Posts Tagged With: Bridges

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 19: Dillingen an der Donau to Schwabisch-Hall

The original schedule for today was 111 km, but Gergo has got a new book of bike trails in Germany and so now we are still going from the same start and going to the same destination, but the distance has increased to 129 km.

Today we climbed 546 meters up 688  meters down.

One of the riders Yvonne is not well so she is taking the bus, hopefully this won’t be the start of another bout of gastro throughout the group.

Not long after we left, I saw a huge weeping willow tree, and was thinking about how they were my mother’s favourite tree, so couldn’t resist stopping and taking a photo.

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Today felt more like a navigation course than a bike ride, with some bike paths only going about 200 meters before having to change to another path! We spent a lot of time figuring out which way we should be going, the flagging was not good and often conflicted with the notes. It was a hot and frustrating day.

The bike paths went through fields, through towns (at one stage through an archway in a barn!), through forests, saw a couple of castles and monasteries, and we went along in the baking heat along side roads.

We went over some bridges that had roofs, which is to stop the bridge getting covered with snow in the winter.

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Bridge with a roof

Going along one forest path, a black squirrel ran across the track in front of me.

We stopped at about 80 km and had a cold drink with Peter and Catarina who were there already. Catarina decided today to ride from lunch with Peter when he got there.

Unfortunately after what had been a long and hot day already, all the climbing was at the end of the day. We had some quite steep bike paths, and then 10 km from the end we could not work out which direction to go.

I went into a supermarket to get a cold drink. So no cold drinks so bought one anyway, then paid and the checkout clerk barked something at me, when I didn’t immediately answer, he barked it again 3 times in a row. I said “English?” so he said it again about 5 times each time louder!

I am not sure why people think if you don’t understand the first time you will get it if they keep saying the same thing over and over, but louder each time! Finally he angrily points to the receipt!  And I shake my head, I don’t want it! By this time Brett has worked out which way to go.

More bike path, then a steep climb up to Schwabisch -Hall. What a pretty town. Sadly we only have time to shower and change before the riders meeting and dinner, as I would have liked to look around.

The town is having some type of performance tonight (turns out it’s a play) and there are rows of chairs set up outside the hotel, and the stage is the steps of a church with a small platform facing the square. We are told that if we have a room facing the square we are not to look out the window, or have the window open! Plus the door to the hotel will be locked from 7pm to 11pm, so no after-dinner stroll around the town.

The hotel is a beautiful old building, with no lifts. When you walk towards the stairs the old doors open automatically which you don’t expect. The stairway has lots of old pictures, plus rows of books for guests to read.

The room is really big and looks right out onto the square. You have to be a bit careful walking, as there is a definite slope from the window to the other end of the room, where the bathroom is.

We had dinner with John W, Ruth and Peter E. The restaurant had made up a special menu just for us – mixed salad, nice and fresh with a light dressing; chicken with croquettes, and a token piece of round carrot as the vegetable; and Ice cream and apple.
Washed down with a cold beer and then a merlot (or 2).

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Special menu for us

After dinner it was so hot in the room, of course I opened the window! Then I poked my nose out to have a quick look. Would you believe there was a man in a red outfit, whose role was to stand in front of the hotel looking up, and as soon as I looked out he saw me and started making angry gestures! So I didn’t look out the window again, but I didn’t shut it either. I was pretty tired, so the noise of the play didn’t keep me awake.

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View from our room

Introducing

 

Ruth and Peter E, both retired and live in Toronto. Ruth was an Air Canadian flight attendant, and Peter an investment broker. This is their 3rd TDA ride, they did the TransEuropa for their honey moon in 2014.

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Ruth and Peter E

We stayed at Hotel Goldener Adler

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Day 6: Sibenik to Pag Island

126 km – 1,200 meters climbing and descent

Today the first half was pretty easy riding, ups and downs along the coast, and reasonably cool. My legs were still feeling the benefit of the rest day in Split.

I drink about a bottle of water an hour which seems more than anyone else, which means having to stop and buy water a couple of times a day. So I decided if I am paying for water I may as well have sparkling. Interesting fact: the gas in the sparkling water and the motion of riding doesn’t work so well. No matter how tight your bottles are screwed shut, the gas builds up and pushes through the spout, and sprays your legs at regular intervals with trickles of water.

There are many beautiful coves with beautiful clear water, sandy beaches, boats at the shore, certainly this is a country to put on the list to come back to. The country is very clean, especially the hotels and the shops.

Lunch was at 65 km, then next 5 km was along the coast. We crossed a big bridge onto PAG Island. After this we spent about 20 km in the country side, with lots of long hot steady climbs. The country side is very much like Spain, lots of rock walls and olive trees, and hot.

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PAG Island Bridge

Then there was a three km down hill, which was followed by 26 km of what seemed like endless long clinbs and descents in the beating sun.

The landscape was very rocky, dry and barren. I am finding the bumps in the road hard on my arm, and my right foot felt like someone had shoved a knife into it. When the lunch truck came past 15 km before the end the temptation was great, but I resisted.

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Dry rocky lunar landscape

Finally we came to the township of Pag, there was a choice of left or right. The left was a steep long climb and the right was a short climb. Yay the flags showed go to the right!

Finally got to the hotel, a lovely place set right by the beach, called Hotel Frane.

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Hotel Frane

As soon as I got my gear up to the room, I was off to the beach for a swim. Amazing how different I felt after a swim and a shower. The room has a nice balcony which was great to dry the togs and air the riding shoes out.

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Room balcony at Hotel Frane

I am still having some problems with the bites from a previous swim in the ocean, and have to keep two of them covered, but whilst yucky they don’t look infected.

I look a bit like a crazy woman, I still have not been able to find any conditioner so my hair is all over the place, and despite putting sunscreen on frequently, my face is red.

Dinner was Chicken noodle soup and bread followed by an amazing platter with seabass, potatoes and veges, accompanied by fried squid rings, and octopus and rice. This was washed down with cold water as today was one of the two alcohol free days for the week. Dessert was a sticky cake thing, it looked nice but I was too full to eat.

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After a long hot 127km day – dinner for a starving cyclist

Tomorrow we have to catch 3 ferries.

 

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St Petersburg Night Tour

Last night (Saturday) I went on the tour to see the bridges being raised. They are raised to let the ships come through on the Neva River at night.

Apart from me the people on the tour were all Russians, so the tour operator at the hotel said either I go and the tour is all in Russian or I don’t go. As it was the last night in St Petersburg I went. It was amusing, they got on and off the bus frequently and often at places I had already been to, but I got on and off every time in case we were suddenly going to get on a boat. I kept my one  eye on the tour operator the whole time. We got back to the hotel at 2:30am so I have been a bit tired today (Sunday).

It was worth it though to see the city lit up at night. Once the bridges were raised a ship sailed past straight away.

Raised bridges (from Casa Leto)

The Russians also light candles, put them into square kits and send them up into the sky. It is very pretty seeing them floating up and dissapearing into the sky.

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Lost in Russia III

Once again up early and onto the Metro to Nevesky Prospekt (spelt it wrong yesterday). I met Igor for a tour on foot around the many and various interesting St Petersburg sights. So many bridges, statues, cathedrals, parks, and a castle.

Sites today:
Alexandrisky theatre and ballet building
The Palace Square (designed by famous architect Carlo Rossi)
The Anichkov Bridge with four horse statues
An exhibit on Tsoi – an famous Russian rock star who died in a crash
St Michaels Castle
The Summer garden, which have just been restored and reopened two week ago
The Field of Mars, with an eternal flame for the Russian soldiers who died in the second world war
The Capella Opera hall and the three court yards

St Michaels Castle (from St Petersburg.com)

We also had coffee at Elessevs, which is the Kirkcaldie and Stains of St Petersburg (but posher). In the times of the Soviet Union it was the only place you could get luxury goods but at a very hefty price, well out of the range of the average worker. Igor told about how he used to have to queue for 2 to 3 hours to buy shoes and 2 hours for fruit such as bananas.

After this Igor left for work and I will not see him again this trip as he is working in the morning tomorrow and then going away until Sunday. Igor has made the last few days very special, I have been to places I would not have got to without him, plus I have been able to ask him endless questions about Russia. PLUS I have not got lost at all whilst with him.

I then went to the James Cook Pub, sat in the sunny courtyard and a cold beer and sorbet, which may sound a bit strange but was just what I wanted. After that I caught a double decker bus and went on a 1 ½ hour trip around St Petersburg and saw many of the same sites but from a different perspective.

Then I just sat for awhile on the Nevsky Prospekt, just watching people go past.

Nevsky Prospekt (from Panoramio)

When I decided it was time to return to the hotel, I went back to the same Metro that I have gone to the past 3 days in a row, into the same entrance and somehow I got lost!! Unbelievable this time, even I was surprised. I got off and had no idea where I was and could not simply go back the way I had came as the opposite line went elsewhere. I catch the blue line but the opposite line was red! But by looking at the Metro maps I worked out how to get back onto the blue line, phew!

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Things that have interested me today:

1. The shops open at 10am and all stay open to 10pm. There is one shop – Gostiny Dvor – that fronts onto the Nevsky Prospekt that covers 14 acres and is 4 stories high – you could do some serious shopping in there, but from my glance into the window I would say you would also have to have some serious money.

2. There are no campervans (or at least any that I have seen at any of the tourist sites)

3. In the winter it gets as low as 30 degrees below zero. Igor told me how he once walked 300 meters from the bus to his flat without his ears covered properly and he got frost bite.

This morning at breakfast I saw three people that could be tour riders (one was wearing Lycra, always a good clue) and tonight they are sitting in the bar but I have not yet gone up and introduced myself, as am not ready for this segment of my holiday to be over, I will spend plenty of time with them over the tour.  As they say loneliness is the pain of being alone but solitude is the glory.

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My daughter Kelly asked me what I do in the evening and what I eat.

As it is still light until midnight, I usually stop to buy something at a roadside cafe and return to the hotel. When I go to sleep it is still bright lights, and when I wake up it is light.

I have thought about going on the boat trip at night to see the lights but would be 1am in the morning and am not keen on then getting back with my sense of direction (or lack of, as my children would say). In my room I read but usually quickly fall asleep. I tried the TV last night because the hotel blurb said you can get English on one channel, but it was just snow, there were no other channels in English. I did watch the Simpson’s in Russian for a couple of minutes just for the novelty.

In terms of food in general, on every corner there are people selling hot dogs, drinks and ice cream. There are so many open cafes, it’s like Allen and Blair street – paved but with tables and  longer, hot sunshine and a few canals. There are lots of pastry shops here but also steak, salmon, sea food.  There is also KFC, Burger King, Subway, Pizza Hutt, and McDonalds. I went into McDonalds just to see what the spelling of the burgers was and if it was different food. The food was the same but it was funny seeing all the different names.

McDonalds in St Petersburg (from Wikipedia, 2004)

Food at McDonalds (from whyevolutionistrue)

I have yet to see a curry place or Chinese restaurant or takeaway. There are lots of cured meats, pickles, sauerkraut, cheeses, loaves, cheese cakes, pastries. It is like lots of small Moore Wilsons everywhere. Fantastic.

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My travel phone which worked perfectly in NZ will not ring out, although thankfully I can send and get texts. I have read the guide book cover to cover to no avail. There is a helpline to ring which would be fantastic if only I could actually ring it!

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Tomorrow I am going to Pushkins Palace and Gardens, Igor has taken me to the tour company, I have paid for my ticket and I have to meet them just past where I get off the metro. Friday I am going to Peterhoff Gardens and castle by boat.  Igor has dawn a map for from the palace square where I have met him twice. It is quite detailed so should be pretty foolproof but after today’s effort on the metro, well  .  . . .

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