Visiting Family in the Netherlands
My first memories of travelling involved long drives and car ferries.
Having an English father and Dutch mother I used to travel at an early age, with my family, to the Netherlands each year.
In the early 60s, holidays abroad were not available for everyone. Though people thought we were well off, we were only staying and spending time with family.
I have been told that my 1st trip abroad was from Bristol to the port of Harwich via boat train, then a ferry across to the Hook of Holland and finally a train to Eindhoven.
In the early 1960's my parents invested in a Ford Zephyr car which to small children seemed enormous. With my older sister not being a good traveller, we had “sick buckets" (with lids). It was unavoidable, that when she became ill so did I. This was in the days before motorways and the trip to Dover took 8 hours. Some names still bring back memories of the journey like Seven Oaks and the Hogs Back. Where they used to brew up by the side of the road and make rolls. (I don’t know why they were not made before we left) As there were little if any public toilets on the way, trees and bushes were made use off. I think my sister still has nightmares about the Hogs Back.
We had tried various routes across the English Channel from Dover to Calais, Dover to Oostende and Dover to Zeebrugge. There were occasions when we were just over the Channel in France or Belgium, that we used to sleep or try to, in the car for a few hours. This was so we would not arrive too early at our destination in Eindhoven. On one occasion we were woken up bu people errecting their stalls as my dad had parked up on a market square. One of the reasons for doing the Dover Zeebrugge crossing in later years was that it was a 4 hour crossing and so my dad could manage to catch a few hours sleep - though not many around us did as he was a good snorer.
The place we stayed at in Eindhoven was my grandparents and we were always excited to get there.
In those days there was no such thing as breathalysers which was a good job too, as generally the last night involved plenty of booze and singing. And the next day we were off driving back home with no doubt that my dad suffering with a hangover.
Some of the trips back were eventful too. We always brought plenty of things back to England as at the time no one threw anything away in Holland and it seemed they saved it all for when we came over. One time we had a sofa, 2 arm chairs and a glass topped coffee table on top of the car. Another time we children were led to believe that there was so little space in the car that all the bottles of gin, vodka and brandy had to be put under the back seat which made the journey a little uncomfortable for us. It wasn't until years later we realised what my parents were doing.
Eventually, after quite a few trips to Holland, as a child I started to see more of the Netherlands maybe the roads had improved over there, I don’t know but I remember going to Volendam where we had our photo taken in national costume and Madurodam model village near Scheveningen. That and coffee mornings with people I could not understand was the extent of my vacations, until my early teenage years.
By that time I had visited the Netherlands and only the Netherlands until my Oma (grandmother) died and I was 14.