Saturday, 7 September 2013

Meeting friends in the Netherlands

Sunday 11th August 2013

Whilst back home we heard that our good friend and once former flat mate, Mia, had quit her job and wanted to do a bit of travelling herself before deciding on any future plans. It was perfect timing for her to fly out to Schiphol airport in Amsterdam after our week at OHM festival. Adam and I had been to Amsterdam twice before, once for a long weekend a few years ago and most recently for New Year in 2011. Mia had never been so we were expecting to do some touristy stuff.

Mia, Adam & I
After waiting for an hour and a half in the 15 minute maximum waiting area of the airport we got a text from a friend back home saying Mia couldn't get hold of us and was waiting in the long term car park. I'm not really sure how but eventually we were able to contact Mia, maybe smoke signals, and we saw her strolling towards us with two back packs and an excited grin on her face. 

On our way to a campsite with an impossible to find entrance we came across an industrial estate with a few old rusty campers dotted around it. Never ones to pass up on a free place to stay we parked up outside the local fly tipping area (a mattress  broken glass and a computer table) and took a stroll down to the pedestrian ferry from North Amsterdam across the River Ig to the Central Station in Amsterdam.
We started off with a tour of some of Amsterdam's finest coffee shops and had a peak at the red light district in all its daytime glory. Mia had had an early flight so we didn't do much else that day and went back to chill at the van. It was later in the evening when we were in a less than sober state that we were stood outside the van when out of the darkness what can only be described at a bright yellow bob sleigh kart rolls past us without a sound with a mans head just visible sticking out the top. Weird night. 

The next morning we woke up to a clean street, the dustbin men had clearly been busy. However there were a few guys making sure they had some work on still by unloading 7 massive office tables onto the street. Not long after that a knock on the van signaled it was time to move on. If we've been told correctly I think that it used to be legal to park a camper van in most places in the Netherlands but then it became illegal and now it's been changed back to legal but really it's up to the mayor or whoever is in charge in that area. We were told we weren't allowed to sleep over night in this area and asked to move on. That's fine and no problem for us, but since we weren't going to sleep in the van anymore after being woken up we moved  to park round the corner and headed back into the city.

We went to visit the Amsterdam Dungeons which I had been to before but was looking forward to seeing again. Actors take you on a tour of dungeons telling you stories of Amsterdam's past including witches, torture, ghosts and psycho magicians. It was fun and creepy. It was a really hot day so we walked a little outside of the center to find a really nice park with a canal lake running through it. I love parks in city's as they're full of so many different people to watch. It was packed, full of bicycles and very relaxing, even though opposite us a guy was trying to take a hundred arty portrait shots of a tramp and his dog and a kid was running in circles around us trying to catch bubbles.

On our last day in Amsterdam we took a canal boat tour. There was information coming out over the speakers about the city but mostly I just liked getting to look at the buildings without worrying about being hit by a stray bicycle or tram. There are loads of house boats on the canals which were really pretty and I learnt that because land was short in Amsterdam it was divided up into narrow strips and sold on which is why the buildings are so narrow and tall.
Waiting for our canal boat
We left Amsterdam the next day to go meet our friend Alec just east of Utrecht, who was driving from home in England to his base camp in Germany where the army have stationed him recently. Again we were going to stay on a campsite but on the way found a bit of wasteland being used as an occasional car park. We had a few beers, a camper van curry and a good night laughing a lot. We didn't get moved on that night but we did get a lot of beeps from passing cars trying to wake us up, the locals didn't really like us not paying for the campsite either.
Adam & Alec
We had never really experienced this before. Having spent most of our van dwelling time in France and Spain, where they mostly don't mind where you park as long as it's legal and not disruptive. A lot of Dutch people only ever holiday in their motor homes though so maybe they are just very protective of their camping culture. We don't mind paying for a campsite when we need one and enjoy going to them, but they can be expensive and sometimes we don't need the facilities, just a place to park, so if we can 'wild camp' somewhere we will.

Today we headed towards Rotterdam and found a nice place to park under a windmill, by a canal in Schiedam. It's a designated camper van space so hopefully no policemen knocking or beeping! We don't have much planned here apart from maybe feeding the ducks, spent quite a lot of money in Amsterdam so need a bit of a spending break!

Our van in Schiedam

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