Saturday, 26 April 2014

London & Holland April 2014 Day 7

Monty the Motorhome is parked at a most idyllic pitch, in his own little enclosure and backing onto a peaceful canal. He is at Camping Batenstein, in the small town of Woerden, which is between Utrecht and Rotterdam.

The day started back in Alkmaar with the morning bus into the town centre ready for the weekly cheese market, which starts promptly at 10am. The event takes place on the town square, known at the Waagplein. The whole square is cordoned off with barriers, and although there is plenty of room it is advisable to be early and get right at the front. We were there for 9.30 and 15 minutes later people were two deep behind us.

It was a glorious sunny morning, with bells chiming jolly tunes, officials dressed in different uniforms and hundreds of waxed rounds of Gouda and Edam ceremoniously stacked on the Waagplein waiting for the show to begin.

An honoured guest rings a special bell at 10 and everyone springs into a frenzy of crazy action. Dealers check the cheeses by taste, smell and crumble factors, then strike deals. Next the porters whisk the chosen cheeses away on wooden sledges to weighing scales, in a stride reminiscent of someone dashing desperately to the toilet. 

It’s quite a spectacle, but obviously aimed at the tourist trade.

We moved on to De Tromp Kaashuis a specialist cheese shop, filled to the rafters with produce, and bought a few hunks of aged cheese. Vacuum wrapped - they will be tasty lunchtime treats when back home. However lunch that day was on our minds, so it was just as well we came on a bakery. We had a bit of spending spree, getting a rye loaf, wholemeal croissants, seeded buns with dried fruit, olive breadsticks (crammed with olives) and a gingerbread made with bread flour. Lunch itself was back at the van before setting off on our travels again.

The original plan for Friday afternoon was to cross the Afsluitdijk - the barrier dyke that forms an impressive dam 30km long - that links the provinces of Noord Holland and Friesland and then work our way south, ending the day somewhere near Utrecht. However our limited experience of Holland so far was enough to know that this was just too big an undertaking. So plans had been revised the day before (twice) and we crossed the shorter barrier dyke that separates IJsselmeer from Markermeer, however this is still almost 30km long. It is a bit boring driving across, but an experience with huge expanses of water on either side of the road.

Our route then continued on major roads to Utrecht, round the ring road and on towards Rotterdam. Our campsite for the night had been chosen from the ASCI campsite book. This discount camping scheme for Europe offers bargain prices at selected sites, but only at certain times which are chosen by the sites themselves - so each one has slightly different ‘cheap’ periods. Camping Batenstein in Woerden was just €16, compared to €25-30 for most other sites. That price also included 4kW of electricity, so not too extravagant usage tonight.

We had not booked, but that was no problem as the site was not properly open and it seemed only a handful of people were there. Most of the pitches are taken with Dutch people who keep caravans on site permanently, then come for weekends through the summer period. That said there was room for a few motorhomes and our site was just perfect.

Woerden does not even have a mention in the Netherlands Lonely Planet guidebook, though that seems a shameful omission as it is a pretty town, encircled by a river/canal. We walked in and wandered around, before purchasing a few bits from the local supermarket for tea. 

Evening meal tonight was a Remoska meal of mince, tomato and peppers, followed by apple pie and washed down with Trappist Ale (8%). 

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