We were woken this morning by a dawn chorus and rather insistent woodpecker. It has become almost a luxury to spend more than one night in the same location and not have to pack everything up. We were able to have a leisurely breakfast as the sun began to warm off the morning chill. We then headed for Arnhem, making good time without our heavy bags, intending to ride along the river bank and then explore the city. We rode out through farm land with corn ‘as high as an elephant’s eye’, and wide open heathland, breathing in the fresh morning air. Again, all was good in respect of following the planned route, until we reached the built up areas, where it is all too easy to miss the pointers to keep on track. We had the trusty Lone Ranger to get us back on course though.
We thought we had spotted the ‘Bridge too Far’, but this was a false alarm as it was a similarly shaped railway bridge, we eventually reached the bridge that was the target of Operation Market Garden and stopped for our coffee in it’s shadow, before exploring the centre of Arnhem a little.
Much as we love Talula, she is a girl of the open road and can be a little cumbersome in an urban environment, cycle racks and the like are not really suitable for her length so we don’t tend to leave her, which means that we are not able to explore as fully as we would unencumbered. We did though get a flavour of Arnhem before foraging for provisions for lunch, which was enjoyed in the beautiful Park Sonsbeek. Having found the perfect spot to relax for a picnic, we were just settling down for forty-winks, when a crowd gathered around us and started setting up a party without any regard to our personal exclusion zone. Most disagreeable!
As our planned post lunch siesta was abandoned, we headed out of Arnhem towards Oosterbeek, making a detour to pay our respects at the war graves there. When cycling in the U.K. we will often stop for our breaks in cemeteries, reading the headstones and contemplating on the lives of those therein. Quite often there will be a few military graves, carefully tended by the war graves commission. This is the first time though that I have visited a war cemetery. It was an extremely moving experience walking amongst the graves of so many young men, whose lives were brought to a violent end too soon. It was poignant that they were comparable ages to my own children, who are just starting out on their adult lives. I could not help but feel emotional at the thought of all that sacrifice. That said it was a beautiful and peaceful place, and I am glad that we took the time to visit. I understand that Dutch children are taught from a young age to respect and appreciate the lives lost in the world wars.
Our detour meant that we had to find our way back in course to return to our campsite, we had a little hiccup which was exacerbated by tiredness and heat when we could not identify which road at a major junction to take as there was no visible direction sign. We decided to take a breather and have an ice cream whilst we consulted the Ranger. We had been sat down for 5 minutes when we spotted the sign for our route. They are not always obvious if you are off track, and we have to keep reminding ourselves to look behind us.
Though this was a ‘rest’ day for us, we still cycled for about 4.5 hours and worked quite hard, on a hot day, so by the afternoon we just wanted to get back to our campsite, have a shower and chill. The downland that had been lovely and fresh in the morning, now seemed to be an endless, exposed plain with the sun beating down. Half way along though we were good Samaritans and stopped to offer assistance to a damsel in distress.
Well, I held Talula as Mr V did the assisting.
We have been very fortunate with the weather so far to the point that it has been very hot and sticky riding. Mr V, finding himself short of shorts, has cut off a pair of tracksters which he finds very comfortable. His skill with the not very sharp scissors we have with us, is a little lacking though, and I cannot help but find constant amusement in the resulting Robinson Crusoe effect.
But then who am I to laugh, sat here as I am, headscarf on, post shower, fancying that I have a hint of Vermeer’s girl with a pearl earring, but knowing in my heart the resemblance is more wizened Russian babushka … Oh the self delusion.