Easter weekend in Holland, lots of people vacationing both today, Sunday and tomorrow, Monday.
Another huge day, travel and viewing and just getting comfortable in southern Holland was the plan for today, oh and having at beer at the Amstel booth during another of the classic spring races, Amstel Gold, finishing just outside of Valkenburg. We are staying at this amazing Air BnB in Barendrecht, south side of Rotterdam. Valkenburg is almost as far south as you can get in Holland. We don’t have a car here so the plan is to use public transport, meaning local and regional trains. Overall, we are about 4 hours away from our destination. Slight problem, the rail system has some construction happening so the first leg from our local train station of Lombadijen to the rail station in Breda is by big comfy bus that stops at all the rail stations along the way picking up normal rail passengers. Somewhat awkward but seems to work. We have all day tickets to get us there and back that we bought when we first got to Holland so on the bus we go. Hopping on a train at a big rail station in Breda which goes to ‘s Hofensbosch, another train from there to Maastrich and then another train to Valkenburg, this one is loaded with people heading to the race. We arrive and have no idea where to go but just have to follow the crowd to the course.
Not knowing much about Holland and especially Valkenburg other then what I know about spring classic bike races, our walk through the town is amazing, my eyes getting bigger with every step. Every direction you look there is a scenic picture, the camera is humming. We keep walking though the town with numerous cafes and restaurants along the sidewalk, most shops are closed for Easter but the cafes are open and filling up. Now, up we walk the Cauberg, steep and long but no cobbles. The sidewalks are packed with fans, coffe trucks, beer stands, music, family’s, kids, dogs, you name it. Great atmosphere, very friendly and welcoming. I leave Bushy mid hill and keep walking hoping to find the finish and a huge video screen like at Tour of Flanders, no luck. The finish line is about 5 kilometers from where I left Bushy, it’s very cool and windy and looks like it might rain like crazy. A few drops here and then but it’s holding off. I make my way to the finish, no video, a call back to Bushy and I start walking back to the climb. We camp out at the Amstel tent at the top of the climb for a while but decide to walk back down as the women’s race finishes up. We find a few good spots along the hill and continue to enjoy the fun around us. Midway, a bar that has a TV going so we stop and watch a while. We split up as I go looking for food and before we know it, the race is finished, one less ride up the Cauberg as this years route is slightly different. The hill empties immediately, bars not so much.
Time for the long trip back, this time we need the standard 3 trains back but have to switch buses mid ride. There’s a problem, our pronunciation of rail station names is not what it should be, we get dropped by the first bus and get off at the right place. We point to the sign name and get directed onto the next bus with the hope of getting off at the 3rd stop which we do. There are lots of riders getting picked up and in the confusion we look around and realize we are at the wrong station. It’s about 10 P.M. and we are now at the stop with 3 drunk guys, one who is not having a great time, talking about bad food but probably is too much beer. Google maps says we are a 50 minute walk to where we should be. Bushy has the phone number of of hosts and calls and Han’s graciously comes to pick us up. We will reclaim the locked up city bikes tomorrow. Back home, warm and ready to call it a day.