There are a lot of traditions surrounding getting married, and I don’t care for most of them. The honeymoon is the best one of the lot, although it only barely edges out the first dance because it’s a lot more expensive. I think of our honeymoon as having started at the wedding itself. Wind back to July 10, 2005, a date that has been burned into my memory much more effectively than my phone number.
People are starting to leave the wedding reception. Not to be upstaged by anybody I decide we’d better leave while most people are still there to tell us goodbye. Danielle and I say our goodbyes to our respective immediate families, a group which has suddenly merged a few hours ago. Then we walk off to my car, passing the grill where Paul is just throwing on the rest of the meat (some 30 pounds or so). Some people at the other barbecue site applaud us as walk by there, and then we reach the car. A few honks later we’re out past the exit, just barely escaping the kids at our wedding who have been armed with soap bubbles.
It feels good to know that wedding is now over and that the cleanup is somebody else’s problem. We stay at the Emerald Iguana Inn in Ojai. Check-in is at the Blue Iguana Inn and of course we miss the turn-off. Nobody is there to help us when we get there, but luckily there is a rest room in the little office, which somewhat makes up for that. The receptionist, who appears to be the owner, shows up shortly thereafter and we perform the hotel check-in ritual. 20 minutes later we are in our room, turning on the heat because apparently the A/C has been set to overdrive until we walked in and turned it off. Showers, the bed, and other things feel great.
In the morning we walk from our hotel to downtown Ojai. It’s quiet and looks expensive. We eat breakfast at a diner where children play a large role. Not only are their pictures all over the walls, they are also pouring coffee and generally hanging out. This is not a sign.
After breakfast we pack up and drive to the airport. We find out the hard way that, despite the fact that our flight is an international flight, it does not leave from the international terminal. Security isn’t bad at all, so we make it to the plane with time to spare. Next to me is a chatty guy who offers to look the other way if we want to join the mile high club. We politely decline and eventually he gives up on trying to talk to me. Virgin Atlantic has a very neat system where you get your own LCD which lets you watch any of 30 movies or 100 or so TV episodes on demand. I’m impressed. Much to my surprise I manage to sleep a few hours. I don’t think I’ve slept in a vehicle since I was little kid.
I wake on what is technically Tuesday. It just feels like I’ve taken a nap though, and definitely not like I had the night’s sleep I’m craving. We go through the usual airport mess, and end up walking a long way to the tube. It feels awkward with our big packs, but it isn’t too busy. After a few stations they tell everybody to get out to wait for the next train because this one won’t go any further. We wait. The train comes. We get in. We get out at Victoria Station, where we pick up our train tickets to Sandwich. We also leave the station briefly and buy some kebabs at the hole in the wall on the other side of the street. 6 pounds seems entirely reasonable for a sandwich and fries - excuse me, chips. Then it starts seeming a little expensive, but it turns out we get a large amount of food. Imagine a \$10 take-out sandwich with fries. The only thing they skimp on is the pita bread which makes eating it kind of exciting. We’re still eating when the train pulls out of the station on the way to Sandwich.
In Sandwich we get out and using the little map I printed out at home we start walking to the road our campground is on. When we get to it I guess that the campground will be away from the center of town so we head that way. After about a mile of walking there still is no sign of a campground. A passing girl thinks it’s the other way but doesn’t really know. Jumping at the chance to mispronounce Woodnesborough Road, I ask somebody who’s fixing an RC car in his front yard. While he’s explaining to us where the campsite is, a woman walks out of the house who offers to drive us there. Too tired to even properly thank her, we squeeze into her car with our packs. A few minutes later we arrive at Sandwich Leisure Park. It’s off a short and small unnamed road which hits Woodnesborough Road a hundred yards or so west of the railroad crossing. We eat the rest of the afternoon’s kebab’s and crash.
In the morning we acknowledge the campground some more. There is a mobile home section as well as space for many caravans. Tent camping appears to be on its way out in England although the area we’re in does have a few. They’re all large tents with vestibules, extra rooms, and lots of guylines. I half expect to encounter one with a second floor. The grass is perfect for pitching a tent. It’s short, very flat, and soft enough that tent pegs go in easily but hard enough that they don’t move. There is no privacy. The bath house proudly displays a 2005 Loo of the Year Award. It’s not misplaced.
At the local co-op (which is a large national chain anyway) they’re doing construction with loud tools. Unable to properly communicate, we buy some bread, yogurt, and fruit. This will become our standard English breakfast. We eat our breakfast near the harbor, watching some chaperones try to herd a class of little kids to an unknown destination. Sandwich is a nice little town. Its center still shows signs of real age in the shape of narrow streets and nice stone buildings. A few buildings have signs next to them, the chief one being a church which queen Mary reportedly visited. Inside it is big, empty, and not ornate like churches that tourists typically visit. Close to the church we find a local nature preserve. It’s small, but big enough to escape the town feeling with trees all around. There’s a small trail that goes to the side of the creek. As I arrive at the creek I notice a duck swimming away, wiggling its butt, and generally drawing attention to itself. Looking closer what it was swimming away from is a nest with 2 chicks and 2 eggs in it. It’s the highlight of my morning.
In the afternoon we decide to walk to the Roman ruins nearby. On the way there we take a footpath because it seems to go in the right direction. Lacking a map we continue across the road we should’ve turned right on, which takes us through nice green fields, some mud, and a patch of nettles. We decide this can’t be right and backtrack, making it to the ruins over the road. They’re interesting. We’re at the site of the first fort the Romans built in their conquest of England. After being a fort it turned into a town, and at one point housed an enormous 50 foot tall arch. In the evening we eat at the local pub. I have some kind of stew while Danielle eats an Indian-inspired dish. I like hers better.
Thursday morning we take the train to Canterbury. While at the station we ask the ticket office lady how early we can get to Harwich if we leave as early possible. After much digging in a very thick book, she tells us a time which is not early enough for us to catch our boat on Saturday. So tomorrow night we’ll have to be significantly closer to Harwich than we are today. At Canterbury we walk around town a bit, changing some more money, and then reaching the cathedral. We buy tickets for a guided tour and kill some more time by looking for a place to browse the web. Doing this we stumble across a cool-looking old building which currently houses a small public museum and the library.
We share our tour guide with 3 other people: a French lady who recently moved to the area, and two Australian tourists. Our tour guide does a good job. I especially enjoy learning that houses of a certain era are built wider as they get taller because at the time, property tax was based on square footage at ground level. We walk around on the cathedral grounds but we don’t actually go in the cathedral. Later we pay some extra money to go in by ourselves. The main part of the cathedral is closed off because there’s a graduation ceremony going on but other parts are still accessible. This does have the benefit that we get to listen to some organ music while we were walking around. It’s like I remember the old churches my parents used to drag me in. For all I know I’ve even been in this one before. Or maybe they’re just all alike. Trying to take the scenic route to the train station we get a bit lost and end up walking down a decidedly unscenic road that lacks a sidewalk. Back at the campsite we use the payphone to organize a campground for tomorrow night. We’ll be staying at Abbey Wood.
Packing up goes pretty quick, but getting to Abbey Wood takes longer than I feel it should. Train to London, tube to a different part of London, train to Abbey Wood, and then walk maybe half a mile to the campground. The campground is mostly caravans, with a slightly sloping grass area for tents. It also has a very impressive fence around it. It’s probably 12 feet high with electrified wire on top. The gate closes at night and we’re given a security code to get in. We start walking to the grocery store and it’s taking a while. It’s hot and the most scenic thing in sight are the red double-decker buses driving past us. Then we hit a big road and we don’t see how to cross it. So we figure we just get on a bus and it’ll take us to the grocery store. We do and it does. The grocery store is huge and we pick up some meat rolls which we eat sitting on a bench that’s falling apart at the side of a lake. Behind the lake we can see masts of boats going up and down the Thames but we never make it to the river. Instead we take the bus back to the train station.
From the train station we walk to the Abbey Wood Monastery, which still has some of its walls standing. It’s in a very nicely landscaped park, next to a forest. We wander around a bit, but bladder pressure has us return to the campground sooner than we’d like. Later that night we return to the park to eat our kebabs there.
We’re up, and I don’t think anybody else is. If they know what’s good for them, they’re not up yet. But we need to catch a boat, so we’re up. We time everything about right, and get to the train station a few minutes before the train. We take the train to London. (In the area we’ve been to it’s true that all trains lead to London.) Subway to Liverpool Street, and then the train to Harwich. Somewhere in there we buy some sandwiches from a chain which claims no sandwich is ever more than 30 minutes old. It tastes good, even if it’s overpriced. We get to the boat too early. There’s nobody in the check-in line so that’s over quickly. There is nothing really to do at the terminal but sit and read.
Getting on the boat is pretty painless. We go through security etc. but it’s pretty low-key compared to the mess at most airports. The boat is a lot smaller than I remember North Sea ferries being when I was little, but maybe I was just little then. It certainly goes a lot faster. The crossing takes 3 hours and 40 minutes. I remember it taking all day when I was a kid. We eat some bad food. I sit and read while Danielle watches a muted Tour de France, and then volleyball which she really gets into.
The boat arrives and to me, this is really what the vacation is about. So far it feels like we’ve spent twice as much time traveling as we have vacationing. Upon arrival in Hoek van Holland we go to buy some train tickets but the ticket office is closed. There are two ticket machines there. One takes coins, the other takes Dutch bank cards. All we’ve got is a few 20-Euro bills so neither of those are helpful. Luckily we track down a conductor who tells us that we can just buy our tickets on the train which, at this point, is right about to leave.
We sit on top of a double decker train to Rotterdam, and then a different train to Utrecht. The Dutch train system feels like it’s a lot easier to navigate than the British one. At first it’s a little disconcerting that there aren’t monitors everywhere telling you when which train is leaving, but then you realize that all that information is right there on the big yellow boards. And you know right away what track your train is going to leave on, instead of having to wait until that information is posted on the big board. We have a bit of a wait in Utrecht where we pay to go the very clean restroom. Then we buy 1 liter of freshly-squeezed orange juice. It doesn’t taste as good as at home, but I suppose the oranges are grown more than 50 miles away here.
We take a train to Hilversum, and arrive there quite quickly. We buy a map and walk to Hotel Ravel, where we get a room in the attic. It’s hot when we get in, but the windows open wide and soon it’s nice and cool. Using the hotel’s Gouden Gids and the map I bought, I discover that all campgrounds would have space for a small tent like ours. Next I call my friend Marnix who answers his phone, and we agree to meet Tuesday afternoon in Amsterdam. We walk back towards the city center and have dinner at the Greek restaurant there which is called, what else, Parthenon. We’re a little bit confused coming in, waiting for somebody to show us a table. Eventually we ask for one specifically and the waitress tells us to pick any table we want. The food is excellent, and we really enjoy it. Ouzo isn’t bad, either. After dinner we sit around for a while waiting for the waitress to bring us the bill, but it’s not happening. We think maybe we need to go to the register and pay there, but nobody else is doing that. Eventually I ask our waitress where we pay, to which the answer is a slightly puzzled “with me.” I think I’m confusing people by speaking passable Dutch, but not having a clue about how to act.
The next morning we sleep in, and have a nice small-buffet breakfast at our hotel. I make sure to have Danielle try the hagelslag. Afterward the first order of business is to get a campsite. We rent some blue single-speed comfort bikes from the train station. We ride them to the hotel where we pick up our packs. The pack tops fit nicely on the bike rack, but most of the weight is still on our backs. Getting used to cycling with a pack on doesn’t take too long, and we leisurely ride to the campground, which is a few miles south of Hilversum’s center, just across a nice patch of heather.
We get to a campsite where we’re pointed to the small-tent area, which is about the size of a regular US site but is home to 4 small tents when we arrive. Somebody is just packing up so we wait for him to load everything onto his bicycle and set up our tent where his was. We’re going to relive some of my childhood by biking to Lage Vuursche and eating pannekoeken there. On the way there it looks like we’re in danger of arriving early so we take a short detour to the Wasmeer. Arriving in the tiny town of Lage Vuursche, we see a lot of other people have decided to do the same thing we’re. But there is enough space for everybody so we find a place to sit outside, and once we figure out that we’re supposed to flag down the waiter to order, we get food. Danielle also gets a koffie verkeerd which we never quite manage to figure out what it is, but she does like it. I drink a bitter lemon which doesn’t taste as good as I remember it.
In the afternoon we bike to my old house. It’s pretty similar to the way it was. The main differences are that they took out a lot of oak trees and bushes next to the church. Next up, we go look for a grocery store where we can buy some dinner. If you’re reading this I’m sure you don’t know what day it is, and neither do we. It’s Sunday, which means all the stores are closed. We bike through the town center where somebody has dumped a lot of sand so they can have beach volleyball. The VVV recommends trying the large gas station on the other side of what I recall as being a large hill. Actually it’s not that big. They don’t have any food either. Because we’re so close we stop by the house whose front door I ran through. The bottom part of the door is still wood. We finish up the day by having dinner at the airport restaurant, which is right by our campsite. This is not a big airport, but just a small local one. Most of the air traffic consists of gliders landing. The food is good, and the waitress shows off her English, which is also good, to Danielle.
We wake up and get ready to go pretty quickly. This is mainly motivated by the fact that we don’t have any food. Getting on our bikes, Danielle discovers that her butt is very sore from biking all over the place yesterday. There’s not much to do except bike into town. I know what it feels like, and it’s not a good feeling. Much to Danielle’s annoyance we bike past the train station to the Super grocery store, which is the only one in town I know the location of. We grab some yogurt, bread, fruit and tasty licorice. The bulk licorice section I remember the store having is gone, but the bagged stuff is just as good. At the checkout a frustrated cashier is wonders why we didn’t weigh our apples. Apparently you’re supposed to put them on a digital scale, punch the button that has your variety of apples on it, and then put the sticker that gets printed out on the bag. Oops.
Breakfast in hand we return to the train station, where our train arrives shortly. We do witness a conflict between some guy who doesn’t have a ticket and 4 security guards who don’t want to let him onto the platform. After much yelling by the guy, and some talking back and show of force by the security guards the guy leaves. We change trains and eat our breakfast which turns out to be quite good. We especially like the yogurt we got. In Apeldoorn we wait longer than expected for the bus. Overall traveling takes longer than I hoped it would, but really no longer than can be expected. We arrive at our destination for the day: the Apenheul.
After a short safety lecture we get a monkey-proof bag and enter the zoo. The Apenheul is known as a place where monkeys walk free and it starts out good with an area filled with squirrel monkeys. They tend to stay away from the visitors, but occasionally they will climb on people and baby carriages hoping to get some food. We organize our time in the park according to the feeding times of the various monkeys and apes. Throughout the park I’m continuously impressed by how many of each species they have. This really allows the social animals to live in a group and you get to watch their interactions. They even have a large group (we saw 4) of mongooses. Highlights for me include the lemur feeding, the squirrel monkey feeding, and the orang utans. Watching at least a hundred squirrel monkeys flow through the trees to the feeding station is a sight to behold. To top it off a squirrel monkey spends some time on my shoulder, until it finally finds a safe way off. The orang utans (there are at least 7, including 2 enormous males) seem happy in their homes. They swing leisurely on their ropes, climb around, and nap a little. One of the females had recently given birth, and looks like she’s protecting her little one from another jealous female. It’s probably natural behavior, but I feel concerned about the baby. We stay in the park until closing time.
On the way back to the bus we wander around a little bit in the park that the Apenheul itself is in. We see some wild pigs (in a fenced off area) and climb to the top of a lookout tower. It feels creaky and unstable, and I’m glad when we’re finally on the ground again. We take a bus to the train, to another train which turns out not to stop in Hilversum. Instead we end up in Amsterdam. We get on a train that I’m convinced will stop in Hilversum and luckily the conductor is understanding about the fact that our tickets don’t match the train we’re on.
In Hilversum we bike to an Indonesian restaurant that’s on the way to the campsite but it’s closed. Danielle is still very uncomfortable on the bike, and she won’t bike any distance that’s not essential to get to the campsite. Because I’m unsure how many restaurants are in between here and the campsite we grab the first one we see, which is a sushi place. The menu on the outside appears OK, but I must have been looking at the lunch menu because this place is seriously expensive. We have our usual sushi meal of miso soup and various rolls, and part with a large stack of cash money. Of course just a few hundred yards on our bike ride to the tent we pass a different restaurant, that looks like it would be priced a lot more reasonably.
The next morning we repeat yesterday’s process, except that Danielle feels less sore and we take a train to Amsterdam instead of Apeldoorn. We decide that the flower market would be a nice place to sit and have our breakfast, but we’re wrong. The market itself is great fun with all kinds of plants being on display. We especially like some huge hanging pitcher plants. Eventually we do find a bench, but it’s not really warm enough to be truly enjoyable. To top it off I’d selected some gooseberries as our fruit, reasoning that I hadn’t ever seen them in the US and remember eating them as a kid. I don’t know what I exactly remember but these taste very bitter and we toss them after sampling a few.
After breakfast we decide we want to see the Rijksmuseum. When we get there there is a huge line and we don’t care that much, so we turn around. In search of a bathroom we go into a restaurant where we have coffee and hot chocolate. Next we go looking for a place where we can take a boat tour, and we quickly find one. To kill time until the boat leaves we walk a short ways through the Vondelpark. The boat tour is quite good. It’s especially neat to see all the houseboats everywhere. After the tour we head towards het Museumplein where we’re supposed to meet my friend Marnix. On the way there we stop by a seafood stand where I have my first ever Hollandse Nieuwe, which is raw herring with onions. It tastes great, and it’s unfortunate that I never discovered that while I lived here.
At the Museumplein we sit on the edge of the pond, waiting for my friend. Danielle wants to know how we’ll recognize each other, and I admit we’re just assuming we’ll recognize each other. I don’t really know how to describe Marnix except as tall and blond, and he’ll look like he’s looking for somebody. I spot several people who match that description, but none of them look right. At last I see him walking towards us, looking very much the way I remember him: tall and blond and smiling. After introductions, we go for a walk around the city.
We speak mostly English so Danielle can follow along. We look for a hofje, but the one we’re headed to is closed. So we wander around some more, sit down for a drink, wander around some more, have another drink, wander around some more still, and grab dinner at an Indonesian restaurant. Our wandering takes us through the red light district twice, and past a church with a nice carillon. But mostly I’m enjoying talking with an old friend. The food is very tasty, and this lets me scratch another item off my list of things to show Danielle. After dinner we train/bike back to our tent.
Today, we move camp south. So we’re up our usual early time, stuffing all our belongings into the backpacks. While biking towards the station we see that it’s market day. We can’t pass that up, so we get off our bikes and walk around the market a bit, heavy packs and all. While there we eat some fresh stroopwafels, which don’t taste quite as good as I think they ought to. We also buy some cheese which is fun. You ask the guy who runs the place for a specific age of cheese, and with a few flicks of his huge knife he’ll get you some samples. Then you ask again, until you’ve find the cheese you like. We get a sizable chunk of fairly old cheese.
After that we return our bicycles at the train station and buy our tickets to Dordrecht. Once we get there, the first order of business is to rent some bicycles. Since almost every train station has a bicycle rental place right next to it that is not a problem. We stop by the VVV for campground information, and we decide to stay at a campground that is in the Biesbosch, which we want to visit anyway. The Biesbosch is a large wetland, with hundreds of small creeks, beavers, and vegetation that can handle the brackish water. We get directions (take a left and keep going straight) and we’re on our way. I decide that straight means “follow the signs that read ‘Biesbosch’” and we take a right. You can see where this is going. We end up biking through some beautiful polder landscape with horses and sheep, but eventually decide we’ve gone too far and bike back to the last sign. We confirm that we were in fact going in the right direction. Danielle, who is still suffering from bicycle soreness, takes a rest while I go to figure out where we should actually be going. A friendly man and his dog explain the way, which involves taking a turn that isn’t signposted.
The campground where we arrive is situated right behind a low-budget hotel (almost more like a hostel). We consider getting a room, but low-budget still means expensive so we skip. The campground might be nicest we’ve staid at so far in that our tent actually feels a little bit private. We spend the afternoon doing laundry and lounging about in the hotel’s common room while it rains. We also go for a walk and check out the Biesbosch visitor center. For dinner we eat at a restaurant at the swimming lake. It’s deserted, but the food is decent.
The next morning we show up at the canoe rental place right as it opens and get a two-seater. We follow one of the recommended routes that takes is on some small rivers and much smaller creeks. It is very peaceful floating on the water, in between trees and reeds. This is definitely the best way to see this area. Some ducks come begging for food but we pass them by pretty quickly when they discover we don’t have any. The weather looks a little bit threatening but it’s quite nice, if a little chilly.
After our canoe trip we bike into Dordrecht, discovering the route we should’ve gone yesterday. It is in fact straight all the way. In Dordrecht we go to the harbor, and find the water taxi. After a short wait it takes us to Kinderdijk, which is probably the most touristy spot in The Netherlands. Along a dike are a lot of windmills which used to pump water out of the lower-lying polder into a body of water next to it. Modern pumps do that job now, but the windmills are still standing. When we arrive a number of mills even have the sails on, which is nice to see.
We wander down the dike, trying to understand the signs that explain what water gets pumped where, and why. One windmill is open to visitors, so we go in. The neatest thing is probably the huge, handmade, wooden gears. We walk around a bit more, but there really isn’t all that much to see besides a lot of windmills. It starts to rain a bit so we hide in a restaurant where we have hot drinks and pie. It’s dry when it was time to take our boat back, and it rapidly gets us back to the Dordrecht harbor.
It’s still early in the afternoon, and with nothing better to do we decide to follow the Dordrecht historic trail. The weather is dreary, with occasional drizzle, so this isn’t as nice as it could be. The harbor is quite nice, with a lot of large sailboats docked here. The town’s center also feels right, but because of the weather the streets are fairly empty. It is telling that one of the highlights is seeing rabbits in the pet shop window. We hide in Pim’s Poffertjes restaurant, where we eat poffertjes (another check mark for my list) which are very tasty. Afterward we go back to our campground and spend the rest of the afternoon reading in the common room. For dinner we wind up at last night’s restaurant again.
Today is a day I’ve been looking forward to, and Danielle’s been apprehensive about because we’re planning on a long bike ride. We get up early and take our bikes on the boat to Dordrecht, courtesy of free tickets we got at the information center. From there we take our bikes on the train to Middelburg, which is in the far southwest of the country. On the way there the train stops in the middle of nowhere. Cows on the left, and cows on the right. It turns out somebody pulled the emergency brake, and soon we’re on our way again. We arrive in Middelburg, and make our way to the VVV, which isn’t where our guidebook says it is. We do find it, though, and buy a bicycle map of the area. We also buy yummy broodjes haring for breakfast.
Finally, we’re off. After a bit of searching to find the right road out of town, we are headed towards the Stormvloedkering. Our guidebook promised a nice bike ride, but soon we find ourselves on a bike path that parallels a fairly busy road, and we follow this for a while. It does run through farmland, but the traffic takes away from the beauty of it all. Once we hit the North Sea things do get prettier, but also a lot windier. We’re cycling on a paved path atop some tall dunes, looking at the beach. There isn’t much going on at the beach, but some people are kite surfing.
Eventually we arrive at the dam itself. Biking over it, we face a strong wind. We stop to peer over the side at the massive metal doors, which are currently open. We slowly bike onwards to Neeltje-Jans, an artificial island that isn’t quite halfway. We stop to watch a few sailboats go through a lock. (Thinking about it now, I can’t imagine why a lock would be required there, but there was one.) A little bit further we arrive at our destination: a museum about the Deltaworks. There are several interesting exhibits, but the best part is the movie about the creation of the Stormvloedkering (subtitled in English for Danielle’s benefit). After a couple of hours we begin the bike ride back.
To avoid the busy roads of the way in, I decide on a different way back, and it is indeed a lot nicer. It does involve taking a ferry, though. When we get there it turns out to be just a small stop, where a ferry picks up passengers just 3 times a day. This is not what I expected, since the map just showed a regular ferry route. Lucky for us, the last stop of the day is in about an hour. We kill time in a restaurant at the harbor, where I eat onion soup while Danielle takes pictures of some swans. The ferry is in fact quite small, and it involves a bit of work to get everybody’s bicycles on board, but we do manage. Crossing the water only takes a few minutes, and we do the same dance backwards.
From there it’s more or less a straight shot back to Middelburg. We take the train back to Dordrecht where we decide to find Pim’s Poffertjes again. It takes a while, but we do locate it, only to discover that it’s closed. We wander around a bit looking for a restaurant that looks reasonable and open. We settle on De Reiziger, which advertises that they have the best desserts in the area. I’m looking forward to those desserts, but I’m so hungry that I do order appetizers. When the main course arrives it’s so huge that any plans for dessert are thrown out the window. After dinner, Danielle dance to an appropriate song, but the floor is very grippy so it doesn’t work very well. Our waitress seems to like it, though, and offers to play any song we like. Since the floor (and our shoes) aren’t very suitable, we decline. Finally, we bike back to our tent, actually getting to use the lights that come with them.
Today we start our journey home. We pack up and bike, fully loaded, back to Dordrecht to return our bikes. From there we take the train to Rotterdam, where we stuff our packs in some lockers. We wander around a little past the construction that surrounds the train station, looking for a pleasant place to eat our breakfast. We find some benches with some water, but the weather isn’t that great. A multi-lingual homeless person asks us for money, which just goes to show how prevalent English-speakers are in Holland. Afterward we wander about a bit, but there’s nothing to see really except lots of stores. Rotterdam was flattened during World War II, so it doesn’t have the old charm of many of the cities we’ve been to.
We decide to check out the architecture museum, which our book recommends. It’s got some interesting information, but I’m not a big fan of the presentation. The best exhibit concerns similarities between Amsterdam, Tokyo, and Venice. I would’ve loved to read more about the socio-economic factors that lead to this similar development, but I suppose this is an architecture museum. Afterward we also get to see Sonneveld House, which is a house built to be extremely modern, in the 1930s. It’s not very interesting either.
We meander back to the train station, and on the way happen upon a skateboard event that’s going on. They’ve got a huge halfpipe set up where several semi-pros are showing their stuff, as well as some of the locals. We get to see people do many “basic” moves as well as some 720s and backflips. Seeing this kind of thing live is much more impressive than on TV or in Tony Hawk. There is a very real many (10?) foot drop if something doesn’t work out right. This is the best thing we get to see in Rotterdam. We stop by a chocolate store where Danielle buys some gifts and souvenirs. Then we get back to the train station. We don’t get there with much time to spare, and there is a little bit of excitement getting our packs out of the lockers as about 12 Germans are trying to get their packs in, but apparently lacking the correct change.
On the brief trainride to Hoek van Holland we wave goodbye to the cows, and we stand in a few lines until they let us on the boat. The boat ride is pretty uneventful. I buy a copy of Spanish Steps, which at that time seems to be the funniest thing I’ve ever read. (Completing the book at home, it’s not as funny as I first thought but still worth reading.)
The boat arrives in England and we get on the train to Colchester, where we have to walk to our hotel. Some local train conductors point us in the right direction, just take a right and keep going straight. Again we fail to follow directions, this time because we follow the signs to Colchester’s center instead of going straight, but we do make it to our hotel. There, a nice Indian lady walks us through what feels like a maze to our room. We grab fish and chips from a small place just down the street, which is also run by Indians. We take it back to the hotel room where we eat a ton of fish and chips while watching British TV. Tummies full, we enjoy sleeping in a bed for a change.
In the morning we get up early, downstairs for our complementary breakfast just before they start serving. A few minutes late our Indian hostess walks in, and just a few minutes after that she appears with 2 plates of English breakfast. We eat our food faster than I would’ve thought possible. In a few minutes I eat my egg, sausages, bacon, and even 2 bites of toast. At that point we run off to catch the train to London. It turns out we left breakfast earlier than necessary, but that is good because once again we fail to just go straight to the train station. We do make it in time, and are even able to buy tickets despite the early hour.
In London we take the tube to Heathrow, taking to care to follow the directions that route us around the outages caused by the bombing. We arrive at Heathrow without any problems, but much later than we would have liked. So we queue up with everybody else, nervously watching the clock. To our relief we get pulled out of the line to go ahead, only to be told that we need to be in another line. We make it through there by being pulled out again, advance to the beginning of the first line, and finally get to queue up for security. It makes you wonder why you should bother showing up early in the first place. Danielle is quite nervous still, but I’m pretty convinced we’ll make it. We do in fact make it to the gate before the airplane starts boarding. Due to our late arrival we don’t get the seats next to each other that we would like, but Danielle convinces the girl next to her to swap places with me.
The flight is long, and I watch many movies on the personal in-flight entertainment system. The best one was probably Hitch. Finally in LA, we find our car (despite not being able to find the piece of paper where we wrote down where we’d parked it) and drive home.
Lessons Learned On a honeymoon your primary goal should be to relax. We did way too much. It was fun, but we weren’t much less tired when we got home than when we left. There was too much traveling in England. We should’ve just stuck to one country. Camping really worked out well. It saved a lot of money and wasn’t uncomfortable. The Big Agnes sleeping pad I got was awesome. It folds down to very small, and is as comfortable as an air mattress. I like to eat.