Heading home

Glorious sunshine and a light breeze, an ideal day for yesterday’s plans!

Hotel Wilhelmina vied for ‘Best Hotel of the Holiday’ together with Hostellerie Schuddebeurs, both would be high up our list for another visit.

We filled up on probably the best breakfast of the holiday, although they have all been good, had another conversation about Brexit with perplexed Europeans, and wandered up to the beach for a final look. Domburg prides itself as having the cleanest beach in Holland

We discovered the monument to the paratroopers from UK, Belgium and Norway who died trying to liberate Holland. The plaque above the Belgian memorial reads ‘United We Conquer’, a message that loses none of its power with the passage of time.

An old bathhouse dominates the seafront, following its restoration in 2007 it houses a well regarded restaurant and apartments with spectacular views.

Would Kim consider another cycling holiday? Probably, although she’s still rather alarmed by John’s desire to cycle St Malo to Nice and the book to this effect at home may mysteriously disappear and the tortoises blamed.

As to this trip, Holland is a joy to cycle and we’d come back with enough confidence to plan our own route and travel light enough to carry our luggage, rather than send it by taxi, (Kim can’t believe she’s just written that!) Dutch Bike Tours were ok but the quality of hotels and roadmaps weren’t a patch on those from Inntravel who organised our Portuguese walking trip.

Finally, after a 2.5 hour drive, John was almost in petrol head heaven at Dunkirk, as half the cars on board are heading for the Goodwood Revival Meeting.

Finally, finally JustGo 2020 is booked. 15 nights in a motorhome, John is hiding his excitement well.

A day at the seaside

We’d booked an extra day at Domburg and had a number of plans. We could relax on the beach or a 35km cycle ride taking in Middelburg, Zoutelande and Westkapelle. The route along the North Sea looked glorious. Now we’re professionals hilly, windy dunes pose no problems for us!

We left Burgh-Haamstede with our options open and had a sunny 40 minute drive to our hotel. It was too cold for the beach so the Bromptons were unfolded and we were off…….

2 km down the road, cycling into a headwind, the rain started and we were soon soaked. We managed another couple hundred metres before stopping for a cuppa in the vain hope that weather conditions would improve.

This wasn’t as easy as it sounds. We had been told to look out for large wooden steps from the road, which is below sea level. These go up and across the dunes and lead to little beach clubs. We (mainly John) carried the bikes 72 steps up one side, 52 down the other.

Our plan backfired as the weather deteriorated further, we tried to carry on cycling then common sense kicked in. Sometimes you just have to give up, return to your hotel and drive the route. Our bikes were in the back of the car so, technically, we were still cycling?

We managed to park in Middelburg, not enough time to visit the museum but sufficient to have a little potter round the cobbled streets.

We ventured out for dinner and in true seaside fashion……we had pizza. John’s not keen on fish and won’t touch shell fish so the lure of a fresh catch is lost on him.

Domburg was lovely to wander round at dusk.

Tomorrow we head to Dunkirk then home. It feels like we’ve been away longer than a week.

And the sun came out

Our day started with a game of hunt the Bromptons. They’d been stowed in the hotel’s bike store last night and were the only bikes in there. At 9am this morning they were surrounded by dozens of big, hefty Dutch bikes.

A couple of them had route numbers written on tape around the handle bars. They wouldn’t be stopping at every junction to check if they were heading the right way. A useful tip for our next trip.

We headed out through wooded Shuddebeurs, across more dikes and into Zierikzee, a small medieval town. The Dutch certainly know how to make things last and keep them looking good.

Our first big challenge was 9km over Zeelandbrug Bridge, another relentless pedal into a headwind. The Dutch are good at that too..

It was difficult – at one point we were even overtaken by a man on a mobility scooter. It was lovely to stop for a breather and take in the view across the water.

Our route took us into Colijnsplaat and along the waterside through the Oosterschelde National Park until we reached the Oosterscheldekering bridge. We stopped briefly to refuel with a local speciality of Kibbeling. It sounded like something you’d feed cats but was little pieces of fresh fried fish. Kim was impressed, John wasn’t.

We’d been dreading cycling over the bridge. So far, they’ve all been awful. This one was a dream, top gear all the way and the cycle route managed to be gently downhill while the road went up. How does that work?

We’ve covered over 125 miles in four days and it was a relief to reach the hotel back in Burgh-Haamstede.

Tomorrow, John has suggested we visit a market garden site in Arnhem where he has booked us on a history tour. This could be difficult, our legs have forgotten how to walk and we’ve struggled up one flight of stairs to our hotel room.

Bum butter, a final review. 8/10! Bottoms are sore so extra was slathered on this morning. It saw us through the day and does everything it claims but still doesn’t pedal the bikes.

Zeeland here we come..

Without noticing, we left Zeeland on Friday and, according to our instructions, we are going back today.

Cycling out of Willemstad in the morning sunshine was rather pleasant. The Met Office assured us of good weather and now over half way through our journey.

Having finally accepted that people with children on the front and shopping on the back of their bicycles will frequently overtake us, today it was the turn of Lycra clad road cyclists. It is a little disheartening to be the slowest on the road…. other than the slugs that are numerous after the wet weather.

Our first challenge was the climb back over Volkerakdam, still as steep but so much nicer in the dry on a quiet Sunday morning. We stopped and watched the locks in action and were tempted to stay longer but we’d only covered 6 of our 50 km route.

A punishing 7.5 km straight, flat section followed mainly alongside the N59 as it hugged the banks of Haringvliet. There are no photos of the road disappearing into the distance because that involved stopping. Kim was not prepared to stop under any circumstances. Her challenge was to get to the end without sobbing, it was that exhausting.

Our route continued along the top of dikes and through pretty villages.

After a couple of hours, and almost at our halfway point, we stopped at the first cafe we found in Oude-Tonge. The sun was shining and we basked over a cuppa.

It didn’t last, as we left town the rain started and the wind became stronger. Fortunately, the weather seemed a bit halfhearted after yesterday and we were cold and uncomfortable rather than soaked through.

We cycled along the Grevelingendam, luckily on the land side and sheltered from the wind. The sun had reappeared so we stopped for lunch at a waterside restaurant overlooking the Grevelingen.

Our timing was definitely out today, as we left the restaurant, the rain started again.

More cycling along dikes followed and it really highlighted how flat the area is.

We arrived at our hotel just after 3. It’s been a long day with a couple of unplanned detours. Bottoms are sore and legs weary…..but the hotel is the nicest so far

Hostellerie Schuddebeurs

Our room is quiet and spacious, and there is a pretty little garden with bantams riffling through the flowerbeds. At dinner we were given the option of being told what we were having or it being a ‘surprise’. You guessed right we were indeed cowards. What followed was beautifully presented, tasty and hadn’t come out of the lobster tank we’d passed on the way in.

And it rained…

We left Brielle early to stay ahead of the weather. Heavy rain was forecast and we needed to get as far as possible before it started. It had rained heavily throughout the night and we were relieved to set off in the dry.

Today’s route took us inland, across the islands of Voorne Putten and Hieksche Waard before finishing on the mainland at the fortified town of Willemstad. The first few kilometres set the tone, it’s been a day with very little respite from pedalling and that’s without the relentless rain. We’d managed about 20 of our 50 kilometres before the heavens opened and stayed that way.

Cycling from Zuidland to Nieuw-Beijerland we came across a queue of cars, an unusual sight in Zeeland. Then we noticed a ferry arrive as we cycled past, mystery solved. It headed back across the water just as we found the way-mark telling us we should be on board. It was only a 10 minute wait but, in the downpour, it was disproportionately long, cold and unpleasant.

We happily sheltered on the ferry, enjoying a brief respite from the rain , and seriously considered remaining on it all day. Before you critique the quality photo, we were that blurry in real life. Too much rain does that to you!

Yesterday, we didn’t refuel very well while cycling, preferring instead to push on and get the journey completed. Today, we were determined to do better and stop for lunch. However we found no cafes en route, eventually with only 15 km to go we saw a very nice department store, Konijnendijk, possibly the Dutch equivalent of John Lewis.

Inside the Grand Cafe Ritz was warm and dry which only served to highlight how cold and wet we were. The Dutch lady next to us recommended the Brie and Walnut salad and it went down a treat.

The last 10 kilometres were difficult. The rain came down harder, we cycled into a head wind and had the longest climb of the day over the Volkerak Dam. The route ran alongside the N29 motorway and it wasn’t pleasant. There was just a concrete barrier separating us from oncoming traffic. John stopped to take pictures of the series of locks built to keep the main shipping route between Rotterdam and Antwerp open when the dam was built. Kim kept plodding on…

We arrived at Willemdam at 2pm, dripped and squelched into the hotel where, thankfully, our room was ready.

Further exploration uncovered a Chandlers where we found the ideal outfit if it continues to rain tomorrow. No, we’re are not being over dramatic.

Breaking news…. Holland is not flat

We fuelled up with plenty of bacon, eggs, ham and cheese and started our adventure just after 9.

Within 10 minutes of leaving the hotel, we faced our first mountain of the day and pushed the bikes up it. Ok, it may have only been 20m high but it was blooming steep and took us both by surprise.

As we puffed over the top we had glorious views of the sea and long sandy beaches.

We cycled along the coast of Schouwen-Duiveland for 21km crossing the Brouwer and Haringvliet Dams. These form part of the Delta Works, 13 dams along the Zeeland coast, designed to protect adjacent low lying land from flooding. Parking on an incline looked fun.

The route has been easy to follow, as long as we keep an eye open for way marks which are fairly prominent. We have been map reading by numbers.

We stopped at a little farm store and tea house for a mid morning snack and worked out we were over halfway along our route. Kim had been told by numerous friends that 30 miles on a bike isn’t far. She’s just starting to believe it

A short while later, it all went wrong. We missed a turning and added a few more kilometres to our route. Dutch cycle routes are excellent. At every intersection there is a map and, having missed #17, we were able to re-route via various other paths. By then we were rather tired and found ourselves on the right road but going the wrong way finally arriving at our destination in the walled city of Brielle on the island of Voorne-Putten at 3pm.

We rode around the cobbled streets of Brielle before collapsing in the hotel for the rest of the afternoon. The weather is changing and it’s raining heavily. Tomorrow could be interesting riding……


We were up at 4am in order to catch an earlier ferry and make good use of our pre-cycling day. We gained a couple of hours and headed for Vlissingen which had been recommended by Diane, Kim’s mum.

We hadn’t bargained on a 2.5 hour journey from Dunkirk, so were tired and hungry and stopped at the first cafe we saw. It served the University of Applied Sciences Campus and looked very spartan

We ordered a cheese sandwich and it was absolutely amazing. We ate too quickly to take photos but it was a foot long baguette, stuffed full of cheese, egg and salad. Thank goodness we’d decided to share.

Fortified, we headed into Vlissingen where, in true Dutch style, it cost a fortune to park the Beetle for a couple of hours. We walked through the town past the cheese and spice shops to watch the container ships as they passed along Flushing Roads.

Vlissingen Yacht Harbour

A walk along the front took us past the Tidal Clock on the Dutch Pilots Organisation. This clock cleverly indicates the flow of tides at Flushing roads, the channel used to access the port at Antwerp. There is an information board with a detailed description, in English, of how the clock works. Frowning, we read it several times and were none the wiser.

The drive to our hotel at Burgh Haamstede took us over delta works dams which we’ll be cycling across when we return here on Monday. Hmm, they are long and very blustery. The weather’s not looking great either!

Our hotel is nestled amongst the dunes, at the end of a gliding runway. It’s very dated but the room is huge and the car park full of SUV’s with equally large cycle racks

Cycling in Zeeland

The day has come for Kim has to deliver on her promise to join John on a cycling micro-adventure. A number of destinations were discounted as either too hilly or too far until the lovely, flat Netherlands were decided on.

The next four days will be spent touring the dunes and delta works of Zeeland.

Each day we will cycle 30-40 miles on the Bromptons with our luggage travelling comfortably, between hotels, in a taxi. There is something deeply wrong with this sentence but we’re not quite sure what.

We are prepared for everything except really wet weather and are studiously avoiding the weather forecast.

There was a poor attempt to train for this but neither of us have been on a bike in 10 days. However, Kim has a new padded saddle and we both have proper cycle shorts. It does feel much like wearing a nappy but if it prevents sores, who cares?

If we survive the cycling, we are off to Arnhem which is holding a series of events to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of Operation Market Garden.

Finally, this has been recommended and we have high hopes of it…..