We left early (for us) and headed off towards Groningen, stopping off at IKEA in Bremen for Breakfast. This is getting to be a bit of a thing! The van was doing well, but after a brief rest stop died as we pulled out. Once again we managed to restart after a few minutes and got going again. We arrived in Groningen and found the free camper parking provided by the sports centre. It was just an allocated area on grass, but no charge and in pleasant surroundings. We cycled off to look in a couple of bike shops, and got Susan’s broken spoke repaired. Handily we found a large blue building next door so we could get free coffee (Ikea family card out once again) while we waited. Then back to the van for dinner and an early night.
An early start again the next day as we headed to Haarlem. We shunned the route favoured by TomTom, opting instead to travel across the Afsluitdijk, a 30km long engineering marvel, built in the 1930s to close off the Zuiderzee (though why anyone would want to ruin a sea full of cider is beyond me). We opted to pull over at one of the rest spots along the motorway and where rewarded with views out to see and across the Ijselmeer (for the most part you can’t see the sea) and even a little tower to walk up for a better view.
We arrived in Haarlem, and if you’ve been following the last few days you can probably guess where we went. That’s right, it was time for another IKEA breakfast! This time the main draw was proximity to the city centre and free parking, the 1 Euro breakfast, free coffee and decent toilets simply acting as a bonus.
Refuelled we got on the bikes and cycled a few kms into Haarlem to another used bike shop. I managed to try five different bikes here, and am now the proud owner of a used Gazelle Stadfiets! Shopping for a bike was one of the main reasons for a few days in the Netherlands at this point so I’m pleased to have succeeded in finding one.
We wandered a bit into town, far enough to find a pastry, then headed off, to the Camperplaats Het Groene Hart, a motorhome park we have stayed at before and love. It only costs 14 Euro a night (12 if you forego electricity), each pitch has its own little grass area next to it, there are views over farmland and the owners are friendly and helpful.
We pitched up, had lunch and it started raining, so we lazed around in the van until the rain cleared, then cycled into the nearest town to pick up some pancake syrup, Spekulas spice and Hertog Jan beer – all things which are challenging to buy in the UK. Now even if we breakdown and have to be recovered home we know we have purchased the things we needed in the Netherlands!
Only one van failure today, unfortunately just as I pulled into the outside lane as the motorway split in two. I managed a hasty retreat across the carriageway and stopped in the bus lane for a little rest, before slowly creeping away again.
We plan to stay here for three nights, taking it easy, cycling, drinking beer, that sort of thing. We’ll probably head back into Haarlem tomorrow for a proper look around (we loved it when we visited on a previous trip) and for me to see if the little ice-cream place is still serving Stroop Waffle ice-cream, one of the wonders of the modern world.