Meet the Coddiewomplers

Coddiewomple: The dictionary definition is “To travel in a purposeful manner towards a vague destination” – I suppose that means we are definitely coddiewomplers!

The sun setting as we coddiewomple towards our campsite for the night

Unable to travel further afield due to COVID restrictions, we decided to “travel in a purposeful manner” to get to know the Netherlands more thoroughly.

From Overloon we made our way towards a “vague destination” – in other words, somewhere interesting to stay.

We were the only visitors to the campsite
in ‘t Zand

The first place we meandered our way to was the unlikely named ‘t Zand, a small hamlet in North Holland.

We had arrived in the dark and had to phone up the owner of the site to get the code to plug into the keypad at the gate. It was so dark we almost ran over a low fence but eventually we found a good spot and plugged into the power.

The following morning we woke up to a magnificent site – a beautiful windmill, just metres away from where we had spent the night.

A magnificent sight to wake up to
Originally built in 1631 the windmill was restored in 2011

The elderly owner of the land came to see if we had settled in OK and told us that the windmill, which was originally built in 1631 in the neighbourhood of Leiden, had been purchased in 1865 by his grandfather and moved to ‘t Zand where was used as a flour mill until the 1920s.

An old millstone and other parts of the now restored windmill
The wheat field next door gives a clue to what the mill was used for

It gradually fell into disrepair but in 2011 it was moved to its present position and restored by a team of volunteers.

We couldn’t go in but we could peer through the windows

Sadly because of Covid, we were unable to go inside this beautifully restored and historic building.

A redundant cog wheel from the pre-restored mill
A lovingly fabricated “dunny ” for chemical toilet emptying!

Our next destination was to Bergen which sounded lovely in the various on-line travel guides, as since about 1900, Bergen has been the home of many painters, writers and architects.

Heading into Bergen on this lovely tree-lined road
Bergen is a popular destination but obviously not for those in camper vans!

Unfortunately there seemed absolutely nowhere for a camper van to stop so we coddiewompled our way to Bergen aan Zee, which as the name suggests is a seaside village just down the road from Bergen.

The road to Bergen aan Zee was beautiful
The town wasn’t particularly appealing

I have to say, the long featureless beaches with the sea seemingly miles away in the distance wasn’t very appealing to us (we have been so spoilt by gorgeous beaches in other parts of the world) so we continued on.

I think we’ve been spoilt- we didn’t find the beach anything to write home about

That night we ended up in a campsite in the middle of nowhere on the grounds of what turned out to be a chicken farm.

A lovely evening in the grounds of a chicken farm

It ended up as a very peaceful night although while we were out for a walk our tranquility was momentarily disturbed when the farmer’s young teenage daughter drove past – high up on a massive tractor. Probably off to see her friends for the evening, she was going flat out down the service road grinning from ear to ear and looking so pleased with herself!

The service road to the main road

The next day as we filled our water tank on the far side of the huge shed next to the campsite, there was an overwhelming smell of chicken poo and we realised this was no storage shed!

The shed on the right turned out to be full of chickens

Longing for some crisp fresh air we decided to head for the sea once more and drove to the town of Middelharnis on the island of Goeree-Overflakkee in Southern Holland. How could it not be a great place with names like that?

To us the name Middelharnis was reminiscent of a location for the Lord of the Rings and Goeree-Overflakkee sounded like some sweet smelling pipe tobacco – so we were curious to see what the town was like.

Parked by the water in Middelharnis

Middelharnis was, as the name suggests, absolutely delightful. It became a bustling fishing village in the 15th Century. To this day you can still see the original warehouses and the wharf from 1675.

The cabin boy statute at the head of the Middelharnis harbour
There were some beautiful old buildings as well as plenty of yachts to look at

We were able to park right on the banks of the inlet that leads to the sea (a short bike ride away) and it was so lovely waking up to the sounds of ducks quacking each morning and a view of the boats moored just metres away.

It was lovely to wake up to the ducks quacking
A barge moored nearby to where we were parked
Stormy weather ahead
Boats and glorious buildings everywhere you look

We had some beautiful bike rides and walks through the town and enjoyed window shopping in the narrow laneway perched on top of an ancient dyke.

Reflections seen on one of our walks
Window shopping in this lovely laneway perched on top of an ancient dyke
Sunset in Middelharnis

At the end of the Middelharnis Voorstraat (“Front Street”), we found the stunning old town hall which was designed in 1639.

The impressive town hall
Designed in 1639, the town hall at the end of the Voorstraat (“Front Street”)

Before heading back onto “the mainland” we decided to have a quick drive around the island (which is actually connected to the mainland by road bridges).

The weather was cold and grey but when we reached the beach at Ouddoorp we decided to go for a walk to see what has been described as an “extended and beautiful” beach.

It’s a long way to walk before you can have a swim!

Well, extended the beach may be (18 kilometres long!) but as we know, big is not necessarily beautiful.

We met these guys near the beach!
What a wonderful sight

This featureless beach was fringed by massive sand dunes and stretched out as far as the eye could see. The dull grey North Sea was lapping the shores in the middle distance – going for a swim would involve a hike to the water!

The top of the massive sand dunes with a watchtower in the distance

Despite not being very impressed with the beach we did like the island and particularly enjoyed Middelharnis.

On the way back to the mainland we saw some of the famous and impressive “Delta works” – a massive construction project built to protect the large area of land around the Rhine-Meuse-Scheldt delta from the sea. The works consist of dams, sluices, locks, dykes, levees, and storm surge barriers (that was the bit we saw).

Storm surge barriers – part of the famous Delta Works

We were hoping to stop in Middelburg, capital of the province of Zeeland and once one of the great trading cities of the VOC (Dutch East India Company).

No room at the inn in Middelburg

The city has many beautiful historic buildings but sadly we were unable to explore as the campervan parking spots near the city centre were all taken.

So we changed our plans and decided to head for Roermond instead where once again, we stayed in a yacht marina – this time very close to the city and right on the wide basin of the Meuse river.

The marina on the Meuse (Maas) River

From there, it was easy to walk into the centre of the city which has many listed buildings and monuments and has been designated a conservation area.

Roermond has many listed buildings
So many different styles of architecture

It is also famous for being one of the largest and most successful designer outlets in Europe, making it a huge tourist attraction. Fortunately, because of Covid, there was only a tiny percentage of the usual thousands of visitors while we were there!

One of the largest designer outlets in Europe
These little models were 3-D printed using photos
They were amazingly lifelike but tiny!

When you walk round the city it is hard to reconcile the many beautifully preserved ancient buildings with the fact that 90 per cent of them were damaged or destroyed by the time it was liberated from the Germans in 1945.

90 per cent of the buildings were destroyed or damaged in World War two

Not only that, but in 1995 the city experienced the strongest seismic event in Western Europe since 1756 – a magnitude 5.4 earthquake – at which time further heavy damage was inflicted, especially to the older buildings.

Restored in 1771, the original stone bridge was built in 1348

In the past, Roermond was occupied by the Spanish and the French and became part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1814.

The Munsterkerk is a 13th-century church but its remarkable front towers were added in the 19th Century
A gentleman looking in awe at the Munsterkerk

In 1840 the city almost became part of Belgium and during World War 2 it was occupied by the Germans for five years – in fact the border with Germany is only minutes away by car.

A statue commemorating the Roermond witch trial which took place in 1613. It was the largest witch trial in The Netherlands resulting in the death of sixty four people by burning
Yummy food for sale

With all these external influences it wasn’t really surprising when we heard locals speaking in a language that sounded French in accent but with words that could have been a mix between German and Dutch. Apparently they were speaking “Limburgish” or a “in between” dialect which combines standard Dutch with the Limburgish accent and some of its grammar. Which ever it was, it sounded extremely odd!

Christmas is coming!
Another of the cool sculptures in Roermond

While we were in Roermond, we made a sneaky incursion over the German border on our e-bikes.

A sneaky trip into Germany!
It was very pretty
Such a beautiful bike path

We cycled through absolutely gorgeous national park and farm land before finding ourselves safely back in the Netherlands later that evening.

A gorgeous time of year to be on a bike ride
These were the cutest cows ever. A cross between a koala and a cow maybe?
The autumn leaves were gorgeous
Can you believe the bike paths in the Netherlands?!

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Salty tales from Bali Hai

In 2015, after a break from cruising of almost 30 years, my husband and I sailed off into the sunset - this time to the wonderful Islands of Indonesia and beyond. Three years passed and we swapped sails for wheels driving through Scandinavia and Europe in a motor home. Now we are on the brink of another adventure - buying a Lagoon 420 Catamaran in Athens. This is our story.

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