Southern Netherlands in a Nutshell
01.05.2019 - 04.05.2019 11 °C
Utrecht to Den Bosch
After a sunstantial breakfast of fruit, yoghurt, muesli, omelette, breads, cheese and ham (again with enough left over to make sandwiches for our lunch) we set off at 9.00am as we had a big, 76km day ahead. Although a cold morning, it was fine and we found our way easily from our B&B back to the LF7 markers.
After about an hour, we came across a stunning 15th century city gate (remnant of a former castle) as we approached the little town of Vianen.
As we entered we discovered a lovely town square lined with cafes and outdoor seating
And beyond that, the weekly market
We thought we were back in France, as this is so typical of many town centres we’ve been through.
However, as there was a stall selling stroopwaffels
And another selling tulips, which at €5 for 3 bunches meant we had to be in the Netherlands, and definitely not in Australia where they are considerably more for just ONE bunch!
This lovely building was also in this delightful town square
Leaving Vianen behind, we were once again back to our much liked canalside riding, where the banks are lined with pollarded willows, where cattle, sheep and horses graze in lush green paddocks and yes, J&P, there are sometimes swans.
These pollarded tree trunks are typical along canals through the Netherlands. Nina told us that they are willows that are traditionally pollarded to promote growth and are then harvested for their thin, strong branches used in the old times to help construct dykes but today more for fodder or for wood.
These have regrown and waiting for their next ‘haircut’
J&P, this one’s for you!
Love riding through this countryside on these lovely bike tracks
All the houses in this dear little town were displaying national pride with their King’s Day decorations still in place. The heart on the ground in front of the tulip panorama is made of clogs.
When we passed this at 1.28pm, we realised why we’d been feeling so cold
and why, despite pedalling hard, I was still wearing a parka and three merino underlayers
Another part of our day’s journey took us through a very nice village built on the polder below the dyke on which we were riding.
This house also built below the dyke and the house in the background against the dyke. The espaliered ‘hedge’ is very typical of houses in the Netherlands. I believe they are often linden trees.
Unfortunately the landscape gradually changed and we seemed to leave the watery canal landscape behind as we cycled towards our evening destination of S- Hertogenbosch, or Den Bosch as it is commonly called. This was the first Dutch town to be declared a city in 1184, and was the heartland of Catholicism. The city’s most famous building, the Sint Jeans Cathedral, dating from 1220 is its crown jewel. Big and imposing, it was impossible to capture it all in a photo, but it is a highly decorative and impressive building, despite currently undergoing restoration and swathed in scaffolding.
The town boasts lots of historical buildings, a centuries old canal system and an impressive fountain Drakenfontein which stands in front of a row of lovely mansions from early 20th century.
Part of the Den Bosch skyline showing the spires of the Town Hall and the Sint Jeans Cathedral
The Town Hall
We had another lovely B&B for the night, not far from the Centrum, with a very hospitable hostess, who along with her daughter and grandson who were visiting from Amsterdam, made us feel very welcome.
Den Bosch to Nuenen
A more leisurely day today as we only had 61km to ride.
We have been very pleasantly surprised at the quality and quantity of the breakfasts we have been provided with and today was no exception. On opening the door at 8 o'clock we were greeted by three generations, mother, daughter and grandson, each carrying a tray of goodies. They were delightful people and so hospitable. The photo speaks for itself.
Our hostess had set the table beautifully while we were out the previous evening, just as our mothers and grandmothers would have done with butter knives and lovely fine china cups and saucers. Look at all the lovely cutlery and the egg warmers!
This was to be one of the few highlights of the day as for most of the ride we pedalled a twisty, turny, route through farmland, semi- built up areas and the busy uninteresting city of Endhoven.
This was one of the few nice scenes I took today
It seemed like a different country to the Netherlands we have got used to this last ten days with no pretty canola lined canal paths. The only redeeming feature of the day was a long tree lined canal after Endhoven which reminded me very much of some of the canals of France we have ridden along, so I thoroughly enjoyed this section and the pretty reflections on the water.
To make things worse the weather turned cold after Endhoven and we rode in light drizzle for the last hour into Nuenen. Once again we were lucky that the heavy rain started once we were safely inside.
Again the accommodation is excellent with a lovely room and separate lounge and dining room for the guests with bar. This is the twilight view across fields from our B& B. Very calming!
Nuenen was the home of Van Gogh from 1883 to 1885 and the community has capitalised on this connection by establishing a Van Gogh Museum and a Van Gogh riding route.
His parents house where he resided while in Nuenen is just across the road from the museum and next door is the home of Margot a lady with whom he had another failed relationship leading to her taking rat poison - she survived but the relationship did not. Throughout the village there are many talking posts where you press the button and hear something of interest about Van Gogh and his time in Nuenen.
Nuenen to Thorn
This was to be our longest day, so we were on the road by 9am, fortified by a great breakfast to put us in good stead for those 81km. The forecast was for mainly fine weather with a top of 12 degrees, but with no sun and a bit of wind chill it felt cooler than that.
The ride had few highlights as in the main we went through farmland and small towns. The Dutch are a very neat lot, and while we have enjoyed riding by their neatly tended gardens and homes, it is just not the same without canals, windmills and tulip fields.
However, after 20km, we did have a surprise when we suddenly went from forest into a large parkland of dry sandy grasslands. Our initial reaction is that this may have been the original edge of the sea before they started to reclaim the land, as the ground was very sandy and undulating like sand dunes. Our subsequent research has revealed that it was 1500 hectares of natural heathland called Strabrechtse Heide.
Oh, what a change of scenery!
Galloway cattle and sheep grazing in the Strabrechtse Heide
Then just as quickly as we entered it we were once again out and back into the forest which surrounds the 1500 hectare heathland.
Much of our cycling has been on quite country roads and as shown in the following photo these roads often have bike lanes on either side with just one lane for cars in the middle. Bikes have priority on the rare occasions that traffic comes from both directions - the cars have to give way. Just imagine how that would work at home!
Elevenses - a chance to check the map and enjoy koffee mit appeltarte
Then, finally a nice canal to ride beside
And a nice spot for lunch before back to the forest again
Once again as we approached our destination light rain began to fall, so we were very happy when we arrived at the cobblestoned streets of Thorn and easily located our B&B. It was about 4pm by then and, although it was freezing outside, (and raining by the time we checked in and changed), we were anxious to get out and have a little wander around this small, attractive village known as the white village for its white washed brick houses in the centre of town.
Arriving at our B&B. Our hostess is a collector! This collection of blue and white porcelain features pieces not only from Delft, but from many other countries such as Portugal, Poland and Asia. Two of the walls are covered in an amazing variety of pieces.
The item on top shelf, 3rd item from left, is actually a 3D shell type map of the Netherlands. The place we are heading to, Maastricht, is at the bottom of the ‘tonsil’ on bottom RHS. It is surrounded by Belgium on one side, and Germany on the other. Our route tomorrow will take us into and out of Belgium a couple of times.
She even had a wonderful collection of blue and white tea towels!
And the main square of Thorn
Thorn to Maastricht
After a pleasant night in a comfy B&B, we set out from Thorn on another bitter morning, but as you can see from photo below the sun WAS trying to shine on us.
Along the way we rode along dykes surrounded by farmland and cattle grazing in green, green pastures, past fields of asparagus, through towns and along river banks and canals. As you can see from the photos, there were some threatening clouds which, despite us pedalling hard and not stopping for elevenses, eventually caught us. Fortunately we were able to shelter under a bridge from the sleet and bitter winds which passed quickly and we didn’t get too wet. Sounds like fun?
But ...... we made it to Maastricht in reasonable condition despite those big black clouds and later found out that it had actually snowed today in Maastricht and that temperatures are 10 degrees cooler than average for this time of year.
Our ride this week has been a great extension to our barge trip and of furthering our exploration of the Netherlands, but we are pleased to be in Maastricht and are looking forward to a couple of days of R&R. Hope you enjoyed our journey.
Hello Maastricht. Goodbye bikes!
Below is some data from the GPS of our 460 km travelled between Haarlem and Maastricht.