Our next adventure was a 4-day self guided bicycle trip. We started our bicycle tour of Holland in Abcoude, a small town south of Amsterdam. We met a representative from Tulip Cycling who brought our rental bicycles, panniers, maps with the route marked, and a GPS with our route installed. We filled the panniers with the clothes and toiletries we would need for the next 4 days. The representative explained how to use the GPS, gave us general information, and we were on our way. We rode past cows, sheep, goats, swans, geese, ducks, and rabbits. Our route included farm country, tree lined bike paths (see picture #1), dedicated bike lanes across bridges (On one particularly high bridge I kept hearing a horn honk behind me. I moved over as far as I was willing to move, but the car kept honking. When it passed me and grazed my hand with the rear view mirror, it was actually a little bitty car that could use the bike lane.), and paths along the **** holding back the Zuiderzee (now the freshwater lake Ijsselmeer).
We spent our first night at The Inn on the Lake, a bed and breakfast in a 400 year-old, but newly renovated house, in Broek in Waterland. Our room was at the top of a very, very steep circular staircase. Holland was playing in another World Cup game but the celebration was more low-key than in Amsterdam. We only heard one vuvuzela and some children cheering. We slept soundly in this quiet village. Our hostess was a gourmet cook and we had an amazing breakfast. We felt really pampered, but knew we had lots to see so we packed up and headed out of town. A quick stop at the general store enabled us to restock our snack supply. My husband took one last shot of this beautiful village. (see picture #2)
Our morning route took us to the village of Marken. Marken was once one of the Netherland’s most traditional fishing communities according to Rick Steves which is kept alive now as a tourist attraction. A causeway which was built in 1957 led us to Marken. We had a stiff tailwind and sympathized with those cyclists headed the opposite way. We circled the “island” enabling us to see the lighthouse at the far end. (see picture #3) Rather than fight the headwind, we decided to take the 20-minute boat ride to Volendam. We had a delicious lunch at De Lunch Take Away. We walked around town for a while admiring all the souvenirs. One benefit of traveling by bicycle is that you really are just window shopping when you look at all the things you could purchase.
We were sorry to leave such a picturesque little village, but we knew our next overnight stop was just a short distance away in Edam and we wanted to have enough time to walk through its quiet streets. Six years ago we had stayed at the Hotel du Fortuna and enjoyed our stay on this trip just as much. We were sorry to see that the stork that had nested on a roof top across the canal was gone. Earlier in the day, the town had been filled with visitors for the weekly market; however, we seemed to be the only tourists staying overnight. We enjoyed walking through the quiet town, past the weigh house, the Grote Kerk, a canal criss-crossed with orange decorations, and the oldest wooden structure in Holland. Following our walk, we returned to our hotel and climbed the steep stairs to our room. Our breakfast the next morning was very satisfying . We loaded the bicycles and once again we were on our way.
Our destination was Alkmaar and the Friday Cheese Market. We went through Hoorn on the way and really enjoyed seeing the beautiful buildings and the harbor. We stopped at a grocery store and bought picnic food. Before leaving Hoorn, we stopped at a bicycle shop to air up our tires. The owner aired up our tires with his compressor. He told us a little of the history of Hoorn and showed us the church next door. We stopped to have lunch as soon as we were out in the country. We found a bench that was just perfect for a picnic stop. On the way to Alkmaar, we passed several windmills and of course had to slow down for each one. People live in the windmills and they must get tired of tourists staring at their homes.
We pedaled into a fairly stiff headwind into Alkmaar. Our route brought us right into the square which was full of tourists. We found our hotel, but it did not appear that we could enter through that door. There was a sign in Dutch that we couldn’t read, but we stopped a passerby and he told us the entrance was on the opposite side of the building on another street. We went one way and he went the other way, but he met us at the entrance to make sure we knew where to go. We stayed at the Familie Hotel in a huge room! We had to climb a steep, outside staircase. We were greeted by the daughter of the owners who was taking care of the bookstore and the hotel while her parents were on holiday. She was delightful. She gave us suggestions for restaurants, sightseeing, etc. We went to the cheese market the next morning and as we had done for the Tour de France viewing, we got there early and got our places on the barricades. We even got a taste of the cheese that was being sold. We had decided to take the train part of the way to our final destination because we didn’t want to be late to meet the representative from Tulip Cycling. We ended up taking the train all the way to our destination, then backtracking on the route until it was time to return the bikes.
We returned to Amsterdam and spent another wonderful night at the Renaissance. It felt like we were coming home. By the way, they have an elevator so we didn’t have to climb any steep staircases!!
Please see Self-guided bike tour- Pictures for 4 more pictures.
To be continued with our Bike and Boat, our stay in Ghent, Belgium, at the Ghent Marriott and our stay in Paris at the Marriott Rive Gauche and the Marriott Champs Elysees.