The sun came out this evening, finally

Over the years I’ve documented this field and my walks in it. I walked it in slippery mud, in crops taller than me, read The Power Of Now in it, collected things found and, as you could imagine, lost weight. I haven’t been since I joined the gym, which is a bloody shame really, but this evening with nothing to do and the sun suddenly shining after a dreary day, I went for a glorious stroll on my own. Glorious.

I didn’t plan on taking photos but I can never help myself with this field. I only had my phone though. What a good way to end a day.

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14 days, 9 postcards, 4 countries

It’s unknowingly become a tradition to send my Mum the most ridiculous postcards I can find on my travels. It started when I lived in Malta and she came to visit. While she was with me I was secretly finding the worst postcards and sending them to England for when she’s back home. They said silly things like ‘we just went to the pub,’ nothing more, and on the front a picture of stray cats.

Postcards are awful in general, you can find the most weirdest, most wonderful pictures and if you’re really lucky they’ll be bleached by the sun and bending. Just think of how many people have handled it! It’s truly a dying art form.

What makes them even more special is that this whole trip we were in contact with my parents by whatsapp and when you think you can’t get enough of me – 9 postcards come through the door. I’m never leaving you, parents.

In the past you would literally write what you had been up to on holiday, but obviously they already knew through being in contact and my blog. So there was no ‘Hello!!!! I’m having a great time! Yesterday we drove and today we will drive and tomorrow we will probably drive too! Miss you x’. You will see what we actually wrote.

Well, without further deliberation, I present my postcard project! Sent from 4 countries in 14 days.

The postcards

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Where I wrote it

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What I wrote

what I wrote

Posting it

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And they all arrived home.

The locations? In order;

Bruges, Belgium

Liege, Belgium

Luxembourg City, Luxembourg

Frankfurt, Germany

Cologne, Germany

Dusseldorf, Germany

Leeuwarden, The Netherlands

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Maastricht, The Netherlands

Arriving back to the beginning of our road trip

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I know I’m dramatic and playful but this doesn’t change the fact that I feel like Harriet The Spy, for reals. It was a joke a few posts ago but I feel like I have embodied her. I have my go to’s with fitting in, I have my distractions, I have my innocence, then BAM I’m writing everything you’re saying, stranger. Yeah, you, in Amsterdam telling your boyfriend he could sleep with a prostitute but you wasn’t going to pay, I was there listening but looking like I was just simply having anxiety in a world of my own (both are true actually). Getting a little dramatic now. Let’s calm it down… and just call me a spy, scrap the Harriet part for the sake of people that haven’t seen that wonderful film.

Fun fact of the day, I wanted to be a spy when I was younger. That was the dream.

Confused? Cool. Here’s me fitting in on our European adventure, when in reality all sorts of wonderful mysteries are going on in my head and notebook.

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Our last long drive started with James driving the wrong side of the road out of a car park and nearly crashing. First time it’s happened this trip. Three hour drive to Dunkirk today, through three countries. The Netherlands, Belgium then into France. Luckily I found my travel sickness bands for this last part and the ferry tomorrow.

We haven’t got anything special planned for today.  Stupid statement seeing as we never have anything planned, what I mean if that it’s a budget hotel kind of night and eating peanut butter sandwiches while watching TV. Way to spend a last night, right? I agree.

This morning we explored Valkenburg a little. I loved the location of the hotel but I couldn’t handle how trippy the floor made me feel. It’s one of two things – it is a haunted hotel and specifically our room was infested with demons, or the floor boards were at an angle. One of the two. Valkenburg has the only castle on a hill in The Netherlands, and it was destroyed by their own King to stop the French from invading it.

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A funny memory just came to me on this drive, of when my family and I drove around America. I’m not sure of my age but I think I was below ten years old. I’m the youngest, then there’s my brother who is two years older and my sister who is five years older. In the front there were three seats which was/is so strange, being used to there being a gear stick instead. So Mum and Dad made it a punishment to sit in between them anytime us kids would fight.

Problem with this plan is that I loved that seat, the gimmick hadn’t worn off for me. So there’s my parents threatening us with essentially a naughty step and while it worked for my siblings I was always all for it! Now, I have a four year old brother and two year old nephew and I can imagine the pain my parents had to go through when I was eager Emily practically begging to sit in between them.

It would work on them though, they would scream bloody murder.

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We’ve arrived at the beginning. We spent our first night in Dunkirk and now our last night. Currently parked up at Dunkirk beach at 3:28pm. Bit different weather to the first time and really Dunkirk isn’t really much without sun. It’s a bank holiday too, which we didn’t know (knew it was for England). So nothing at all is open. I googled it and kept on reading about shopping hours in general and it said that many places don’t open on Monday mornings anyway! Lucky buggers! Remember when England wouldn’t be open on bank holidays, boxing day or new years day and you had to stay in with family? And now we have a choice whether we should stay in with family or go shopping at ASDA.

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In a very reminiscent mood right now. Of this trip and in general. Childhood memories and the last two weeks are flying at me left, right and centre.

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Watching a French family play together in the distance. I feel such a heavy calmness on my chest. It’s probably the beer I cracked open as soon as we parked up to be honest.

Mixed with actual happiness, of course.

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Visiting The Netherlands, not Holland

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I see people walk by with travel guides in their hands, reading up places and on missions to go find them. I once thought I so wanted to be like them. They’re the people who are organised, the ones that have diary’s and calendars and use all the pretty stationary you see in shops. In the past I’ve tried, because they look so well put together. But I’m not. I’m not well put together, for a start I often forget to brush my hair, I loose things (often my mind), I’m a day dreamer and I’m currently wearing a jumper that I tie dyed myself. Not exactly the image you have in your brain of a lady with her diary/travel guide. Secondly, I would forget to pick up the travel guide up because.. I find them boring.. Is that bad?! Have I offended someone? I love travelling and always have, but I don’t really want to know all the details about the place, it doesn’t bother me. Just a little bit of info is cool. I’ll quite happily just walk about and hope for the best.

I think it must be all about what you deem important, because I don’t forget to pick up and write in my travel diary if I have a thought. Maybe it depends on what you’re ‘searching’ for. They want to learn about the place, and I? Probably learn what these places do to me.

This relates to the first title of this road trip – do you free more or less free knowing the world is our oyster? There isn’t a wrong or right way to travel, you can literally do what you want and that includes nothing. You can do nothing. Once that thought is placed on me I find I do more of what I want.

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We finally saw a windmill everyone, finally saw one! Didn’t realise you had to go searching for them, I pictured them being everywhere and hard to dodge. The one we found was right next to where we stayed our first night in The Netherlands, oops. We were going that way to Maastricht anyway. And conclusion after kicking up a fuss (but didn’t actually at all)?… It looked just like windmills from England. It was a windmill. Just in another country. But we did it!

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Nothing quite like having a wee when you’re at bursting point, then celebrating with a beer.

The market stool man was saying how much he likes London and we were saying how much we like The Netherlands – so we are going to swap places. He said ‘I’m going to live in Bromley!’

No one is ever that excited for Bromley.

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Like I was saying yesterday about Amsterdam being larger than life and full of personality, which takes away mine – here I felt complete in who I am, my personality is in full force. Not that I was shoving it in peoples faces. People here are still quirky, it’s not a quiet city, there’s a bookshop in a church, that says it all. I suppose, for me, Amsterdam is like Camden and Maastricht is like Brighton. That’s the best way I can explain it.

Isn’t it a shame that I have to describe places with places I know. The more I’ll travel it might turn into ‘Winklebottom was very much like Gravy Boat Mountain’, not ‘Amsterdam is like Camden, init!’

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Maastricht is a winner, in case you couldn’t tell. I loved it. It’s just one of those places that was perfect, couldn’t find a fault other than it’s an expensive city. Oh and someone working in the church told us not to go through a certain door because ‘you don’t fit’. Now that could have been a translation problem but he did an awkward giggle after, as if he felt bad saying it. Bit weird. If it is what he meant, that’s two days in a row we felt like we didn’t ‘fit in’. A hotel and a church. It didn’t take away our experience, it’s just a shrug of the shoulders and walk away with our beard, backpack and leggings. James wearing the leggings, me wearing a fake beard and one arm each in the backpack, of course. That might be why.

An English couple we met, who moved out 7 months ago, explained that the top part of The Netherlands is called Holland, and that’s the part reclaimed from the sea. The bottom part, which seems posh, is The Netherlands and are apparently against the top of the country? Suppose like northerners and southerners in England. He said they’re meant to be nicer in the south of The Netherlands (where we are). Well, I much preferred it to Amsterdam, if that’s anything to account for?

I haven’t checked whether this is true, just took his word for it.

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We stayed half an hour away from Maastricht in a town called Valkenburg, which again just blew our little minds. I love how many times we have booked places to stay and they’ve been amazing, all by coincidence. And did we fit in? No clue, didn’t check. They have a statue of a modern day, naked lady so surely it’s not a problem that my leggings are see through at the back (didn’t actually know and James didn’t think to tell me till we went to bed, and yet I wore them the next day too) (I’m really not a travel guide/diary lady am I?).

A coach load of older people turned up at our hotel, drove all the way from Manchester – 14 hours it took. So strange to go from not hearing a lot of English in forever to all these northern accents moaning about how many stairs there are. The Europeans love stairs. We learnt this day one, just like they are learning. Then late at night as I was writing my post for yesterday we heard English football chanting. How peculiar, we said to each other and put on our raincoats and hats, popped in our pipe, whipped out our magnifying glass and went out to investigate.

A bunch of English lads were jumping around the street in football kits. They just got off a party bus and were singing ‘Winter Wonderland’. Of course the Mancs were outside watching in disgust. Probably the whole town really, doesn’t seem like a party town – though does have 3 casinos (unless we walked past the same one 3 times – no travel guide see). Brought the biggest grin to James’s face though. We wanted to start jumping around with them, I’m sure they would have accepted it. Then we were discussing how my Nan loves football and would have gone off and joined them and she’ll turn into their Queen.

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James’s quotes of the day;

‘You can tell we are in a rich area – the state on the fashion’
*as someone cycles past in heels*

‘Look! An English flag, lets eat there!’

*Man has his head in the stocks and joking with his family*
Emily: ‘Throw some rotton fruit at him!’
James: ‘Shit on his face!’

Sleeping in a cell

I wonder how Dutch people choose whether their choice of transport is bike, car, bus or tram. Or even boat I suppose, but how could anyone be that ridiculous to only transport by boat.

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We’ve driven to France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany and now The Netherlands. Netherlands – not so fun to drive. We were spoilt rotten with the roads in Luxembourg and parts of Germany, but here it’s known for how flat it is. The roads are flat and straight.

Also, haven’t seen any windmills yet.

What’s the point in stereotypes if we don’t see any windmills? This is day two here after all. I wrote in the beginning stereotypes are true, perhaps they’re not. Did see some clogs for sale though, and it seemed genuine and not a gimmick, and I so totally wanted some but they were 30 euros and all I would achieve from that would be the short lived thrill of buying them.

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Yesterday when we were searching for a place to stay (which consists of going on comparison sites, checking the map to see where to go and trying to spend as little money as possible) James impulsively booked a hostel in an closed prison, in Leeuwarden. My initial reaction wasn’t ‘oh, goodie!’ because it just sounds intimidating. James was so excited though.

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Oh me, oh my, it is cool. And! Bunk beds, baby. I’ve never had a bunk bed before. Looked up the history online and it said it was once a place of torture and public executions, which is nice staying in a room so unpleasant for others. I read that they think it’s haunted too. I didn’t feel horrible though, I felt very comfortable.

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For dinner we nipped to a supermarket and I had two sandwiches. Crazy. I’ve really missed a good sandwich and I haven’t been able to risk buying one yet, being a veggie and all. The toilets are far and few between on a road trip to risk it. They were superb I tell you. Ate them in my prison cell, gazing out from the bars at the channel and people strolling by. How free they all are, they don’t appreciate it.

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On the ground floor there were shops and even a tattoo parlour. James wanted to get a tattoo just to say he got it in prison. That’s a good enough reason for your first tattoo, right?

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Oh miserable looking Emily and James there. We were struggling with finding a place to stay in Amsterdam, within our budget, for the next night. It’s a Dutch holiday and English bank holiday so all I can conclude is that both countries have swarmed to Amsterdam for the weekend. On AirBnB there was a sofa to sleep on in someones apartment for 70 quid. In the end we booked somewhere an hour away which is fine for us. James has been twice or three times before and I’m not a massive city person.

We were going through the places we have stayed so far in the shared living room/bar. This is night 10. We have gotten to the point where we only remember the places that really stood out for us. We had to go through our emails to remind us where we have been. Maybe this isn’t a thing for everyone but we both have awful memories. The prison will obviously stand out. Along side Luxembourg, the B&B in Duppach and last night celebrating the Kings birthday. How very random.

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Turned up to The Netherlands and it’s The Kings birthday

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21 miles till Eindhoven in The Netherlands. I didn’t enjoy my first experience of AirBnB. I found it weird that we were literally staying in someones room. It felt dodgy, but James didn’t care less. He still stripped and slept fine, I decided to sleep in my sleeping bag on the bed and woke up through out the night. I forgot how much I loved sleeping bags though, oh God it’s so comforting. I shuffled right down to the bottom like I used to do as a kid and looked up at the opening like I was in my own cocoon or cave. I had a hoot, as you can tell, while James was being an adult in his duvet watching BBC news – the only English channel. I had anxiety yesterday and I swear that the sleeping bag helped.

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James’s day started with a cigarette outside as usual. He said he was leaning on the wall outside the apartment in his drowsy state that I know all too well. Well, well, unbeknown to him be was leaning on all the buzzers to the building – so an old man came to open the door.

5 days we were in Germany, that’s the most in one country so far – and seeing as we have 5 days left it’ll be the most we spent in one country on this trip. Europe seems like such a community. The freedom of travel is amazing, just popping to Belgium to buy a sleeping bag or going down a hill in Luxembourg and up in Germany. It’s such a shame England are leaving the EU. I believe in unity.

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Turns out we have arrived on the day of The Kings birthday. Looks like there will be parties going on, but we are still oblivious to how they will celebrate other than with bright orange balloons and posters. Nindhoven is decked out. I feel like we’re detectives piecing together all the clues. Call me Harriet The Spy – bloody loved that film.

It’s a bit misleading really – do they clean their shops and streets everyday at 10:17 or is it for the King? It’s amazing. We literally turned up to The Netherlands to this. Maybe the festivities were last night because I just trod in sick. More clues.

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Cat calling is disgusting in all countries, fun fact.

Found a stage covered in orange balloons and DJs setting up, street vendors, bars opening. Definitely today. Definitely a party. ‘Kings Day’ a local said, ‘they get crazy’. Another said last night was Kings night and today is Kings day, but turns into another Kings night and the bars stay open till 4am. The streets are filling up with people dressed all in orange.

We watched some sort of birthday presentation on the TV. It made no sense but we were still entertained. The Kings daughters less so. Maybe they should forget the language and see it from our point of view.

It all rings a bell actually, the Dutch couple in Duppach was saying about Kings Day and the kids have time off school and everyone celebrates. Like the Queens jubilee. Except that wasn’t her birthday but loads of people at her concert thing kept saying ‘Happy Birthday’, and everyone watching on TV was like ‘what?!’. Remember that?

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The little town where we are staying are also celebrating. Roads closed so had to walk our suitcase to the hotel which was in the middle of it all. I joked to the receptionist that we would be disappointed if it wasn’t like this next time we come.

The time when we always check in, about 3, is when we have a little rest and I write up a post from the day before from my notes, but ladies and gentlemen we are wild creatures, I tell you, that took off into the..day.. and went straight out.

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The whole town has come out, and we are part of it. A stage, beer, stools (which seems to be more of a boot fair rather than a market). They said they don’t get a lot of tourists in these parts, but here we are, two English tourists joining in the celebration for The King. We both said we felt like we got into a festival for free.

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I would have liked to of gotten an orange hat or crown that people were wearing. Luckily I was wearing my bleach dyed jumper, so I was a little orange. I think subconscious I must have known.

We went to a pub which had such a friendly, joyous vibe. It was another moment when I felt so lucky to be on this road trip. Random as fuck. People merry on something were dancing around singing Dutch songs. One old guy put my hood up up and started to sing to me and another bloke stroked James’s beard. I even put on makeup for The King. Didn’t wash my hair though, he’s not my King. Then we went for a Chinese. Just amazing.

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James’s words of wisdom for the day;

‘I’m the only one wearing joggers. Maybe you don’t wear joggers on Kings day.’

‘They haven’t cottoned onto the whole beard thing.’

*Looked up articles whether a beard is acceptable in Europe, and read something about usually only artists have them*
‘I’ll take the photo, I’m the artist here.’

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Does Cologne smell nice?

You’d think with 3 years of German lessons little bits and pieces would come back to me, but no. It took me 2 days to remember (and someone saying it) that ‘guten tag’ is hello.

It’s mad that they all speak English, or broken bits of English, and we completely rely on that. I assume it’s a requirement to speak English to work in the popular places, even in the supermarkets or McDonalds, for no extra money. Then there’s us who go on holiday and hope they’ll speak our language, and take 2 days to remember how to say hello.

James even forgot we were in Germany when a waiter asked if we want 2 more beers and he replied with ‘non’ rather than ‘nein’.

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Counted 50 wind turbines today as we zoomed past them, and there was definitely more. Luckily we can only count up to 50.

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I’m so surprised how similar the fashion and style is to England. When I lived in Malta it was so different and they’d openly tell me that I dressed weird. I assumed it’ll be the same situation but that was 6 years ago, we are all a lot more connected now. No more kilts, lederhosen and clogs, it’s been replaced with Nike, Zara and Primark.

Also, turns out TKMaxx are exactly the same everywhere. Except I saw a lady shopping with her dog. I was hoping for something with German words on but apparently people in Germany shop for things with English words on. But hurrah for German shops keeping the up escalators together and the down ones, unlike England that makes you walk through the whole store.

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I almost wet myself in the centre of Cologne. This has happened a few times now. It’s not a water infection, it’s just drinking beer everyday and thinking I can just hold on for a little longer. While desperately searching for a toilet on my own, as James was in the pharmacy, I was thinking that I will even go into a shop and fake that I’m pregnant. My bladder was big enough for proof. I did pack a she-wee but that requires a bottle or bush and I haven’t got the balls or boobs (literally both) to do that yet. James gave it a go in the car and it went slightly wrong.

We sent both parents a text saying ‘heading to Cologne, bet it smells nice.’ Neither of them commented on it.

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James’s wise words;

‘We could have had a baby with this money we’re spending, but instead we decided to waste our money on Europe. Just as England is leaving.’

‘European jeans.’

‘Wasps don’t do anything, they’re just c**ts. They wasp around being pricks.’

‘Straw in the beer for the lady.’

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Had a spot of rain today. It seems to be a bit like Florida with the rain being over in 10 minutes, and then sun. We came out of Lidl and it was pouring down. Assuming it’s like England, it’ll pour down for the rest of the day. James rushed back to the hotel to get the car so he could drive back to me (I wasn’t wearing my waterproof jacket) for the shopping. By the time he got back to me the sun was out. Very weird. I could laugh about it, but I wasn’t the one who got wet.

The winds were pretty strong too, and my leggings, which are gathering a few holes in now, weren’t cutting it. We are thinking of popping into primark in Cologne centre to pick up some more, hoping I can understand those sizes unlike the places we looked in today. James has also planned for us to go shopping in a haribo shop in Bonn. Other than getting my little brother some, this does not excite me being a vegetarian. We saw some haribo in Lidl and I said ‘look it’s going to be just like this at the other shop’, and he’s reply was ‘let me do something I want for once!’ Shocker, right?! We have this on going joke that I forced him to go on this road trip, because that’s what my Mum thinks. She has even messaged us asking if James can keep up with me. Who do you think I am, Mum?! Some kind of monster?!

Ran a hot, steaming bath when we got to our hotel in Cologne. Sounds wonderful doesn’t it? Alas, it was for our dirty washing. Added a tablet and popped a few bits in. We have four radiators in this place and we have upped them all to 5 in hope that our pants can dry over night.

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Germany is wunderbar though. Thank you Google. What would we do without you? Even though we didn’t think to look up how to greet people. We just don’t think sometimes.