Thursday, 21st May 2015

Yes, it’s been a long time since this blog was updated and much water has flowed under many bridges (hint, hint …) since the previous post. So here we go with the trips since the Dutch Expedition of 2015 beginning with a short one, a day out in Whitby which is about 85 miles down the coast from home.

The story actually begins on the 11th October 2003 when No. 2 Son Andrew and the lovely Lyn whisked me up to the town where we could visit the replica Napoleonic Wars frigate Grand Turk.

Grand Turk

This was the ship, designed by Michael Turk of Turks Shipyard Ltd, which featured in the “Hornblower” TV series as well as the outstanding docudrama “Longitude” which tells the story of John Harrison’s invention of the marine chronometer via an all-star cast. It was subsequently sold and renamed Étoile du Roy. It is now based in St Malo, France, which is a bit sad as I was there a few years ago (as we shall see) but didn’t know she was there at the time.

It was my intention to visit the Captain Cook Memorial Museum, and we duly turned up at the admissions desk around 16:00 – only to be advised not to enter. The kind gent pointed out that the museum would be closing in about an hour and we wouldn’t have time to see everything. He was so right.

Thus it was that, over 11 years later, I at last got in. And now, Gentle Reader, for the sad news. I had left my trusty camera in the car, and only had an ancient cellphone (an Sony Ericsson K700i) whose built-in camera resolution was a meagre 640 x 480, compared to my Canon’s 4000 x 3000. Also, it lacked a flash so struggled when taking interior shots. The pictures that follow, therefore, are of extremely low quality. Click them to view the full-size image.

In 1746 Cook was apprenticed to John Walker, master-mariner, of Grape Lane, Whitby. With the other apprentices he was berthed in the attic when not at sea. Here the Walker’s housekeeper, Mary Prowd, provided the Cook with a table and candle so that he could read and study by himself “whilst the other apprentices were engaged in idle talk or trifling amusements” (to quote the man directly). The small, circular attic window afforded a view of Whitby harbour.

There are model exhibits:

and a portrait of the man:

The yard at the rear of the house enjoys a fine view of the harbour:

After spending the afternoon in the museum, I drove up the hill to the ruins of Whitby Abbey:

Whitby Abbey, of course, was the scene of the famous Synod of Whitby in AD 664. Less well known is that the Synod was the setting for the first murder-mystery book by Peter Tremayne (aka Peter Berresford Ellis) featuring Sister Fidelma and titled Absolution By Murder. You’ll remember I was at the Féile Fidelma in September 2014.

But the day was not over even then. After suitable refreshment I repaired to Whitby Evangelical Church 0n Skinner Street in the evening for a presentation by Professor Andy MacIntosh as part of the church’s Bible Week. Professor MacIntosh is a well-known speaker on creation matters:

At Whitby he was speaking on the design of the ear. And so ended a full and pleasant day.

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The Ark

Tuesday, 6th January 2015

Tuesday was bright but very cold, and it took some time to defrost the windscreen of the car before setting off for the Ark. Picking my way through the service station I was soon on the motorway and heading in the right direction. The A16 took me over the Holland Deep, formed from the waters of the Maas and the Waal, and on via the N3 into Dordrecht itself. Lori the SatNav Lady, as usual, took me to the right spot. You can hear her in this clip:

After taking in the sheer size of the thing I moved a bit nearer and parked to take some stills. No apologies for the in-car entertainment you can hear (“Classic FM at the Movies“):

Ark 1
Ark 2

Then I drove through the car park and parked near the entrance, which was a bit naughty. However, in the depths of winter there were very few people around.


The wooden rails are for hitching your bike to. The Netherlands is a very bike-friendly place!

Opening times

Once inside you pay at the desk then follow the footprints on the deck. There are many individual dioramas, the first one being the waterwheel-powered saw that might have been used to cut the timber:


The wheel turns a shaft, and a crank attached to the saw at the other end converts the rotary motion into reciprocating motion:


Each display has explanatory notes in 3 languages:

Waterwheel explanation

I’m not going to list every such item, except to say there are lots to see and there are video screens here and there to give more commentary. Nor are the displays limited to the Ark story. For example, there’s one depicting the High Priest and furniture of the Tabernacle mentioned in the book of Exodus …


… and one depicting the Resurrection:

Empty tomb

The cross, like the tomb, is empty.


There are open spaces at the bow and the stern which give a sense of just how big the Ark is:


The uppermost deck has a restaurant with panoramic views through the side windows:

Restaurant 1

You can also step outside to enjoy the view:


Bearing in mind that this is January and that the ark is not heated, and moreover it’s in a damp atmosphere by the sea, it may come as no surprise that after a couple of hours I was chilled to the bone despite waering many layers of clothing and my trusty duffel coat. I made a few purchases in the gift shop then reluctantly had to beat a hasty retreat to the car.

The next target was to find an authentic stroopwafel (and please remember the “oo” is pronounced “oh” and the “w” as “v”) so I drove into what I thought looked like a suitable area, parked the car and started walking. Despite my best efforts I couldn’t find a café or market anywhere in the locality, and the temperature wasn’t getting any higher. So, again reluctantly, I went back to the car and set off back to Dunkerque. I called at the first service area I could find on the motorway and went into the refreshment bar. Yes, they sold stroopwafels but they were the usual pre-packaged ones similar to the ones I could buy from Lidl at home. The one redeeming feature was there were two in the packet!

All in all, then, I can use that phrase we’re all familiar with from schooldays – “must try harder”. I’m hoping to make a return visit to the Ark in the autumn when the temperatures should be a bit higher, and chase down that elusive waffle.

The journey back was uneventful and I arrived at the B&B opposite Dunkerque station in the dark. After check-in and claiming my free night it was back to Flunch for dinner once more. This time I plumped for something totally new to me – a galette complète. This is a very thin disc of bread-like material put on a hotplate and upon which was placed a slice of ham, some cheese and a raw egg. The bread was then folded over to form a semicircle and the whole thing left to cook for 5 minutes or so. I added the usual extras and enjoyed the meal thoroughly. The video shows the galette being made from scratch (basically just buckwheat flour and water) whereas in Flunch they were ready-made. The folding over is different, too.

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Monday, 5th January 2015

Monday was a travel day. Searching for a suitable hotel in the area of Dordrecht threw up the Hotel Port of Moerdijk, one of the Holiday Inn Express chain. I’d stayed at one of these in London last year when I went down for the Marfan Information Day, and was quite impressed.

Before setting off I needed to get some supplies, especially some fruit, and fill up with diesel and again Lori the SatNav Lady came up trumps. I’ve added several supermarket chains to Lori’s points of interest list so it was a simple matter for her to find the nearest Carrefour selling fuel. This turned out to be the Carrefour Market in the Dunkirk suburb of Malo les Bains.

When I got there I found the supermarket was in a complex containing other specialist shops, one of which was a fruiterers called Les Halles du Méridien. It was a self-service shop with a vast array of fruit, vegetables and other items of a more calorific nature. The apple section contained several varieties which were new to me, so I plumped for the nice-looking Rubinette. This turned out to be a good move as when I got home and did a bit of research I found it is the best-tasting apple in the world! I would not disagree with that.

With the apples, clementines and bananas safely on board I filled up with diesel and set off. It’s a direct motorway route along the E40, E17 and E19, and with a couple of stops on the way I turned off for the hotel by late afternoon. The motorway was remarkable for the number of lorries using it. The convoys stretched for miles, and by way of example here’s a small (boring) sample:

See how many lorries there are in the other carriageway, too.

The hotel was easy enough to see but proved remarkably difficult to access. The secret was to go through the small service area (“Pin & Ga Tankstation”, no less) and over a small stretch of unmade road. Once checked in and having looked around, the hotel was well up to expectation. I did venture into Moerdijk later but darkness had descended and there wasn’t much to see. I returned to the hotel and dined in its restaurant, which was serving a buffet. The Coq au Vin was excellent!

The Netherlands is divided into several provinces of which North and South Holland are but two, so it’s not correct to use “Holland” and “the Netherlands” interchangeably. The full list of provinces is Drenthe, Flevoland, Friesland, Gelderland, Groningen, Limburg, North Brabant, North Holland, South Holland, Overijssel, Utrecht and Zeeland. Being in Moerdijk I was in North Brabant. Tomorrow, in Dordrecht, I would be in South Holland.

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