Holland in Springtime - A National Geographic Small Ship Voyage - April, 2013

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Introduction

Tour Route Map


A funny thing happened on the way to Alaska … a photograph in a National Geographic Small Ship Voyages tour guide of tulips blooming in the Keukenhof Gardens redirected us to The Netherlands. Having enjoyed a first time cruise on The St. Lawrence River in 2012 we were primed for an easily paced sail on a barge down the The Netherlands' canals. The barge met all my criteria, a small group, knowledgeable guides and no photographs of folks dressed in evening clothes included in the literature.

Our route is shown on the map, left. Beginning in Amsterdam, traveling counterclockwise, we returned to that city 10 days later. We'd visited the major cultural centers of the country, museums, galleries and historical homes. And, not to be forgotten, great meals ashore and afloat kept us energized.






Amsterdam

Amsterdam Photo Collage

Amsterdam

We arrived in Amsterdam several days ahead of the tour group so we could poke around Amsterdam at our own pace. Arriving at the hotel well before check-in time we expected our room not to be ready and weren't disappointed Needing sleep badly I'd have gladly settled for a bed in the reception area. Desperate we splurged for a 4th floor 'executive' room, including a private elevator separating us from the Hoi Polloi, to conk out.

In the photo above, upper left, concentric rings of interconnected canals surround the heart of Amsterdam. Houseboats line the banks of larger canals. Living in one is prized and pricey. Above upper right, Our wanderings in the city centered on the Museum Quarter where the Rijksmuseum, Concertgebouw, Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art and the Van Gogh Museum. are located. Above, lower left, bicycles in the Netherlands and Amsterdam are everywhere. How you'd every find your machine in a multistory bicycle parking garage I do not know. Others must face this problem as one in four bicycles are lost or stolen every year. In theory separate lanes are provided for autos, bicyclists and pedestrians. Theory fails in practice though and one's head must be on a swivel to avoid death by bike. Here are a few handy tips for the pedestrian on how not to get hit by a bicycle. Above, lower right, a typical view along a major canal.

Click this link to select from a list of Amstedam webcams.


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Gouda

Gouda Photo Collage

Gouda

Gouda is more than a type of cheese. In sight of the Stadhuis (town hall) on Market Square are the church of De Sint-Janskerk, a UNESCO world heritage site, and the Weigh House Museum.

In the photo above, upper left, The Stadhuis stands in the largest market square in the Netherlands. Above, upper right, A musical clock provides a puppet show on one side of Stadhuis on the half hour depicting the towns' reception of its' charter in 1272. Above, lower right, the commemorative plaque on the Weighouse Museum. In addition to the Gouda cheese displays a craftsman demonstrates the making of traditional Dutch clay pipes.

Click this link to watch the Gouda webcam


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Spaarndam

Spaarndam Photo Collage

Spaarndam

I enjoyed Spaarndam for its' beauty. In the photo above, lower right, typical Dutch country homes are reflected in a canal. Above, upper right, a small boat harbor in Spaarndam. Above, lower right, I read the story of Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates' as a kid. Set in Spaarndam tourists flock to the city. The locals could take only so much of "Where's the spot Hans put his finger in the dike?" and erected this statue for the tourists to find on there own. Only thing, there was no Hans Brinker, this is a memorial to a fictional character. Nearby to Spaarndam is the Steam Pumping Station De Cruquius, the largest steam engine in the world. Built in 1838 and based on an English design the station's been rebuilt by volunteers.

Click this link for a pictorial tour of the Cruquius museum and engine.


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Kinderdijk

Kinderdijk

Kinderdijk

The Netherlands modern water pumps are no longer wind driven, rather they serve as a remembrance of the countries past. The Mill Network at Kinderdijk-Elshout has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. In the photo above, upper left, five of the sites nineteen windmills stand vigil. Above, upper and lower right, the windmills have been restored and are inhabited. The line to move in is long as living in a mill is considered an honor. In return for the honor the occupants maintain the mills and, on a rotating basis, open the mill to the public. Above, lower left. The business end of a sail. When in motion the air passing over the sails roars.

Click this link to view the Kinderdijk Public Square Webcam


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Stone and Stained Glass

Stone and Stained Glass

Stone and Stained Glass

Located in the city of Gouda the Church of St. John is the largest in The Netherlands. Its' center piece, in the photo above, lower left, is the Hertogenbosch St. Jan Cathedral Heyeman 1621 organ. We were treated to a selection of powerful pieces by the church's organist. Above, lower right, the intricately ornamented wooden ceiling. Above, upper left and right, examples of the church's stained glass windows primarily designed and made by brothers Dirk and Wouter Crabeth I. In all the church features 72 beautiful windows.


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Flowers That Bloomed in the Spring

Spring Bulbs

Flowers That Bloomed in the Spring

After all the reason we chose this voyage was … flowers. In spite of spring 2013 in the Netherlands being one of the coldest and longest on record we weren't disappointed. In the photo above, upper left, a view of a small portion of the bulb fields at the farm of Piet and Rik Pennings near to Lisse in the Dutch Duin- en Bollenstreek, ;Dune and Bulb Regionƚ. Primarily raising daffodil varietals their fields are in full color in spite of the cooler weather. Above, upper right, a view of a small portion of the floor of the Aalsmeer Flower Exchange in the world's largest commercial building measured by footprint. Streams of bright colors, moving seemingly at random, is beautiful to watch. Action in the computerized trading rooms is rapid with huge lots bought continuously each in a minute or less via a Dutch Auction. Over 20 million flowers are moved each day. During the Dutch Tulip Mania, before the bubble burst a large farm could be bought for a single bulb, caused the destruction of great manor homes to make way for more and more bulb fields. The gardens at Keukenhof - Lisse - Holland are the sole survivors. Above, lower left, just one of the gorgeous varieties of lilies on display at the gardens.


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Travelling Companions

Travelling Companions

Travelling Companions

In the photo above, upper left, a 'must do' was a pannekoek, Dutch pancake, stop while in Amsterdam. Joyce, The Queen and I found a shop on a canal off Museum Square. Joyce chose savory and I sweet, sharing each with the other. Above, top center, my new friend and I in the stables of the Hollandsche Manege (Royal Riding School. Above, upper right, moi relaxing at an open air cafe on Museum Square, Amsterdam. A hot snack and Port wine, yes, I know it's early afternoon, took the chill off. Above, center right, Joyce enjoyd her own outdoor repast and showcases the National Geogrphic logo. Above, lower right, in the courtyard of our Amsterdam hotel, Joyce lays in repose on a couch 'upholstered' with ceramic tiles, stylish but not comfortable in the long run. Above, lower left, Ed himself enjoying a coffee on the aft deck of the MS Magnifique, our canal barge.


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Food For Thought

Food For Thought

Food For Thought

Dutch food would've pleased my late uncles, meat and potatoes … and cheese, don't forget the cheese! In the photo above, upper left, a dessert pannekoek, a Dutch pancake. Toppings can be either savory or sweet. In this case, sweet, served with vanilla ice cream and lemon curd. Other toppings include meats and cheeses. Above right, wine and Bitterballen a ragł filled deep fried snack. Served with yellow mustard the spicy treat is a delicious afternoon or evening snack. Above, lower right, Patat Frites slathered with mayonnaise sell like pannekoeks, sorry, couldn't resist. Above, center bottom, "The Queen" joins us for layered coffee. Since joining us in France the Queen's accompanied us on all our journeys. Above, lower left, saving the best for last, Gouda cheese. We visited the cheese museum located in the former Weigh House next to the Gouda cheese market.


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Epilog

The cruise exceeded our expectations. The ships crew pampered us, the guides took us to places we'd not likely find on our own and our fellow voyagers proved a varied and interesting bunch. So, having enjoyed this cruise we're signed up for another small ship voyage in 2014 Scotland's Highlands and Islands


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Updated:November 18, 2014