner was sandwiches squeezing in  under the picnic shelter, watching the bench seats which were not.

The impossi-puzzle, tent, blankets, clothes, food.
A small leak hit the bedding in the middle. About a 30cm patch formed. At that rate, we'd all have to go to the hospital with the flu. Ollie insisted on dancing in the puddles to increase my horror. We put a plastic bag and the silvery windscreen sun cover on top. We settled in for an uneasy night wondering if we'd have to spend half the night in the car. Marie woke up at 3am. Luckily she saw that the windscreen cover has slipped off the top. I slipped it back up again. The walls were wet, but ok.

Jump in the lake - the water was warm.
We met up with Allison, Estelle and Camille for a tour of beautiful downtown Zurich. Marie knew them from the local park in Australia. The kids played on the swings, and ran around. People here are not allowed to drive to school at all. From the age of about 8, the kids all must make their own way to school. The kids have a little fluro vest so people can look out for them. Estelle gets worried when she sees kids wandering around by themselves. Big difference between Aus and Switzerland.

You can't go wrong in this supermarket.
It rained all afternoon and night.Caught the polybahn/funiculare. Nice view. Rain is depressing. We caught trams around wandering if the holiday would get any better. Bought a tarp to put over the tent and slept much better! We went to Allison, Allistair, Estelle and Camille's place. The boys jumped on the beds, spun tops, danced in front of the TV, and had a good time.Allistair works for Siemens weirdly, and was there when I was there in Siemens Building Technologies. He's in the Landis and Gyr head office as a product manager.

Heaps of chocolate at the factory shop.
On the last day, the rain eased off. We even went for a swim in the lake after we'd packed up things. Drove off. Stopped at the Lindt chocolate factory and picked up a couple of kilos. Stopped at Rheinfelden close to the border; very pretty and bikes everywhere. It's a land of Mercs, Jags and bikes with mudguards. Lunch is 3 nice sandwiches in a very nice cafe. The average price of places here is 1 to 2 million euros. The muesli eating hippies are doing something right.

Rheinfelden - another perfect village.

25 August 2014

Summer holidays!!

Ollie and Louis in the land of chickens.
This was our last chance to do a big trip, so we put down for 5 weeks. Alright.

We took off after jamming everything in the car. Quite a feat already, not minding that John came in later on with a bag big enough for half a cricket team.

Visited Jelena and Danilo. All good. It rained as always when we're there. The locals had a micro brewery festival. On stage was various Michael Jacksons. A little kid was very good. The older guy was a bit too serious, the pelvic thrusts too graphic to watch comfortably. The corn fields surrounding the stage added the rural Italian touch. The beers was all too good. Started my birthday with a headache.
Anna Maria, Ollie and friends.

Had 2 cakes, champagne, more beer, and headed to the local farm at 3pm. The calves were annoyed by the flies, poor things. The goat was happier. Chickens pecked at the pear we dropped for them. Ollie loved playing with the dogs, and playing fetch with a tennis ball. Louis loved the baby cows.

The big cows stood around on concrete under cover. After they crowded in for a milking, a blade slowly scraped the ground. Louis made me watch it right to the end, sickeningly, when the stinking brown slops tumbled into a trough. I felt like puking for real. The walk back home was nice. We picked some pears straight from a tree. Nice!

Danilo and Jelena near the mini farm.
We couldn't really pack the bikes on the car since we were packed up to the roof. To try to not gain weight, I decided to jog a bit. Jogging from the place we stay near Sulbiate, I saw a war memorial, an ad for appartments, a soccer field, and every factory and smokestack along the way. We've been going to Jelena's for a while, and I never noticed these things once. Even if you look ahead there is a massive domed church roof with a bell tower, almost a cathedral. There is an unobstructed view along the way. Didn't catch that while watching the road, the roundabout with the crazy drivers, and watching for the next turn. While rolling at 60, we really saw nothing.

The cows are well fed but space is just ok.

Mel and Vonnie come to visit

Gotta love that chateau.
Evonne, Mel and Marie all spend a long weekend in Paris, while I babysat the kids (not that hard when they have a couple of buddies to play with). Marie says they had a nice time, of course.

They had dinner and a footie match on TV Friday night. Saturday was the modern art museum and a walk around. Night was some music festival with a band on every corner. They had way too much to drink and all woke up with a hangover. Sunday was Versailles.

Then they all came down to Nice. Spent some time in a few villages Eze, St Pauls, and Nice, the usual ones. And some time along the beach.

Cycle geeks unite!! She looks cool. He is mmm practical.

All the glamour of gay Paris.

Lourmarin in the Luberon

Well I'd heard about the Luberon and how beautiful it was, and it being a great place to cycle. Maybe, but not so great that the kids could do much. We managed a trip into town on the small patch of footpath. Later Marie let me cycle 5ks on to the next village. The campsite cost 39e$/night and did not provide toilet paper. Males taking a pee for free for all to see. Otherwise it worked very well. Lost some paint off the car with the bikes banging on the boot on the freeway.

Enjoying the raw carrot entree.

I made this, could you? The cooking too.

Lourmarin, same type of town, different place.

Cucuron, nicer and less crowded.