It was certainly not our intention to go this long between posts, and I pinky swear not to leave it this long again. Boy do we have some stories for you from our weeks of absence.
Mysterious introduction and synopsis
When we last heard from our dashing young hero and heroine, they had just arrived in Louth (Lincolnshire, rural England), where they were feeling all bright eyed and bushy tailed after having purchased a beautiful 2000 Mitsubishi Shogun (that’s a Pajero for our Antipodeans). Several weeks later, we find our protagonists sitting in a cosy campground pub in rural Belgium, a new 2004 Shogun set up for bedtime nearby.
Turns out we were swindled into buying a beater. It’s a long story, and we’ll probably go into in another post when we’re feeling more energetic. Anywho, with the legal prowess of our friend/host Nick, my overly polite negotiating, Luke’s understanding of cars, and our friend/hostess Louise’s understanding of everything, we were able to have the car returned to the dealers for most of our money back, and purchase a car that is wonderful and actually works. Yay!
This is boring, but necessary for our dear readers to stay with the plot of our story: A quick synopsis of our adventures thus far. In the future, I’ll create a section on the right hand of your page (or the bottom for mobile readers) entitled “Keeping up with the Shingle to Boggians.” This will have ongoing and frequent short updates on our whereabouts.
- 6-20 May: staying with Nick and Louise in Louth. Including a few lovely days in Liverpool, but mostly experiencing charming Lincolnshire, sorting out our car(s), and setting up for the trip.
- 20-22 May: Camping in the Kent Downs in southern England, fussing about and obsessing over the wittle lambs, goats, chickens, and horses.
- 23 May: Crossed the Channel from Dover, UK, to Dunkirk, France. Camping and touristing in Bruges, Belgium, a medieval town with lovely canals
- 24-25 May: Two nights camping in a funky campground in the sketchy/trendy/derelicte Eastern Docks area of Amsterdam, including a day of super intense walking tourism in Amsterdam
- 26 May: Camping in Giethoorn, Netherlands, a little village accessible only by boat. Putted about on one of said boats the morning of the 27th, and took a 30k bike ride that arvo.
- 27 May: Stayed with Zsofi, Eve’s college roommate and lovely person, in the heart of Brussels, Belgium. Touristing ensued.
- 28 May: Camping at a campsite by a river near Bastogne, Belgium, a small town famous for the Battle of the Bulge
I’ll tell you about most of our travels through photos, below. Just a few stories to highlight.
Lincolnshire: We almost stayed forever
We went to Nick and Louise’s house begging for three, maybe four or five days of their hospitality. It turned out to be 14. Yes, my mother did teach me better than that. But I can explain. Our time with Nick and Louise consisted of:
- 17 different pubs
- More different types of real ale than that
- 6 or 7 new meat products? The English have great meat products. (Eg: Lincolnshire stuffed chide, black pudding [don’t be scared, it’s yum!], haslet, pork pie, scotch eggs)
- 3 days in Liverpool, in the West of England
- Visits to every hardware store and car part store in Louth as we set up our vehicle. Gratitude is owed to Louise for taking on the role of hardware tour guide.
- Daily changes of plans while we dealt with the ridding of the rust bucket and the purchase of our brand new shiny Shogun
- Incredibly delicious home-cooked gourmet meals. These folks know how to cook.
- General admiration of Nick and Louise, who are good humans, and not just because they didn’t murder us. They are hilarious, kind, and ceaselessly helpful, and we miss them.
Intelligent and never-before heard insights about the Netherlands
And now, a list of Netherlands stereotypes that we found to be reality:
– Amsterdam smells like pot about 15% of the time. I feel that this is a lot for a major city. There were dreadlocked white dudes playing bongos and smoking the ganja in our campground. Living the dream, white dudes, living the dream.
– There was an manure-smeared actual farm guy WEARING WOODEN CLOGS in the grocery store in a small town a couple hours east of Amsterdam. They looked and sounded impractical. We do not understand.
– There are windmills everywhere. I got 74 in one view once, just turning my head. But of course they are the brand new ones, not the old little wooden ones. We didn’t see any of those.
– I personally believe that there are more bicycles than chickens, and apparently there are 10 chickens per Dutch person. Anyway, there are a lot of bicycles. Our dear Hindmarshes – we have found your utopia. Pedestrians apologise when they realise they are standing in your way, and cars always yield.
I just can’t help it
Let’s talk about toilets again. They charge for them in Europe. (I’m sure this is no revelation to most of you.) This was annoying at first, gathering a 50cent coin (and watching Luke fumble for change as he is “stinging for a piss” as he says), until I realised that many of the toilets have nice friendly ladies who say “thank you, goodbye!” after you pee. I like that.
Not actually jokes
We saw a refugee camp in France, we think. It was next to the freeway near Dunkirk, where ferries go to the UK. The tiny dwellings, arranged in neat rows, were made from what looked like unpainted plywood, and there were people sitting around on boxes. People asked us before we left whether it was wise to come to Europe during the refugee crisis; yet other than this one sight we’ve seen nothing. After all, we are going the opposite way than the flow of refugees and immigrants, generally. Our friend Louise tells us that people wait in Calais (30 minutes from Dunkirk) to get from France to the UK; apparently Britain has a better reputation amongst some immigrants, and of course it is an English speaking country.
I’m sure you all know about the terrible attacks on Brussels in March. I’m sure they are felt strongly in the psyche of the residents and those who were visiting at the time, but they were only visible to us by the uniformed, machine-gun toting military personnel patrolling the streets. They are really quite omnipresent, from what we saw. Our friend Zsofi, who works for NATO in Brussels, says they were first stationed there after the Paris attacks, then were drawn out slightly, and after the March attacks they came back with a vengeance. We are not sure what they are actually planning to do, and it’s difficult to find anyone with a machine gun comforting.
That’s all the writing I’ll do for now – instead I’ll give you a few photo essays below. Click on a photo in any of the galleries to view a slide show of that gallery.
A feast in Nick and Louise’s backyard
Admiring the leaves on a walk with Nick
Pretty English countryside
The size difference is MOSTLY an optical illusion here. On a walk near Louth.
You guys – Louise got this traditional street sign made – and many others like it. She worked on keeping Lincolnshire beautiful and happy in her last role, which was a community development role. Yay!
Lukey boy really, really wants this homemade cheesy toast right now (at Nick and Louise’s)
Meat Products! Haslet, scotch eggs (eggs wrapped in sausage), ham, etc. With pickled onions and English mustard in the background. All from the local butcher.
Our new friend Rodney, a mechanic in Louth, after having given us the news that the car we bought sucks and will take a lot of money to fix. After the news, he spend lots and lots of time helping us find a new car.
With Louise, having a lovely time making a Mexicali feast
WE FOUND BABY BUNNIES AT A PUB IN LINCOLNSHIRE. I AM HOLDING A BABY BUNNY. The lady next to me is the pub owner/baby bunny rearer.
Nick got into trouble at the pub.
Luke’s dream. Country pub in Lincolnshire.
These flowers though. Everywhere.
These are allotments in Louth – little plots of land people rent to farm, in many towns across the UK.
A lovely little allotment.
The best pub we went to – a brewery in the industrial estate in Louth. Absolutely delicious, and the lovely brewer gave us a tour and let us taste the raw hops.
Louth being pretty
We’re not windblown at all on the beach.
A vision of Nick enveloped in the sunshine on the beach near Louth
Sand on the beach near Louth
I found grass on the beach!
Little natural sand sculptures on the beach
Luke made me pose. I think I’m trying to be a small animal here. This is in a field of the unfortunately named Rapeseed, aka Canola.
We are too tall. We cannot get into the Wheatsheaf. Please help. Need beer.
Sue – this is what happens when you feed your boy too many organic local fresh fruits and vegetables while he is growing. 🙂
Just little ol’ Louth.
Setting up the car
Luke’s set up, in front of Nick and Louise’s.
Louise was a real help setting up. She is incredibly practical.
This is where the drawers go!
Backseats fold flat.
Here are the drawers!
The bed platform is inserted
The drawers go in!
I’m totally helping. I’m holding down the seats that we took out of the back hatch to make more room for our crap.
The hatch, with stuff in it!
Chairs and a few other things packed around the seats. Notice the super ingenious bed extender – the seats go forward, and that little piece of wood gets put at the head of the bed, supported by extending wooden rods that slide under the bed during transit. Very easy! My husband is a genius.
EPIC IKEA TRIP! We were there from 7pm-10pm buying all our gear, and then set up in the parking lot until 11pm. Reached first campsite at midnight.
I AM ALL THAT IS WOMAN. HEAR ME ROAR. (This is our Ikea mattress)
My “office” in Louth – Nick and Louise’s new addition to their house, a beautiful two-storey sunroom.
Oh hi Luke!
So cosy in bed! Look at those pretty curtains!
Fluffy doona/duvet and functional drawers.
Beer time in a fancy pub!
Just the local dive bar. Jk. This is the Philharmonic, a fancypants beer establishment.
This is the pub floor. Fancy.
Tourist time! Beautiful museum.
A cathedral in Liverpool.
Indulging my morbid fascination by the cathedral.
I walked into the gravestone-lined light and I was fine. Kids, don’t try this at home.
I felt you and I knew you loved me. Stained glass in the cathedral.
Lovely stained glass reflections.
Inside of said modern church. Spectacular. There was an organist playing at the time.
More stained glass in the modern church.
Merchant trading made Liverpool rich. Here’s a big building they built to show everyone just how rich they were.
No visit to Liverpool would be complete without some Beatles tourism – this is the Cavern Club, where they plated a lot.
Graffiti covers the wall in the Cavern Club.
An elusive Nick is spotted in his natural habitat
Our first night camping: Kent Downs, Southern England. Plus a ferry crossing into France.
Louise packed us rock cakes for the road. Bless your heart Louise, bless your heart.
Luke enjoying our English souvenir – a mini keg of real ale from the brewery in the industrial estate in Louth. Incredibly delicious.
“Faffing about” for a day – reorganising after our late night Ikea adventure.
Baby lambs just sucked the honey off of the carrot.
This farm campground was just swarming with annoying tourists. Look at them, they are everywhere. It’s just packed.
Driving onto the car ferry in Dover
A view from the upper decks of the gargantuan ferry.
On our way to France
Goodbye, White Cliffs of Dover!
A view of the Channel
Disconcerting, to have the highway fold up in front of you. (It’s allowing boats to pass through the canal underneath). This is in Belgium, I think
Bruges, a medieval city crossed by tiny canals. We visited on my Dad’s recommendation, and we’re so glad we did.
I want to go to here and live here forever.
This wittle guy is guarding his house.
Don’t know what it is, but it’s purty.
Just a flouro wizard on a pony.
This church started construction about 800 years ago.
A view from the top of that bell tower.
The bells in the bell tower.
Pretty windows of Bruges, part 1.
Pretty windows, part 2.
Pretty windows, part 3.
Pretty windows, part 4.
Pretty windows, part 5.
A windmill! But this is not in the Netherlands, this is in Belgium.
A neat and tidy campground in Bruges.
We’re getting better at this camp cooking thing.
A lovely and typical canal in the Jordaan area.
A houseboat with a living roof. Design inspo!
What did I say about the bikes??
Luke reckons Van Gogh looks amateur. I was moved to tears by his brush strokes. So. similar reactions really.
This monument, called Homomonument, remembers all gay people who have faced persecution because of their sexuality. It is reminiscent of the pink triangles that the Nazis forced gay people to wear during the war. A sobering reminder of the history of the still-ongoing struggle for human rights for gay people around the world.
Our campground from a nearby bridge.
Super nice area.
The campground neighborhood.
More neighbors, more design inspiration.
On the way in to Amsterdam, actually.
A bike ride near Giethoorn – 30k!
A bicycle ferry.
We found a mini horse on our bike ride. I thought about leaving my bike in the enclosure and riding the pony home instead, but I did not.
I almost died from the cuteness of this house, but I am ok now.
Giethoorn – they call it the Venice of the Netherlands, but I never saw Venice look this quaint.
A whisper boat ride (electric motor, almost completely silent.
Uh oh, who’s driving?
I’m driving! And we only crashed twice.
The relaxation intensifies.
The houses in Giethoorn are roofed with traditional thatch. We stopped to watch some fellows doing restorations.
Leaning to avoid hitting my noggin on the low bridge
This is our campground.
Giethoorn is not accessible by car, so we carted in our stuff and camped in the tent.
We were the only people at the campground. The lake in the background is about 3 feet deep.
Our dining room table.
Evening beverages, cheap from the grocery store
This is not a street number – it is a construction date, of the Town Hall in Brussels.
An art gallery.
Buildings in the Grand Place, the centre of Brussels
Luke touches the gilding
More Grand Place
Just a street
A view of Chapel Church, Gothic-Romanesque church dating back to 1134
Inside Chapel Church
A beautiful painting in Chapel Church, of Jesus comforting women in Jerusalem as he carries the cross. The looks on their faces – and his – are touching.
Luke walks to the elevator to get down into the city.