My European Vacation – The Netherlands!

August 26, 2016 at 5:03 am Leave a comment

004 April 709After a busy and exciting week in Barcelona, Donna and I headed to Amsterdam where my cousin Margriet and her husband Han picked us up and took us to their home in Rhenen, a small town about an hours train ride from Amsterdam.  It had been many, many years since I had visited Holland, so it was wonderful to get a chance to revisit the sights and see my Dutch relatives again!

Our first meal with Margriet & Han in The Netherlands

Our first meal with Margriet & Han in The Netherlands

Visiting with my Dutch relatives

Visiting with my Dutch relatives

The first tour that Donna and I took was to the Zaanse Schans windmills, and the cute little towns of Volendam and Marken.

Zaanse Schans windmills

Zaanse Schans windmills

Around 1920 there were only about 20 windmills left of the 1000 that had made the Zaan district the oldest industrial area of the world.  On March 17th, 1925, windmill society De Zaansche Molen was founded to preserve the mills for future generations.  This society now owns thirteen industrial windmills; it keeps them in excellent condition and operates them regularly.

Working windmills and shops of Xaanse Schans

Working windmills and shops of Xaanse Schans

So wonderful to see part of my heritage here at Zaanse Schans

So wonderful to see part of my heritage here at Zaanse Schans

The quaint little fishing village of Volendam

The quaint little fishing village of Volendam

Next stop was at the quaint little fishing village of Volendam with the harbor full of classic sailing vessels and rows of brick houses featuring great examples of 17th century Dutch architecture.  We toured the Volendam Museum that contained many memories of the rich history, culture and folklore.  It held various works of art by many artists, authentic interiors, varying thematic displays and a photo gallery.  As a child I remember my Grandfather wearing the same hat and eye-glasses.  It really brought back good memories.

A couple of displays in the Volendam Museum

A couple of displays in the Volendam Museum

Crossing the canal and appreciating the Dutch architect.

Crossing the drawbridge on the canal and appreciating the Dutch architect of Volendam.

We walked along the canal, went to a cheese factory (of course!) and ate in a café along the waterfront before taking a 20 minute boat ride to Marken.

Entering the tiny village of Marken

Entering the tiny village of Marken

Marken has a population of less than 2,000, but traditional architecture abounds!  We walked along the tiny paths running through the village to a wooden shoe factory where a local traditional clog maker demonstrated how a simple block of wood could be transformed into a wooden shoe in minutes.

Demonstration at the wooden shoe factory in Marken

Demonstration at the wooden shoe factory in Marken

Maybe they're a LITTLE too big Donna!

Maybe they’re a LITTLE too big Donna!

The next day we went into Amsterdam to take a canal cruise and see some of the sights.

Central Station, Amsterdam

Central Station, Amsterdam

Canals and bicycles of Amsterdam

Canals and bicycles of Amsterdam

I love taking in all the unique architecture

I love taking in all the unique architecture

The Delf Experience where you can buy anything Delf

The Delf Experience where you can buy anything Delf from an inexpensive souvenier to a beautiful piece of art.

The floating Flower Market

The floating Flower Market

We walked through the floating Flower Market, visited the Rijksmuseum, floated along the canals, then took the train into Utrecht, my very favorite town in The Netherlands, to meet Margriet and Han for dinner.

The canal level of Utrecht

The canal level of Utrecht

Utrecht is one of Netherlands’ oldest cities, with a compact medieval center set out around canals unique to the Netherlands: there’s a lower level where warehouses were located in the 13th century, now converted into restaurants and bars, giving the canals a split-level character and meaning that visitors can enjoy a meal or a drink down at water level.

While the canals form Utrecht’s restful core, and where I fell in love with the city, elsewhere the city is busy reinventing itself. Construction was everywhere.  Roads are being turned back into the canals they once were and a new train station was nearing completion.  It is home to Utrecht University, one of the oldest in the Netherlands and one of the largest in Europe with a student population of 40,000.  This city is a must to visit!

The unique little town of Giethoorn

The unique little town of Giethoorn

At Holland’s water village of Giethoorn, the loudest sound you can normally hear is the quacking of a duck or the noise made by other birds.  It is so peaceful, so different and has such simple beauty that it hardly seems real as you gently glide along small canals past old but pretty thatched-roof farmhouses.  Its nickname is “Dutch Venice”.  In the old part of the village there are no roads (though a cycling path has been added) and all transport is done by water over one of the many canals.  You can turn down a “side street” (another small canal) and drift under a wooden bridge where an elderly resident may be strolling over to see a neighbor.  The lakes in Giethoorn were formed by peat farming to heat the homes, and are a mere 3 feet deep.  What a special treat it was to experience such a place.

The gorgeous Keukenhof gardens

The gorgeous Keukenhof gardens

We could not visit Holland in the spring without visiting the Keukenhof gardens, the most beautiful spring garden in the world!  There were more than 7 million tulips, daffodils and hyacinths in bloom, with a total of 800 varieties of tulips.

80 acres of pure beauty at Keukenhof gardens

80 acres of pure beauty at Keukenhof gardens

Beautiful pictures and wonderful memories taken from the Keukenhof gardens

Beautiful pictures and wonderful memories taken from the Keukenhof gardens

After visiting the Keukenhof gardens, I sadly dropped Donna at the airport as it was time for her to return home.  I hopped on the train and headed back to Rhenen to rejoin my cousin and her husband, and to prepare for our next leg of my trip, Ireland and Northern Ireland.

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My European Vacation – Spain! My European Vacation – Ireland!

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