Sunday, June 20, 2021

Camping in Valkenburg, Limburg – 'een weekendje weg'

So here it is, at last – my post about my weekendje weg camping in Valkenburg with my daughter, Mo, at the end of May. It's taken me a while to sort through my myriad photos to see which ones were worth keeping. I have to say the light was so intensely bright, many of them came out with large blocks of black and only partially visible bright areas. One of the snags of a small compact camera is there's only so much I can do about adjusting the settings to compensate for these huge contrasts.

Anyway, what I have is what you see. It was a glorious weekend and I so enjoyed spending time with my daughter and my adorable grandpup, Charlie. Mo had promised me some good long walks, something I'd missed out on when Koos and I visited back in March (see my post here), which I was really looking forward to. I arrived at her house at 5 pm on Friday afternoon and after helping (or possibly hindering) her to hitch up the caravan, we set off shortly afterwards on the 200 odd kilometres to Limburg. Even taking it slowly, it was a pleasant ride with not too much traffic and, of course, the sunshine helped. Charlie was a model passenger; we only had to stop once for him (and me) to have a wee.

Our campsite was one of Valkenburg's small satellite towns, Schin-op-Geul, both of which are to the east of Maastricht. In the screenshot below, the red arrow is Valkenburg and the blue is Schin-op-Geul.

Mo is a very competent driver (her big passion in life is karting), but even she was not totally confident about manoeuvring the caravan into position, so she drove as close to the space as possible and unhitched it. We then pushed the caravan into place by hand, aided and abetted by numerous other campers who rushed to help (or hinder) our efforts. Actually, they were lovely and it was heartwarming to receive so much enthusiastic assistance. I think Charlie's cuteness value helped as well.

What fascinated me was the whole process of getting the caravan level. I've never been caravanning before, so this was new to me. First we had to place stoppers on each side of each wheel. Then, we had to wind its stabilising feet down and keep adjusting them until the built-in spirit level showed us we were in position. This whole process took us about twenty minutes, and seemed to require much more precision that I'd have anticipated. Very different from a boat where the very idea of 'level' is complete anathema so it's a word we don't use except as an approximation.

Even after all these shenanigans, we still managed to have time to eat and go for our first walk of the weekend. It was amazing to think we'd only left at 5 and still had light enough for an evening stroll before dark – one of the many joys of long summer evenings. Even so, the dusk was drawing in and it was too dark to take photos. 

On a side note, I have to admit the night in the caravan was very cold! I was quite shocked at how frigid the temperature became. I don't know exactly what it was but it must have been in the low single figures. A very chilling experience, I can testify. My socks and fleece remained on all night, but it didn't help my poor nose which was like an ice block by the morning..

The pictures above were taken the following morning, when we took a longer walk in the woodlands nearby the campsite and ended up in the grounds of the beautiful Schaloen Castle, a chateau that dates back to the 14th century, parts of which are now used as a hotel. The current building is known to have existed since the 16th century although its fancy turrets seem to be a later development. I can't find out what the main building is used for now but it's not open to the public, which is a pity. However, the gardens attract plenty of visitors as we discovered when we arrived at the end of the drive during our walk.

The driveway leading to Schaloen Castle

We then headed to another castle where Mo knew we could have lunch. There seem to be dozens of castles in the region, which make it very appealing to history lovers, but what the Kasteel St Gerlach offered us was not only a perfect spot to have a cappuccino and a sandwich, but also some intriguing art in the park. With Corona restrictions still in place, we had to remain outside anyway, but on such a lovely day, it was no hardship.  And what a delightful place it was too. We sat in an enclosed courtyard with the other lunchers and soaked up the atmosphere and the warmth. Charlie enjoyed the fall-out from our sandwiches as well.

The art in the park was fascinating. Apparently, artists can display their work in this beautiful, natural setting and customers van view and buy whatever takes their fancy. I particularly liked these 'industrial' sculptures below, but with a price tag of several thousand euros each, I wasn't tempted to do more than admire them.

We followed up the cultural enrichment with a further walk through the beautiful grounds of the Chateau, which seemed to morph into a nature ramble. Of course, Charlie had to have his fun too, which meant some paddling and stick throwing in the Kleine Geul river. It was quite hot by now and this was his very necessary refreshment.

Our last port of call for the afternoon was to see the rock houses in the photo below. I'm not sure exactly where they are on the map or I'd post a link, but I was fascinated to see them. They weren't all that far from St Gerlach and are quite famous. Used as a museum now, they were unfortunately closed due to the restrictions, but I'd love to see inside them one day. Cute, aren't they? Very hobbit-like.

By that time, we were all walked out and so after a restorative cup of coffee, we took a leisurely stroll across the fields to the car. Back at the caravan, secondary hunger had set in, so we set up the awning and made supper outside. I did laugh, though, because the wind picked up so after having spent quite some time erecting our protective tent, we had to take it down again for fear of having it blown away. The joys of camping life! 

I think our last walk of the day was probably my favourite (did I mention the purpose was to do some walking?). We headed into the Limburg hills and had a wonderful ramble through the most beautiful scenery. I so regretted not taking my camera, because the light was stunning with the evening sun casting long fingers of gold across the fields. Just beautiful.

So that was really it. We managed another nice walk in the morning before we left, but campsites seem to be much like hotels and we had to be gone by 10 am. We got up, packed up and hitched up and then went to a nearby car park where we left the caravan while we walked. After all, it was for Charlie's sake, wasn't it?

Wednesday, June 09, 2021

Summer seems set to stay

I'm slacking again. It's nearly two weeks since my last post. I've had my weekend away in Limburg with my daughter and been back for so long it barely feels as if we went away at all. I should really write about what we did, but I'll save that for next time when I've had a chance to go through all my photos and decide on which ones are worth keeping.

For the time being, I'm just enjoying the fact that summer seems to have arrived at last and looks set to stay with us for (at least) another week. After that? Well, who knows? This is Holland, after all, so even forty-eight hours ahead is never certain.

Koos has been busy cleaning out the Hennie H's fuel tank, which is now completely empty and devoid of all nasties (we trust). We have hopes of salvaging some of the fuel as much of it looks clear and clean. I bought a diesel bug testing kit from a supplier in the UK, which we're going to use in the jerry cans that look suspect. On that note, I was a bit horrified by the cost of shipping from the UK now. The test kit itself was €10,50, but with shipping, tax and all the other costs that seem to have come with the dreaded 'B' word, the total amount was €32. We have to live with it, I know, but I'm afraid it's undoubtedly a deterrent to buying other goods from the UK now. I wanted to buy a composting loo for the HH from England too, but since the additional costs amount to nearly as much as the loo itself, I have decided to look elsewhere. Say no more. 

As for me, I'm busy with finalising my end of year courses. It seems to be taking up far too much time in this glorious weather. I'd much rather be outside working on the boat, but let's hope we get more of the same during the holiday period. I can but dream, can't I? Meanwhile, I'm enjoying doing my local trips by bike again and appreciating the beauty of the scenery in its lavish June glory. These photos are all taken with my phone, which has a truly horrible camera, but nothing can diminish the loveliness of great clusters of poppies and an avenue of oak trees with the sun-dappled cycle path. On that note, the poppies are absolutely stunning this year. The banks along the highways are completely smothered with them and they're breathtaking. It always makes me wonder why some years, the blossom and wild flowers are so much more prolific and beautiful than others.

The barges are looking lovely too. I think other people are having more luck with painting than I am, because the three beauties below are vivid with bright paintwork. I never get tired of seeing these gorgeous old craft.


Tomorrow, I'll be back in Rotterdam for a few days. It will be lovely to be on my Vereeniging once again, and the Oude Haven is a wonderful place in the summer. But now the caf├ęs and terraces are open again, the noise levels will rise dramatically. Remember what I said a few weeks ago about a possible new mooring? It's beginning to look even more attractive. 

On that note, I'll wish you all a wonderful week, allemaal and next time I'll tell you all about the castles, art in the park and houses in the rocks that I saw during my lovely weekend in Valkenburg. That's a promise.