Maastricht, Haarlem, Arnhem, Doezum
16 days away
354 miles / 570 km since last post
877 miles / 1,411 km total
It's fair to say we were both quite pleased to leave Brussels this morning (Sunday). Thankfully the French stag group weren't noisy last night beyond about 11:30pm so I think we came off quite lucky. We're not sure, but we think the old couple in the motorhome next to us might have made a complaint to the youth hostel about the noise. Result!
Brussels as a city was OK, and if we were on a city break we may have enjoyed it more from the base of a central hotel. But it's probably not very practical to stay in the middle of major cities in our motorhome.
We drove all the way to Maastricht, and into The Netharlands, and straight to our next camp site just outside the city - a place called Camping de Oosterdriessen. It was a welcome break from the busy city of Brussels to be turning up to a quiet camp site by a lake. Much more tranquil and right up our street - a lot more reasonably priced as well.
We made some lunch in the motor home first - at which point we discovered a bit of an issue with the fridge - it didn't appear to work on gas power. It's been fine when we've been connected to electric, and it works on the car battery while driving, but on gas it seems as if it is lighting but perhaps not registering that it's lit, so it turns off. A bit of a pain as we opted to not go for electric to save money. The one saving grace is that we have used up most of our food in the fridge and hadn't done another big food shop. I guess this means another call to the dealer tomorrow - to find somewhere that might be able to fix it.
Anyway, putting the fridge issue to the back of our minds for now we decided to take off on the bikes into Maastricht. A 5km ride on a nice and flat pathway. It was raining for most of the journey, but as with most days so far, it brightened up later on and we enjoyed some warm sunshine.
We found Maastricht to be much more the kind of city we like - pretty, easy to navigate and not overly busy. We headed first to the main square - Markt - which has an attractive looking town hall from the 17th century. Then we took a very casual ride around, seeing the sights as we went. We even managed to find a rarity in The Netherlands - a hill! This took us up to the Fortress of Sint Pieter on Sint-Pietersberg - well worth pushing the bikes up for the view at the top, and then the coasting cycle down the other side.
We cycled through the Aldenhofpark which contained a statue of D'Artagnan, and also some dubious looking enclosure with some animal statues and what apppears to be a women mourning a dead giraffe! We've still no idea what that was all about.
We took a stroll through the shopping area - it was quite nice but just fully packed with designer shops. It was quite amusing that practically everyone we walked past was wearing designer gear, even little toddlers! As there was us in our trendy North Face waterproofs and cycling helmets...
It was a thoroughly nice day in Maastricht, we both really enjoyed it. We took a slightly different route back partly along the river Meuse - feeling a little tired going back against the wind to the campsite. But at least we got sufficient exercise for the day!
Monday was mainly spent sorting out the fridge issue. Stu phoned up the dealer and told them the problem with the fridge - a persistent error code 9. Although they couldn't advise us somewhere in Europe to get the problem fixed, they did say they would reimburse the cost of the fix under our warrenty. He then spoke to the receptionist at our campsite who advised us a Camper Service centre we could go to, which was fortunately only a 5 minute drive away - a place called A2 Campeercentrum.
We decided it might be a good idea to stay another night at the same campsite, as we didn't know how long the fix might take. We also opted for a night with electric connection too, so at least the fridge would work.
We took a drive over to A2 Campeercentrum. Stu had prepared a couple of paragraphs of Dutch using Google translate. This gave a rough description of our problem, should there be a big language barrier. Thankfully, the guy who greeted us seemed to speak fairly good English and went to get someone to help. The guy who was actually taking a look at the fridge spoke much less English, but he knew what he was looking for so we took a look around the shop while we waited. I got a free ice cream for the wait too - bonus!
It ended up being a pretty long wait! They had taken the fridge components apart and were giving it a good look over, but they had to contact Thetford (the manufacturer) and were awaiting a call back from them. On the plus side for us, the shop was really good and we saw a few bits a pieces that would come in handy for the motorhome - some wheel levellers, water hose fittings, waste water pipe etc.
Another piece of good fortune while we waited was bumping into another Brit - a guy named Michael from Yorkshire. He and his wife had just been travelling around Greece for the last three months and were shortly heading back home. He was really chatty, and ended up giving us quite a few tips about driving in Europe. One good tip was about driving in Italy - apparently there quite a lot of low bridges when you turn off the main roads across railway lines, and they don't warn you via signs about the height restrictions. Michael said there were a few times he took a turning in his motorhome, only to find himself heading towards a small bridge he wouldn't fit under, then having to reverse back onto the main road. Another good tip was for buying a vignette (driving permit) for Austria. His advice was to buy it at the last services before leaving Germany - because as soon as you enter the country there will probably be a big queue as everyone will need one. We shall bear these points in mind - very handy to know! He also very kindly gave us his copy of a book called Camperstop Europe which details all the free camping stops in Europe, including their GPS coordinates - as well as some of his own printed out information on other free camping spots in Greece and Italy - brilliant! One of these free stops actually happens to be at the A2 Campeercentrum service centre - so we shall be spending tomorrow night there for free!
After nearly three hours the repairman advised us that the PCB (circuit board controlling the fridge) is faulty and needs replacing. He also advised us that this circuit board had only been held in place with one screw, and normally this would be held by four screws - not very good! Anyway, he had ordered the new part, but as it was coming from another part of The Netherlands it would not be here until Wednesday. Basically, we needed to stay there until Wednesday morning so they can fit it. Not really the news we wanted to hear - we had hoped they could fix the problem today - however, we are just pleased to get it sorted.
Looking on the bright side, at least we found this problem while staying in a fairly nice area and where we were five minutes away from a service centre. Also, if we had never gone to the service centre, we wouldn't have met Michael and wouldn't have got his excellent advice and a free camping book - so some good has come of it.
We had expected for the fridge part to arrive Wednesday, get it fitted and then be on our way. Unfortunately, the part did not arrived and we were advised it would be another day. Not wanting to waste our time we took out the bikes yet again, this time going the opposite way to Maastricht to a little town called Eijsden. It was very pretty, and we even stumbled upon a castle along the way. After a little ride around we stopped at a cafe called La Cramignon for some lunch and a couple of beers. Stu opted for sausage and chips, while I felt a bit adventurous going for the 'meat' crochets - basically some kind of meat with potato and pepper in a crochet - quite nice actually.
In the evening we broke open the boxset of 24 and started watching season 2, which we continued to do the next morning (Thursday) waiting for our fridge part to arrive. It was a little worrying as it had already failed to turn up the previous day, and we had no idea what time it would arrive. Every time a courier van pulled up we hoped that it would be the one. But it wasn't until gone 2pm that we received the good news that the part had arrived.
Once they had started work on fitting the new part, we started to look ahead hopefully at where we would drive to that evening to stay. We needn't have been so keen! What we had expected to be fixed in an hour, was still being worked on at gone 7pm! It seems that in fitting the new part they had managed to blow a couple of fuses and then were having trouble getting power to the fridge at all.
By about 7:30pm, power had been restored to the fridge and it was pretty much fixed - except we now couldn't adjust the fridge temperature. As it was getting late, and at least the fridge was working to some extent, we called it a night. We faced another night staying in the shop carpark, with the intent that it would get looked at first thing in the morning.
Friday morning came, and somehow the fridge temperature control just suddenly started working! We had no idea how or why, but we were just glad we could finally hit the road and get moving. Our plan was to be with our friends Carolyne and Dan who live in Haarlem by Friday evening, so we decided to take pretty much a straight route up there as we knew it would take a few hours.
Besides stopping briefly for lunch, some free wifi access and a quick shower, we drove straight up to Haarlem, arriving just in time for Carolyne and Dan getting home from work. After giving them a quick tour of the motorhome, we packed up a few belongings and ventured into the house. A welcome break from the confines of the motorhome.
The weekend with Carolyne and Dan was superb. It was great catching up, and they were so generous letting us stay. We grabbed an Indian takeaway Friday night, and Stu took the opportunity to knock up some cocktails.
Saturday morning we were all feeling a little hungover so it was a very lazy start to the day. Dan very kindly picked up the post from the post office my Mum had sent earlier in the week - my vehicle registration and log book - and later on we took a nice stroll around the lake down the road. Carolyne cooked up a delicious meal of Moroccan lamb with apricots in the evening too.
Sunday around midday we ventured further afield than Haarlem - Dan drove us all out to the Open Air Museum at Arnhem (http://www.openluchtmuseum.nl/en/). It uses authentic buildings, objects and true stories to bring the past of the last couple of hundred years to life. It has farmyards, farmhouses, windmills, cottages and businesses, farmer’s café and shops. It was a really great day out and the weather was perfect for it. We also got to sample some of the lager brewed within the museum, as well as some authentic Dutch pancakes called poffertjes - delicious with sugar and chocolate!
While driving back towards Haarlem we headed towards the sea to a restaurant which Carolyne and Dan recommended. Unfortunately, after parking up, we discovered it was actually closed. However, the place next door was open and the food looked. Stu and I opted for steak and chips which was pretty good value. We also all went for a dessert. Stu noticed that the desserts can optionally come with extra cream, which I think he enjoyed ordering simply because of the dutch word for whipped cream - 'slagroom'. When his dessert arrived he asked the waitress if he had been given the 'extra slagroom' which she looked a bit puzzled about, seeing as he was mainly talking in English to her. Shortly afterwards the waiter came along with another pot of whipped cream and plonked it straight in front of Stu. It was quite amusing, and I think the waiter understood why Stu was finding the word so funny.
We decided to stay until Monday with Carolyne and Dan, as Stu had ordered a camping book from Amazon (basically the updated version of the book that Michael had given us a few days back). Unfortunately, its delivery was being delayed by a postal strike in The Netharlands and it still hadn't arrived. I took it as a good opportunity to get some washing done while also catching up with some of Wimbledon. Stu also spent a couple of hours trying out the whirlpool bath!
We had intended to treat Carolyne and Dan to a takeaway Monday night, as a bit of a thank you for putting us up. However we got a bit carried away drinking and chatting. By the time we came to order our takeaway they had all closed - only around 9:30pm (they seem to close early here). So instead, poor Carolyne had to knock us up a meal quite late - we shall have to treat them next time!
Tuesday morning the book turned up, so we packed all our belongings back in the motorhome and left Haarlem sometime early afternoon. We decided to head north, stopping briefly to stock up on food at a Lidl. Not the best place in the world to get groceries, but it was fairly cheap. It was quite interesting trying to squeeze our motorhome in fairly small town Lidl car park, but we just about made it. Despite managing to smash a bottle of red wine at the till and the supermarket not accepting our card, it went fairly smoothly!
We eventually headed to a campsite in an area called Doezum. It's lovely and quiet, the campsite owner was really friendly. We've managed to top up on water, they have toilets and showers and staying in a quiet campsite for just €8.50 a night. Great value! It feels good to be on the road again, and for the fridge to be working this time!