An unexpected souvenir from the trip

Remember on Day 3 of the trip, how Kaye fell and hurt her arm?

And then the next day she got it checked by the ED doctors on the tour (rather than going to a hospital) and the consensus was “there is no break at the wrist, and possibly a small crack in the radial head (which wouldn’t be plastered anyway) and badly sprained. Approx time to come right is about 10 days. Riding won’t make it any worse, and whether I can ride will depend how sore it is”.

And then over the course of the tour she complained about:

  • How getting on/off her bike was difficult, the pain was a 4/10 (Day 5)
  • How hard it was to open her water bottle, and how she kept losing bottle tops because she wasn’t doing them up tight enough (Day 7)
  • How her arm was sore, due to all the downhill braking the day before (Day 14)
  • How sore her arm was, because she stopped taking the anti-inflammatory pills (Day 15)
  • How she kept jarring her sore arm on the rocky bike path (Day 20)
  • How she almost fell off my bike, and gave her arm a huge jolt (Day 22)
  • How much it hurt every time she lifted anything with her right hand (not documented, but apparently this happened a LOT).

Well, when she got home and it was still really sore, she finally went and got an X-ray. And  . . .

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Turns out she does have a cracked radial head, which doesn’t need plaster – but she also fractured her wrist, which does need to be in plaster. So no lifting with this arm for awhile! – And no biking!!!!

 

 

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Wed 5 July: last day in London and home to NZ

Today the tea situation got worse, there was not even any Twinings everyday tea, I had to make do with green tea! Not a good start to the day. Apart from that, I have discovered that around the corner, on the other side of the restaurant, is another table with cereal and bread and a toaster. Yum, I had toast with marmalade, trying not to be churlish thinking how much nicer it would be with black tea. In context, if this the worst of my problems, life is pretty good.

After breakfast I headed to the metro, and off to see Shellbe. Sad to say goodbye to Brett, but excited to be  going to spend the with Shellbe and see where she is living. Brett is heading off for a couple of days to York to see his step daughter Sandra.

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London Bridge Underground – off to see Shellbe before the flight home.

To get to Shellbe’s I had to go two stops on the metro, and then get off and go up three escalators and then find the correct train to get to Teddington. I found my way to the station ok, but there was a signal problem and a number of the trains were delayed including the 10:27 to Teddington. There was however, a 10:33 via Richmond to Teddington that was not delayed and had a platform number, so off I went and hopped on that.

All was going well until we came into Richmond and I half heard the train announcement about this being the change for what I thought was Teddington, and just about everyone on the train hopped off. I jumped off as well, but actually it was the change for Twickerton. Drat! By the time I worked this out the doors had shut and the train was gone. Thankfully there was a help phone and I was relieved to find the next train to Teddington would be along in 15 minutes.

Shellbe was waiting at the station and we went back to her place. Shellbe is currently working as a live-in nanny, looking after two small boys, Asher 5 and Matthew (Matty) 3. Just after we got to the house Shellbe had to pick up Matty from kindy and left me behind enjoying a cup of black tea.

Matty was very cute and was interested in me being Shellbe’s mum, and within a couple of minutes he had invited me on the family holiday in a couple of weeks to Italy.

At 3pm we picked up Asher from school, and we went to a bushy park where there were a number of deer roaming around. They are really nice boys, both asked me lots of questions, and for the rest of the day they referred to me as Mum as Shellbe was.

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Back at the house, time for Shellbe to cook dinner bath the boys, read stories and then their Dad arrived home, and all too soon it was time to head to Heathrow airport.

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I had a last couple of hours with Shellbe at Heathrow, then it was time to say goodbye 😭😭. It was really hard to leave her. There were tears all round, it has been so great being able to share the past few days with her, in both Amsterdam and London.

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Not much of a consolation at the moment, but at least these days we have messenger call etc to keep in touch and see each other.

Off through security to the horrors of long haul flying. I just don’t have the ability to sleep on planes. I was flying Emirates, and on the leg from Heathrow to Dubai I managed about 45 min, thankfully only a two stop over in Dubai, most of which was spent getting to the next gate.

Dubai to Auckland, which is a 14 and a half hour flight, I managed about an 1 hour of sleep. The flight seems endless. Around me everyone seemed to be sleeping soundly. The two people in the seats next to me slept almost the entire flight. I spent most the flight watching movies, and getting up and down (thankfully I had an aisle seat).

Upstairs on the plane, as well as business class seats, there are sleep cabins where you have your own room with a bed! Plus access to a shower. However, to fly from Heathrow to Auckland in one of these would cost $13,500 dollars per person (20 hours flying, makes it $650 an hour).

I arrived at Auckland, it was lovely to go through customs etc, within 20 minutes from landing I had my bike box and bag, cleared customs and was heading to Auckland domestic terminal. I really did not want to get back on a plane again.

My son Dan picked me up at the airport, and had Benji (the dog) in the car. We got home at 3:30 pm. Dexter, the other dog, was delighted to see me and I spent the next 3 hours struggling to stay awake until my daughter Tracey got home with my grandson Jasper (who just turned one). They got home at 6:15pm, I managed to stay awake until 6:30pm then off to bed to sleep. Nothing quite like your own bed.

Tomorrow (Saturday) I am looking forward to catching up with my other children, their partners, and my grandchildren at Jasper’s first birthday party. Sunday will be spent unpacking and getting sorted to return to the realities of work.

On Monday there will be 323 days until the next ride. The next ride I have booked is The Pub Ride, from Dublin to Denmark.

Thank you to my daughter Kelly for all her hard work and patience as editor of the blog -dealing my spelling abilities (or inabilities) and the Ipad’s tendency to change what I have written, not an easy task.

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Tuesday 4 July: Day 2 in London

Today was all about being a tourist, and seeing as much of London as possible in one day. First stop breakfast. For the first time I have not been concerned that I would not be able to find decent tea, as this is after all London. Unbelievable, endless teabags of every flavor known, apart from English Breakfast!! Luckily there was a twining tea called Every Day tea.

The buffet seemed a bit weird, no cereal or toast (or toaster) even though there were pots of marmalade and honey on the tables. I just assumed we had arrived after the rush, and had a croissant instead.

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Just before sunrise

After breakfast we got passes to the Original Tour Bus from the hotel, and headed to the stop to wait. Don’t ever get tickets for this bus – get tickets for the Big Bus, Golden Tours, or London Hop and Off – at least 3 each of these buses went past whilst we waited for the Original Bus to appear!

The bus was due at 10am, by 10:40 we were getting pretty frustrated, along with other people also waiting for this company, who like us were watching numerous other tour companies come and go in this time.

Finally the Original Bus arrived and off we went. We stayed on the bus for about and hour and half looking at the sights, and then we got off by Hyde Park and looked around the outside of Buckingham place and Westminster Abby.

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Buckingham Palace

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Westminster Big Ben

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Westminster Abbey

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Trafalgar Square

I got a photo of me in a red phone box with Big Ben in the distance, looked at the horses by 10 Downing Street, and at 10 Downing Street from the gate.

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Horse Guards

We saw theaters (Phantom of the Opera has been running non stop for thirty years), and London Taxis and double decker buses, and hordes of tourists. There are a number of places I wanted to go to but ran out of tourist enthusiasm, as well as time –  Platform 9 3/4, Harrods, to name but a couple).

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Victoria Tower Gardens

We got on a cruise to go up the Thames back to Tower Bridge, and got off at the Globe Theatre stop, and looked at it from the outside. After looking around this is also on the list for the next trip.

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Westminster. Parliament House under repair

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River cruise back downstream

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The London Eye

It was nearly 3pm and we had not had lunch so we went into a pub to try the pub pies. I had a Steak and Ale pie, which came with gravy, mushy peas and potato. The pie inside was nice, but the pastry was really tough. Shellbe said later this is usual for them, rather than it having been over cooked. Brett had a Beetroot and Camembert pie which was also pretty nice.

Then off to The Shard which has a viewing platform on the 68th floor, where you can get a pretty good view over London.

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View over the River Thames and the Tower Bridge from The Shard.

Then back to the hotel to get changed before going out for dinner. We had dinner with Shellbe, Brett’s nephew Ben who lives in London, and Brett’s stepson (also called Brett) who was in London for work.

We all met at Canary wharf at an Italian restaurant called Amerigo Vespucci. I had risotto with truffle and salad, it was really nice.  We went both ways on the metro, I am starting to get a bit more familiar with changing lines.

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Last night in London

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Editor’s note: The caption that came with this picture was “No miracles just don’t happen” . . . 

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Monday 3 July: Amsterdam to London

Today we had to get packed and get to the airport to fly to London. I was quite excited, never having been to London before. We flew KML airlines to Heathrow and managed to arrive with bags, bike boxes, etc without any issues.

We flew into terminal four and then caught the train to terminal three (flying out from there), where the bike boxes are being left until we fly home. So much easier than having to cart big boxes around, and gives a range of transport options that would otherwise not be available. Thank you Shellbe for sorting this out.

We then caught the tube with a couple changes into central London, with Shellbe as our metro guide. We are staying at the Tower Hotel and the room has an amazing view of the Tower Bridge.

Once we were checked in we went out and had a meal at a nearby pub, at St Catherine’s Dock.

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St Katherine’s Dock

I had the house specialty, which was fish and chips with a container of mushy peas, gravy and tartare sauce. I was not convinced about mushy peas, and dipping chips in gravy sounds weird but was quite nice.

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Lunch at St Katherine’s Dock

After dinner, it was time to walk Shellbe to the Tower Bridge tube, but will see her again tomorrow.

The view of the Tower Bridge is stunning, and I especially enjoyed how different it looked at the different times of the day.

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Sunset over Tower Bridge

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Sunset Tower Bridge

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Tower Bridge after dark from Tower Hotel

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2nd July: 2nd day in Amsterdam

Later breakfast again at 9:3,0 nice not having to be up at 6 am. A bit strange that there is no more biking until I get home.

We left the hotel and walked to the metro to head back into town to look around a bit more. We needed to make a change after one stop to get onto a different metro, as there is part of a line closed. As we got onto the next train we realised we were on the wrong train and went to get off, but only Shellbe got off before the doors closed! So much easier these days with cellphones in this situation. Very quickly worked it out and then ended up back on the same train heading into the central station.

I had wanted to go to the Anne Frank museum but had been unable to get tickets on line. They appear to be sold out for months (I later discovered more are released online daily at 8:45 and 11:30am). The website said you could buy them at the actual museum for after 3:30, so we headed off to the museum.

Outside the museum were some guides, so I asked one where we went to get tickets. His reply was “Where they are sold, when they are selling them”, so I asked when are they being sold, and no lie his response was “When we are selling them”! What a great asset he must be.

Thankfully we found another guide who had an understanding that their role was to be helpful, who advised they go on sale at 3:30 if there are any left. They don’t know until that time how many there will be. Sometimes very few. As it was only 11am I was not inclined to start queueing, and Shellbe had been there before when she was here as an exchange student.

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Outside Anne Frank House

We went off and continued looking around and came across a cheese museum. We had great fun looking at the different cheeses and trying some. The cheese came in all colours, including green (pesto as an ingredient), bright blue and bright red (not sure what was in these). We also enjoyed trying on the traditional cheese making clothes and taking photos.

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Dutch cheese maidens

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Coloured cheese anyone?

 

After this we went to a tulip museum and then decided to have a cold drink. We stopped at a place by a canal (but I guess hard not to in Amsterdam) and watched people going by.

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A’noon beverage time 🍺

At this stage Shellbe headed off for the rest of the day to catch up with a friend who was an exchange student at the same time as her, who has not longed ago moved to Amsterdam from Turkey. Brett and I had lunch and watched the crowds for awhile.

We then headed back to the Anne Frank Museum as as an ex-work colleague of Brett was in Amsterdam with his wife and they had tickets at 3pm to the museum. It was about 2:30pm and quite hot, so while we were waiting I decided to sit against the wall in the shade, and found a suitable space and sat down. I felt people tensing around me and looked up to see people glaring at me from all directions! Oops! I had just sat two spaces from the front of an exceedingly long queue of people who had been waiting for hours to get museum tickets! So I moved from there very rapidly, apologising and assuring people I wasn’t trying to get tickets. Brett caught up with his friend and wife (which was when I discovered tickets were released online twice a day).

We then went off and continued sightseeing. Later in the afternoon we caught the ferry from the central railway station to north Amsterdam, where the annual TDA alumni dinner was taking place. Given these are generally across the other side of the world from me I haven’t attended one before, but it seemed a good opportunity given we were already in the city (which of course was the reason for the timing).

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Party boat on the Brouwersgracht

The ferry that we caught was just for foot passengers and bikes. At the dinner we sat with Yvonne, Scott, Ruth, Peter and John H, who had all been on our ride. Apart from that, the rest of the diners were TDA staff or Dutch, bar one other rider who had flown in from England.

There was not really any mingling, and apart from a quick welcome from Henry and auctioning of a book, it was pretty much like any other riding day dinner of the past month, so not high on my priority list to attend another one. The food was Tapas.

A number of us shared a taxi back to the hotel.

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Bikes, bikes, bikes everywhere near Central Station

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Saturday 1 July: Day one in Amsterdam

We had breakfast at 9 am then Shellbe and I headed off to the Metro by the hotel. It was only a 7 minute walk. Once we got into Amsterdam we had to change to a train out to Oosterleek, near Hoorn. We were going to visit Christel and Margreet who were Shellbe’s host mums when she was here in 2006 on a AFS (student exchange programme). Hard to believe that that was 11 years ago.

Christel picked us from the station. They have moved since Shellbe was here, to an old farm house. The farm house has a thatched roof and we went up into the attic and had a look at a thatched roof from the inside. The thatching needs to be replaced approx every 40 years. I noticed their house, and a number of others, had mostly thatching but also some tiles. Once tiles became available the more tiles you had the wealthier you were. On the way to their house Christel drove past where they used to live.

Both Christel and Margreet work with disabled people. They have 3 cats, plus a part time cat who stays when its owners are away, and a delightful spoodle called Pip. Pip is only 8 months old and is full of puppy energy, and the cats watch him with annoyance from their safe perches around the house.

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Christel (left) and Margreet and me

It was great to meet Christel and Margreet. In 2006 we didn’t have Skype, Messenger or FaceTime, although thankfully we did have email. It must have been hard in the days of handwritten letters, and toll calls being reserved for emergencies or specially occasions. When you did call you had to deal with the delay on the phone line.

For lunch they had all the different food that Michelle had enjoyed when she was here. Stroopwafels, croquettes with meat inside, chocolate sprinkles, cheese and bread.

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Christel (left) and Margreet and Shellbe

After a lovely lunch and catching up on all the news on both sides, Christel took us for a tour and we saw Shellbe’s old school, swimming pool, and soccer club, plus we went to Hoorn which is a lovely small town with lots of old ships on the port. A number of the buildings have a slight lean and this is because they are built on silt. Thankfully no earthquake issues here.

We drove along a couple of dykes, and I was surprised how many canals there are running through every town.

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Working windmill drinking barley (Editor’s note: I don’t know where/when Kaye saw this windmill, so I’m going to put it here as she apparently took zero photos of Hoorn and I need to break up this wall of text)

There were a lot of touring cyclists – Christel says you can pick the tourists as they are the ones wearing helmets. In the Netherlands only young children up to 9 years, and serious road cyclists, tend to wear helmets. All children learn to ride a bike at a young age and at 9 they have an assessment, where they ride through a chosen route through the town and there are people at corners assessing them. Once they pass this test they no longer have to wear helmets.

While we were at Hoorn, a family rode past – all blonde and in height sequence. There were two parents and four children, and it reminded me of Matryoshka dolls, each one smaller than the other.

There was a market on in the town, so we had a look around the stalls then sat at the wharf and had a cold drink, then it was time to go back to the city. When we were walking back to the station Christel pointed out some green and yellow bikes, these are called the lottery bikes. There is a monthly draw with 400 bikes each draw, and apparently there is also a draw for lottery suitcases that are also yellow and green.

We caught the train back into Amsterdam and met up with Brett at the train station.

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Back into Amsterdam after visiting Shellbe’s exchange host family.

We then went on an hour and a half canal cruise, looking at many different buildings and bridges.

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Canal boat cruise

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Bridge, bridge, bridge over canal

There are bikes are everywhere. At the central train station is a 3 story parking building for bikes. It was pretty busy, as it was Saturday night.

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Amsterdam Central

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Amsterdam Central

We went to a Vietnamese place for dinner, I had a really nice chicken curry. After dinner we wandered around the city a bit more, called into another pub, and walked though a couple of streets in the red light district. I was amused to see a porn club advertising a hospital bar, and a black and white cat quite at home nonchalantly wandering through the throngs of people.

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In the red light district

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Red Light district

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Then it was back to the Metro and back to the hotel. We stayed talking in the bar for another hour.

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Canal Elandsgracht

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Canal boat cruise

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Day 28: Arnhem to Amsterdam

99 km today, about 400 meters climbing, but mostly a down gradient all day.

I woke up very excited, as tonight I am going to see my daughter Shellbe who flies into Amsterdam this evening. It is nearly a year since I last saw her 😀😀 She lives in London.

When we set out it was once again looking like rain. The first 30 km was a slight up gradient on a bike path, but in one direction. It was great to ride a few km without having to check which way you needed to be going. The only delays were the traffic lights. We went through a small few towns and stopped at a patisserie and chocolatier at about 40 km. I had a really nice strawberry tart.

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Food stop last ride day

The bikes have the right of way when you are following a bike path across a road, unless there are lights say otherwise, which takes a bit of getting used to. I hesitated a few times as I was not sure that cars were going to stop as they seemed to be going quite fast, but they always did.

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Checking out a thatched roof.

At the lunch stop I took a photo of Esther, Gergos wife also from Hungary, and their son Lawrence who is nearly 3. Lawrence was happily playing as small children do with water, puddles, and sticks while we waited. Also took a picture of Gergo and Judy from NZ.

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Esther and Laurence

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Tour leader Gergo and Judy at last lunch stop.

We got to the lunch stop at 70 km at about 11am, to find that Gergo had now decided that we would all meet here and convoy in together. It would have been great if he had shared this earlier this morning, as there were a number of places we could have stopped along the way, instead of waiting an hour and a half on a piece of grass with nothing but the road to look at, while we waited for the rest of the riders to arrive. This was not helped by the darkening sky and the feeling of impending rain.

As it turned out, most of the other riders in the end ignored him and just headed off, but about 12 of us waited and went in the convoy.

We went through another star shaped town Naarden (like Palmanova) it was very picturesque with the canals and boats and wharves.

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Rode as a convoy from lunch to the finish. Passing through Naarden Vesting.

Then back on a bike path where it started to pour down (I was trying to ignore my irritation that if we had not waited an hour and half to convoy we would have been at the hotel by now). As we came up to an underpass there was a group of about 100 children and teachers sheltering from the rain. Just as we got there, they decided to no longer wait and about 30 took off in front of us. The next 5 km was spent trying to pass young boys who were serving all over the path.

 

We had to go up over a really big bridge – Nescio Bridge – made just for bikes and walkers and then road the last few km into Amsterdam. Getting through the outskirts of the city took awhile as there were lots of students going home from school. Thankfully by this this time the rain had stopped.

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Nescio Bridge (photo from website)

We arrived at the Mercure Hotel at about 3pm. The bikes had to be left outside in an open area, which a number of us were not that thrilled about. We managed to move the hotel bikes around and at least managed to get our bikes locked to the bike stands. The hotel bikes, like the white bikes at the Muller Kroller, they were really heavy, at least twice the weight of my bike.

Then checking in: what a mission! The biggest and busiest hotel for the trip. The person behind the counter was not helpful or friendly:
1. He insisted there was no booking for my daughter – I had to go and dig out the paperwork. When I took it back to another person they found the booking without the paper work.
2. When asking if we could stay in the same room the next two nights we were told “I don’t know what will happen tomorrow until tomorrow”!!

Not quite as frustrating as Janice from Townsville who had her partner Philip joining her here, who was told her and Philip had been put in a room with Cathy. This was sorted out by TDA quickly, but the person behind the counters attitude was not helpful.

We had a get together at the hotel on arrival, with some bubbles and snacks to celebrate our arrival and finishing the trip, then off to get cleaned up and ready for dinner.

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Arrived at finish hotel Mercure Amstel

We met down in the lobby at 6pm to taxi to the finishing dinner at D’Vdff Vlieghen in central Amsterdam. The traffic was chaos.

I am unsure by what manner the finishing venue is chosen, but this was not a good one – we were cramped in, and apart from one long table of about 12, everyone else was sitting at tables of 3 to 4,  and there was no room to move around and interact. So it didn’t really feel like a finishing dinner, more like just a normal riding day dinner. Brett and I sat with Graham, with a seat saved for my daughter Shellbe.

The menu was an entree of smoked fish, a piece of chicken with an onion (no carbs, no salad or veges), and a piece of chocolate slice and ice cream. Plus red or white wine. Luckily they had bread rolls, otherwise there would have been a lot of hungry riders.

My daughter Shellbe arrived halfway through the meal, I was delighted to see her again.

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Mum and daughter find each other

After the meal Gergo advised us that it was up to the riders to get themselves back to the hotel – about an hour walk, or 15 minutes in a taxi.

We caught a taxi back with Graham, and then sat in the bar catching up on the news with Shellbe for awhile.

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Having a drink with my daughter Shellbe 

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Day 27: Wesel, Germany to Arnhem, Netherlands

89 km and basically flat.

Had to put on riding shoes that were still damp, but everything else is dry and hopefully will stay that way. The forecast has 4% chance of rain 👍.

Today riding was mostly on levees on bike paths. We went through a town called Rees where there were concrete statues of town people so had to stop and take a photo.

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Rees township

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Riverside path in Rees

Then back on the bike paths. Some bike paths are shared with walkers and some are just for bikes. This changes frequently and occasionally you are not sure which is the correct path for bikes. So a couple of times we accidentally went on the wrong path, and within a minute or two a German striding along – often with walking sticks – would politely or extremely rudely wave sticks around to direct us to the correct path.

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Countryside after Rees

There were lots of people walking dogs, and they were frequently off the the lead but when there were riders approaching they were all called to heel and sit, waiting for them to go past. Well almost all of them, a couple were joyfully ignoring any commands from their owners.

There are lots of dogs here, they are allowed on trains, buses, in restaurants and hotels.

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Bike paths, good riding, with climbing today of only 48 metres!

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Loaded coal ship passing Emmerich am Rhein

We crossed the border into the Netherlands at 49 km. The rest of the day was pretty much the same, riding on levees lots of other cyclists, walkers and dogs. Lots of canals appearing, and the pasture was very green.

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Border crossing

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Crossing the border from Germany into the Netherlands

There were quite a lot of sheep grazing along the river banks. Different from our sheep in NZ, there was one that had black spots, and quite a few black sheep.

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Black and white sheep

We got to the Hotel at 2pm, and quickly got changed and went by taxi with John W and John H to Kroller Muller museum and Sculptor park, 40 km away. When the taxi arrived I thought “this cant be for us” as it was a gleaming new Mercedes S something series, with sunroofs and leather seats. The driver (also called John) was immaculately dressed – this is nothing like the Wellington cabs. John agreed to also pick us back up at 430pm so we would be back at the hotel in time for the riders meeting.

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Driver John

The Kroller Muller museum has the second largest collection of Van Gogh in the world – 90 paintings and 180 drawings. Plus works by Monet and Picasso and many other artists. There are 25 hectares of sculpture gardens, plus a surrounding 5,500 hectares of forests, grasslands, and sand drifts. These are home to deer, mouflon (wild sheep) and wild boar. There are over a 1,000 white bikes at various places around the park that you can use for free to ride around the park. We could have spent all day here but we only had 2 hours.

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Vincent Van Gogh – Terrace of a cafe at night

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Vincent Van Gogh – Self portrait

The Kroller Muller museum represents the life work of Helen Kroller Muller. Between 1907 and 1922 she and her husband Anton bought 11,500 works of art. One of the largest private collections of the 20th century.  Helen’s dream was to have her own museum where she could share her passion with other art lovers. This dream was fulfilled in 1938 when the Kroller Muller museum opened.

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Claude Monet – Monet’s Studio Boat

I had a great time looking around but I felt like I only skimmed the surface.

John the taxi driver picked us up on the dot of 430pm, and drove us through the park grounds on the way back.

We got back to the hotel just in time for the riders meeting and dinner. I had dinner with Brett, John W, Graham, and Henry Gold. I had bell pepper soup which was rich and tasty, steak and salad with fries, cream brûlée, and red wine.

Tomorrow is the last day of riding!

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Tolkamer, The Netherlands

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Day 26: Cologne to Wesel

121 km – 193 climb, 367 down.

121 km and basically flat, so should not be a long day but! So much navigation today, there were 4 pages of navigation notes, both sides of the page.

We had breakfast with Maureen. Maureen was born in Ireland but has lived in Johannesburg most of her life, but is now in the process of moving to Portugal. This is Maureen’s TDA first ride. Maureen was a communications advisor, but is now retired and lives with her husband and two Labrador retrievers. Her husband doesn’t like touring.

There was pouring rain when we woke up, and it looked rainy, but apart from a few spots we managed to avoid it for the morning. There were a few places where it had clearly been pouring not long before.

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Monheim am Rhein

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Private garden patches on the outskirts of towns and cities

We went out of Cologne, first of all past the big Ford  factory (the number one employer in Cologne), then through the countryside and skirted through the outskirts of a couple of towns, and then had to go through Düsseldorf (which sounds like it should be a school house in a Harry Potter novel).

Düsseldorf is huge city, population bigger than the whole of NZ – 5.16 million. It took about 2 hours to get through the city and outskirts. This is where the 2017 Tour de France bike rides starts this Saturday.

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Düsseldorf city centre

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Düsseldorf city centre

The whole city is busy with preparations, the Main Street there was a row of tents going up. There were temporary over bridges over roads being constructed, and rows of group barrier fences waiting to be erected in the fields.

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Tour de France preparations underway for the Grand Depart from Düsseldorf

After Düsseldorf we were back in the country, then through a smaller city, Duisburg. At this stage the rain, which had been threatening all day, was looking more and more likely. By now we had done 80km, so at least we avoided the rain for two thirds of the ride. It poured for about 20 km, there was flooding on the road and we had to be really careful going through small towns with cobblestones. We got soaked, but luckily it was still about 17 degrees C.

As we were coming out of one of the towns a young brat on a bike rode straight into Brett and swerved at the last moment, then did the same thing to me.

We stayed at a great hotel called Welcome Hotel, we had a suite with a lounge, balcony, kitchen, bedroom and shower, and thankfully plenty of places to hang wet clothes. However there was terrible internet and I couldn’t get on.

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Welcome Hotel in Wesel.

Germany has two million refugees, the population in Germany is 81.41 million.

We have a really nice buffet dinner, high quality food which was really nice. I had some salmon and chicken and vegetables, and a selection of cheeses, plus sparkling water.

We had dinner with Peter and Catrina, John W, and Yvonne (Scott was feeling sick).  Henry Gold, the owner and founder of TDA, has come for a few days and we had a great chat with him after dinner about the South America ride.

When I got back to the my suite, I was really tired but I felt I needed to sit up in the lounge for awhile at least to enjoy the space.

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Restaurant artwork decorations

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Day 25: Rest day in Cologne (27 June)

We had breakfast at the hotel, then the next step was the ongoing need to get laundry done.

When we got into the lift after breakfast, Gergo (the tour leader) jumped in and started having a chat to us about going the wrong way yesterday morning. Ezster (his wife) who was the sweep had caught up to us, and she must have mentioned it to him. Gergo spoke to us like we were about 12 years old so I walked off while he was talking.

Next thing we get an email from him, copied to Miles in the head office in TDA, telling us again why we were wrong and telling us how to navigate! Very frustrating as it’s the first time Gergo has spoken to me since the day I arrived, and it’s to tell me off! And he was totally oblivious that actually the flagging was wrong, and at least half the riders had made the same two wrong turns as us. After awhile I decided to just ignore it.  As in the words of Henry Gold, founder/owner of TDA, “getting lost is half the fun”.

After doing the laundry we had a couple of pizza pieces for lunch. Brett was not feeling very well, upset stomach, so he had a nap and I caught up on a couple of days with the blog.

Later the afternoon we went for walk and were amused to see a statue in square with her arm and hand open, holding a bottle of beer.

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Statue in the Old Market

Then we went to see the Cologne Cathedral which is Roman Catholic and is the seat of the Archbishop of Cologne. The height of the building is 157.4 meters, which makes it the 4th highest church building in the world. It covers 8,000 square meters and can hold over 20,000 people. The two massive towers were completed in 1880c.

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Cologne Cathedral

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Cologne Cathedral

The cornerstone of the present day Gothic cathedral was laid at the Feast of Assumption of Mary, 15 August 1248. The previous building was deemed not impressive enough to hold the bones of the three wise men (Magi) and were brought to Cologne in 1164 by Archbishop Rainald of Dassel from Milan, after the latter city was conquered in 1164. In 1,200 these remains were placed in a golden Shrine. Because of these remains, the Cathedral is one of the most important places of pilgrimage in Europe.

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Cologne Cathedral

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Cologne Cathedral

Outside the cathedral there were a number of beggars, I gave one a few euros and every time she saw me in the square after that she blew me a kiss. There was a man busking with an amazing voice singing opera, that we listened to for awhile also.

There were a number of cruise ships at the docks including the Ms Emily Bronte (from yesterday) and the Viking Vidar. The Viking Vidar goes from Budapest to Amsterdam.

We had dinner at a Lebanese restaurant called Beirut, with John W. We got a set menu and we could not believe it – we got about 20 starters (hummus, meatballs, rice, salad, chicken etc)  but thankfully only a platter of main, and a small honey pastry dessert.

Afterwards we decided to go to the hotel bar. Um 3 drinks later, I may regret this in the morning.

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Riverside

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