Today is the day, we added the final touches to the van, filled it up with water, ensured we had enough food to last us the week and got together all of our last minute bits n bobs. Our ferry was at 12:55 and we was sailing on the pride of Canterbury, although it sounds quite majestic it was only a P&O ferry taking us across to Calais to start in Europe. As we got into Calais we drove out of the port and onto the motorway. We Didn't want to spend to much time in France, we wanted to explore it in the summer so we headed directly north and in no time we were in Belgium. Although we were going to stop just inside the Belgian border we were in the mood for more driving and kept going until we found a beautiful clean little campsite just outside Bruges. Lauren cooked our first meal in the van, sausage mash and beans, The toilets and shower block was immaculate and the other campers were really friendly.
I think its called Camping Memling, and is well worth a visit if you want to stay a couple of days on a campsite and cycle into the town centre, However we couldn’t enjoy the privilege, firstly we had no bikes, Lauren wanted to bring them however I couldn’t see the point as in a week or so we would be in a snow covered winter wonderland akin to Narnia. We also had to push on, we have organised to stay with a family on a farm in the heart of Sweden through workaway.org. Its something we have always wanted to do and working with a local family on the farm in a place we love sounds like the perfect start, not to mention the fact we will have our own log cabin to stay in whilst we're there.
As we drove from Bruges, we headed directly for Amsterdam, a city we have visited a couple of times before and one we love. When most people think of Amsterdam they think ‘red light district and weed’ however there is so much more to the city than that. We had driven into the centre of Amsterdam, (which wasn’t easy in a high top, long wheel base 3 ton transit) and found a parking space on one of the side streets, we wandered to one of our favourite places in Amsterdam, the nine streets. its the the most idyllic part of the city with its small shops and bistros we wandered up and down whilst enjoying some of the best fries we’ve ever eaten smothered in mayonnaise.
Lauren brought herself a new pair of vans and we thought about living in one of the beautiful town houses in the centre of the city and being able to cycle to work through the cobbled streets on a daily basis. Oh to dream.
After a couple of hours wandering around Amsterdam we looked for our options to stay for the evening and decided to head for the car park of a cheese and clog factory, we drove north for around an hour to just outside Edam. We arrived at the cheese and clog factory in the dark and pitched up in the the car park surrounded by fake plastic cows and a small windmill, like something from a strange Wes Anderson spoof.
In the morning we woke up and thought it would be rude not to enjoy the free tour around the cheese and clog factory. As we were the only people in the car park we walked into the cheese factory to be greeted by the nicest lady in traditional dutch costume.She gave us an interesting talk about cheese and clogs and let us try some of the beautiful smoked cheese they made on site.
We left the cheese factory excited to explore more of what the Netherlands had to offer and we headed north to Edam, Probably the most beautiful little town I've ever been to. Every house perfectly kept with the prettiest window decorations hanging in each window like something from a story book.
From there we headed along the coastal road across the huge 20km dam to the north east of the Netherlands and happened to drive through a town called Groningen, not knowing what to expect we parked up for an hour or so to see what was happening, - quite a lot, there were bikes everywhere. More than I had ever seen before, there was a large university in the centre so it must have been quite a big student town as there were cool little shops and plenty to do in and around the town.
From there not knowing where to stay we drove easterly close to the border of Germany and found a tiny campsite (just some chaps back garden) where we stopped the van filled it up with water and slept for the night for only 4 Euros. Although we mostly wanted to sleep for free, sometimes paying for a stop may be a necessity if you want to use shower facilities or fill up with water. That was how we ended our third day away.