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Holland and Belgium tour 2016

Tulip time in Holland

Spring is the perfect time of year to visit the low countries of The Netherlands and Belgium. Few places in the world are more breathtaking than experiencing fields of vibrant tulips set against a background of historic windmills, quite villages, historic cities and stately monuments. This is the low countries in the spring.

Not only is one treated to the vibrant fields of tulips you will also experience the beauty of the fruit trees in bloom, the aroma of the Hyacinths lofting in the cool spring air and the hundreds of varieties of daffodils and other bulb flowers.

We began our 2016 Holland and Belgium tour in the vibrant city of Amsterdam, our home base for the next few days. Amsterdam has an appeal that is absolutely unique. It hosts a treasure-trove of extraordinary artistic riches – the living embodiment of more than 900 years of history – during which rose to become the center of a huge global empire. One can stand on the busy Damrak Avenue and imagine what the harbor must have looked like with hundreds of tall ship masts, the hustle and bustle of trade and the smell of imported spices and tobacco permeating the sea air.

Amsterdam today, is still a city of hustle-and-bustle, but instead of imported goods filling the streets it is now an international cacophony of visitors. One hears languages being spoken from all around the world as this city is a European destination not to be missed.

After settling in to our 4-star accessible accommodations in central Amsterdam we began our tour with a visit the world famous Keukenhof Garden to see the incredible display of millions of tulips and other flowering bulb plants.

The Keukenhof is one of the most beautiful gardens in the world - featuring more than seven million bulbs in bloom during the spring, with a total of 800 varieties of tulips.  It truly a unique and unforgettable experience as you stroll through the various landscapes highlighting countless colors and mixtures of flowers, each turn is more spectacular than the other. Just when you think you have seen it all, you turn another corner and are truly amazed at the beauty this garden has to offer.

After the day of exploring the Keukenhof gardens, we enjoyed a lovely Dutch diner at one of the hottest restaurants in Amsterdam’s northern district – just a short ferry ride across the Ij river from central part of the city.

Day three of our tour was spent exploring the charming canals and learning about the history of Amsterdam.  The canals, fascinating architecture and culture make Amsterdam a world famous tourist destination. We enjoyed the 17th century historical atmosphere and relaxed environment with a guided tour. The small scale of the buildings and the intimacy of the streets, canals and squares create an atmosphere that visitors find unique. After our morning tour, we enjoyed a traditional Dutch-style lunch and then continued exploring this beautiful city via a canal boat tour. We completed our day with an Amsterdam-style dinner show.

Then it was off to North Holland for a day-trip to the picturesque towns of Enkhuizem, Volendam and Beemster. This area of Holland is known for its historic windmills, tulips fields, cheeses and storybook towns. We enjoyed time at a museum to witness how life was in 17th century Holland. After our morning tour we visited the Simonehoeve cheese farm for lunch and cheese tasting experience. Nothing is more delicious as the Dutch cheeses and we had the opportunity to learn about the cheese making process and sample the local cheeses produced at the farm. This farm also makes traditional wooden shows – so we were treated to a demonstration on how the shoes are made in the traditional and modern ways.   

We continued our North Holland tour with a stop at Volendam. This old fishing village at the Ijsselmeer, offers costumes, sporting events, music, and of course fish. The village is characterized by countless little houses around the small fishing port.

No visit to Amsterdam is complete without exploring the wonderful museums it has to offer. We began our museum day at the world-famous Van Gough Museum. After which we visited the Rijksmuseum, which in English means – The State Museum, which has existed for more than two hundred years and today belongs to the most breathtaking museums in the world. Here we had the opportunity to view the most amazing works of the Dutch Master painters.

After breakfast in Amsterdam, we departed for another day tour to the medieval-town of Woerden followed by a cheese tasting at the Castle of Woerden. In the afternoon we visited the town of Gouda and explored the old and monumental town, where we discovered the location of the weekly Cheese Market around the impressive and age-old town hall of Gouda. The cheese used to be weighed in the old days and the tax was determined and paid in this location.

Day seven of our tour was another day tour from Amsterdam which included a visit to the town of Delft famous for its porcelain. We will then continue on to The Hague where we enjoyed a harbor side lunch and explored the governmental capital of The Netherlands. This city is where the politics are based and history goes far back. We saw the royal houses, visited the Parliament and learned about the International Courts of Justice located here.

After a free day in Amsterdam. We depart for Belgium. On our way to Brussels, we stopped to visit the old market area in Antwerp to view the beautiful city hall and surrounding areas. Belgium’s second city and biggest port, Antwerp is the country’s capital of cool, a powerful magnet for art lovers and diamond dealers. In the mid-16th century it was one of Europe’s most important cities and home to baroque superstar painter Pieter Paul Rubens. The city retains an intriguing medieval heart with a riverside fortress and a truly impressive cathedral. Today Antwerp’s top drawcards are its vibrant fashion and entertainment scene, along with its startling architectural and cultural contrasts.

Day ten of our tour was full-day visit of Brussels. It is the fascinating capital of Belgium and the administrative capital of the European Union. Brussels is historic yet hip, bureaucratic yet bizarre, self-confident yet not showy. All this plays out in a cityscape that swings from majestic to quirky and back again. Organic art-nouveau facades face off against regal 19th-century mansions contrast with the contemporary glass of the EU’s Gotham City. This whole maelstrom swirls out from Brussels’ medieval core, where the Grand Place is surely one of the world’s most beautiful squares.

Following a day of exploring the city of Brussels we took a day trip to see the incredibly beautiful cities of Bruges and Ghent. No tour to Belgium would be complete without time in these two wonderful cities. If you set out to design a fairy-tale medieval town, it would be hard to improve on central Bruges. Picturesque lanes and dreamy canals link photogenic market squares lined with soaring towers, historic churches and old whitewashed almshouses. After spending the day exploring these exciting cities, we returned to Brussels where on our last day of the tour had time to relax and enjoy the city before returning home.

 
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