Foot passenger ferry to Nieuwegein.
A number of people have asked me what an Aire is. It is mainly a European thing with a few in the UK. But basically it is a parking and stopover point for motorhomes. In Europe, they can be as simple as just a pull-in similar to our lay-bys to have a rest, coffee and sandwich which other vehicle can also use or a more dedicated area just for motor home. These come in many shapes, forms and sizes from 3 or 4 marked out bays in a village car park with no other facilities other than being able to park overnight for 1 to 3 nights, to a more dedicated area which might have water, electricity and drains to expel your grey (washing, shower etc.) water and empty your toilet cassettes or any combination of these!
A couple of different Aires
These will also vary in size from just a few parking spaces to possible 20-30 spaces. A lot of these being run by the local authorities. Many of these Aires are free to stop at. Others you might pay €5.00 – €12.00 or more per night depending on where they are and what facilities there are with them. Many of the small villages and hamlets have Aires as they are seen as a way of drawing income and visitors to the area as many motor home owners will spend money food shopping or for fuel. I recently stayed on a small farm which had all the facilities and was a 10 minute walk into town.
Another Aire. Some of them look quite full and they do get that way. But in the main, there is room for everyone.
I, like many others like to use these Aires as they are much cheaper than going to a campsite and help to keep cost down if you are traveling for a long period of time. I have also found that many of the larger supermarkets will encourage us to park in their car park overnight as well, as they see it as added security for them! The likes of Carrefour and Uexpress even have washing and drying machines in their car parks for anyone’s use for about €4.00 a go, so you can stay overnight do you’re shopping and get your washing up to date which I have done on a number of occasions.
Unfortunately, the UK is taking the opposite view to all this and many towns and cities are banning overnight parking on the seafront and out-of-town car parks even with a small charge attached. Even places like the Lake District has this ban as well, whereas in Scotland wild camping is not seen as a problem as it is seen as a way of generating income and tourist to the country.
My Aire at Arnhem. €6.00 a night with EHU if you want it? Co-ordinates N51o 58′ 23″ E5o 54′ 57″
Unfortunately, the UK is taking the opposite view to all this and many towns and cities are banning overnight parking on seafront and out-of-town car parks even with a small charge attached. Even places like the Lake District has this ban as well, whereas in Scotland wild camping is not seen as a problem as it is seen as a way of generating income and tourist to the country.
Using Aires is a very good way of seeing a country as some are right in the centre of main towns while others are in smaller villages slightly out of the way taking you to places you might not have stopped at otherwise. In theory, they are only for parking and “camping style” should not happen! So you should not put out tables and chairs and open your awnings, but many people do! Including me at times!
While I was staying at Vianen I decided to cycle to Utrecht. Finding that there was a passenger foot ferry across the canal to Nieuwegein made it a much easier and shorter journey, making the cycle journey very enjoyable if not a bit of an effort at times as I had not really been on my bike for some while. But the route took me along the canals seeing all the old barges along the way along with the larger newer commercial ones and the industry that has built up around the canal with the newer constructed houseboats along with the many barge conversions for live aboard.
Some of the new build houseboats.
Most of Utrecht is surrounded by a canal with a couple of others running through it as well and was originally on the banks of the Rhine until the main flow moved south, making the walk around town to be most enjoyable. Some of the building go back to the middle ages and it has been a religious centre since the 8th century.
The canal running through Utrecht
Just to prove I was there!
Even the rubbish is collected using the canal!
What I enjoyed about Utrecht was the amount of small independent shops and artisan workers who lined the canals. As you walked along you would see carpenters, artist, little coffee shops, stonemasons all working along the canal side. The tallest building and tower in Utrecht is the Dom tower, which is also the tallest I think in The Netherlands and use to be part of the cathedral until the central nave was destroyed in storm damage in the 1600 hundreds.
One of one of the many artisans working along the canal.
Seeing some of his work in progress.
Utrecht also has a very good University which is also the largest in the Netherlands. I would really like to go back there again as I have been really enjoying the country and feel it’s worth spending a couple of days there so as to see so much more.
The Dom tower.
A stained window in the abbey.
After leaving Vianen I decided to head for Spakenburg as recommended by the Vianen fish monger. Just a short drive away, just 29km. Through the Aires books I found a really nice site on a marina for €10.00 a night to include all facilities and just a 5 minutes cycle ride into town. It is a beautiful small town and traditional harbour with some very old fishing boats still in use. The weather whilst there was so good, with people on the river-beach and swimming. Every day I went into town and found something new. And most days the fishermen were working on their boats, repairing, painting, getting ready for a fishing trip or a visitors day trip out.
Spakenburg harbour and fishing boats.
New decks being laid and new mast in background.
The keel being repaired.
Getting ready for an evenings sailing.
Whilst driving there I noticed again how flat and low the area was. Most of the fields that I passed had small channels cut into them for excess water from the rivers and canals and to avert any flooding of the area.
A great way for the teachers to get their children around. 2nd buggy just coming around the corner.
Coming back from an evening race.
Racing to the edge.
I really enjoyed my 2 nights in Spakenburg and reinforced my thoughts as to how nice and welcoming the Netherlands and Holland is. Spakenburg is certainly a place I would like to visit again.
Next stop, Arnhem.
The John Foster Bridge (A bridge to far)