Here are a list of blogs written about locations in England.
Now that I have lived here for 6 years I feel like I am allowed to turn into a road bike fanatic. The Netherlands is a great place for road biking due to the safe bike paths and the lack of hills. After stalking many Marktplaats sellers (Dutch version of Ebay) I was lucky to find one that was the right size and price range. So it’s now official! I have bought my first ever road bike, in a new-ish condition all shiny and red.
Learning all aspects of cycling on a road bike sure is a learning curve, such as what all the different components are as well as the ‘do’s and dont’s‘. A Dutch book that I still need to read is ‘Vrouw & Fiets’ written by Nynke de Jong and Marijn de Vries, which has been recommended to me by at least 3 people this week.
As well as buying the bike this week, I bought some gloves and cycling glasses at the Decathlon and researched into what size clip-in shoes I needed. I also scored a new helmet via Marktplaats and ordered some sexy cushion-padded shorts to protect my butt and a cycling shirt with pockets at the back.
For my first route I decided to take it easy, cycling only 11km around the Kralingse Bos park in Rotterdam. Within 10 minutes I felt so hungry and realised the unhealthy lunch probably wasn’t the best idea before some fitness. As a gym junkie that I am (minimum 3 days a week at the gym + home workouts sessions) I should of known better! However overall happy that my average speed was faster than my city bike as well as being able to pratice the gear changing and the overall feel of the bike. P.S I didn’t have my ordered cushion-padded shorts in time for this route either so it was a bumpy experience!
I’ve started using the app Strava, perfect for tracking your route with GPS. Gives you information about your speed, elevation, estimated calories and more importantly the time and distance. What I also love is once you do the same route more than once, you can challenge yourself to beat your old time and make some personal bests!
For my second route this week it was right after fuelling up with some pasta, also prepared with my cushion-padded shorts and the correct gear. The plan was to do another small route for practicing, but with a beautiful sun setting it was too good to end it to quickly. I cycled with my partner exactly 32km, and even at the end I felt like I could of gone further but it was dark and we had no lights!
For my third and last route this week, we decided to travel to the De Biesbosch National Park. Based on the western wind, we cycled all the way there with the wind. The plan was to do a few laps around the national park but I was rather tired once we reached 60km, and knew I still had to cycle atleast 10km back towards to the boat to take me back to Rotterdam. We stopped at the De Brabantse Biesbosch for a delicious pancake and a cola, as my partner needed some energy as he cycled all the way back!
But WOW, so proud that within a week I managed to do a long trip of 67km in one go! A lot faster than I ever imagined too within only 3 hours!
The total this week I cycled is 116km (including a short 10km I forgot to record). I couldn’t of done it without those padded shorts thats for sure!
I still need lots of practice until I can call myself a real road bike fanatic, but I’m making a good start!
My wish list of things to get (and need) to feel like a complete road bike user:
Any tips & tricks, related books or apps, or even decent shops or websites to buy gear would all be appreciated!!
It’s hard to write just one post about the Isle of Wight, as it’s the place I was born and raised for 17 years of my life. So much to say and so much to see! But for now I’ll pick some topics and expand from there!
Whether you are visiting on your own, with your partner or with children these 6 walking routes (which are some of my fav) are fun for all to explore and enjoy!
To reach the top you can start either at Alum Bay and take the pathed road via the Needles (great views) or from Freshwater Bay. Once you reach the top, there is a memorial to Lord Tennyson, a poet who lived nearby for 40 years. It’s often windy so dress appropriately and don’t walk too closely to the cliffs! For more information check out this National Trust webpage.
Don’t miss the opportunity to check out the Alum Bay while you are there, where you can walk down to the beach or take the chairlift for some fantastic views of the lighthouse.
Are you ready for a red squirrel hunt? There is a special route you can follow to spot the famous isle of Wight red squirrels. They can also be spotted at different locations on the island, but in my experience I have seen most here! There are also plenty of other paths to explore the forest and enjoy the peace and nature too.
This beach is perfect for walking along with sand in your toes (or exploring the rocks), swimming and to watch the sun set in the distance behind the cliffs towards Tennyson Down (above those beautiful white cliffs). You can walk all the way along the beach when the tide is out, but you can also walk along at the top too. Just be aware that the edge is very slowly falling down into the sea, so dont walk to close to the edge if on the beach or above it. This beach is perfect for dogs too!
This hidden treasure can be reached walking down from the parking area, but I recommend to walk to from Ventnor along the coast. Take an afternoon here and stop at the Crab Shed for lunch. On a clear day you may even see France!
This track used to be the railway track from Cowes to Newport, transporting goods and passengers from 1859. Now tarmacked, it can be walked and cycled from Newport to Cowes and back. Closer to Cowes there is a refurbished wooden bridge to cross over, a popular place now to feed ducks from. This one is pretty easy with as its flat and just under 10km there and back.
This less popular touristic area is a place I would visit often as it does not compare to anything else on the island, reachable by car, bike and a local bus. Mostly used by birdwatchers, it’s also a natural harbour and marshlands that is used by local fishermen. The 17th century historic town hall is now open to the public so take a look and learn the history of how the French raided in 1377, which destroyed most if not all of the village. Take the wooden walkway all the way along to the end of the route to try and spot some uncommon native species!
Check out more walking routes and extra information on the National Trust – Isle of Wight routes.
Since living in the Netherlands, I have often seen the mariniers training throughout the city of Rotterdam. Training and hiking with their 40+kg backpacks or at the local swimming pool in all their gear. The Van Ghentkazerne Military Base is in Rotterdam near my previous school too.
The Korps Mariniers are the Dutch amphibious infantry component of the Royal Netherlands Navy, who can be deployed anywhere within the world within 48 hours in all circumstances.
Their motto is Qua Patet Orbis (“As Far As The World Extends”)
Their final week of training is the hardest, with no sleep hiking up to 125km a day, abseiling down the Van Brienenoordbrug bridge, peddling with a boat down to Zealand for different scenario trainings and also climbing up and abseiling from the Hef bridge. Unfortunately it was pretty much raining their final week too!
On Friday July 14th I watched the ceremony at the Schouwburgplein, where they exchanged their training beret for the official Mariniers dark blue beret. It was pretty interesting to hear what they had gone through since February 6th, and how their final week went. They arrived at 12pm just as the rain got worse, carrying all their gear and weapon.
The ceremony wasn’t too long before they were done, wearing the new beret and greeted by loved ones to celebrate. It was great to see the final ceremony in Rotterdam, even with the rain.
With a week off from my previous studies we decided to visit Copenhagen as the destination in April. It was frosty, out of the touristic period and therefore cheap but it was a great choice for us!
Reserving a room at the Generator Hostel was a great choice as it’s right in the center of the city with very welcoming staff. One of the best hostels we have stayed in based on price, location to city and facilities offered. We stayed in a private room with bathroom. Highly recommended!
Since we were visiting in early April, the temperature was around -5°c so when visiting the popular Nyhavn, there were hardly any places open and realistically too cold to enjoy a beer outside! The beautifully coloured haven was still pretty to see without the busy scene of the summer months.
One thing we were recommended not to miss was the freetown of Christiania, unused army barracks that were taken over by hippies in 1971. Since we were travelling during February it wasn’t as lively as we had expected. Walking around this area was rather quiet and most stands were closed, plus we only saw the odd person who would walk past smoking weed or playing music to themselves. We can imagine this would be 10 times more busier during the summer months, but still enjoyed the experience to be there.
Walking from Christiania we visited the Church of Our Saviour and decided to climb the 400 steps to the top of the spiral tower. A very pretty church, totally worth the visit and experience!
Some famous statues not to be missed are the The Little Mermaid and the H.C. Andersen Statue, writer of famous fairytales such as ‘The Ugly Duckling’, ‘The Nightingale’ and of course ‘The Little Mermaid’. It was good to see that the statue wasn’t vandalised with paint or decapitated, which has happend in previous years.
As it was so cold we also visited Den Bla Planet, a pretty impressive aquarium and easily to reach with public transport. It has a very pleasant walkway throughout to follow and it’s perfect for families and couples. It ends with a massive tank where you can just sit and watch, enjoying the different species swimming around you.
We enjoyed the visit, even with the freezing weather. Maybe a small weekend back in the summer time would give us the full experience of Nyhavn, as well as visiting things we didn’t have time for such as Trivoli.
An early checkout at the B&B meant that we had a good head start on getting back to the Netherlands with plenty of time before needing to check the rented car back in. We decided to drive towards Calais as we had discovered some hidden underground places to visit. They are classed as ‘dark tourism’ so we were interested! It was 3 hours into our 6 hour drive so a great time to stop and stretch our legs too!
Luckily with no traffic on the motorway and a little detour through the Caps et Marais d’Opale Natural Regional Park we arrived at our first destination of the day, the Fortress of Mimoyecques, once an underground world of workers that was the launch base of V-2 Rockets, which would of been sent to bomb London, UK. From the sunny 28°c outside we explored the 10°c tunnels inside. It was cold, dark and a little creepy, since we were the only ones in it for a while! Though very interesting to see what was planned here during the war, and how they managed to keep it a secret for so long from spying enemy planes. Well worth a read on the link and a visit if you are in the area!
The second destination was something a little similar, with underground tunnels and the perfect hideout for the R&D and manufacturing process of rockets, which again of would been used against London, UK if they weren’t stopped in time. Hidden under a concrete dome is the La Coupole. You follow the cold tunnels through to the lift, which takes you to the main part of the museum under the dome. Here you have two really interesting videos about the V2 rockets and how people were treated who worked and lived in the tunnels. You are provided with so much information via the audio headset, so it’s understandable to hear about the history as you look at the recovered artefacts . It’s a place you can spend the whole afternoon at. Definitely recommended to visit!
Our visit to Normandy was short but packed with knowledge! We recommend the Le Clos Saint Jean to stay if you have a car as it is perfect location to travel to and from for visiting the northern coast between Carentan and Cabourg. The rooms are a good size (we had one with private bathroom) and the served breakfasts are delicious. They included fresh bread and cheeses, different fruit salads, jams and fresh juices made straight from their garden. My favourite was their homemade brioche bread with freshly crushed raspberries to pour the juice over the top, delicious! Good luck to the owners Caroline and her husband who only started running it in late 2016.
Click here to go back to the start of our Normandy trip!
Bayeux was at the top of our list on the third day, visiting the Memorial Museum of the Battle of Normandy, however after visiting all the other museums it felt a little double reading similar stories and the same photographs. It was all beautifully displayed and the video really put everything together, so we felt it was still worth the visit!
The third cemetery we visited was the British War Cemetery, close to the Bayeux memorial museum. Each grave was also perfectly lined up as the American cemetery, but with flowers surrounding them. I found it more touching to see and walk around, maybe because I knew they were British like I had a connection. Poppy wreaths were still on the memorial monument since the 72nd Anniversary was only a month and a half before we visited.
After some lunch we visited the Bayeux Tapestry Museum, something that I remembered visiting when I was younger. The 70 meter long cloth embroidered with the story of William the Conqueror and the October 14th, 1066 Battle of Hastings. I really enjoyed this museum visit and really appreciate seeing how much time and effort has gone into telling each chapter of the story in embroidery.
Taking a detour back to our B&B for a pause we stopped at a little 1944 Radar Museum that we found on the way as it was rather off track from the main roads. The museum had a collection of different radars and antennas that were used by the Germans for things like detecting the enemies, as well as a bunker that you can enter that is three levels deep. The bunker explained perfectly what each room would of been used for, and had a mock up of what the sleeping area would of been like. The radar below, called the Würzburg, is one of the three surviving Würzburgs in the world. Unfortunately this one had broken away from the base.
Lastly before dinner we stopped at the Longues-sur-Mer battery, an open area with four bunkers in a row that had 4 navy guns, two that had been bombed to pieces and two that had not been hit from the bombings. They were placed strategically to see the coast for oncoming ships.
Check out Day Four here!
The cloudy morning turned to sunshine as we had reached our first destination of the day, Pointe Du Hoc. Free to get in we walked past through to the viewpoints of the bunkers and monument. Amazing to see the view and how far along the coast you can see, how the Germans positioned themselves during the war. Here you could also experience the damaged bunkers (could go in a few) and the massive holes in the ground left behind from the bombs.
We took the drive from Pointe Du Hoc to Carentan, in search of a place for lunch and our next destination the La Combe German Cemetery. It wasn’t very advertised with road signs so we had to use the sat nav and address, obviously not a place the French like to advertise. How strange it was to be walking among 22,000 graves of German soldiers, many of them aged between 16 to 22. Most graves consisted of two people, with too many that were unknown with no name.
Keeping other cemeteries in mind, we headed next to the American Cemetery & Memorial, which was the complete opposite of the German cemetery. This place seemed the busiest out of all of our chosen museums and places we visited during the weekend. The American cemetery is close to Omaha beach where most American soldiers lost their lives. The cemetery is filled with perfectly lined white crosses with one grave per soldier. It was all very touching with different graves having flowers placed in respect.
The last museum on our list was the Overlord Museum. Greeted with original tanks situated outside we went in and looked at the big collection of items from June 6th, 1944. There was some interesting personal items and stories of witnesses and soldiers throughout the museum and compelling to see items like a tank full of bullet holes.
We finished the day with a dinner in Bayeux followed by a long walk around the beautiful city. Couldn’t resist a nutella pancake for pudding too!
Check out Day Three here!
We spent our first morning in Arromanches visiting the 360 Museum and D-Day Museum De Debarquement, parking our rented car at the top of the cliff and walking down to the museums and beach. The small town was pretty and clean, with an amazing view out to sea with high tide covering the ruins of the wall that was built during WW2. We enjoyed walking around there so much that we didn’t realise it was already 2:30pm and we hadn’t ate, so before we left we bought a nice baguette and drink each!
The afternoon lead us to Pegasus Bridge museum, visiting the original bridge that the English fought at, with a very interesting tour through the museum about the glider planes and how easy the bridge actually was to take over with only 2 Germans guarding the bridge at night.
We really enjoyed this museum, the lady who gave the tour even got a little emotional telling a story of a guy who had returned to Pegasus Bridge after 70 years, seeing the graves of his comrades and speaking for first time about what happened when he was there. The guy was a pilot who helped direct the glider planes to the bridge, which were full up with 28 men. It was so emotional to hear as he had so much responsibility for the glider plane towed behind his plane, which unfortunately broke loose too early, causing the men to die under his watch.
We headed back to Arromanche for a pizza, followed by an relaxing walk on beach. It was now low tide, so we could walk all the way out to the ruins of what had been left in the sea. We finished the evening watching a summer fireworks event at Port-en-Bessin-Huppain with all the locals.
Check out Day Two here!