BULB FIELDS, TULIPS, WINDMILLS and a C16TH DUTCH TRADING SHIP…
We had always intended to visit Holland in the spring to see the bulb fields, but never got round to it. I decided it was about time I went for it. I researched different itineraries on the web and in the end decided Saga’s “Springtime in Holland”:https://www.silvertraveladvisor.com/review/travel-service/172629-review-saga
sounded the most interesting. It had the advantage of flights from Manchester Airport and a river cruise on the “Rex Rheni.”:https://www.silvertraveladvisor.com/review/cruise/172582-review-rex-rheni
Netherlands and Holland tend to be used interchangeably. This is inaccurate as the country is the Netherlands and Holland is just one of the 12 provinces making up the Netherlands. This trip was concentrated in North Holland.
The weather over Easter was disappointing and decidedly cool. There weren’t many people sitting sunning themselves on the sun deck, but fortunately the forecasted rain held off until the last afternoon in Amsterdam.
People off the regional flights were met at Schiphol Airport, and as we had several hours before we could board the Rex Rheni, Saga had arranged a coach trip for us through the bulb fields to the sea side resort of”Noordwijk.”:http://wasleys.org.uk/eleanor/otherholidays/holland/day_one/index.html This has a long sandy beach and is popular in the sumer months. On a cold day in March it was decidedly ‘bracing’ but there were a few brave souls walking along the beach. It has a pleasant town centre with a good range of small shops. We did also see the bulb fields which even on a dull day were impressive, with the long narrow strips of colour looking like a rainbow.
“Day 2”:http://wasleys.org.uk/eleanor/otherholidays/holland/day_two/index.html was a full day at Keukenhof Gardens. This is the show case for the Dutch bulb growers and over 7 million bulbs are planted every year. Plantings vary each year and are carefully planned so there is a succession of colour for the eight weeks they are open. They do get a lot of visitors but the gardens are so large they don’t feel too crowded. The bulbs are wonderful – everything from tulips, daffodils, narcissus, hyacinths, grape hyacinths, crown imperials… There are also pavilions which had displays of more tulip as well as roses and orchids. I also enjoyed a whisper boat trip which took me through the bulb fields outside Keukenhof.
We had plenty of time here – several hours – more than enough to wander all round the gardens, do the boat trip , have something to eat and look in he shops. Prices are very reasonable and no more than you would pay elsewhere. It was a very good day, especially as the sun did manage to come out in the afternoon.
We were taken back by coach to Rex Rheni which was moored at Zaandam. The berth is close to the town centre, so I just had time for a quick scamper round the town before dinner. Zaandam doesn’t feature in the guide books and its main claim to fame seems to be that Peter the Great came here in the C16th to learn ship building techniques. The house he stayed is now a museum and heir is a statue of him in the main square. There are some rather nice old wooden houses in the old town.
“Day 3,”:http://wasleys.org.uk/eleanor/otherholidays/holland/day_three/index.html I joined an optional visit to Zaanse Schans Open Air Museum. Old houses from around the area have been reassembled here and along with six windmills, it is an idealised reconstruction of a C19th village. It is a lovely place with old wooden buildings, canals with white bridges across them and sheep wandering. We visited one of the windmills, watched a clog maker and also a demonstration on cheese making. There are also places to have a coffee as well as the usuals selection of tourist shops. Unfotunately it was a very dull and dark morning and not good for photographs.
We were back on Rex Rheni for lunch and spent the afternoon sailing across the Markenmeer to to Enkhuisen. We berthed in the outer harbour near the splendid C19th railway station and it was a short walk into the centre of the town. Again there was enough time to explore this before dinner on a lovely sunny evening. Enkhuisen is a typical Dutch town with canals, bridges and old houses as well as lots of boats. It has an open air museum which from what I could see from the outside looked interesting.
“Day 4”:http://wasleys.org.uk/eleanor/otherholidays/holland/day_four/index.html there was the choice between spending the morning at Enkhuisen or getting the courtesy coach to hoorn, 20 minutes away. There was an optional walking tour of Hoorn, but armed with the very good map from Rex Rheni, I set of to explore by myself. Again it is a lovely town with a lot of old houses. Being a Saturday, there was busy market with a marvellous bread stall selling a tremendous range of very interesting breads. The pet stall had the most enormous dog bones for sale.
We rejoined Rex Rheni for lunch and sailed across the Markermeer to Lelystad for the night. This is a modern town and the boat berths quite a way from the centre. There were two attractions to visit – the retail outlet or the reconstruction of a C16th Dutch Trading vessel. I chose this. It was a fascinating visit. Bataviawerf has been set up as a major centre for historical shipbuilding using authentic methods and materials. The Batavia, a flag ship of the Dutch East india Company was built here and can be visited. They began to build a reconstruction of one of the war ships but work stopped when funding ran out.
“Day 5”:http://wasleys.org.uk/eleanor/otherholidays/holland/day_five/index.html we left Lelystad and sailed back across the Markermeer on a very windy day back to Amsterdam. We were berthed close to the railway station and within walking distance of the centre of the city. There was an optional bus tour which included a canal boat trip. Again I decided to explore by myself. Amsterdam needs to be seen either on foot or by canal boat. Often referred to as the Venice of the North, it is a network of canals lined with tall houses with narrow streets between them. I also went to Museum Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder, better known as ‘Our Lord in the Attic’. In the centre of Amsterdam, near Oude Kierk, this was the home of a prosperous Catholic merchant. When the Netherlands has a long tradition of religious tolerance. When it became Protestant at the end of the C16th, Catholics were allowed to practice their religion as long as they did not do it openly. Many did this by adding a church to their house. This is one of the best surviving examples of a house church still in existence, and a fascinating bit of social history.
Day 6 was back home with transfers to the airport. All in all a very good holiday with plenty of things to do and see. The Saga itinerary was good as it concentrated on the smaller town which I always find more interesting. Zaanse Schans was wonderful and none of the other itineraries I’d seen had included this. Bataviawerf was an added bonus too. I was pleased I’d chosen to fly as people who had either caught the ferry or used Euro Star took all day to get to and from the boat. Many had found it a long day’s travelling.
The bulb fields were wonderful and definitely worth the forty year wait to see them. For anyone who has not done this, it really should be added to your to do list!
The full account with all my pictures is “here.”:http://wasleys.org.uk/eleanor/otherholidays/holland/index.html