Cheryl Smith's sabbatical 2011 travel blog

Plompe Toren watch tower

storm surge barrier roadway

the north sea beach

Organ grinder in Veere market

flower seller in Middelburg market

Zierikzee to Middelburg – Glorious Thursday, 2nd June

What a magnificent day we had – and what a contrast from the day before. Although we rode a long way and there was some wind, it was nowhere near as uncomfortable. Not to say my bottom wasn’t sore and I didn’t cringe every time I rode over a big bump, but a manageable discomfort. Most of our riding followed water and easy paths. The Dutch are really good with their bicycle paths – even the stop lights have little pictures of bikes telling you when to cross a road. They make it very easy to be a bike rider and the mayor of Vancouver is trying to do the same for our city – in a time line we’re about January to the Netherland’s December.

We knew this was the day we were riding over the big nine km storm surge barrier that was built as a result of the 1953 floods. All of us wondered if it was going to challenge us the way the previous days’ bridge and journey had done. Boy we were wrong, the ride was easy, enjoyable and educational. You’ll see in the video clip how wide the road is and along the right side are a series of what look like small buildings with chimneys. They’re the mechanisms for opening and closing the flood gates to adjust the flow of water.

The biggest surprise to me was to see sandy beaches – lots of them. I later read in the paper (not that I read Dutch) there was a big kite competition happening while we were there. I held my Flip video up as I was cycling (as you have figured out I’ve done that often, hope you don’t mind the jerky viewing) to capture the view of the beaches and as a bonus caught the kites flying. To think a few decades ago all this was under water and now we’re cycling over the bridge and hundreds are playing on the beaches. Amazing.

Earlier in the morning we stopped to admire a lone brick watch tower on the edge of a wide expanse of partially flooded fields. Loek told us it was the only remaining structure after a flood washed away an entire village many years ago. We would have left it at that had a women walking by not commented it was open and well worth a look. A handful of us were apparently the only ones interested in climbing the narrow, circular stairs. You’ll see in the video the view was great from the top and worth the climb. Inside the front door was a book inside a glass case and the pages were turning themselves – we never did figure out how. (puff of air? thin wire??? ghosts?)

I love street markets and never miss a chance to wander through one if I can. We cycled into the town of Veere and landed smack dab in the middle of one and kept on cycling through. Darn! (me thinks the men don’t share the fascination or perhaps fear the shopping) It was big, interesting and lively. I did catch a few seconds of a female organ grinder with her stuffed monkey on video. Having used the expression of wanting to talk to the organ grinder not the monkey for many years, I had to do film it (in a hurry)– made me smile.

On our Thursday morning break we sat by the ocean in a café with a stunning view, one worthy of Robert treating himself to a Duvel beer served in a logo’d glass (we discovered those in Amsterdam); lunch was at a roadside trailer near the beach that sold more than one of us some ice cream.

We arrived in Middelburg in time to find the market still open so I did get my chance to wander around past all the fruit (I was hoping Sander had bought some of the local strawberries as they looked good – no luck though, he served crème brulee), veggies, flowers (Sue grabbed a bundle for half price) and bric a brac. Didn’t need to buy anything, it was simply fun to wander around the market. In the shopping district I was surprised to see so many familiar UK shops – Dixons, Halfords, C&A to name but three (I forget the others I saw).

We arrived on the barge in time to sit with a cool beverage under the deck umbrella basking in the sunshine and great memories of a day well spent. I think we were all more than a little pleased with ourselves and the success of the day.

After dinner Loek took us on a lovely walk through the streets of Middelburg – Robert’s photos are really good if you want to have a look over at his site: (click galleries on the main window).

I recommend having a read of John and Brenda’s blog as John is writing about some different aspects of our trip.

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