Saturday, August 29, 2009


The drive from Bilbao to the Loire Valley was very nice. Leaving Bilbao, the road takes you through high hills, and then down to the french border. I was a bit disappointed, I thought we would be able to see the Pyrenees, but I guess the mountainous part of the them doesn't come that far west. The nice thing about France, is that the speed limit is 130km/h. The bad thing about France was it seemed like there was a toll booth every 100km or so...
We decided to stop in the town of Angouleme for lunch. Angouleme is a beautiful medieval city perched on a hill, with a magnificent byzantine cathedral.
That evening we reached the Loire Valley, where we would spend the next day. The Loire Valley is famous for it many castles. First built in the middle ages for defense, and then later as homes for the rich nobility to spend the summer. The next day we rented bikes to explore the Loire Valley and to visit some castles. One of the castles I visited was the fortress of Chinon. This castle used to be the home of many French and English kings and queens. It is where Joan of Arc visited King Charles VII to convince him to let her lead his armies. This pictures is taken from a bridge looking up the Vienne River to Chinon:I also visited the Abbey of Fontevraud. This is where the remains of King Richard I, King Henry II, Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, and Queen Isabella of Angouleme used to be kept. However they were probably destroyed during the French Revolution, and now all the remains is their tomb covers:
It is a very beautiful region for biking. The roads were quite, the nature was beautiful, and discovering a castle around every corner was really cool. The only problem I had was finding a decent map at the tourism bureau. As a result, I managed to discover a very nice nuclear power plant, that I hadn't been looking for. But, it was very imposing and industrial looking.
The Loire river:

Friday, June 19, 2009


The second week of May I flew to Spain to help my friend drive her car from Madrid to Rotterdam. I got to spend about 4-5 days in the country, and I really enjoyed it.

My first days were spent in Madrid. It's a large hot city. It's not my favourite European capital, but it does have some nice parts. The cathedral and royal palace are very impressive. The food is great. One night we went out for tapas. I really enjoyed it, except for the eating with the hands part. You have to keep in mind that Spaniards eat late, so don't go too early. We went at 2100, and we were the first ones in the restaurant. One day we went hiking in the mountains just north of Madrid. It was really beautiful. The area was dry and rocky, with steep cliffs and fast flowing streams. Kind of how I had always pictured Spain. It was a fun hike, anyone who knows me knows how i like to jump and climb around on rocks, and there was lots of that. The interesting part of the trip was when we came across two people who might have been thinking of doing a little skinny-dipping... That wouldn't have been too bad, but since they felt the need to fondle each other quite a bit while doing it, made it all a bit uncomfortable.
On Monday we drove north to Bilbao. My first time driving in Europe, and my first time driving on the highway in a manual shift car! Fun! Driving was a bit different over there. The highways are very curvy, so you always had to pay attention to stay between the line. Also, Spanish drivers are crazy. The horn is an important and mandatory piece of equipment for driving in the country. Passing someone on the highway was interesting. It had to be done at high speed, or the next thing you'd notice would be another driver behind you, flashing his lights indicating you're being too slow.
Bilbao is a really great city, probably one of my new favourite cities in Europe. It used to be an industrial port city. It had all the dirt and pollution that came with it. But, in the last couple decades, the government has really done a lot to clean it up. It has new trams, a recently built subway, a beautiful downtown, and not to mention the Guggenheim museum:Bilbao is one of the main cities of the Basque area of Spain, so everything was bilingual, although we never heard much basque being spoken. One day we went to visit an old monastery that was on the coast near Bilbao. It had a fantastic view of the ocean and coast. First we had to climb down to near the beach, then we had to climb a narrow and winding staircase up to the top of an island that was connected to the coast by a spit of land. At the top we found the monastery.

This was a much more lush and cool part of Spain compared to Madrid. With the ocean in front, and the mountains behind, it kept the cool air. It also rains more often... All in all, it wa a climate much like the Netherlands.
Our next stop was the Loire valley of France!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Victor's travels...

Because of popular demand (Linda), I'm going to write a few posts about my travels in the past few months. Ireland, Wales, Sweden and Finland and beyond... Maybe i'll also write some last posts about the Netherlands. So, stay tuned!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Day 317-318

I just noticed this old post that I had started, but never finished. So, here it is:

April 30th is known as Koninginnedag in the Netherlands. In English it means Queen's Day. It is the official celebration for Queen Beatrix's birthday. It's is kind of like Victoria Day in Canada, but the celebration is much bigger. Much, much, much bigger. Especially in Amsterdam and The Hague.
The night before is known as Queen's night, and the main celebration is in The Hague. I went there with some friends at around 2200. We put on our orange clothing(this is a must) and headed out into the streets. They were packed. We went towards the Grote Markt, which is one of the main squares in The Hague. But, we couldn't get in! The police had cordoned off all the streets going in to the square saying there was too many people inside! I was able to see in, and I had never seen so many people in one place before. So, we went to another place where there was a live concert going on. What was realy cool, was the guys with tanks on their back going around selling beer. They had a little tap that came around the front that could dispense it. Though it was a bit expensive. I went back to Rotterdam that night around 4:00Am. Next morning I had to be up early to go to Amsterdam.
By 10:00 I was on the train to Amsterdam. The train was full of orange dressed people heading to the big party. We arrived in Amsterdam, and it was not bad. There was lots of people, but it wasn't too crowded. There is something special about Queen's Day, where it is allowed that everyone can sell their old stuff in the streets. So, the city was like one huge flea market. So we walked though the streets, and browsed the stuff for sale. We eventually ended up in Vondelpark where we relaxed in the sun. When we decided to head back towards the centre, we ran into a problem. While we relaxed, the crowds had grown so large, that going down the street was no longer possible. There was just that many people. So we decided to wander around the edges, and hope we could somehow make our way to the centre eventually. When I finally left that evening, the city was a mess. Garbage was everywhere, and the urinals were overflowing into the streets. But, I think it was a fun day.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Day 312-313: Adventures in Roffa after the sun sets

Friday night I was out helping some friends celebrate their birthdays. We went to Rotown, one of the nicer bar/club in the city I think. It was a fun night, and by 3:00AM there was three of us left. The weak had left, and the strong were now looking for something interesting. "I know this Salsa bar," says Loek, "shall we go there?" "I don't know," says Geert, "but as long as they sell beer I'm happy." So, we set off. The first sign something was different was when we were given the sign to put out our arms and spread our legs for a pat down. That's never happened to me before going into a bar in this city. We got into the bar and discovered something interesting. We were the only white guys there! Not that this is a problem. But I've always found it interesting, that most bars I go to in this city are usually only ever frequented by white Dutch. Yet, over half the city doesn't fall into this category. It seems they just frequent different bars. Anyways, the next adventure came downstairs in the men's toilet. There were a couple guys hanging around there. "Ben jij de politie?" they ask me. "Nee," I reply. "Want some then?" they ask, offering me some drugs. "No thanks," I decline. But, we did have a nice chat about where we were from. I found out one was from Columbia and the other from the Dominican Republic. Interesting people you can meet in the toilets of Rotterdam. Leaving the bar in search of a vuurtje we run into a couple guys from Uruguay. "Who do you support?" they asked. "PSV Eindhoven," says Loek. "Oh PSV!!" they say, "Did you know in 1988 PSV won the European Champions League and went on to play against a team from Uruguay which had won the Americas Champion League? The Uruguayan team won!" "Where are you from again?" asks Loek, "Argentina?"

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Day 310: Muiderslot

Another free and beautiful day. Therefore, I must go on another bike ride! This time I took the train to Hilversum, where I met my friend. We biked 15km to the castle of Muiderslot. First built in 1280, it's had a few famous inhabitants over the years. Now it is a wonderfully restored museum. Here you can see the castle in the distance:The King prepared to enter his castle...

Looking out from the ramparts. You can see flevoland in the distance, a completely man made province in the IJsselmeer lake, with some 370 000 inhabitants:Wearing period dress:
My knight uniform!
Now a jester...
One of the birds from the falconry:Some sheep we met on the way:

Day 306: Keukenhof

On Saturday I went to the Keukenhof. We biked there from Leiden, it was about 15km. The Keukenhof is a famous Dutch garden that attracts many tourists every year. In fact, it was hard to find a Dutch person there. Dutch people tell me, that the only people who visit the Keukenhof are Dutch people over the age of 70 and tourists. There certainly were a lot of tourists there. When we arrived there must have been close to a 100 tour busses parked outside:Before we got to the Keukenhof, we biked through the famous Dutch tulip fields:

The Keukenhof was interesting, but nothing I need to see again. I prefer gardens with variety, and I didn't find there was much variety. It was mostly gardens with different patterns of the same flowers over and over again.

It was also very crowded: