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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.

Volendam's Harbor

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. 

The Grote Markt in Haarlem with the Sint-Bavokerk

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 Harbor. 

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

some manufacturing.

The Harbor Tower was once a women's prison.

Hoorn Harbor


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

attraction in the Scheveningen district of The Hague Netherlands,

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

devastating floods.

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.

The works consist of dams, sluices, locks, dikes, levees, and

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

Works, Delta Works have been declared one of the Seven Wonders

of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

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!