Marian and Alan Cycled the Holland Highlights Cycle Tour from April 21st - 25th 2014At Harwich we were allowed first on the ferry with two other cyclists. Officials told us to tie our bikes to the hitching rail on the car deck for the overnight crossing. Watches were put forward an hour to Dutch time. Before docking at Hook of Holland we bought our train tickets for Amsterdam. At Hook station we were shown where to stow our bikes and told when to change trains. The Intercity train was packed by the time we got to Amsterdam. We pushed our bikes out of the magnificent Central Station and tried to get our bearings. [caption id="attachment_11409" align="alignleft" width="293"] Bicycles were everywhere![/caption] There were bicycles everywhere; stacked in multistory bike parks, ridden at speed in both directions weaving in and out between trams, buses, coaches, scooters, cars and pedestrians. There were two and three on a bike; dogs in baskets on bikes; suited people on bikes; no helmets or high visibility clothing being worn. As we dithered at junctions cyclists flew past us knowing that they had the right of way. We found the River Amstel and rode along side it to our hotel. With our bikes tucked away safely in the hotel bike store we were soon back out again seeking the sights of Amsterdam. [caption id="attachment_11411" align="alignleft" width="300"] Dutch Apple Cake[/caption]
Coffee and Dutch Apple Cake first seemed a good idea, to get the energy levels up you understand. We took in some of Amsterdam's famous landmarks by bus; the Royal Palace, Ann Franks house, various churches, museums and galleries. We alighted and wandered back to Dam Square where a fair and live music was in full swing. The atmosphere was electric. On the stroll back to the hotel we passed whacky baccy coffee shops and 'massage parlours'. Preparing for our first proper cycling day the next day, we digested all the information left at the hotel for us.[caption id="attachment_11416" align="alignleft" width="304"] Crossing River Ij[/caption]
We have to admit, it wasn't plain cycling out of Amsterdam. Concentrating hard on avoiding other bikes around us we missed the crucial turn to our first cycle route intersection. We were almost back the Central Station before we realised. This wasn't good for the start to our cycle tour or for matrimonial harmony! Once on the correct route we began to relax and take in the surroundings. We crossed the River and we were out of Amsterdam and into the tranquil countryside on our way to Volendam our day's end destination.[caption id="attachment_11447" align="alignleft" width="300"] Monnickendam[/caption]
Cycling on what appeared to be a coastal road was in fact beside the freshwater Markermeer created when a huge dyke was built to keep out the unpredictable sea. We cycled on paved streets through pretty towns like Monnickendam, beside canals, along dykes and through wetlands teaming with bird life. It was a warm sunny evening when we arrived at Volendam. Tourists filled the main street; browsing the gift shops, eating ice creams and just enjoying the perfect weather. The host at our waterfront hotel stored our bikes safely in the basement. We joined the tourists and made the most of the last of the sunshine.[caption id="attachment_11448" align="alignleft" width="300"] Leaving Volendam[/caption]
It was a cloudless sunny morning as we left Volendam. Again we missed a route intersection and doubled back. We were glad we did as we would have missed the delightful town of Edam. We rode several kilometres northward below the dyke beside Markermeer then headed inland towards our destination at Alkmaar. Water was never far away; canals and water filled ditches, reed beds, bridges, water side villages, lots of bird life. We stopped a while to watch ducklings and goslings being fed by their parents. We heard a cuckoo and spotted birds to identify when we get home.[caption id="attachment_11452" align="alignleft" width="307"] Tulip fields[/caption]
We stopped for a coffee at a RUSTPUNTEN which are a network of rest points for cyclists and walkers where, for a small charge, you can have a comfort break, make yourself a hot drink, blow your tyres up or even stop the night.
The next section of our cycle tour was the 'icing on the cake'. Each corner we turned there was another brightly coloured tulip field; vivid reds, yelllows, white, orange and everything in between. We arrived in the medieval town of Alkmaar before a clap of thunder and terrific downpour. As directed we wheeled our bikes through the front doors of hotel. No one batted an eyelid![caption id="attachment_11474" align="alignleft" width="312"] Approaching Alkmaar[/caption]
As we left Alkmaar we wished we had booked a longer tour. The Dutch are a friendly nation and their countryside stunning. We made the most of our last cycling day which began through quiet paved residential areas, then through woodland, farmland and vast wetlands. As we approached Amsterdam the cycle tracks became busier. We crossed the Ij, this time by free ferry and were back into Amsterdam's busy city centre for our last night in Holland.
Read the full details of Marian and Alan's Holland Highlights Cycle Holiday on Macs Adventure's Website.