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Day 8 - Rotterdam to the Hague to Hook of Holland -

(The map above was drawn from my navigational tool that I only remembered to turn on at 11km after our sumptuous breakfast)

As the crow flies the distance from our hotel to our ferry from the Hook of Holland was a mere 25 km downstream. Why take the easy option? Pffffttt. I had organised a coffee with a long standing friend who is now very senior at the ICC (International Criminal Court) and so decided we would cycle 25 km to see her and then 25 km in the opposite direction to our ferry. Turned out to be both a rewarding and frustrating decision.

Rewarding for a few reasons. Soon after leaving Rotterdam (in the rain again) we cycled alongside quiet canals for 10 km and hankering for a breakfast stumbled upon the best breakfast we had enjoyed on the trip. Coupled with the best coffee we had tasted in all 4 countries of our trip it sort of made it feel all worthwhile. The ride to The Hague was mostly along very quiet canals and our only company was the occasional fisherman.

The visit to the ICC and learning about what my friend has done in her 20+ years there was fascinating. She had suggested we also visit the Mauritshuis Gallery and take a look at Vemeers famous painting of 'The Girl with the Pearl Earring'.

What a wise suggestion it was too. Although she is his most famous painting we thought his painting of the port town of Delft was better. The gallery itself is beautiful and being small and intimate I would strongly recommend a visit if you are ever in Rotterdam or close to The Hague. Lunch in the gallery restaurant was pretty special too. Hague itself had a good vibe feel about it and we were disappointed to not have more time to give over to exploring it.

We had a ferry to catch and so set off southwards.

By this time it was mid afternoon and the windless morning had given way to a ferocious wind. Of course being the last 25 km of a 400 + km bicycle ride it was always only ever going to be a headwind. At one point Google Maps had us heading atop some sand dunes on a paved cycle way with the beach mere meters to our right. Totally exposed it became evident pretty quickly that if we wanted to get to our ferry departure time of 8 pm and not still be riding tomorrow then we needed to come up with Plan-B. So we turned away from the beach and headed inland where trees and buildings afforded us some protection. There were however large tracts of the afternoon ride that left us totally exposed to the wind which was now gusting to 55kph.

I have ridden in a few windy places, and the last two days of cycling to Nordkapp from Spain will probably never be bettered in terms of wind strength. However this was pretty tough. What was impressive was Kathryn's resolve and determination to get the job done. The previous 5-6 days had clearly given her cycling legs and on many occasions I looked over my shoulder expecting to see her languishing some distance behind me, only to discover time and again that she was stuck right behind me. Chapeau to her.

After what seemed like an eternity we arrived at the ferry terminal at the Hook of holland and took our place in the line up of cars and vans waiting to be boarded.

Having parked our bikes in the stomach of the ferry we hurried off to our cabin which was surprisingly luxurious and included a complimentary bar fridge stocked with wine and beer that we had no hesitation in availing ourselves of ahead of the 7 hour overnight crossing to Harwich in England. It was a lovely way to finish the ride on the continent.

The early part of the ride from Rotterdam to the Hook of Holland was canal side (again). In parts it was a single muddy track which for the cycling nirvana of Holland I found quite unique. Anywhere else in the world this would be classed as an outstanding piece of cycling infrastructure.

Ahhh back to to cycling infrastructure we had so often been spoilt with over the previous 5-6 days.

Saw plenty of these guys canal side. Didn't see one landed fish. As a good friend of mine Mark.S is often heard to say '' It's not about the fishing'' .

Best breakfast and coffee we had in the entire trip.

View from the coffee table, even under a grey sky, wasn't too shabby either.

Breakfast of champions.

The ICC. They do some fascinating work and our 2 hours there was educational.

Bike storage in the central railway station was a breeze. Organised and efficient. Cheap too at EUR1.50 a bike

Vemeer's "Girl with a Pearl Earring''

We both preferred this other piece of work.

The Mauritshuis is well worth a visit. Small and intimate and with a beautifully designed interior it makes for a pleasant 2-3 hour visit.

The Hague left a good impression on us and we are determined to re-visit. Perhaps at the start of our next cycling adventure from Hook of Holland to Hamburg.

An impressively organised part of The Hague with great bike and luggage storage facilities.

Peak hour in downtown The Hague. They take no prisoners and you need to have your wits about you.

Strong headwinds made the last 25 km difficult ones to cycle.

As scenic as the view was from atop the sand dunes we didn't last long before heading inland to seek some form of protection.

After what seemed like an eternity since leaving The Hague 25 km prior we finally got to the outskirts of the ferry terminal.

Eager to board and shower and avail ourselves of the mini bar in our cabin we quickly took our place at the head of the queue.

The cabin was clean, surprisingly spacious , offering great views with commendable water pressure in the shower and along with a 'complimentary' mini bar what was there not to like?

Setting sail we felt we had deserved the rest.

Last views of the European continent as we set off westward for England


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