July 11, 2003 GMT
Day One - Shipping the Bike

It is a beautiful sunny day in Vancouver and we are not ready yet. Patrick is busy scrubbing the bike clean and I am trying to tie up loose ends and finish packing. We have 4 hours before we leave to take the bike to the airport to get crated up.

What have we learned so far in these past 4 days? A lot. First we should not have kept working until the last minute. Second, we should have been packing the bike up a month ago because last night at midnight was a little too late !! Third, and this is after a few drinks, we are on our way and don't have to work for a year so really we have no worries.

I will be getting back to packing and getting orgainzed now so please everyone put you seats in the upright position and fasten your seat bealts, as your next stop is Amsterdam.

Posted by Danette Harkness at 06:15 PM GMT
July 19, 2003 GMT
Amsterdam and the NL

So we have done 4 days in the Netherlands: We ended up in Broek in Waterland to stay for 3 nights at a B and B for a very reasonable 35 euros: We spent one day in Amsterdam seeing the tourist spots and then a trip out to Groesbeck/Arnhem for some Canadian war history.

Overall this is what we noticed.....
- the roads are excellent and very straight, Patrick only got corners on the on and off highway ramps
- the drivers are fast but good and normal
-the average litre of gas was 1.14 euros
-we ended up doing around 600 km s all together
-signage was quite good and we only got a little lost

Food was good but the coffee was excellent. Beer rating is good.
ATM - no problems, for my banking friends I am using the ING card and I haven't tried out the Credit Union one yet.

As we head out to Groesboek and Arnhem it starts to rain, then it starts to poor and then the wind comes up like a blast from the North Atlantic. I am sure that Patrick is going to pull over at any time......no apparently not.

We go through the motorways and head down on a secondary road to Groesboek. The rain stops but it is still overcast and windy. We get into town and start to follow the signs to the cemetery when we suddenly come across police controlling the traffic and about twenty thousand people walking around. Now, we are in small town Netherlands here. So we have stumbled across the 4 Day World Walking Competion. When we asked some people what was going on they were shocked that we had not heard about this. We are very very confused. There are bands playing, food cooking, people camped all along the path of the road as these walkers just keep coming and coming and coming. We stop a fellow motorcyclist and he is actually from the city so we gets out his map to try to get us on a back road to the cemetery. However, we have no luck, all the roads are blocked due to the walkers who are walking for 4 days in a big circle and the cemetary is right in the centre of it......Back on the bike we go.....we have decided on a new rule for our travels, plan and read up on where we are going so that if there is a Walking Competition or a festival we will know before hand.

Back to the B and B with little problems and the weather cleared up a bit. Headed into another town by bus called Monnikdam for a nice dinner and then back to the B and B to pack and get ready for the morning.

We are on our way now to Belgium through Bergen op zoom - another Canadian War site/cemetery.

sorry no pictures yet - see you in Belgium

Posted by Danette Harkness at 01:09 PM GMT
July 24, 2003 GMT

Netherlands to Belgium

Some observations:

Price of gas - about £1 per litre
Driver's manners - good, drive in the slow lane, pass in the fast lane
Food - good
Budget - Over again.........
ATM access - tried 7 banks before we got money...was a little worried

The story.....

So off we went from our little B and B in Broeken in Waterhouse outside of Amsterdam and headed off to Belgium. As we are trying to get to Dublin by the 28th we really only had time for one city. Based on our map and our guide book (which we aren't to happy with and will be replacing) we headed out to Antrwerp. The weather was sunny and warm and the road signs out of the Netherlands were quite easy.

On our way to Belgium we stopped at Bergen Op Zoom. There is a Canadian War Cemetery there that we stopped in. It is beautifully kept with huge trees and flowers all around. There are about 987 buried there. It ended up being very emotional. We had started to go around and read the tombstones but after reading the additional inscriptions from the families - boy, did the tears start to flow. We ended up staying there for about 45 minutes. It was very peaceful and I have to thank the town’s people for keeping the site up.

We entered into Belgium with little problem. The signs are in Flemish but we are getting better at making our highway notes and made it to Antwerp on small back roads. Then the fun begins !!! All we wanted to do was get to the Tourist Information to get a map and some listings for accommodations. We followed the one sign we saw, then the next.......then nothing. The road signs suddenly stopped and in the end we were in the middle of a cobble stone pathway going where the f*** are we. It is now 30 degrees and we are in full gear lost. There are lots of people about so I go into a shop to get us out of the maze and back into the main streets. We re-read the guidebook and try again to find the Tourist Bureau. Luck we have seen the sign for the train station and the Tourist Bureau is supposed to be right beside it. We again had only that one sign.....lost again....30 degrees...we are melting.

So after shouting at each other while driving down the streets of Antwerp of which way should we go, we see a sign for the main Motorway and decide to just get out of there.

That was the best thing we could have done. We stopped at a rest stop off the highway and found a secondary road to a medium size town called Lokeren. My god it was beautiful and I highly recommend it. The hotel was expensive for our budget at €69.40 but we were able to wash some clothes and the bike was in a safe place. We had some internet access in the town and a wonderful dinner. After dinner we went into a small shop to buy some drinks for heading back to the hotel. The owner, Roy, has family in Toronto and gave us the drinks for free. LOVE LOKEREN. So for anyone passing through I would recommend stopping there. It's big enough to have everything you need but small enough to walk around the town centre and enjoy the sites.

The next morning we head for a cafe and had THE BEST COFFEE AND CHOCOLATE CROISSANTS.

Posted by Danette Harkness at 10:35 AM GMT

Saturday the 19th Day 6

Lokeren to Brugge

Beer - good but comes in very small glasses
Ice Cream - excellent
Coffee - if you are not in a cafe its Nescafe instant
ATM - didn't need to try
Language - a lot of english spoken

Off on the road again. So we are doing what we had said we didn't want to do and are travelling every single day. We end up into Brugge without too much trouble. We do find the Tourist Bureau but it is closed for a 3 hour lunch. We go into our guidebook to find some place to stay. It is very expensive in Brugge and we end up picking a hotel that has advertised free internet and was recommended as good budget accommodations. Well let's just create another rule....always wait until the tourist bureau opens. Okay and let’s create one more rule - look at the room first. So for 54.20€ we are in a hostel type hotel that hasn't seen a good cleaning in about 10 years. The internet access is good but slow and of course everyone needs to use it so you can only be on for a few minutes. We decide to stay in the room as little as possible.

The city of Brugge is wonderful. It is a big tourist city but very clean and easy to walk around. There are city maps around the town and every building there is at least 200 years old. Lots of flowers and some canals as well. We end up going for drinks in the town square since we are on vacation and it is after 3 in the afternoon. We end up going to a small take out place for dinner to try to get back on track for the budget. We then get some ice cream and walk around the town again to stretch our legs.

Back to the hotel.... attempt to sleep while being dive bombed by mosquitoes, get up in the middle of the night to apply Deep Woods Off...get up early and run away...

I'd like to take this opportunity to say that so far we have noticed that people do not have screens on their windows in the last two countries we have been in. There are a lot of mosquitoes here and they also dive-bombed us in the Netherlands. We will have to buy more Deep Woods Off....

Off we head to France to Dunkerquer

Posted by Danette Harkness at 11:06 AM GMT

Sunday the 20th of July

Ah France !! Hey watch out for the dog poo

Gas - still around €1 per litre
Coffee - Nescafe again - what's going on here?
Beer - okay
Wine - good - cheap too

We are in high tourist season in Dunkerquer which has a great beach and seaside walk way. We found the Tourist Bureau and we end up in a 2 star hotel at 56€, again over budget but a least by only about 8€. We are getting better at this....We need to pay to park the bike in a secured lot for 6.50€.

It's Sunday in France and everything shuts down, all cafes, most restaurants and all stores. We must remember that. Again I need to get a new guidebook when we hit Ireland.

So we take advantage of our own bathroom and do a wash of clothes and take a nice walk to the sea. It's pretty peaceful and lots of French tourist. We don't hear any english anywhere.

My french isn't bad and I am doing well with the communication side of things. Patrick is also finding it easier to read the road signs and such so we are doing pretty well.

We are getting very tired and are going to try at some point to stay somewhere for 2 days to get a break. We haven’t had any great conversations with anyone yet over the last few days since Lokeren. We are looking forward to heading over to the UK and Ireland so we can relax and hopefully start meeting people. However in order for that to happen we need to slow down and stay in one place.

We find a take out pizza place and take it back to the hotel and end up watching french TV and BBC1. We are dead asleep by 10.

Back on the bike the next morning and we are headed to the Tunnel. We don't quite know what to expect but are excited, as we had seen the creation of the Tunnel on a documentary a few years ago.

Posted by Danette Harkness at 11:19 AM GMT

Monday the 21st of July - we only know this as we have started using a calendar and have updated the other entries.....

Food - good
Beer - great
Coffee - okay
Gas - huge it was 12£ for 16 litres
ATM's - no problem with good old ING card
Driving - very fast and not sure what speed limit they are doing as we are doing 10 over the limit and are being passed like we are standing still
Signs on road - Very good
Driving on the left - oh my god
Driving on the left going through road abouts - OH MY GOD -

Beautiful sunny day and since we are near the ocean it's a lovely temperature to ride in. The roads are good and we head to the Tunnel.

The Tunnel is easy. We paid €114.50 for the 2 people and the motorcycle and had no problem getting on without a reservation. You can get a cheaper rate if you book in advance and we will do that on the way back. If you travel during the week there isn't a lot of traffic out there, you would by the sounds of it have to book during the weekends.

So you actually drive into a railway car....I know it sounds crazy but it was that simple. Cars just park in a straight line and the motorcycles go on last and part on an angle. 30 minutes later you are done and exit the rail car. It was a lot cheaper then the ferry and a lot faster. However, you do not see anything..... I think taking the tunnel one way and the ferry the next would be a good balance.

We end up taking very nice secondary roads out to Hailsham, which is just up from the beaches by about 20 miles and is about 50 miles south of London.

Patrick is finally happy with the roads as we are now on curves and hills instead of straight and flat. As I said, speed here seems to be way over the speed limit and we really haven't seen any police.......

We find a tourist bureau at about 3:30, which has been the time we set to find accommodation and to get off the road. We end up with the most amazing B and B for only £38. They have 5 dogs there and a great piece of property out in the country. We have to drive to the local pub but it was wonderful. We have a good meal and Patrick ended up with the biggest piece of lamb for dinner. He was in heaven!! Good beer, good food and a place to stay that is like your own home.

We got a calling card and made contact with family and feel that all is good in the world. Again, we are out like a light by 10....must stop riding every day.

Tomorrow we head still through the UK going towards Wales. We have decided to stay on the secondary roads as they are much more fun. I now only look at buildings and churches that are built in the 1600's as there are just so many ancient places about.

Posted by Danette Harkness at 11:37 AM GMT
Stonehenge - Chippenham

Tuesday the 22nd of July

Rain, rain, sunny break, rain overcast...........

We have broken all of our rules. We did not get off the road until after 5:30 and ended up being stuck with staying above a pub for £75, yes that is the budget for like 2 and a half days. MUST FOLLOW THE RULES WE SET FOR OURSELVES - or start booking accommodation a day in advance. Must be off the road by 3:30

tired, annoyed, have to lock the bike up in this town.....drinks then bed.......

Redemption - lovely lady who served us breakfast is from Wales, had a lovely chat and we are all good to make up some miles on the M4 Motorway.... Wales here we come

Posted by Danette Harkness at 11:46 AM GMT

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