Our camper van had been ordered over the Internet from Australia, and a company (“Socitie Civile”) set up so we could own it legally. It was now waiting for collection in the small French village of Veron, an hour’s train ride from Paris. But first we had to pay for it!
Due to a technical hitch on our bank’s on-line site this took more than a week and many frustrating hours (over days) to organise. What should have been an easy two-step one-day process became a nightmare of international phone calls, emails and angst. However, at last the payment was made and in fact, much to our surprise, our bank not only reimbursed the extra fees involved because we ended up having to make several transactions instead of one, but also (a couple of months later) gave us Aus$200 in compensation for our trouble!
In the meantime we had a wonderful time in Pijnacker, the Netherlands, staying with our daughter and her partner in their home for the very first time. It was a very special time as our son and his partner (based in Australia) also joined us there after their whirlwind tour of Scotland and Ireland.
Pijnacker is a small town (population around 21,000) just 10 minutes bike ride from the stunning medieval canal-ringed city of Delft, home of the wonderful artist Vermeer and of course that blue and white china that seems to be popular through the generations.
A few steps away from our daughter’s front door is the market square where every Wednesday beautiful fresh flowers, fruit and vegetables, fish, meat, clothes and an assortment of other goods are sold.
The train station is only a ten minute walk and in 12 minutes we could be in Rotterdam and 16 minutes The Hague. Amsterdam is just an hour away on the intercity train.
Surrounding the village (which boasts three supermarkets and a variety of other shops selling everything from shoes to bikes) are lovely lakes, woods, bike paths through fields, an aboretum two petting farms and lovely cafes. It’s such a great place to walk and cycle.
While we were all together we had several visits to Delft and had a marvellous day in Leiden, birthplace of Rembrandt, which we explored by boat that we hired for the day.
We also met Pieter’s large and welcoming family for the first time which was great fun as we were able to celebrate Hannah’s birthday on their regular Wednesday evening dinner together (Mum, Dad and six siblings and partners plus five grandchildren).
All too soon it was time for our son and his partner to return to Australia and for us to head to Paris to collect the camper van.
We had decided to go by train as we thought it would be a pleasant way to travel but being peak holiday time it was expensive and hard to find a booking that suited us. Our daughter suggested using Flixbus (apparently these run routes all over Europe and the USA) as a cheap alternative. We were amazed. The one way train ticket from Amsterdam to Paris would have cost EUR 120.22 each and the bus ticket was only EUR 49.98 for two! Better still the bus left from Rotterdam, nearer to our daughter’s and the terminus was close to the station (Gare de Bercy) where we were to take the train to Sens to collect the camper van.
The trip was just over six hours long and very comfortable with very comfortable reclining seats.
We spent the night in a small hotel very close to the station in a minute room with no air conditioning (and it was a sweltering night). Fortunately, a desk fan was supplied and we managed to open the windows to allow a bit of a breeze blow through.
One thing that you can be sure of in France is that where ever you go and whatever kind of cafe/restaurant/eaterie you visit, the meal you choose will be beautiful. So it was in our one night in Paris. We had a simple but delicious meal at the Bistro de Metro near Gare de Bercy. Beautiful surroundings, great service, lovely food and fantastic wine – all at a very inexpensive (by Australian standards) price.
The following day after breakfast at our hotel we headed for the train for the hour’s train round to Sens where we were to pick up our new home on wheels at long last !