Friday, 7 October 2016

Ferry - Hook of Holland to Harwich - Thursday, 6 October

This morning, we drove about thirteen miles across beautiful flat farming countryside, through villages, with canals sometimes running parallel, to reach the town of Gouda, famous for its cheese. Although we have seen plenty of wind turbines in The Netherlands, there are still some old-fashioned windmills and we actually saw one working today which was a fine sight to behold.

Plunging right into the centre of the town, we suddenly found ourselves driving along narrow tree-lined, cobbled roads, one way along one side of a canal and, on the other side of the canal, traffic going the other way. Needing to park, we found a space next to a canal and I very cautiously reversed into it, being very careful not to end up in the canal. I'm sure that vehicles get fished out of canals from time to time.

We wandered along picturesque streets, amazed by the number of bicycles being ridden by people of all ages. In a town such as Gouda, where the roads are absolutely flat, it makes so much sense.

We went into the tourist information office, occupying the ground floor of a historic building, constructed in about 1686. Here, we paid to visit the cheese museum on the first and second floors. We were the only visitors and were given a personal potted history of the building by one of the museum curators. Upstairs, there was short film about the cheese-making process. Going back downstairs, we sampled various examples of farmhouse Gouda. Gouda, together with Edam, are cheeses that I tend to avoid at home as they are generally rubbery and tasteless. I assume that those are factory-made rubbish. The cheeses we tasted were delicious and we parted with some cash.

Around the corner from the museum was a traditional cheese shop and we couldn't resist going in just to have look. Well, that was the idea. There were so many Gouda cheeses to try and we were persuaded to buy some, saying that it could go in the freezer for Christmas. We have Gouda flavoured with green pesto, red pesto, Gouda made from goats' milk, from sheeps' milk, young and mature. In chatting to the lady owner, we established that her in-laws live in the same very small village in England as our son.

For a late lunch, we made our way to Toko Ina, an Indonesian shop that sells all sorts of spices and food ingredients, together with cooked Indonesian food to take away. They also have tables providing seating for just six people to eat in. We each chose a meal comprising rice, two meat dishes and two vegetable dishes, together with a drink, all for €11 each. It was a cracking good meal and a fine way to round off our tour of Northern Europe.

We then drove through rush hour traffic to the ferry terminal, in plenty of time for the night crossing home, following signs for Hoek van Holland and then Engeland. Disconcertingly, the check-in opened a good hour earlier than scheduled and we were in our cabin by 7.30pm, the time check-in was due to start. Just before take off, the captain announced that we would have a "moderate to rough, but steady, crossing" but hopefully being horizontal will make it bearable.

Last posting from foreign lands - well, foreign seas to be exact because we are already aboard the ferry at Hook of Holland.

It has been a lovely last day. Woke to a beautiful, bright, chilly autumn morning, and we could have been on the Norfolk Broads. (I have to make a correction to yesterday's posting; we are beside the River Ijssel, not a canal). It is a splendid site.

Gouda, halfway between Ijsselstein and the ferry port, was the obvious choice for a last day of exploring, and proved to be an excellent one. It is like a mini Amsterdam, really lovely. We found ourselves in the old centre very quickly, all one way roads beside canals, and decided to park in one of the canal side parking spaces. I vetoed the first one Geoff wanted to go for - very, very close to the edge of the canal with no barrier at all, and we found one with a little bit more room to manoeuvre, but not much! The parking fee was gulp-making, but it was very convenient, and our last day! The meter refused two of our cards, but happily accepted the third. No idea why.

It was a short walk along the canal and down a narrow, picturesque lane of interesting shops to the Markt, with the rather ornate Town Hall in its centre. It was market day too. We first checked out a place Geoff had discovered online, where we fancied having a late lunch, of which more later. Then St Johannes Kirke, which was like a Tardis, and is particularly famed for its stained glass windows. It apparently has over half the surviving 16th century stained glass in the Netherlands.

From there we returned to the other side of the Markt, to the Cheese Museum. Here we had our own "guides" on each of two floors in what was originally built as a warehouse in the 17th century, climbing up two long spiral staircases. We learnt how Gouda cheeses are made, and saw all sorts of cheese making paraphernalia. Of course they were selling cheese, and yes, of course, we bought supplies. This tastes nothing like the Gouda Cheese available in England. One is a Goat's cheese, and there are others at various stages of maturity.

The lady guide, being rather disloyal, had told us about the best other place to buy cheese. We found that one, of course, and it was amazing. We were getting a bit peckish by now, so tasting all the cheeses available was very pleasurable. We had to find a basket to collect the ones we wanted, and the choice was difficult. We got chatting to the lady in charge - manager or owner, not sure, but she referred to "my cheese'' - and it transpired that her parents-in-law live in the same very small village in West Sussex as James and Natalie! Small world!

Then it was time to eat properly so we decided to leave the town museum, with its Erasmus exhibition, for another time. The little Indonesian place was a real find. It is a shop, selling all sorts of Indonesian ingredients, and also ready cooked Indonesian dishes. It also has a nicely laid out table which can seat up to six in the window so that you can eat there. There were lots of different meat and vegetable dishes to choose from, and we had the set price meal - two meat and two veg dishes with rice. It was all very tasty indeed.

Strolling back to the campervan, we agreed that this was a place we would be happy to revisit.
An hour's drive along the now familiar horrendously busy A20 and we were at the Hook of Holland by 5.30, very early for check-in which wasn't scheduled to open until 7.30, but happy to be in position and make ourselves comfortable in the camper with a cup of tea. We were then taken by surprise when they opened the check-in at 6.30, and by 7.30 we were all aboard and settled in our cabin. Which even has a double bed!

With so much unexpected time here, we grabbed the DVD player to bring on board with us in case we fancy an episode or two of Mad Men.

1 comment:

  1. And so the trip is over. I've enjoyed following along. All being well, we'll be off ourselves in a few weeks, although the extent of the planning is going to be the booking of the channel crossing, with the general direction then being 'south', so who knows where we'll end up.