My mum's birthday, and my first 'real' day, in the getting-lost and hoping-for-somewhere-to-stay sense.
Set off in sunshine but had a couple of good heavy showers. The part out of Amstelveen was easier than expected thanks to Khanum's clear instructions ('so you go left, left, and then left'). All went smoothly for an hour or so. Then the losts, the showers, and the roadworks started.
The cycle paths are assiduously signposted at least 90% of the time. The other 10% you can either follow your nose, try and work out which of the two options at a t-junction qualifies as 'straight on'... Or chance it and correct as necessary.
Today I had only a 1:300000 Netherlands-wide map (!) because I've changed route, and am currently heading south in the Netherlands rather than east to the Rhine, so I can rendezvous with Khanum this weekend. So I suppose it should be no surprise that a fair bit of navigational vagueness occurred.
When the first rain came I sheltered for a while in a subway, eating Nutella sandwiches. I soon got bored and so got kitted up with the new and, I'm pleased to report, entirely waterproof waterproof. After a good wetting I stopped for a coffee in Breukelen (namesake of the New York borough). Can confirm it is both smaller and more picturesque than its American cousin. Caffeined up I was ready to face Utrecht, which is quite a large city. Minus any real game plan, and with multiple sets of roadwork diversions making a mockery of the signposting, I nonetheless made it through in reasonable style.
South of Utrecht was more rural, though still in that distinctly Dutch style of suburbia where you never seem more than a few minutes from houses, but also never far from a field. I guess it's just how you have to build in a country this densely populated, and on the whole they manage it with flair. A lot better than Bedfordshire does, anyway. There are amazing looking castles and manors all over the place - the most spectacular castle I saw today was merrily playing a very loud and complex hour chime from its clock, and appeared to now be a business school.
I took a ferry across the river Lek at Culemborg, an old and very cute town. The landscape around here is dominated by the rivers, and the main produce appears to be soft fruit (although Haflingers, Shetlands and pet lambs are also in abundance). A fair bit of bird life - herons etc - and I got a cracking close-up view of a jay in full colour who was sitting on a fence watching me.
Late afternoon I crossed the Waal, an even bigger river containing serious-looking barges, courtesy of a bridge which had four lanes of thundering traffic but - of course - a separate two-lane bike bridge alongside. This really is the land of bikes and cyclists frequently have priority over all other traffic at roundabouts etc. People also think it completely reasonable that you're cycling everywhere. I love the Netherlands for that alone.
I was feeling a bit apprehensive about my first camping night, and arrived at my 'if I'm feeling fit' campsite destination to find no one around at reception. A nice neighbour pointed me to the local bakery-cum-Spar and by the time I got back I found someone to show me to a tent space. So now my tent is up, nothing seems too out of place, and though there will be enough breeze and showers to test it, I don't think there should be anything worse. Doesn't look like the bar is open (still low season?) so it's a sausage roll and fresh buns with buns for tea. Unfortunately I seem to have picked up a bit of a cold from Khanum but hopefully there will be enough sleep tonight to drive that off.