Day 1 - Amsterdam - Uithoorn
After arriving from your long journey, the barge takes us on the river Amstel right through Amsterdam. There could not be a nicer way to leave the city. You will see the famous Skinny Bridge, open for our barge. When we reach the quite outskirts in the south, a short bike ride starts along this river, over dikes and through scenic meadows. Amsterdam’s skyline fades to the east.
Day 2 - BIKE: Uithoorn - Meije - Bodegraven - Reeuwijkse Plassen - Gouda
Holland’s lush polders are part of today’s landscape. Polders are land areas below sea level, surrounded by dikes then pumped dry. We will bike on the higher dikes, looking out over the lower meadows and cattle fields. Villages are long and narrow. The small waterways on both sides are crossed by small bridges leading to quaint houses.
In the afternoon, we pass through the lake area of Reeuwijk, where lovely houses with colorful, well-designed gardens area scattered throughout this recreational lake resort town.
We finish the day in Gouda, city of candles, cheese and stroopwafels. Spend your afternoon visiting some of Gouda's highlights, including Catharina Gasthuis museum, a former hospital, dating to the 16th century, with tours of an apothecary, kitchen, paintings and local history. The St. Jan church is the longest late-gothic church of the country and famous for its stained glass windows. Doors open at 4:30 pm for a protestant service that starts at 5 p.m.
Day 3 - BIKE: Gouda - Berkenwoude - Lekkerkerk - Kinderdijk - Krimpen aan de Lek -
Krimpen aan de IJssel - Capelle aan de IJssel Rotterdam
BOAT: Rotterdam - Delft
Small field roads lead us away from Gouda. We will ride a ferry to cross the river Lek, a branch of the Rhine.
In the polder “Alblasserwaard” you see the largest number of windmills in one polder. At the end of this very bicycle-friendly area lie the windmills of Kinderdijk, where the entire area's water once was pumped out into the river by the mills. Nowadays this is done by enormous modern electric pumps. You'll have an opportunity to visit a museum-windmill.
Next we'll take a ferry toward Rotterdam, the largest productive city in Holland. About 8% of Holland's national product is produced here. Rotterdam is also one of the largest harbors in the world, always competing with Singapore.
The town center was completely destroyed by German bombs the beginning of World War II to force a Dutch surrender. Rotterdam is rebuilt in a modern style; high buildings and impressive bridges over the Maas River, making the city unique and very impressive, especially in the evening when everything is lit.
Near the locks you can see the buildings of the Holland America Line, the company that transported many emigrants from Europe across the Atlantic. Pilgrims sailed for America in the 17th century from Delft Harbour in Rotterdam.
At the end of the day the barge carries us from Rotterdam to Delft, which has a beautiful city center with canals, 72 bridges, scenic streets and monumental buildings.
Day 4 - BIKE: Delft - Den Haag - Scheveningen - Wassenaar - Leiden
Today is a long day thanks to the many interesting breaks.
We start with a visit to the Royal Delft Pottery. The Delft Ware pottery industry started flourishing in the 16th century with influence from Italy and China.
You'll continue cycling along the Vliet, which is an old canal from Delft to Den Haag. In the early days, water transport was more common than road transport through this area. Boats without engines were pulled forward by horses walking on the banks.
The Hague (Den Haag) is the residence of the Dutch government and Queen Beatrix. However, Amsterdam is the Dutch capital.
Interesting things to see during our break are:
- The working palace of the Queen: Noordeinde Palace
- The Dutch House of Parliament, "het Binnenhof" which is an old castle.
- The Mauritshuis, a museum with paintings of 17th century Dutch Masters as Vermeer and Rembrandt.
- The old stylish shopping "Passage" from 1885.
After visiting the Hague, the tour goes towards Leiden through the rich suburb "Wassenaar". A forest trail leads you along beautiful mansions and even along the house of our Queen Beatrix.
Our day starts with a visit to Jeremy Bangs and the American Pilgrim Museum. The museum is located in one of the oldest houses in Leiden, built ca. 1375. Bangs tells about the Pilgrims and their way of life by showing you a collection of old pilgrim objects. Have you ever heard the explanation for the word "curfew"?
There are many things to see and visit:
- Market day in Leiden.
- Rembrandt was born in Leiden in 1606. A stone in the wall remembers the place of his birthhouse next to the Rapenburg, the most beautiful canal in the city.
- The 400 year old botanical garden..
- Museum Boerhaave: facts and objects of nature and medical science, including the microscope invented by Anthonie van Leeuwenhoek.
- Naturalis, a modern nature museum.
- Museum of antiquities.
- Museum Mill De Valk, a flour mill.
- Museum De Lakenhal (local history and old paintings)
- Rent a boat/canoe/kayak and tour the Leiden canals
Day 6 - BIKE: Leiden - Oegstgeest - Warmond - Lisse - De Zilk - Vogelenzang - Heemstede - Haarlem
The long group makes an extra loop along the beach of Noordwijk. Huge houses are built against the slopes of these dunes. Mr. Heineken used to live here.
We will spend about three and a half hours in the gardens, greenhouses and fields of the Keukenhof, where you can see the tulips in full bloom and learn some tulip history. The tulip originally comes from Central Asia, and was first seen in Europe around 1560. Keen Dutch traders started cultivating this flower. On January 15, 1637, tulips cost 120 guilders a set. By February, they cost 400 guilders a set and some very special bulbs cost up to 10,000! That would be equal to 12 oxen, 24 pigs, 36 sheep, 6 barrels of wine, 12 barrels of beer, six tons of butter, 3,000 lbs of cheese, 3 boats and 20 tons of wheat. After some months of “Tulipmania” the market crashed, but everyone now knew what tulips were.
Haarlem is one of the older cities in the west of Holland. People say it has the most beautiful marketsquare of the country. The center hosts the Frans Hals museum, the Hiding Place of Corrie ten Boom, the Saint Bavo Church and many lovely almshouses.
Thursday night is the evening when shops are opened
Day 7 - BIKE: Haarlem - Spaarndam - Assendelft - Krommenie - Uitgeest - Akersloot - Alkmaar
The long group starts with a hilly loop through the posh neighborhoods of Bloemendaal. After that they will pick up the route of the short group.
Both groups cycle to Alkmaar pass through the village of Spaarndam where a statue of Mary Mapes Dodge's hero is standing, the boy with his finger in the dike.
After this short stop we cross by ferry over the wide North-Sea canal, connecting Amsterdams’ harbour with the North Sea. The ride continues through small villages with typical wooden houses of this region. Wood is a light-weight building material on these swampy grounds. Normally brick is used to construct houses.
Before entering Alkmaar, we visit a typical Dutch cheesefarm. The farmers wife will welcome you in her own Dutch version of English.
Alkmaar is a quaint town, where we are docked right next to the center.
Day 8 - BIKE: Alkmaar - Bergen - Camperduin - Petten - Sint Maartensvlotbrug - (Den Helder)
BOAT: Sint Maartensvlotbrug - Den Helder - Texel
A ride through the lovely village of Bergen and through the dunes brings us to a place where the land is not protected from the sea by natural elements and a huge dike is made. On the seaside of this dike you find the widest bike trail in the world. We bike this stretch which is about 5 km. This is great fun with tailwind!
In the early afternoon the barge picks up the short group in St. Maartensvlotbrug. They sail north on the North Holland canal, having good views of the lower countryside. The long group joins the boat at Den Helder, and together we cross the sea to the island of Texel.
Day 9 - DAY OFF: Texel (Oude Schild)
Texel is a bicycle paradise. Large parts of the island can be visited by using only the cycle paths. It's almost impossible to get lost on the island as long as you don’t take any ferries. It's easy to spend the day wandering around the island, enjoying the landscape (dominated by sheep). Interesting highlights include "de Slufter" (a bird reserve) and the lighthouse situated on the north part of the island. On the south side of the island, you'll find a huge beach and some forest areas. The few small villages are pleasant to visit and make good coffeestops.
Day 10 - BOAT: Texel - Oude Zeug
BIKE: Oude Zeug - Medemblik -Wervershoof - Enkhuizen
During breakfast the boat returns our party to the mainland, where we reach the IJsselmeer area. The IJsselmeer is a freshwater lake which was created in 1932 by building a dam in the then salt Southern Sea/Zuiderzee.
The bike ride starts in the Wieringermeer polder, which is land taken from the sea in 1930.
Medemblik is the first place of interest with a scenic old sea harbour, which is nowadays a freshwater marina. After coffee the long route takes a little detour to Twisk, a very nice village with lovely farmhouses. Then it joins the short route again following the IJsselmeer shore on a great biketrail on top of the former Souther Sea dike.
In Enkhuizen we all visit the Zuiderzeemuseum, an open air museum which shows you 130 original houses (relocated and rebuilt) with furnishings, ships and arts & crafts traditional of the culture of the old fishing villages along the Southern Sea. Apart from this museum, Enkhuizen is a beautiful city of its own.
Day 11 - BIKE: Enkhuizen - Oosterleek - Schellinkhout - Hoorn - Scharwoude -
Oosthuizen - Kwadijk - Edam - Volendam
Following the dike along the IJsselmeer we have a great view on the surrounding land and water. We reach Hoorn, the third town of the old Southern Sea cities: a beautiful, old and interesting place to spend some time. The old harbour still is a beauty for it's historic looks.
The long group bikes over the bottom of some former lakes. The small old towns there are located on former islands. You can still see the waterworks of those days when the main income was fishing including whale catching! These lakes were made into land in the 16th century with money of the Amsterdam merchants.
The short group bikes along the lakeside and meets the other group again in Edam, the city of cheese. Here we have a little stop to stroll around the old streets before we go on to Volendam, which is only 6km away.
Volendam is famous for its traditional costumes. It is a Catholic fishing village in a Protestant environment. The main income today is tourism along with eel fishing.
Amsterdam was founded by fishermen who created a dam in the river Amstel: Amsteldam. The city grew bigger and bigger. Every time they expanded, another canal was dug for the defense of the city. If you have a look at the map of the center you can clearly see the circles of canals which mark each expansion.
On this day off you can enjoy Amsterdam by yourself.
MUSEUMS AND ATTRACTIONS IN AMSTERDAM
Most museums are open from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. except the Anne Frank house, which opens from 9 a.m. - 9 p.m. April - Aug. and 9 a.m. - 7 p.m. Sept. - Oct.
Rijksmuseum. Stadhouderskade 42. Paintings of the Dutch masters: Rembrandt, Jan Steen, Frans Hals, Johannes Vermeer etc. | Cost: € 9.00 / museum pass free.
Van Gogh Museum. Paulus Potterstraat 7. Vincent van Gogh. | Cost: € 10. Museum pass free.
The house of Anne Frank. Prinsengracht 263. The hiding place of the jewish Anne Frank and her family during World War II. | Cost: € 7.50.
Our Lord in the Attic. Oudezijds Voorburgwal 40. Hidden catholic church. It looks like a house from the outside but is a beautiful church inside. | Cost: € 7.00 / museum pass free.
Museum the Rembrandt house. Jodenbreestraat 4. In this house Rembrandt lived and worked. Here he taught his pupils how to paint. In this museum you will see no paintings of Rembrandt, but 250 of his etchings and drawings. Plus paintings of his masters like Pieter Lastman. | Cost: € 7.50/ museum pass free.