Friday, August 5, 2011

It's Supposed to be Summer

We set out from Cormatin early on departure day having decided to see how close we could get to Amsterdam in one go. Sue and Cees at the campsite said they drove to Amsterdam in one day easily, as did the myriad of Dutch campers that went through the campsite while we were there. Of course, they were all in cars and took turns driving, and poor Courts didn’t have the luxury of swapping with me when he got tired. Never the less, under strict instructions that if he got tired we would pull over at the next campsite, he wanted to aim for Amsterdam, a city he was really looking forward to.

The cool morning air and damp fog created droplets on our visors as we moved away from our little corner of countryside and towards the highway. We don’t normally set the GPS to favour highways because they’re boring and small towns are a better way of getting to know a country, but this time we opted for highways as often as possible, to make the trip shorter. The fog never did burn off, as we originally thought it would. Instead, it got thicker, and colder, and we ended up using petrol stops as much to defrost as to fill up the tank.

Courts had a lot more enjoyment from the cold than I did, relishing being too cold rather than too hot in all his gear. For me, it was a welcome relief to see the sign for Luxembourg and tick off one step closer to our destination. Luxembourg marked the half way point, but also the second of 4 countries we went to that day. It’s so weird for us to even be able to do that, pass through 4 countries in one day, but do it we did.

Luxembourg is tiny and we only crossed the bottom corner of it so we were in and out within half an hour and never set foot on the soil. Belgium was next and we had been warned that the traffic around Antwerp and Brussels would be the hardest parts of our ride, but the GPS had other ideas and we never went near either. Again Belgium is small and we didn’t see much of it before we were out the other side and into the Netherlands, by which time our bums were sore and necks aching, Courts had been riding (with lots of breaks) for about 6 or 7 hours and we were well and truly over it.

The knowledge that we were now in the same country as our destination and so close to earning an extra full day in Amsterdam kept us going. Courts was determined by then to make it to the end and so we did. If you think you’re going to hate a place, you probably will; and if you think you’re going to like it the same is true. By this logic, Courts and Amsterdam fell in love at first sight.

Amsterdam is immediately a million times removed from anything we’ve seen in Europe so far. We thought France and Spain were very distinct from each other, and they were. Amsterdam though, we are worlds away. It looks and smells and sounds and feels inherently different.

The campsite was reasonably easy to find and we once again requested a spot in the quiet family field rather than the younger field we were originally offered. Despite my looking forward to a week without bugs we chose a spot tucked in between a tree and an overgrown fence where the privacy that attracted us also attracted a massive spider. Thankfully Courts noticed it after I had put up the tent and quickly disposed of it. It’s a lot easier to pretend they’re not there when you can’t see them.

We were well and truly out to it for the night after all that riding, but even so we slept in jeans and hooded sweatshirts under the sleeping bag. The canals that surround our campsite make it beautiful but so far – sooo cold.

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