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ManVanNoPlan Visits Vijfhuizen, Katwijk, Amsterdam & Den Helder

ManVanNoPlan Visits Vijfhuizen, Katwijk, Amsterdam & Den Helder in the fourth blog of our 2022 Spring tour of Europe.

Day 25 – Saturday the 26th of March 2022
The site we are now on, Camperpark 205, is the nearest motorhome Aire to Schipol Airport and we are here to collect Emma tomorrow afternoon. The site owner is very friendly and gave us all the local info on arrival including how to get the bus to the airport as we thought we’d have to get a taxi there and back.

We’ve been busy sightseeing etc for the past few weeks so today we took time to do a few odd jobs with The Navigator taking advantage of the washing machine facilities and I finished the last blog ready to post tomorrow. After all of that we sat outside in the sunshine with a glass of wine and relaxed ahead of what will be a busy week.

Day 26 – Sunday the 27th of March 2022
We have been on the road for over a month now and Bessie is not looking her best so this morning the task was to clean her. After lunch, we took the bus to Schiphol Airport to pick up Emma who is joining us for a week’s holiday. The Netherlands has amazing infrastructure and the long bendy bus travelled most of the 15 minute journey on bus lanes with the ability to change traffic signals in its favour as it approached normal roads. Schiphol Airport is massive and is the world’s second busiest by passenger numbers but it is so well laid out that it was easy to find the correct arrivals gate for the flight from Leeds Bradford.

Sleeping three in Bessie is easy enough once the extra cushion infills are put in place and the table lowered to turn into the extra bed and The Navigator and Emma have it down to a fine art now. I retire to my bed and let them get on with it!

Camper Park N205 GPS = 52.344314, 4.683121 & What3Words =///dude.storage.scared

Day 27 – Monday the 28th of March 2022
Back in the early 90s the Netherlands was our holiday destination of choice with the children and we had a 12 foot Sprite Alpine caravan which we towed all the way from Scotland to a site near Leiden as it is very central for the main attractions.

From there we used the car to visit Edam, Gouda, Delft, Rotterdam, The Hague, Amsterdam and the bulb fields at Keukenhof. We were also within cycling distance of the coast and a resort called Katwijk aan Zee. It was on a 1996 holiday to the Netherlands that I had one of the best days of my life and The Navigator had one of the worst days of her life. 

We were driving about one day to the south of Schipol and came across a pretty little town called Rijenhout which had a canal running through it which fed into a large lake called the Westeinderplassen and seeing a sign for boats for hire I thought it would be a good way to spend an afternoon and keep the girls entertained as well.

All went well as we cruised down the canal but as we turned the corner into the lake the wind filled the sails and we were off at a rate of knots, heeling over quite far, too far for The Navigator who insisted we head for the shore to put her back on dry land. She’s never been on a sailing boat of any size since! My two remaining crew members and I had a great time as we criss-crossed the lake until out time was up. 

Today we were heading back to the seaside town of Katwijk aan Zee that we knew well from years ago and the plan was to spend two nights there so we set off mid morning passing by Keukenhof and the colourful bulb fields en route. Before we went to the site I had booked we stopped at a suburb of Noordwijk aan Zee which had a very pleasant little town centre with a very good range of shops including a Lidl where we provisioned for the next few days.

From there I headed up onto the lovely seafront of Noordwijk aan Zee and parked on the esplanade near a van selling fish and seafood snacks including Kibbeling. Noordwijk is a seaside resort in the area known as the “Dune and Bulb Region” for good reason as it’s surrounded by bulb fields and protected from the North Sea by massive dunes.

Emma and The Navigator could eat fish at nearly every meal so it was inevitable we would be having Kibbeling for lunch.

From there it was a quick drive to our next campsite at Katwijk aan Zee. I had prebooked two campsites this week to make sure we had facilities to make it more convenient for the three of us and this was the first of them, Molecaten Park at Katwijk aan Zee. There was a bit of confusion when I was checking in as they had no record of our reservation, and no wonder, I had somehow booked another of this group’s campsites an hour and a half away!

The receptionist saw the funny side of it too and sorted it all out in no time and we parked up and had a quick check of the facilities which were modern and spotless.

At Noordwijk aan Zee it had been warm and sunny but an hour later and just a few miles along the coast a chilly sea haar was rolling in off the North Sea but nonetheless we headed out for a walk into the town centre which had hardly changed at all since we were last here thirty two years ago. Apart from Kibbeling which is made from any white fish the other delicacy in these parts is herring and this statue on the seafront at Katwijk shows how the locals prefer to eat it.

Day 28 – Tuesday the 29th of March 2022
The Navigator’s bike has a problem with a broken rotation ring which is the plastic device that makes the electric motor kick in when she starts to pedal. Emma had brought out a replacement that I had ordered from Amazon so that was going to be my morning’s task while The Navigator and Emma headed off to walk into Katwijk via the promenade.

Who knew you needed a special tool to take off the pedal crank? I certainly didn’t and that ended my attempted repair as the cycle shop in town didn’t have the crank removal tool.

After lunch we headed to the site’s swimming pool and we had the place to ourselves for more than an hour, an hour in which The Navigator managed twenty lengths of the pool, much to her own amazement.

We sat out for a while on our return to Bessie until the chilly wind forced all but me inside again and I had a peaceful doze (again). When I came to I conjured up a delicious barbecue, although I say it myself, of diced chicken, fried off onion, boiled noodles and all smothered in sate sauce before serving inside.

The Navigator is now putting her collapsible bucket to good use and she used it to carry the dishes to the communal washing area as I packed the chairs, barbecue and The Navigator’s bike into the garage as we were moving on again tomorrow.

Day 29 – Wednesday the 30th of March 2022
After our last use of the great facilities here we were departing this morning for a few days on a site to the south of Amsterdam via the Lidl in the suburb of Noordwijk to top up on essentials again.

The drive to the site took us past more colourful fields of flowers which surprisingly were hydrangeas, daffodils and tulips in that order, then on past and under the runways at Schipol Airport. The site we were aiming for is Camping Amsterdam Gaasper which is part of a huge wooded area called Gaasperpark. The site is open all year but during the winter months entry is by a high tech machine as the manned reception and facilities do not open until the 1st of April.

Once we were in and connected to the power we had lunch then had a long walk in the adjoining woodlands which had ponds with a fairly approachable heron, lots of paved pathways and a large lake.

The plan tomorrow is to take the nearby Metro into Amsterdam’s Central Station and wander about taking in the sights for two days but the forecast was not good for Thursday and later in the evening the rain started to fall and the temperature dropped considerably. Throughout the night the rain seemed to get heavier and the omens were not good for going into Amsterdam.

Day 30 – Thursday the 31st of March 2022
With the rain still falling this morning we decided to have a lazy day in Bessie with the heating on electricity to keep us warm and comfortable. Although the clouds were grey and still low the rain seemed to ease a bit in the late morning and in a half hour window of no rain we added some layers of clothing and headed the 15 minute walk to the nearby Metro station which is the end of the M53 line. A 24 hour ticket cost € 8.50 (£ 7.20) for unlimited travel dispensed by an easy to use machine. Although there are separate carriages the doorways between the carriages are much wider than normal giving the impression of one big long carriage. 

Twelve stops and fifteen minutes later we were in central Amsterdam and as we emerged up the escalator in front of the impressive Central Station building the rain was quite heavy and cold with it. We walked up to Dam Square which is the centre of Amsterdam and features the Royal Palace, the National Monument, the 15th century De Nieuwe Kerk, the Madam Tussauds building and some large department stores and hotels.

Amsterdam is the capital, although the parliament sits in the Hague, and is certainly the tourist capital of the Netherlands and even for such a miserable day it was quite busy. All the major international stores and brands are well represented as are the shops aimed at tourists, the most common being the cheese shops.

By this time we were ready for lunch and one of the most popular, and cheapest lunches in the Netherlands are the many frite shops which sell large cones of chips with a generous topping of your choice with some places having up to 24 different varieties of sauce. We chose one that unusually had seating and found it had been awarded ‘best fries in Amsterdam’ in 2020 and they lived up to their reputation. The Navigator and I both had our favourite toppings of mayonnaise and sate sauce respectively while Emma had the house sauce of truffle, bacon, onion, mayo, deep fried parsley and parmesan cheese.

We continued walking about after lunch to an area we knew well from an apartment we rented in 1996 when we flew in from East Midlands Airport for a quick break. One of the highlights of this area is the flower and bulb stalls that line the side of a canal.

One of the strong memories we had of that holiday was lunch in a traditional Dutch restaurant and we found it still going strong after all these years and (weather permitting) we resolved to have lunch there tomorrow. We ended back in Dam Square and by this time The Navigator was shivering so we headed back towards the station on a different street from earlier and came across a large Hema and decided to go in for lattes and tea to warm up. It was just what we needed and enjoyed taking our wet jackets off and getting warm again.

With The Navigator thawed out again we made it the short distance to the station and our train back to Gaasperdam. When we were thawing out back at the van Emma opened the lounge window to put some bread out for a nearby robin but pigeons and magpies commandeered the pieces of bread but also trying to get in on the act was a heron which nonchalantly walked over to the van but didn’t have the courage to chase the other birds away even though it was more than double their size and with a beak that could do then some serious damage if it had wanted to.

We saw on the news that snow was falling in parts of the UK and Jill had a power cut in Belfast and as the night went on here the rain was heavier than ever and the wind became stronger and shook the van for most of the night.

Day 31 – Friday the 1st of April 2022
Blustery doesn’t really describe the overnight conditions as the wind and rain were as strong as they’ve been since we were hunkered down in Carlisle over a month ago. The bonus this time was that we were plugged into the mains and the heating was on all night.

This site officially opens today but the showers and other facilities were not opening until noon so we had to shower in the van again. What we did not expect was to open the blinds to see a smattering of snow on the ground but at least the rain was off and it was a bright crisp morning. On reflection crisp doesn’t really cover it either as the wind was delivering Baltic temperatures.

The frustrating thing about travelling is when you experience weather conditions worse than back home but in this instance the UK was experiencing similar conditions!

Today’s plan was to head into Amsterdam again to use our rail tickets before they expired at noon, so we set off to check out the delights of this beautiful city dressed for an arctic expedition rather than a leisurely stroll.

Rather than go back to the Central Station again we got off at the previous stop, Nieuwmarkt, to wander about there and the first thing you see after exiting the station is a stately building called de Waag which means the Weigh House.

This was originally St. Anthony’s Gate, and was a major entry point to the city before the old city walls were torn down. Since then it has been a weigh house, a guild hall, a museum and is famous as the location where Rembrandt painted The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp. These days, de Waag’s bottom floors host one of the most popular Nieuwmarkt restaurants, Café in de Waag.

From there we wandered through the colourful Chinatown area before inadvertently finding ourselves in the Red Light district! We were heading for the area we were in yesterday for lunch at the de Rozenbloom restaurant and arrived there at about 12.30pm to find it almost full.

It is located in an old Amsterdam town house and oozes character with narrow stairs and Dutch tiles, plates and paintings on the wall. The Navigator and I had Dutch selections of kale with sausage and sauerkraut with sausage respectively and Emma had pork tenderloin with apple sauce and salad which were all delicious. It is thirty two years since we last ate here and it will have to be a lot less than that if we return – unless we have our 100th birthday meal here!

The rest of the afternoon was spent wandering about before heading for our mid afternoon hot drinks and cake at Hema again.

Back at the site the facilities are now open and quite a few vans have pitched up in our absence today. This is quite an expensive site but the facilities are excellent and the convenience of having the Metro station close by to take you into central Amsterdam in only 15 minutes is pefect.

Camping Amsterdam Gaasper GPS = 52.312657, 4.991258 & What3Words =///piles.threaten.abolish

Day 32 – Saturday the 2nd of April 2022
There was no real rush to leave early this morning as we were only going 35 miles back to Camperstop N205 where we spent last weekend when Emma flew into Schipol – and tomorrow she flies back to Leeds Bradford.

The Navigator rustled up a cooked breakfast, a rare treat for me these days, and we left the campsite just after 11 o’clock arriving on the outskirts of Vijfhuizen before noon. In Amsterdam  the snow from Thursday had completely disappeared, here there were still quite a few drifts lying on the ground. The site owner explained to me that this area is 5 meters below sea level and is always at least 2 degrees colder than anywhere else in the Netherlands.

After lunch we set off for a walk into Vijfhuizen, a suburb of nearby Haarlem. Only a few minutes from the campsite is the National Monument in memory of the 285 passengers and 15 crew of MH17, the Malaysian Airways plane that departed Schipol heading for Kuala Lumpur but tragically was shot down over the disputed area of Ukraine.

The area is well kept as you would imagine and a tree has been planted in memory of everyone who lost their life, with the support of some trees showing pictures of the victims which makes it more poingnant and this picture of Ben Pocock from Bristol not only shows his picture but also a medal he had won.

Walking on, we passed through some very smart well kept modern houses and in fact the whole town looked brand new. We walked as far as a fairly major canal before turning back and buying a few things at the local well-stocked supermarket. A steady stream of vans arrived which kept us amused guessing their nationalities (mostly German) and Saturday evening’s meal, as it usually is, was a curry and trimmings.

I haven’t been doing much work on Fyne Editions as I’ve been too busy enjoying this trip and the weather has not been bad enough to confine us to the van, but today out of the blue, the first 2023 Diary was sold!

Day 33 – Sunday the 3rd of April 2022
Not a lot to report today as we had a lazyish morning before taking Emma back to Schipol, which was far busier this Sunday than last. Mission accomplished, we returned to Bessie and The Navigator sorted things back to suit the two of us and after dinner we binged on YouTube videos.

Day 34 – Monday the 4th of April 2022
We are back on the road today was meant to be the opening sentence for today but overnight a pretty severe gale sprung up out of nowhere accompanied by heavy rain and from the early hours of this morning buffeted the van as we were side on to it. When we came back here on Saturday I parked Bessie in the opposite direction to everyone else to make sure the van door and barbecue point were on the side that was in the sun all day.

As Robert Burns wrote, “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft a-gley.”

Regular readers of this blog will be aware that The Navigator hates the wind with a passion so I was instructed that we were hunkering down and not moving today!

Day 35 – Tuesday the 5th of April 2022
We are back on the road today, there I’ve said it today, and heading to the north coast of the Netherlands and staying at Den Helder on a motorhome Aire at a marina, as so many are in this country. I say a marina, which it is to an extent, but it is also in the historic docks and there is a huge Maritime Museum here with ships both in the water and in huge buildings and we were lucky to get parked on the nearest pitch to some of the exhibits.

After checking in with the very helpful lady in the office we set out for a walk around the docks to see some of the historic ships before the next rain shower as they were pretty regular. We discovered a takeaway about a hundred yards from the van and in the evening by way of a treat I went to get The Navigator another portion of Kibbeling and chips and I had chips with topped with pulled pork smothered in barbecue sauce. Not exactly cordon bleu but it was delicious! 

Every time we have had chips from a takeaway they have tasted very different (better) than back home and I’m not quite sure why that is although The Navigator’s theory is that they double cook them and my theory is that it could be the salt that they use and it’s probably a combination of both.

The ship you see in the above left picture has an unusual bow and that was specifically designed in the mid 1800s to ram an enemy’s warships which were still mostly wooden at that time. The reason I mention this is that my great great Grandfather, Duncan MacIver Campbell of Asknish, patented the design for a ‘ram ship’ and offered it to the Admiralty in London to be used by the Royal Navy. The Sea Lords disputed his claim as the inventor of this type of ship and he never made a penny from his invention. I still have the correspondence between Duncan and the Sea Lords and fascinating reading it makes…

Day 36 – Wednesday the 6th of April 2022
Between showers again we set off for the short walk into the town to get our bearings and stock up on a few groceries. Den Helder is not a pretty town and there are no historic buildings and the fact it was bombed on a regular basis by the RAF and the Americans during the war has a lot to do with that!

Den Helder and the nearby island of Texel were attacked  on the 10 May 1940, German fighter planes attacked the nearby De Kooy airport, destroying several planes and a hangar. Much worse was the bombing of the city and the ships in Schulpegat by three German fighter-bombers on the evening of 14 May. The Rijkswerf and the city centre were hit, 26 were killed and 11 wounded. The bombing took place after the Netherlands had surrendered. The pilots had supposedly lost contact with their base.

After the surrender of the Dutch army, Den Helder became a target for allied air raids. The harbour and the airport – used by the German navy – were attacked by heavy bombers and fighter-bombers more than 150 times. The harbour was the main target but many bombs hit the city, killing and wounding dozens of people.

Its strategic location and large naval dockyard, made Den Helder an important part of the Atlantic Wall in the Netherlands. From 1942 on, the city had the second highest status of the German defence line. Den Helder was occupied by the German land forces as well as the navy and air force. All three had their own tasks, defences and buildings. The Atlantic Wall in Den Helder had a total of 37 construction points; 88 sturdy, bomb-resistant bunkers and several hundreds of lighter, shrapnel-resistant bunkers were built.

Day 37 – Thursday the 7th of April 2022
We were meant to move on today but The Navigator vetoed that idea as the wind was incredibly strong today and actually forced me into moving the van 90 degrees to face into the wind and this had the immediate effect of stopping the constant buffeting we were experiencing and it stopped the wind from blowing through the two fridge vents and straight into the van and nullifying the heating. The most important effect however was to stop the wind from getting under the roof lights and threatening to blow them off as the wind was now flowing straight over the van and passing over the front of the windows where the hinges are.

We did manage a quick walk between showers to see the harbour entrance and the Texel Ferry. We had seen these two huge ferries going backwards and forwards and were amazed at the size of the ships and the constant stream of traffic crossing to Texel via these ferries, which in the grand scheme of things does not look that big.

In the afternoon between showers I had another go at fixing The Navigator’s bike as on the way to Den Helder we had stopped at a town called Schagen as I had found out online that it had a huge bike store which stocked the tool I needed to remove the crank pedal. After watching a few YouTube videos, as you do before attempting anything these days, and with a few choice words and freezing cold hands, I eventually removed the pedal with the chain and attached the rotation ring that Emma had brought out and lo and behold it worked and The Navigator will be mobile again, however writing this a week later, the awful weather has prevented us using the bikes.

An interesting event happened in 1795 in this area at the Battle of Texel which remains the only instance in history where a cavalry troop — horse-riding soldiers — captured a fleet of ships, although it wasn’t exactly a battle.

The winter of 1794-1795 was extremely cold in Holland, and when a storm rolled in, a Dutch fleet, anchored in the strait of Marsdiep, tried to shelter by Texel Island until the storm blew over, but then found themselves iced in. At the time, the French were fighting against the Dutch Republic as well as alongside revolutionaries within the Netherlands who supported the ideas of the French Revolution.

News of the stuck ships reached a French General who told Johan Williem de Winter, a Dutch admiral who worked for the French, to deal with it. De Winter sent out infantry, calvary and horse-artillery; the troops arrived on January 22 and camped out for the night.

Seeing their campfires, Captain Reyntjes, oldest and most senior officer in the Dutch fleet and in temporary command of it, prepared to spike all guns and scuttle the ships but then around midnight, news arrived that the revolutionaries had taken over the government and wanted to pause the fighting.

But for this timely ceasefire there might have been a fight between a land army and a fleet!

Day 38 – Friday the 8th of April 2022
Believe it or not the wind abated this morning after another blustery night, but at least we managed a good night’s sleep because of re-positioning the van this afternoon.

We have now lost two days to the original plan which has two key dates to meet, being on a certain site in Germany on the 10th of April and being at a certain place in Denmark for the Easter weekend. More of these two events in the next blog!

Before we went anywhere however we had to find a Lidl to do the biggest shop of our trip to date. Later today we were crossing into Germany and there were a few Dutch delicacies we have enjoyed over the past few weeks that we wanted to stock up on so that was the first priority. As an aside the reason we tend to use Lidl is that they are the only supermarket chain in the Netherlands that take credit cards. We have used quite a few Dutch supermarkets and they are superb but the fact that they don’t take credit cards does mean our euros are diminishing quicker than expected.

Den Helder Motorhome Aire GPS = 52.962338, 4.770413 & What3Words = ///packet.cupcake.ballroom


Talking about supermarkets I should also say that the prices for most items are higher than in the UK, especially fresh meat but that is offset to a degree by cheaper wine and lager. Our problem is that we have been spoiled by Spanish supermarket prices and compare French, Belgium and Dutch prices as much with Spain as the UK. We shall see what Germany and Denmark bring but we’re expecting Germany to be in line with prices so far and Denmark to be much more expensive, hence the stocking up a bit before we get there. One of the bargain buys was a crate of 24 bottles of lager for $ 7.29 (£ 6.09 or 25p a bottle). I’m not really a lager drinker but this is much cheaper than wine so needs must…

The price of diesel seems to be coming down a bit too as it has been north of $ 2.28 and now it is averaging between $ 1.96 and $ 2.08 a litre.

After Lidl we passed a garage on the outskirts of the city and I pulled in to fill up the tanks with both diesel and LPG gas.

Today we are heading into Germany and this drive at just over 4 hours will be the longest I’ve driven since we left Lowdhams near Nottingham to drive to the Canterbury Park & Ride. Because we stayed at Camperpark 205 and Den Helder an extra night due to the weather we are having to miss our last planned stop in the Netherlands, Den Oever. Den Oever is located just before the Afsluitdijk, of which more in the next blog.

This attractive little fishing village, situated on the former island of Wieringen, is a paradise for nature lovers and is an important fishing port. It is the home base for a large and modern fishing fleet and fish auction. Besides that, it is a highly valued recreational port with regular visits of the brown (sailing) fleet of Dutch barges. We stopped to have a look and see the Aire and it’s a pity we don’t have time to stay over here as you look out to sea and park next to two fish restaurants so The Navigator was disappointed to miss out on another fishy meal!

And that is where I will leave this blog as the next one will be the start of a brief visit to northern Germany before heading into Denmark in time for the Easter weekend.

Den Oever Motorhome Aire GPS = 52.934352, 5.040413 & What3Words = hedgehog.begged.leaving


We start our visit to northern Germany and this is all new territory for us so stay tuned to see where we end up.


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