Normandy, France – Day Four

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!

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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!

DSC_2253Our 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.

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Click here to go back to the start of our Normandy trip!

Normandy, France – Day Two

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.

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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.

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DSC_2010The 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!

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Check out Day Three here!

Normandy, France – Day One

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!

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DSC_1688The 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.

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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.

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Check out Day Two here!

Budapest, Hungary 2013

Arriving by Budapest with the night train from Prague was much better than we expected, not being woken once from noise, obviously too cosy under the clean fresh bunkbed sheets. What was good was that you needed your sleep cabin key to get into the toilet provided, so you didn’t need to worry about lack of toilet paper or it getting too disgusting from everyone like guests who had not booked a sleeping cabin.

Day One

The first day included buying a public transport card, as the city is so big compared to Prague there was no way we could walk to everything during our 3 day stay. We stayed at the Friends Hostel Budapest where we booked our own little apartment with kitchen, perfect for eating cheap on vacation. For starters, we had to get used to the change in currency, that made us feel rich! The currency EUR to HUF was €1 to 310 at the time, so for a 10,000 HUF note it was only about €32.

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Stepping on the metro we headed first to the Szechenyi Baths, one of the biggest natural hot spring spa baths in Europe. The weather was so hot the day we visited, making it rather busy, but still perfect to enjoy the outside pools and the inside spas.

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2013-08-15 14.16.53Seeing as we spent most of the day here, we felt so refreshed afterwards that we took a stroll back through the park to the Millenniumi emlékmű monument and towards Parliament, saw the shoes on the Danube bank and further for a walk around the bridges.

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Arriving at the Buda Hill Funicular was our next stop to get to the top of Buda Castle. A beautifully well kept castle with many viewpoints, gardens and museums within.

2013-08-16 12.56.402013-08-16 13.14.192013-08-16 13.21.02We visited the Labyrinth here too, perfect for a break out of the sun!

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Ending the day was with a free 3 hour walking tour of the city and night time walk to the fortress and Liberty Statue for fantastic views over the city. Definitely a highlight!

2013-08-16 21.42.51.jpgDay Three

Started the day by visiting the Hungarian National Museum, the Hungarian Technical and Transportation Museum and the Central Market Hall.

But the best museum we found impressive was the House of Terror Museum. This museum tells the story of the secret police and suffering endured by the Hungarian people under the Nazis and Hungarian Arrow Cross Nazi party in 1944 and the communist brutality after the war. There is also a section which pays special honour to the Freedom Fighters in 1956. Amazingly, both eras occurred in the same building, hence the museum name House of Terror.

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Finishing our trip with a Transavia flight back to the Netherlands ended our 10 day holiday to Prague and Budapest. It was fun, hot, and we had plenty of time to visit what we needed.

Prague, Czech Republic 2013

Our vacation to Prague started at the train station. We had booked ourselves on an overnight train from Amsterdam. Something completely new for us, but it was much cheaper than flying and we wanted a new experience!

We were lucky, since we didn’t book a private sleeping cabin but just chose two chairs due to our budget and we were placed in a cabin with 6 chairs in total. The lucky part was that only one other person joined us in this 6 chair cabin, meaning we could all lay down during the journey. Not that it was very comfy but we survived it fine.

Our first day in the city consisted of checking in at the Travellers Hostel which had a lovely breakfast included. Their breakfast room was situated perfect for the sunrise in the mornings. Good working wifi and perfect location to the city.

We picked up the free map provided and had a plan to visit the KGB Museum first.

This museum, which is more like a private collection, is situated in a small 3/4 room building run by a very enthusiastic Russian old man who has collected many unique World War II and Soviet Era artifacts on display, all related to covert operations and espionage. Maybe even ex-KBG himself? But highly recommended if you are interested and understand English well as his Russian accent was strong!

2013-08-12 14.08.32Of course no trip to Prague would be complete without walking over Charles Bridge. A very buzzing touristic spot filled with painters, jewellery sellers and live music. We stayed listening to the music for a while, some street performers really are good!

2013-08-14 14.31.52From here we walked up the St. Vitus Cathedral at the top of the hill. Below is the one photo I have that doesn’t show construction or scaffolding that was there for restoration.

2013-08-12 11.07.23We never went in, as it really was busy the weekend we had visited, but we enjoyed the atmosphere of the tourists and listened in on some of the walking tour guides close by to hear some of the history. In most cities we try and do a free walking tour but due to the short time planned we decided to explore on our own to the highlights we wanted to see.

Once you are at St. Vitus Cathedral you should take the paths all the way to the Petrin Hill & Observation Tower. There are some beautiful viewpoints along the way and all we could hear were birds singing to each other. The tower you can also go to the top with some pretty views towards the city. We decided for more exercise by walking up the 299 steps in the tower! 2013-08-12 11.43.07

2013-08-12 12.05.09We decided against using the funicular railway to the city below as the weather was beautiful, and walked down the path ending the night with some dinner and a beautiful walk across the Charles Bridge again and local area.

Day Two

Our second day included visiting the Army Museum Zizkov Museum and the Museum of Communism – both worth visiting with lots of information! From here we ended up walking to the John Lennon Wall

2013-08-14 15.22.14 2013-08-14 15.21.18We ended our second day with a delicious meal out in the city center for only €22.00 with drinks! We also visit to the top of the Old Town Hall for the views of Prague during sunset. A VERY popular thing to do, so some waiting was needed. This building also has Prague’s famous Astronomical Clock that can be special to watch (we missed it a few times before finally getting to see it between the many flocks of groups on walking tours). 2013-08-14 17.04.25

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It was the perfect evening to end our few days here. Prague, you were beautiful! One day we will be back to enjoy you again.

Unlike the overnight train from Amsterdam to Prague, we booked a proper sleeping cabin for our night train to Budapest as we wanted a decent nights sleep to explore the next day. You can check out our time in Budapest in my separate blog post here!

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Hoek Van Holland

When you think of the Netherlands the first thoughts are often about the tulips, cycling, windmills at Kinderdijk, smoking the legal drug cannabis or the red light district of Amsterdam (I got lost here once!). But the Netherlands also has many beaches to visit, one of them is the well known beach of Hoek Van Holland.

It’s the main entrance for cruise and container ships to enter the Rotterdam Harbour, along the the River Maas from the North Sea. So when the tide is high, the wind is strong and you walk along the North Pier you could be in for a swim! The North Pier itself is 4.5 kilometres long and perfect to walk to the end.

Friday 7th August (19)The beach is a combination of sand and stones, with one path that leads you from the North Pier to the busier section of the boulevard, where most tourists and locals stop for a bite to eat and to enjoy the activities.

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It’s a great place for a wintery walk with your cosy winter coat on, before stopping for a hot chocolate in a restaurant, as well as a day in summer in your bikini, having a dip in the sea before getting an ice cream.

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Getting here by train or bus is pretty easy, with a new metro being built that should be complete by 2018. I once cycled here from Rotterdam, took a little over 2 hours at a pleasant speed with some stops along the way like at Maassluis and at the Het Keringhuis  (the storm barrier flood gates).

So grab your winter coat or bikini and visit for a great day out!

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Cycling from Rotterdam

 

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Friday 7th August (18)

Kinderdijk, The Netherlands

After 5 years of living in Rotterdam I finally got the chance to visit the beautiful Kinderdijk. I took the opportunity to visit Kinderdijk at the same time as my family visiting me in the Netherlands, combining both was a good chance for us all to visit something new together.

Day One (8)Planning our visit we decided to take the Waterbus from the Rotterdam stop at Erasmus Bridge that takes only 30 minutes to Kinderdijk. A perfect mode of transport to also enjoy the views Rotterdam from a boat, as you can stand on the open section at the back of the boat as well as sitting inside if it’s cold. You can use your OV chip card or buy a ticket on board.

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Arriving at Kinderdijk you will know exactly where to walk with the first windmills in sight. Paying only €8,00 for adults and €5.50 for children (4-12 years) to get in it’s well worth it. The main path takes you past the first restaurant along the walking route to see all 19 windmills that stand there since 1740. The whole route is 15km which can be done in a day with sensible shoes.

Day One (62)Kinderdijk is not just a pretty site, it’s actually needed for the land. Since most of the Netherlands is below sea level, including Kinderdijk, the function of the windmills are part of the water management system to prevent floods.

Day One (34)We took some lunch with us, stopping on a bench to each and drink while other tourists walked by. There are a few restaurants and a cafe too, where you can buy souvenirs, refreshments, lunch or some typical Dutch snacks like bitterballen while waiting for the boat trip back to Rotterdam.

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I plan to go again this summer, but then by bike like a true Dutch person!