Mike Strachan’s e-mail journal — Entry #25, from Netherlands
Received 16 May 2008
Travel for May 15/08 — Breda and the Military Trail
The walk to the car rental office takes a half hour — I still get the BMW Mini, but for €77, not the €110 I was quoted — a nice deal, and a nice car (6-speed standard shift). Following directions of the agent, I am soon on the A16 to Roosendaal, then the A58 all the way to Bergen-Op-Zoom.
I spy a war cemetery sign as I enter the off ramp, and I turn off to find the Canadian war cemetery. It has 1,118 graves, including one of a Dutch pilot who flew for the Royal Air Force. Two Vancouver men of the Canadian armed forces have signed the guest book three days before me, and I'll look them up at home.
Down the road 150 meters is the Commonwealth war cemetery, with 1,212 graves mostly UK, and with 47 Canadian.
When I leave the cemeteries I turn on to the A58, but — oops! — it's the way back to Roosendaal. It turns out OK because at the next exit I can turn south to Wouwse-Plantage, also on the military trail. It's a nice town with a large forest reserve south of it. Perhaps this is what the word Plantage refers to. At Huijbergen I stop for lunch, and the café proprietor informs me that the Plantage refers to an old castle, long gone, which at one time sat in the middle of a plantation.
There is a large modern church here with no name on it, and another customer says it's St. Marie church, but then another says it’s Our Lady in Heaven — unpronounceable by me in Dutch. Her friend greets me to ask where I'm from, and we talk about the Banff-Vancouver trip she took. It's a surprise to find someone in this little town who has been to Vancouver.
My placemat has a local map on it, and the Belgian border is right behind the town, with a large nature reserve just over the border. Another surprise — people can smoke in cafés until June 1st, when a new law takes effect.
Off to Woensdrecht, a small town located near the entrance to the Beveland Peninsula. There is a memorial there with plaques recognizing the efforts of the Black Watch and the Royal Highland Light Infantry to take the town.
Not far from Woensdrecht is the Schelde-Rhine canal, and it was the bridge over this canal that the Canadians had a tough time capturing in 1944 before clearing the peninsula.
On my map there is a complicated cross-country route to get to my next stop — Poppel in Belgium — but I choose the faster round-about way via the main highways.
Poppel is only about 30 km away from Turnhout, which I visited on May 12. It's the place where the 1H crossed the border into Holland, then passed some small towns to get to Breda.
To drive to Poppel, I go via Baarle-Nassau/Baarle-herzog, the first being in Holland and the second in Belgium. Driving to Poppel means crossing the border twice, as neither the road nor the border is straight. There's a nice old museum building there, which up close doesn't look so old. Then back through the little towns on the trail, Ulcoten and then Osterhout, where I have a hard time finding a way into town due to construction and have to go 5 km out of my way. It's now after 4 PM and I decide to go to one more place — s'Hertogenbosch, about 45 km from Breda.
Now I'm in the rush hour nightmare here, and the truck traffic is heavy. The city has a ring road, but I never get to the centre of town, due to heavy traffic and a downpour of rain. I have to be satisfied with a photo of the Heinneken offices and brewery.
Back at Breda I have to criss-cross the town north to south to find the hotel, where I park at 8 PM after 11 hours on the road. A quick walk takes me to the bank machine to pay for the car tomorrow, then I update my journal, do some reading, and go to bed.