European Road Trip

Van Life in Amsterdam

(Written in June 2014)

We both felt inclined for some exercise in the park area next to the van seeing as there were some benches around, so we did a quick 3-round HIIT workout involving the bench, then died on the bench after whilst attempting to eat breakfast.

What felt like all the children from the nearby town then rode into the car park in the fluorescent jackets (no helmets though much to our surprise seeing as they were riding bicycles on the road) and filed into the nature museum.

We dithered around in a town called Heide for most of the day before moving onto the coast. Our first stop for the night ended up being a let-down with the local kids deciding to play football, or more like repeatedly kick a ball at the wall next to our van, so we moved to Renesse where we camped out in a grassy car park next to a bus station. With free showers, joy!

Realising we were closer to Amsterdam than we thought we were meant we did a quick detour through Rotterdam, just to see what it was like after hearing it in that song as a child (what’s the song?), we made it to Amsterdam and ummed and aahed for 10 minutes about where to stay.

Amsterdam City Camp may look ugly and like a prison, but for €15 a night our van was in a secure car park, with water, toilet disposal, dustbins, wifi, and a 10 minute walk through a surprisingly hipster part of Amsterdam to a free ferry that deposited us into Centraal Station. To be honest it was the car down the road with the smashed in back window that really swayed our decision, the thought of our lovely van being targeted was an unbearable thought.

This was my second visit here, and Theo’s fourth, so we didn’t feel the pressures of ‘what to do??’ in a new city. We immediately headed to the Red Light District, gaped at the tourists gaping at the ladies, and grabbed some frites. Theo made the odd decision to try the hot sauce on his frites, something he’ll probably regret forever. The stuff looked like blood.

After sleeping in and preparing some food for the day (tuna salad wraps with cherry tomatoes on the side, if you’re interested), Theo grabbed his camera and we ran for the ferry, not wanting to miss the 1pm departure. We moved back to the Red Light District as it’s the first port of call for interesting sites, I’m sure any of you who’ve been can agree, I mean the architectures amazing!

We moved out into different parts of the city, browsing the shops, getting wafted with 'coffee’ fumes, dodging trams and cyclists, appreciating the architecture for real this time. After I developed an impressive blister on my baby toe (the size of a kidney bean) we both walked back to the ferry and the van for dinner. Then back to the centre. Waffles were awaiting, and ice cream.

The next morning we awoke to the constant tapping of rain on the roof, not the best sign as Theo had been hoping to get some more footage of the city and needed the same conditions as the day before. It stopped as soon as it has started and Theo darted off to the ferry before me, leaving me to find his keys that had become wrapped up in the slanket, and later meeting up for lunch (noodles, yum) around the corner from Dam Square.

We walked through the streets and along the canals for a bit together before departing and going our separate ways for a couple of hours. Theo stayed in the central location of the Dam filming the people there, and I walked to Anne Franks house before seeing the queue and instead browse some more shops.

We did the same as the previous day and headed back to the van for dinner before coming back to the centre at night so Theo could get some more shots and I could get another waffle.


Theo created a short film about our travels in Amsterdam:

Our time in the city camp had come to an end, we had some unique neighbours, had walked more than a marathon in three days, and were ready for some peace and quiet in more rural areas. The van was quickly cleaned whilst Theo got some images in the surrounding area, and we were off with Edam in our sites. And a deep sleep.  

Van Life Day 2 | Belgium

(Written in June 2014)

The channel crossing on the tunnel was a breeze, and before we knew it we were in Calais. We headed north with Bruges in mind for our first stop over; we ended up driving to Blankenberge a few kilometres outside of Bruges and walking along the sea front that evening, laughing at the surround sound gasps and cheers drifting out of the bars as the Belgium V Russia match was being shown. We moved a little out of the town and found a quiet side street next to a tree-lined field of cows where we spent our first night abroad watching the sunset and planning the next day.

Not having a particular parking place in mind we ended up driving through the centre of Bruges and realising that parking in the city centre wasn’t as easy as it seemed. A residential area a good walk from the centre was where we ended up leaving the van, and eventually made it into the market square in time for lunch on a bench surrounded by tourists. Not having internet on our phones anymore meant we were overjoyed to find free wifi in the square, allowing us to contact people for a brief moment. 

The rest of the day consisted of strolling through Bruges, what a wonderful place! Tourist boats go through the canals, lace shops are found on every street, and we saw more than one VW ice cream van. We indulged in some ice cream (not from a VW van sadly); banana for Theo and pistachio for Bee, next to a large lace map of Bruges. 

After walking for miles and enjoying beautiful Bruges we headed off to a free campersite we found on the Camper Contact app (fantastic app if you’re looking for somewhere to stay) on the outskirts of Heide, near Antwerp. On the way there we stopped off at a Texaco garage that had showers (joy!) for 50c, a lifesaver when there’s two of you living in a van in the summer.