A week to fall in love is a small amount of time. And sometimes, a week is all it takes. This week I began to rediscover my love for travelling and it’s been a good one!
There’s been some tremendous waterfall highs, some underground car parking lows and some queer surprises. I’ll come on to all but it’s best to start at the beginning… I landed in France.
First port of call of Bruges - a casual drive North for an afternoon stroll through its historic streets and some dinner. It was great to be on the continent and driving new roads. The adventures in Bruges were simple: a walk, a tiny quantity of Belgian beer (Golden Carolus – it was wonderfully dark and flavoursome – try it) and some meatball stew overlooking the canalled streets of Bruges. Then it was time to ship out and head south for gay Paris.
The first night was spent in the picturesque location of a tollbooth truck stop. The morning followed with a cheeky excursion into the woods to relieve oneself of the aforementioned meatball stew. And then it was into Paris, laps round the Arc de Triumph and a pit stop on the Champs-Élysées. I attempted to visit the Louvre, my sole purpose for the stop, but it was closed. A classic Bartlett attempt at a day out ;) So a walk down the Seine and a trip up the Eiffel tower filled the afternoon.
Then it was off into the dark and a night spent in a French field. Sleep was punctuated by: one late night visit from the Gendarmerie with my passport details taken and an unrequested wake up call by local man seemingly on his way to a shoot. The journey continued through Champagne, a town where Napoleon stayed for a night and a giant dam next to the Rhine. I arrived in the Black forest exhausted, unsure where to stay and at a loss how to get out of Freiburg.
Fortunately in a moment of luck and glory I hit the right road out of the city and some prosperous turns led me to a cracking campsite. I secured the last pitch at the site and made camp.
A new day led me to leave Pico and set out by train through the magnificence of the dark South West German forests – Hansel and Gretel country. 3 trains later and I had the pleasure of visiting the Triberg waterfalls - Germany’s largest. They were spectacular and a lot of time spent playing with my camera managed to just about pull off a glossy waterfall shot :) The train journeys were great – I read and enjoyed the company of a British couple, Steve and Georgie. The evening bought a chance stumble upon a German music wine festival – a short conversation with a Dutch lady, Aletta and I discovered that the band were made up of people from all around who met and played once a year together – prost!
The next day bought a flat battery in Pico. Jump-starting got the ball rolling again and the troubleshooting began. Luxembourg was the lunch stop and what a stop it was. I wasn’t expecting much from the city so it totally caught me unawares. The city is precariously balanced either side of a beautiful ravine-cum-park slicing the centre. The MNHA - Musée National d'Histoire et d'Art was spectacularly dug out of the very rock of the city and impressed with it’s array of history and art. I was having so much fun I totally forgot the time and that caused trouble.
The early evening was to be spent at the Nurburgring back in Germany. As a non-qualified unprofessional driver you can race the 21km Nordschleife track through the woodlands and villages for the small and totally worth it fee of €29. It opened at 5:15pm on Friday, took 2 hours to get there and closed at 7:30pm. I was in a park in Luxembourg City at 5pm stuffing my face with a delicate piece of chocolate patisserie. Upon realising the time I raced to Pico and in my haste I didn’t take the car parking exit ticket from the machine. Cue an attempted exit, a confused conversation in frenglish and a realisation that I’d have to pay a full day’s parking. Yet the machine would not play ball so in desperation I went through the entrance as a foot passenger. The parking assistant totally rumbled me. However, as luck would have it I stumbled across a ticket on the floor, paid the reasonable €5.90 charge and exited in a whirlwind of confusion where the assistant just gave up in the end.
The parking situ set me back even further and a race to make it to the Nurgburgring in time to do one lap began. Quite a mean feet as there are regular crashes and the track is shut often. If the session time finishes, it’s game over. Pico’s top speed ‘may’ have been reached on the autobahns of Germany and I arrived to discover the track just opening from an earlier crash. We were in luck.
The drive was INCREDIBLE! One of the best things I’ve ever done in a car. Pico managed a respectable time of 13:02 beating the 15-minute challenge set by my brother. Pico drew a fair amount of love from the huge crowd more used to some very beautiful cars and useful drivers. When I say huge, I really mean tiny but I’ll take the compliments wherever they come from.
The next day it was onto Amsterdam and a first Couchsurfing experience with an artist named Jabu. Couchsurfing is an online community of space and experiences sharers – anyone can put their spare room, bed or piece of floor online and will host you for free as a guest – sometimes this involves an exchange of skills or a local’s guide to the city. Jabu was a wonderful host and a very special man that I enjoyed the company of greatly. You can check out his work here http://www.jabuarnell.com/ :)
Two other guests at the flat were a friendly Spanish duo, Enrique and Julia. We set off into the city in such of a beer. Again fortune favoured me, it was EuroPride in Amsterdam – the whole city was alive with colour, noise and personalities. A great party was had throughout the city.
The next day followed with more city touring and a trip to the Heineken experience. I also popped back to the car to say hello and unfortunately a puncture had struck! Leaving the next day involved a car park wheel change and the hope that Pico would turn over. Everything went well and it was with a joyful heart filled with new friendship and a fun frolic that I departed Amsterdam on Monday for Drachten in Friesland, Netherlands.
I am now visiting Jetze and Ulrike, some of my parent’s friends (Dad works at Jetze and Ulrike’s old company). Their home is beautiful and it’s where I write this now. Currently I’m snuggled up in the guesthouse on the sofa after 1 night. I’ve had 5 nights of air mattress plus two on Jabu’s floor and oddly enough I’m looking forward to being back in the boot (after another night in a bed obviously!)
Jetze took me on a grand tour of Friesland and I am now the proud owner of a pair of the highest quality clogs. I feel they make ideal car camping slip on shoes and I envisage much use though I doubt they’ll ever wear out!
Today, I ventured to Sneek and the famous regatta of Sneekweek - 1100 boats competing on a beautiful inland lake with a festival vibe. It was great to get next to the water and a short ferry to Kolmeersland Island provided great viewing. I dined in Sneek and purchased some treats for the car (jumps leads, a tyre pump and a 12V splitter).
Anyway, it’s time to be off and search out more of the world.
As a final few words… I’m not writing this much again!
The week only grew in fortune and fun. In my last post I signed off with ‘See you when I see you’ and this week the same was said to me when meeting a new friend.
Due to the above – in a blatant attempt to sway the gods of fate and because of my lucky first week (long may it continue) I say…
I bid you good luck.
Sunflowers in Champagne
13:02 round the Nurburgring