The first time we went to the Netherlands was to the Holland region. It was quite recently, 2011, and was just somewhere we wanted to experience on our way home from our main holiday down in Luxembourg. We spent only the weekend there and stayed just outside Amsterdam, in Volendam.
Once we arrived in Volendam, we started exploring straight away, and drove to Alkmaar for the first time. We enjoyed Alkmaar so much that we centred future visits around the city. I would love to go back there now, it should be possible but when I think of it, I just think faff – I haven’t even travelled to London since…
The second day, we took advantage of the Netherlands’ decent public transport system and took the bus into the centre of Amsterdam. As far as I am concerned, the most must do thing in Amsterdam is to visit Ann Frank’s house. No objections from the family. We spent the rest of the visit discovering that central area.
And that was it. Next day, we drove home via Belgium and Dover.
We enjoyed our taster so much, that we went back the next year. My daughter was at a Summer Camp up in Yorkshire, so my wife and I made plans to return. This time, we stayed close to the coast, but still quite near to Alkmaar, at a beautiful seaside hamlet called Camperduin. I gave up on my Dutch when I realised that even this simple name was just not pronounced as it should be (to this dozy Englander)!
But from Camperduin, my wife and I had the week to explore north Holland. Another day in Amsterdam, by train this time, fish’n’chips just up the coast at Callantsoog – we learned to ask for kibbeling, basically cod bites, but not cooked in the same way as in Britain. The beautiful island of Texel, a real step back to a more relaxing time. And lots of cycling – hundred km rides hither and thither across north Holland, I learned to appreciate both the flatness of the landscape – and the wind! In a week full of new experiences, we ended with a visit to the beautiful city of Utrecht, en route to the ferry at Rotterdam.
Our appetites whetted, we returned the next year as well. By that time, daughter liked to be on her own, but the promise of wi-fi at the holiday cottage did the trick. Again, not far from Alkmaar, again the obligatory visits to Amsterdam and to Texel. A festival we had found, quite by accident, the previous year was on again this year (in Schagen). All told, a very successful break.
Our last trip, to date, was to a different part of the Netherlands, the Limburg province, right on the border with Germany. In fact, there were big tank battles here around the start of 1945, and I visited a museum specifically commemorating these battles. This holiday was to a Centerparcs (a very overpriced modern-day holiday camp) and is probably the holiday where we saw the least of the Netherlands, because we stayed mostly on-site, although we did visit the cities of Venlo and Nijmegen.
Enjoying some memories.