July 24-25 – Haarlem to Durham
A ferry trip, another ferry trip, some hills and some heat as the adventure continues in merry England and I’m loving it!
We set off for the short ride from the apartment in Haarlem to the ferry terminal in Ijmuiden and arrived nice and early. We had a quick spot of lunch in a park near the terminal, then rode down to the ship, just in time for the commencement of boarding. We collected our boarding passes from the young woman in the booth and then the next window along was passport control. Did we breeze through this as we have always done, with nothing but a cursory glance at the passports, a friendly chat and a wave on our way? Did we? No we did not. We held our breath for a moment as we dealt with a nice young fella in the booth, who was thorough, which was good, but a bit misinformed, which was not so good. We handed over our passports and he looked at them, flicked through the pages, looked at our stamps, asked us when we’d arrived and we explained our arrival in Croatia and that we’d been in the Schengen zone now for about 87 days. (Just a quick recap of the Schengen situation, to put this in context: there are open borders amongst the European countries in the Schengen zone, which is most of them and you don’t need to present a passport or visa or anything as you move between countries, but you have a limit of 90 days within the Schengen zone before you have to leave – we’d done about 87 days, so we were now leaving fo the UK). The young passport control officer looked at the stamps again and got out his phone to use the calculator and asked us again where we’d entered.
“Croatia isn’t in the Schengen zone,” we explained, “after that we went to Slovenia and our ninety days started then, so we’ve been in the Schengen zone about eighty seven days.”
He looked at the stamps again and held our passports up to his colleague across the booth. She shrugged her shoulders.
“You are only allowed ninety days,” he explained, clearly thinking we’d overstayed our visa limit.
“Croatia isn’t in the Schengen zone,” we explained again.
“Yes it is,” he said quite emphatically, “this is why you have this stamp.” He pointed to the EU symbol of the circle of stars on our passport stamp for Croatia.
“It’s in the Eurozone,” said Steve, “but not Schengen.” The young fella didn’t want a bar of it.
“I’ll call someone,” he said, sliding the window of the booth closed, while he got on his phone to call someone about whether we should be in trouble.
While he got on his phone, we stood outside the booth and got on our phone and looked up the Schengen visa website, which stated very clearly that Croatia was not in the zone. This meant that our time in Croatia didn’t count towards the ninety day limit and that only started once we’d entered Slovenia. We knew we were OK, we knew we were right, but the young fella behind the glass wasn’t convinced. So we waited, while he talked at length on his phone. He eventually slid the window open again. “You have been here for eighty-seven days,” he said, as if informing us of something we didn’t know. Then began explaining some Schengen rules to us, which we already knew, because we were trying to explain things to him. In the end, he wished us a good trip, stamped our passports and waved us on. It had all happened very pleasantly and we just smiled and answered his questions and tried to explain things to him and he was pleasant in all the discussion about things, but it was a breath-holding moment for a while, because we couldn’t convince him. We would have just shown his the Schengen visa website if we’d had to, but in the end, we were given the stamp so all was OK. That’s the most scrutiny our passports have ever had anywhere, which isn’t a bad thing.
We rode on towards the boat, past another nice man directing the traffic into the lanes.
“You can wait over there in the shadows,” he said to us, showing us where we could wait in the shade of the ship because it was 33C.
“Thank you,” we said.
“At your service,” he replied, waving us towards our waiting area. Just nice people everywhere!
We only stood there for about five minutes and we were directed to board, so we rode the bikes on, tucked them into their spot on the vehicle deck and we were on.
The trip was uneventful and we passed the time strolling around and then sitting in the ship “nightclub” for a while listening to the onboard band, Heatwave perform a medley of 80’s hits and then we called it a day. The trip was smooth and before long it was morning and we were heading into North Shields.
We rode the bikes off the ferry, through passport control again, speaking to another very friendly young woman who just asked us the usual questions about why we were there and where we were going, before finishing with, “This is where I say to you, ‘I give you leave to enter’. Have a good tour,” and she waved us on. We were in England and we were on our way, into the next instalment of our adventure.
The morning was already warm and we pedalled off, with a couple of wrong turns, but we remembered to ride on the left hand side of the road thankfully and then just up the road, we waited for another ferry, to cross the water from North Shields to South Shields.
Once over the water we pedalled off, along a cycle path beside a road, then we were up high, riding along the top of a cliff, looking out at the water, on a glorious morning with sunshine, warmth and blue sky. Fabulous.
We rode along, exchanging greetings with people we passed and then we rode past a field with at least a dozen detectorists at work, waving their metal detectors over the ground.
“I love this country,” I said to Steve.
“We’ve ridden along the top of a cliff, with sweeping views of the sea, almost everyone who’s passed us has smiled and said hello and we just passed a field full of detectorists. What’s not to love!?” (By the way, if anyone is a fan of British comedy and hasn’t seen The Detectorists on Netflix, it’s a must watch)!
We pedalled along and had an encounter with our first British detour. They follow us everywhere! The path had a familiar looking barrier across it and it took us a little while to figure out which way to go, but we eventually turned and then u-turned and got on track again.
We rode along with the sea by our side and then pulled off the path at Whitburn, to take up a seat looking out at the water, to have elevenses. Just as we were about to sit down, another couple of touring cyclists stopped and chatted. They were a husband and wife from New Zealand, over here visiting their daughter and on a five week ride around parts of Europe and the UK. We exchanged experiences in some places, chatted about our trips and then wished each other well for our onward journeys. It was nice to chat to a couple from our part of the world. We had elevenses looking down on the beach, as people enjoyed their time on the sand and in the water and dogs jumped waves and it was a perfect scene of summer fun.
As we rode off, we passed a lady with two little kids. I heard her say to them, as we went past, in that so distinctive and utterly lovely Geordie accent, “Oh, well yer look at that lawd on that baik, with thorz big panyers!” Gorgeous!
Up the road, we stopped at a Morrisons supermarket and I went in to pick up some rolls for Steve. I went through the self-checkout and realised I had pressed the wrong button for the bread I was trying to scan. I called over the lady who was supervising.
“Sorry,” I said, “I pressed the wrong button for the rolls.”
“That’s alraight Pet,” she said in that gorgeous accent and began pressing buttons. “Morrisons pick n’ mix.” she explained, showing me what to press.
“But the rolls are all different, does that matter?” I asked, thinking some cost more than others.
“Nor, the rorls are diffren’t but the sairm praice.”
“Thank you,” I said.
“That’s alraight Pet.”
We pedalled on, on a mixture of road and path beside road, through some neighbourhoods and along bridleways. People kept passing us with a smile and a hello.
We went past a bobby on the beat, wearing his bobby’s helmet.
“Hiya, y’oraight?” he said in greeting.
Then we were riding along a path and four young boys were up ahead walking side by side, taking up the whole path, so we gave a ting on our bell to let them know we were coming and they stepped aside to let us through.
“Thanks mate,” I said.
“Is that baike ‘eavy?” he asked.
“It is mate,” I replied with a laugh, “it is!”
I just love this country! I love the friendliness of the people, their willingness to say hello or chat, it’s just brilliant.
We were soon reminded of our last tour here, when we encountered more than one barrier along the cycle path. These aren’t a problem if you’re on a normal bike, but when you have a wide load, they can be a bit of an obstacle.
We rode through a park and found a bench in the shade (yes, we are in England and seeking shade! How brilliant is that!) and stopped for a quick lunch beside a lake. Another top spot for a quick break.
We’d had some hills all day and they didn’t let up as we rode on. Then, we were along another bridleway through shaded trees which was lovely, through some muddy puddles and then up a gravel track that was probably better suited to goats than heavily loaded bikes. The ride was great because it had a bit of everything – sea views, through trees, up hills, through parks, past countryside. It was terrific.
Then, we ended up in a wheat field. One of those places you double check to make sure it’s the right place, because it was literally a track through a wheat field! I pedalled along, with the wheat brushing against the panniers and I was reminded again of some of the very “off road” places our routes can take us here.
After some more climbing, we had some downhill and could see Durham in the distance, with the enormous cathedral dominating the skyline. We rode in, beside a canal and then reached our hotel pitstop, where we downed the first cold drink we could find. It had been a hot and hilly ride and we haven’t experienced a hot ride in England like that before! It was great!
So here we are. Our first day off the boat and our first day of pedalling through the UK. I’m loving it already. I loved it last time we were here and it didn’t take me an hour before I was calling to Steve up ahead, “I love this country!” We’re in a part of the country we haven’t been before, so everywhere we went today was new, but we still had fantastic scenery, some “interesting” paths and routes and those wonderful, friendly British people and that all brought back memories of our last visit. I loved it! It was a top day, a great ride, superb weather (how long can that last!?) and with one ride down, I’m lovin’ it already…lovin’ it Pet, I tell you, lovin’ it!
TWO DAYS’ STATS
Distance ridden Haarlem to Ijmuiden: 16.1 km
Time in the saddle: 1 hour 1 minute
Weather: warm and breezy: 33C
Distance ridden North Shields to Durham: 45.3 km
Time in the saddle: 3 hours 31 minutes
Weather: sunny, hot, 21C when we arrived in North Shields at 9:15am and 32C when we arrived in Durham at 4pm