Sunday 31 May 2015


Tuesday and after the breakfast that fulfilled its promise we did the 20 km sprint north west towards Lauwersoog the fishing port from which the ferry to the island of Schiermonnikoog  a sixty minute crossing. 

There were grey skies today and a wind from the west that was going to make heading west a challenge for our remaining time here.  The ferry was packed with people but the throng quickly dispersed on as we pushed our bikes down the gangway and onto a cycle path around the island.
On the watt to Shiermonnikoog Island 

This small island shaped like a leg of lamb with all the habitation at the westerly fat end of the ‘leg’. There are colourful and charming houses; it boasts a population of about nine hundred that swells considerably in the summer.

Schiermonnikoog has wide beaches and white sands, inland there is low heathland and short trees mastered by the wind; two grand lighthouses north and south watching for shipping.

Close to the ferry, a small harbour 

Sun breaks through as we take lunch at the De Marlijn beach restaurant, full of prosperous looking red faces sporting expensive sunglasses. After a fine salad we walked it off on the beach before a circuitous route back to the afternoon ferry.
a walk on the beach after lunch

On landing we headed home, hugging the coast for about 10 km then heading inland through farms and fields and villages washed in bright afternoon sunlight. The wind was behind us propelling us to the first beer of the evening.

End of the second story, coming next DUTCH DIARY: FISH AND CHIPS

Saturday 30 May 2015


Thursday morning, the weather was grey and cloudy as if to signal the journey home to England. Dave wrapped the bread-cake ready for the cycle south back to Groningen and we settled our bill with Richard and his wife.

We settled out billed for the journey home

A now familiar landscape today was compressed by cloud and we were soon in Groningen.

We peddled around the city. In the centre there was a huge and hugely noisy Fun Fair its Rides and scary machines butting up to the cathedral’s steps and challenging the towers as to who was taller.  We found lunch primarily to be away from the racket and ate well as there was little expected on the train or the plan home.

A small church along the route

And so we boarded the 17:54 to Amsterdam Schiphol.

We enjoyed days in a delightful part of the world. There is warm welcome everywhere and simple thoughtful tourism with evident pride in appearance from every farm, village and garden and front room. A view and outlook is easy on the eye. There are few people and fewer cars in this really rural area.
Lambs raise heads to bid us farewell

NOTE: Dutch Diary is a four-part story,  parts 2 and 3 will be published very soon 

Friday 29 May 2015


Terminal 5 Heathrow
Nobody looks as if they want to be at Gate A16 at Terminal 5 Heathrow, except us. We, Dave the pilot, Mike the fishmonger and I are off to Holland for four days.

At Amsterdam Schiphol we board the train for a lovely two-hour ride across Holland, along side fields and farms, crossing waterways and small towns.  A familiar and calming landscape, delightfully flat. 
Train-scape across Holland

By lunchtime in Groningen, we collect our electric bikes and have lunch by a canal side in the city.
The first of many in Holland

Warm sun and we clamber into light garb. After excellent sandwiches and the first of Dutch beers we pedal out of the city northwest along the cycle paths. Waterways and flowers and sheep and cattle everywhere a cuckoo sings no more than a hundred metres away.

A teashop reveals itself en route, and with the sun still high we take a rest and chat with the locals and discover the origins of the provincial flag.
We stop for tea 

Tuesday 26 May 2015


So Sian returns from the allotment last evening with some leeks, grown from tiny plants sown in Essex by my sister, nurtured in one of S’s raised beds and sent down to the Allotment some months ago. A great result now I am wondering how to cook them.  I think this recipe 

Clams with leek, fennel and parsley
Though you could add a twirl of al dente spaghetti or linguine to this dish, it is the fragrant, briny broth that delights – better with a crusty loaf and a spoon.
 Serves 2
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
1 large leek, trimmed and finely diced
Salt and pepper
1 tsp crushed fennel seeds
2 garlic cloves, minced
A pinch of red pepper flakes
1 kg small clams, scrubbed
A splash of white wine
2 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tbsp chopped spring onions/Lemon Wedges

1 In a wide, deep pot, heat the olive oil over a medium-high heat. Add the onion and leek and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened – about 5 minutes.

2 Season with salt and pepper, then add the fennel seeds, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Add the clams, turn the heat to high, and stir well with a wooden spoon to coat.

3 Splash in the wine, put on the lid, and continue to cook until all the clams have opened – about 5 to 6 minutes.

4 Stir in the parsley and spring onions. Spoon the clams and broth into bowls. Serve with lemon wedges.

One Good Dish by David Tanis (Artisan Books)