The ferry left Harwich late firstly due to “a cruise ship in the next berth” and then to the fact that they couldn’t get the engines to start. (Cue cries of, “They cannae take it, Captain.”) It was an electronic problem apparently. As a result we were an hour late arriving at Hoek van Holland.
Almost the first thing that happened after we got off the boat was we got lost. Our intructions said to take the second exit from a roundabout. It should have been the first. After a slight detour we got onto a road on the top of a dyke, which was pretty intimidating as there didn’t seem much room if there was any sort of traffic problem or accident. I missed another turning, found myself in the wrong lane and had to enter the A 20 motorway to Rotterdam. I was able to get off and pull into a petrol station where I consulted the map I had bought and worked out a way back onto the route I needed. Dutch motorways are brilliant, very well sign-posted.
Unfortunately the delays meant we hit Amsterdam at rush hour. Four north bound lanes more or less jam-packed. Fun. I wasn’t quite sure of which junction to come off the Amsterdam ring motorway but I spotted a sign for Leeuwarden and Heerenveen and took it. This route meant we drove over what used to be part of the Zuider Zee – on the Afsluitdijk, with the IJsselmeer on our right and the Wadden Sea hidden behind the dyke to our left. This was a weird experience but the dyke is a fantastic piece of civil engineering. At each end it has a set of huge sluice gates to allow the IJsselmeer to drain into the Wadden Sea. Presumably this only happens at low tide.
North of Amsterdam the traffic became very much lighter. Most of the way was motorway and the journey passed very quickly.
At certain junctions the motorway regulations stop a few hundred metres before the roads meet. This happened just west of Heerenveen where there is effectively a roundabout between the A 6 and A 7 motorways. (In Groningen two motorways meet at a set of traffic lights.)
I was struck by the number of smallish industrial units near the motorways and at the edges of towns – way more than in the UK. Old Dutch buildings tend to be traditional with pitched roofs. The industrial buildings all looked modern and were either rectangular boxes, some up to seven or eight stories, or else replete with curves.
The towns seemed tidy and prosperous looking. That may be due to the brickwork pavements and cycleways. I can’t say I noticed any litter.