The Tulips & Cheese Road Trip
Can you guess where we're heading?
Yep, it's The Netherlands, or Holland, never quite sure which is correct. I do know it's the home of the Dutch, so it's a friendly affair.
Our inspiration was clear, Tulips & Cheese, but we also wanted to see grand Dutch Windmills. All I had to do was peddle.
A helpful guide
If you're thinking of heading of to the land of tulips and cheese, then grab this DK Eyewitness guide to help with your planning.
I find them extremely informative, easy to follow and the pictures and maps tempt you into discovering more.
Our Gateway to Europe.
Most of our European road trips start the same. Booked on a 7:50 am shuttle, means leaving home at 6:30 am. All being well we're hitting the A16 from Calais at 9:30 am after being mugged for an hour as we switch to Central European Time.
Therefore, in my mind, we hit the road at 9:30 - all points start from Calais.
The Bloemen Route
A fair wind, some luck around Antwerp and we've arrived at Naaldwick at 1:15 pm, so around 3 hours 45 minutes to cover the 225 miles/362km.
Now for the signs for the 'Flower Route' - Mmmm did we miss them, not sure. We certainly didn't see any, so we headed through The Hague, and onto Leiden, following the N44. The swathes of colour we'd expected to see were absent, and it wasn't until we closed into Lisse that we spotted a few of the fields full of flowers in bloom.
Those in the know
Now did we miss the best? Were we a little late in the season? Today was the 24th April after all. Who's experienced it in its full glory - we'd love to know your stories.
So with limited success, we headed onto our destination, the Carlton Square Hotel, a 10-minute walk from the centre, but with secure parking an ideal option.
The secure parking turned out to be a multi-storey car park next door, but it was indeed secure, and the top tip was to buy the weekly option for the ticket as it was cheaper than daily, even thought we were staying three nights.
Haarlem is a great town to explore, check out the link for more. Plus it was an excellent base for the Keukenhof Gardens. However, in no time at all, we were heading to our next destination, via a detour of course.
Start creating your own adventure and discover the delights of the Netherlands for yourself, British Airways and easyJet are a couple of options.
Alkmaar, Via Zandvoort
Why Zandvoort? Well, those who have got to know us via this blog will understand we both love history, and we both love motor racing. Zandvoort was a classic Formula 1 Grand Prix location, known as the Circuit in the Dunes, as it is next to the North Sea.
The roll call of winners at the track is a 'who's who' of the legends of Formula 1. However, it also holds a place in Formula 1 dark days when safety was barely considered, and so also the last racing venue of too many.
So after soaking up some history and nostalgia we head on to Alkmaar, and even with the detour we complete the 42-mile journey in no time.
It's also worth noting today is Koningsdag or King's day, so we decided to head to our next destination, the Amrâth Hotel Alkmaar to park up the car and partake of the celebrations. You know, 'When in Rome', and all that! It also gives us a chance to discover the town.
Alkmaar is a cheese town, but it's also so much more. Check out Janis's post on Alkmaar; it's also the base for our discovery of four harbour towns.
What we've learned so far is...
Driving in Holland is cool; it's straightforward but, as you'd expect, you need to keep an eye out for the bikes - there's a lot of them, especially in the towns.
A lot of the roundabouts have kerb-like dividers to keep you in a lane. These are a great idea; I'd love to see these in the UK
A lot of bike lanes. This sort of confused me a bit - 2 large bike lanes either side of the road with one lane in the centre for two-way motor traffic. Which meant as traffic approached, you both needed to enter the bike lane to pass. It made sense here, but I'd doubt this would go down too well back home
Onto Utrecht, but why the direct route?
It's just 50 miles/80kms from Alkmaar to Utrecht. It seems nowhere is that far here. In fact, Maastricht in the south is just 156 miles/252kms, and Groningen in the far north is 110 miles/177kms.
So when faced with planning a route I thought Mmmm, this looks interesting. There's a road that runs over a lake, quite a big lake, the Markermeer
So we took this route to Utrecht. It may have been 87miles/139kms, but hey it was different. I think I nearly did that again lapping Utrecht trying to find how to park at the NH Central Hotel. It's entrance is next to a bike lane, although while one or two cars may be able to stop outside, the secure parking is 220m away. (An another 1/2 lap of the city)
The car is not that welcome in Utrecht, and I'm fine with that. As planned we head out to visit the windmills if Kinderdijk, and via a tiny little ferry a quick look around Gouda too. The reason I love a road trip is the freedom to explore those towns & villages that give you a bigger picture of a country.
Who else would contemplate a road trip to Amsterdam? I did, but that gave us a chance also to visit Delft & our first visit to Gouda. Okay, parking the car in Amsterdam ramped up the costs a bit, but was it worth it - yeah!
Anyway, I digress. Utrecht was fun, We explored, and we followed the evening light trail - Trajectum Lumen.
But then the inevitable…
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After nine glorious nights
It's time to head home - but not before one last photo stop to capture the ‘Rietveld Schröder House’.
It's grey, there's a little drizzle in the air, and the GPS is warning me to avoid Antwerp - That's good, I was planning on doing that anyway. So after 4 hours, it's back to the Calais terminal of the Le Shuttle before the journey back to the UK, and I'm handed back that hour.
A whistle-stop look at the highlights
We have created a little YouTube video of the road trip.
Why not subscribe to our YouTube channel and get the latest clips as we post them?
The Soundtrack of the Road trip
As with any road trip there is always an album, playlist or single track that seems to dominate.
There was a mix on this trip from Ed Sheeran's Divide, a little bit of Elbow but the one album that seemed to be on loop was Rag 'n' Bone Man's Human - Wow, that boy's got some soul.
So here’s the details of the individual legs
So as you can see, there's so much to see without having to cover a huge amount of distance. Get planning.
Embarked on a Spring road trip through Holland inspired by the thought of a country in bloom? Be prepared for four seasons in one day. We were, because Yvonne from 'The Tourist of Life' has some great info on her home country on her blog - and I trust a local.
Inspired to tour the Netherlands?
It's a fabulous country with so much to see.
Friendly people, wonderful landscape without a hill to bother you.
Go on give it a try.
(And a choice of Pins too)