Cycling through Holland is the perfect way to see this country. The Liza Marleen, a luxury motor passenger barge, was our floating hotel for 7 nights. During the day, while we rode about 30 miles, the Liza Marleen navigated its way through the rivers and canals. We ate breakfast and dinner on the boat and made our picnic lunch from the sandwich makings added to breakfast. Our chef, Afra, fed us very well in the evenings. She gave us the chance to taste traditional Dutch dishes as well as other ethnic dishes. The food was good and there was always plenty to feed hungry cyclists.
Our route took us to the lovely city of Haarlem, the university city of Leiden, the well-known 16th century city of Delft, Schoonhoven which is known for the beautiful silver, and Breukelen (Brooklyn as we know it in the U.S.). We ate lunch in the Kinderdijk, an area with 18 windmills built around 1750, and enjoyed seeing a wooden shoe (clog) maker in Zaanse Schans. Zaanse Schans is made up of buildings and windmills which have been moved to the area to create a typical Dutch village. We sailed through the port of Rotterdam and after riding through the dunes and eating lunch with the North Sea as a backdrop we visited The Hague. We took the tiniest ferry I have ever seen to cross a canal. Only 8-10 bicycles and their riders could cross at one time.
Our guide, Jan, knew the best swimming holes. Some even ventured into the North Sea for a swim and declared it was not cold! In addition to telling us all we wanted to know about Holland, Jan had us stop to listen to the wind rustling the leaves in the trees, to view a pasture with horses and foals, and had us stop to watch the thatch being repaired on a very steep roof. Jan also knew the best stops for coffee and herring.
We made new friends from Norway, Italy, Spain, Australia, and France. Almost everyone spoke some English so we were able to communicate. The only word that caused some confusion was raccoon. Some thought we were making up this odd animal. The next day someone found a picture of a raccoon in a British newspaper so we were able to share the picture with those who did not know what a raccoon looked like.
We were sad to leave the boat when it returned to Amsterdam; however, we knew Ghent, Belgium and Paris were our next destinations. We ate another hearty breakfast, said our good-byes, and walked to Amsterdam Central.