Holland & Belgium in Springtime
March 21 - April 7, 2013
Grand Circle Travel
A River Cruising Tour
Carol and I had an uneventful first day of this tour, our flights were on
time and we arrived in Amsterdam around 7 a.m. When we boarded
the bus to go to our hotel, we discovered it was very cold in Amsterdam.
Our hotel for the next few days was the Movenpick shown above.
When we left the bus we were greeted to cold temperatures,
mid-20's with winds 25 - 35 miles per hour. It was just plain cold! We did
not venture out of the hotel our first full day in Amsterdam.
Following are photos that my wife, Carol, and I took as we traveled along
on our eighteen day river trip of the Netherlands and Belgium. We took over 2000
photos of interesting views as we toured. It has been a challenge to reduce
the number of photos for display on this web page. We have endeavored to select
a cross section of pictures that were interesting to see and photograph.
It is not our intent to provide a comprehensive photo essay of the many cities we visited.
We were scheduled to spend our next five days in Amsterdam sightseeing. The hotel
offered a shuttle van to take us to the Central Train Station which was a 20
minute ride. Then it was a 15 - 20 minute to Dam Square in downtown Amsterdam.
The tour booklet suggested that we could spend Friday our first
full day sightseeing in Amsterdam.
It was just too cold and windy to enjoy outdoor activities!
Saturday morning our group of Pre-trip travelers boarded a bus for an
included trip to Zaanse Schans. This was an old hamlet on the shores of the
River Zaan. There were eight surviving windmills in the immediate area.
Originally there were 200 windmills in this area of Holland.
There were several shops that were open this morning, one was the wooden
shoe store. They also had a demonstration of how wooden shoes were made.
Carol is trying on a pair of wooden shoes that appear to be too big!
Some of the many wooden shoes we could have purchased.
As we walked around the hamlet we crossed several small bridges
like this one. They are a very popular design for bridges in Holland.
After lunch, we had an optional tour to Edam - Volendaam on the nearby
Marken peninsula. We were greeted by a local cheese vendor as we
walked into the small village of Edam We had a guided tour of the centuries
old villages of Edam and Volendam.
A view of the main street shops of Volendam. Volendam is
sometimes called the Pearl of the Zuiderzee.
An interesting name for a Volendam shop.
The Volendam Cheese Factory was a neat place to visit
and enjoy cheese sampling.
Carol found a new friend on the shores of the harbor inlet.
After a walk about in Volendam, we sailed on a ferry to the
Village of Marken on the Marken peninsula. The ferry
ride took about 45 minutes.
There were many shops and houses along the harbor
as we walked aound.
One of several canals that were found in Marken.
A large lift bridge in Marken. After our walking tour we
returned to our warm bus for a return ride to our hotel.
Easter Sunday morning arrived cold and sunny. The above
photo shows our hardy group of travelers walking to the
main square of Haarlem.
Founded on the banks of the River Spaarne in the
tenth century, Haarlem went enjoyed its greatest prosperity
in the seventeenth century, becoming a center for the arts and
home to a flourishing school of painters.
It is Easter Sunday and all the shops are closed.
Luckily we found a cafe that was open. We all went
in for hot chocolate with deliciously
real rich whipped cream.
A view of the city hall building on Haarlem Grote Markt.
Since it was very cold in Haarlem we quickly ventured back
for the bus for our return to our hotel. On the way back to the
hotel our bus driver took our group on a bus tour of Amsterdam. It
was great to see the various sights of Amsterdam. We spent the
balance of this sunny day at our hotel, as the wind was really
blowing hard. Monday, March 25th, our tour group left the hotel
for M/S River Aria. This was our home for the next 12 days.
We sailed from Amsterdam in the early evening.
Yes, That's ice clinging to various grasses along the shore!
On Tuesday, March 26th we docked at Enkhuizen. We began
our day with a walking tour of Enkhuizen along part of the
local harbor. Enkhuizen became a city in 1355 and prospered
due to the herring fishing industry. It was also part of the overseas
port where trade with the East Indies was conducted.
The entrance to the city from the harbor.
The spire of St. Pancas Church dominated the cityscape.
A wooden bicycle in front of a city shop.
At 3:30 pm, we participated in the Home-hosted visit
to a local in Enkhuizen. It was a most interesting visit.
You can see the ice that is around our ship in the harbor at
Hoorn. It is another cold and sunny day in Holland. We start
the day with another walking tour of this city stop.
Hoorn was founded about 1300 and chartered in 1357, it
was the capital of medieval West Friesland. Its horn-shaped
harbor, for which it is named, was one of the principal ports
of the Netherlands until the Zuiderzee silted up in the 18th
century. The first great net for herring fishing was made in
Hoorn in 1416. Hoorn is now a market center for vegetables
and dairy products; other economic activities include fishing,
recreation (especially water sports), and tourism, as well as
The Harbor Tower was once a women's prison.
This ornate building is the home of Westfries Museum.
City view of Hoorn.
It was a beautiful day! We saw many old tall-mast
ships still in operation.
Wooden tulips. No watering required!
After lunch we boarded our buses for a trip to Northern Holland
to visit the town of Broek op Langedijk. We visited the Broek
Veiling Museum. Above is the entrance to the museum.
A local guide helped us understand the past culture of
the area. Above are two local citizens modeling clothing
from time gone by.
The museum was built over the water so that boats
could bring their loads of produce to the local auction.
These boats brought their cargos of produce into the
Auction House for sale.
The auction house room where produce was sold. The large
clocklike device helped to list the prices for the produce
being offered for sale.
We were able to bid for produce during a mock auction
conducted by this lady.
We had a boat ride around some of the nearby "Thousand Islands".
A view of one of the thousand islands being
preserved for the future.
A windmill on one of the thousand islands.
Upon returning to the M/S River Aria, I noticed this
working boat with the date of 1835 on the hull.
Ice and a large tanker boat on the way as we sail to Amsterdam.
Another river cruiser passes our ship when moored at Amsterdam.
An ocean cruiser docked at Amsterdam opposite our ship.
Thursday, March 28, we visited the local Annemieke
Pluktuin Tulip Farm. We visited the tulip fields of Slootdroop.
The Netherlands has set aside more than 23,000 acres for the
cultivation of these famous tulip blooms. Unfortunately,
cold weather is not cooperating with mother nature and there
are very few blooms in the fields of the country at this time.
Plastic covers are used to protect the tulip bulbs
until the weather improves.
A few flowers were harvested this day. The bulbs are
being cut off by machine. The tops are bundled for sale.
Meanwhile, green house tulips were growing.
Interesting that the bulbs cut off the bottom of the tulip
flowers are discarded. The bulbs end up as animal feed
for sheep. The growers plant new bulbs each year
for the next years crop.
The second stop of the afternoon was at the famous Keukenhof
Flower Park in the heart of the Netherlands'
tulip growing region.
This calliope greeted visitors to the park with neat music.
There were three separate building displaying flowers of all
varieties. This building had a theme based on the British isles.
Britain's royal couple were featured in this floral display.
This floral display honored the Beatles. The building was
full of multiple displays of flowers with an British Isles theme.
Floral blooms were on display outside in spite
of the cold weather.
This piece of stone sculpture was very eye catching.
Carol is enjoying the flowers in the William Alexander building.
The flowers are breathtaking in their many colors.
William Alexander floral displays.
A beautiful floral setting.
On our walk in the park we came upon this windmill.
The Beatrix Exhibit Hall.
A very pleasing floral arrangement.
Beautiful orchid arrangements were in the Beatrix hall.
Its Friday, March 29, we were up early and off to the Aalsmeer Flower
Auction outside of Amsterdam. This is the world's largest flower
auction. The auction house is very large about 160 acres in size.
The selling process is computerized with a daily auction
of over 19 million fresh flowers sold based on computer bids.
The flowers are moved around the auction in small carts
with stand up tractors pulling the carts around
the auction building.
More colorful flowers than the human eye can comprehend.
The room where the flower buyers bid for flowers
brought to the auction.
Large screens display the information needed for the
buyers to place a flower bid.
After our tour of the flower auction we had the traditional
Canal Boat tour around Amsterdam. The boat was crowded
and it was difficult to get good photos while
we had our harbor tour.
The most interesting shot from the canal boat was this one
of seven bridges in the distance. The arches of the bridges
are lit up at night.
Our canal tour boat ride ended near Anne Frank's house.
Above is the long line of people waiting to visit the home.
It was Easter week in Amsterdam and there was a carnival in Dam Square.
The large ferris wheel seemed to be very busy. After our cold walk
about in the city we headed back to the Aria for lunch and a open afternoon
at leisure. There was an optional walk through the Red Light District,
but it was too cold to walk about for that fun experience.
On the morning of the 30th we had a optional day long tour
of "The Hague". While touring, the River Aria sailed from
Amsterdam to Utrecht where we rejoined the
ship for a few days more.
The above buildings on the ciy square included the
costume museum building.
Above is the gilded fountain in front of the Binnenhof
complex of government buildings.
The Knights Hall in downtown Hague.
The Royal Noordeinde Palace
Scheveningen Pier at the Hague Beach.
The beach at The Hague. There was some very interesting
sculpture adorning the beach area. No one was swimming on
this the 30th of March. The beach was very large and would be
quite inviting when warm weather returns.
We had an included lunch at an Indonesian restaurant in The Hague.
This is the building where we dined. The seating was crowded
and the Indonesian food was good, but still mysterious
for some of the group. Lunch was served in
a modified family style.
After lunch we traveled to Madurodam a miniature park and tourist
home to a range of perfect 1:25 scale model replicas of famous Dutch
castles, public buildings, and large industrial projects as found in various
locations in the country. The park was opened in 1952 and has been visited
by tens of millions of visitors since that date.
The following photos only catch a small glimpse of
this terrific miniature park.
One could spend hours looking at all of the various model buildings,
trains, and boats on display at the park. Many of the exhibits had moving
parts which brought the displays to life!
This view of the front display of the Park shows the little
Dutch boy plugging the dike with his finger.
The models were very life like.
When we ended our full day in and around The Hague,
we met up with the M/S River Aria in Utrecht. There was a
beautiful sunset bringing our busy day to a close. At 4:00 am the
M/S River Aria set sail for Kinderdijk.
In Kinderdijk, we toured the windmills that have made this
city famous, and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Kinderdijk
takes its name from a 16th-century legend involving a baby
(or kinder), a cradle, and a cat that all survived being tossed
into raging waters. For centuries, the Dutch were at the mercy of
frequent floods. Around 1740, 19 windmills were built
in the village of Kinderdijk. These innovative structures drain the
excess water from polders—the reclaimed land that is situated
below sea level—and pump it into nearby rivers and canals. This
helps to evenly distribute water levels and lessen the threat of
Nowadays, modern engines do the job of turning the paddle wheels,
forcing them to scoop up the water, yet the country still has a unique
bond with, and affection for, its many windmills.
We had a long walk among the various windmills.
Then we took a boat ride back.
The modern day version of a windmill. These screws turn
bringing water up to the next level. That helps to keep the
lower lands from flooding.
Our next stop was in Rotterdam where we started the
afternoon with a stop at a traditional Delftware shop.
There were many blue and white pottery pieces created
and hand-painted in this shop.
The shop owner displayed one of the pottery pieces
being prepared for painting and then firing.
The shop had many molds for making Delftware.
One of several old building on the main square of Rotterdam.
A large church dominated the city square.
Our city guide showing the group old time ice skates
use on the canals in winter.
R.K. Chapel St. Hippolytus
Old Church of Rotterdam.
Carol admiring a Delft street light pole.
After our visit to Rotterdam we sailed off
to the port of Veere.
After breakfast we walked into the town of Veere. In the
background is the Church of Our Lady.
One of the main streets in Veere with many quaint shops.
Veere City Hall
Hanging on the wall of city hall are the punishment chains
and weights that persons were to wear while standing on
the step above when found guilty of a crime.
A whale bone hanging on the yacht club building
near the port entrance.
On Monday, April 1st, Carol took the optional
tour to the Delta Works.
A map showing the far reaching scope of the Delta Works.
The Delta Works is a series of construction projects
in the southwest of the Netherlands to protect a large area
of land around the Rhine-Meuse-Scheldt delta from the sea.
storm surge barriers. The aim of the dams, sluices, and storm
surge barriers was to shorten the Dutch coastline, thus reducing
the number of dikes that had to be raised. Along with the Zuiderzee
Above is the main building of the Delta Works in this area.
A picture of one of the storm surge barriers ready for action
We disembarked at Terneuzen and set off for Ghent, one of
Belgium's oldest cities. Ghent is known as
the jewel of Flanders
On our tour of downtown Ghent we visited a market where
hams were hung from the ceiling to age.
A street vendor gave us samples of candies called 'noses'
unique to Ghent.
In order to control graffiti, city alleys were made available
to graffiti artists to show their talents.
St Nicholas Church
Walking from the River Aria to visit the town of Terneuzen.
This shop sold colorful figures for your lawn or inside your home.
The store had a large gorilla out front and Carol and I
could not pass up the chance for our picture being taken
with the gorilla. A friendly passerby took the photo for
us. As you can see it was a cold windy day in Terneuzen.
Terneuzen is known in folklore as the home of the Flying
Dutchman, immortalized in fiction and opera as the sea captain
condemned to sail the seas forever after being cursed by God.
The above sculpture reflects the legend of the Flying Dutchman.
Terneuzen shopping Center building.
It was a cold windy day as Carol stands on the corner
near the Terneuzen City Hall.
Walking along to downtown Antwerp. It was a very
cold and windy morning
Antwerp City Hall
Antwerp's Steen Castle was an important military asset. The
position gave control of the access to the river. At the end
of the 19th century, a big part of the Castle has been
destroyed to make room for the development of the harbor.
Antwerp had the first sky scraper built in Europe in 1931 .
An entry building on the way to downtown Bruges
Bruges City Hall
The Belfry located on the south side of the market
in downtown Bruges.
The attractively decorated store in front of
where I fell and had o go to the local hospital for
4 stitches above my left eye brow.
Interesting art work on a building in Bruges
The first stop on our optional tour to Flanders was at the famous In
Flanders Fields Museum. It is located in the famous Cloth Hall,
called the Lakenhalle in Flemish, in the centre of Ypres (Ieper).
In 1998 the original Ypres Salient Memorial Museum was refurbished
and renamed In Flanders Fields Museum. Flanders Fields Museum is
an award winning museum, which has undergone a major
refurbishment from 2010 to June 2012 in preparation for the
centenary of 1914-1918.
World War I battle uniforms.
A life sized diorama of a battle scene.
The museum had many electronic displays along with
battle scene photos like the one above.
Our next stop of the morning tour was at Essex Farm
Cemetery. One of the best known World War I
sites in the Ypres salient is Essex Farm Cemetery and
Advanced Dressing Station where John McCrae
wrote his famous poem, "In Flanders Fields"
at the beginning of May 1915.
Essex Farm Cemetery counts 1199 war graves of the British
Commonwealth. One hundred of these graves is
for non-identified or unknown soldiers.
Rifleman Valentine Joe Strudwick is buried in this cemetery.
He died on January 14, 1916 and is known to be the
youngest casualty, 15 years of age. Above is our local
tour guide pointing out four graves of Strudwick and
other soldiers who died that were 15 and 16 years old.
A World War 1 advanced dressing station dug into the river bank.
On May 2,1915, 22–year–old Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, 2nd Battery,
1st Brigade Canadian Field Artillery, stepped from his dug–out and
was killed instantly by the explosion of a German shell. What was
left of Helmer was gathered into sandbags and buried that evening,
possibly in Essex Farm, although most accounts are not specific about
Helmer’s burial place. Dr. John McCrae, who had been working
ceaselessly at the Canadian brigade’s dressing station since
the start of the battle, read the burial service for Helmer.
The young lieutenant had been a friend and
ex–student of McCrae’s and in memory of Helmer,
McCrae penned some of the best–known lines
of poetry from the war.
An Essex Farm Cemetery memorial monument.
We drove by a World War I German Cemetery. It was in stark
contrast to the Essex Farm Cemetery as the grave stones were
dark gray and contained multiple burials. Our travel schedule
for this day did not permit a stop at this cemetery.
Tyne Cot Cemetery. The cemetery lies on a broad rise in the
landscape which overlooks the surrounding countryside.
As such, it was strategically important to both sides fighting
in the area. The area was captured by the 3rd Australian Division
and the New Zealand Division, on 4 October 1917 and two days
later a cemetery for British and Canadian war dead was begun.
The cemetery was recaptured by German forces on 13 April 1918
and was finally liberated by Belgian forces on 28 September 1918.
A view of the Cross of Remembrance located in the middle of
the cemetery. The Cross of Sacrifice was built on top of a
German pill box in the center of the cemetery.
Tyne Cot Cemetery facts: 11,954 Burials of which 8,367 are
unnamed or unknown. Interestingly there were 4 German
burials in the cemetery. The most burials were
soldiers from the United Kingdom.
Menin Gate is a moving memorial to the British forces who have
no known burial places. Since 1928, the Last Post is played by
buglers each evening at 8:00 pm at Menin Gate.
The buglers who play the Last Call bugle call each evening.
The village of Menin in the background.
A piece of modern art in a small square in the center of Bruges
near our hotel. The artist received 100,000 Euros for
this creation. Some people who will remain anonymous
referred to the art work as the Car Wash!
A last photo of our hardy, cold post trip participants.
One last photo from Bruges on a cold afternoon before
flying home to Owego. This was a good trip with many
really nice traveling companions, who are now our
friends. Based on Grand Circle's dictum of maximizing
Learning and Discovery experiences, we certainly
had our fill. One key discovery was that March 2013
was not a great time to visit Holland and Belgium
to see tulips and other flowers. River cruising
is still the best way to travel in Europe.
Now it is time to head home to thaw out!