A trip to Europe had been on our calendar for the Spring of 2016, but we’d been debating exactly where we wanted to go for months. Then in August, we decided that a bike tour through the Netherlands would be the perfect way to visit, and after some research, we booked a trip with Van Gogh Tours for April.
For months I built my endurance for six days of riding, and then on April 24 we joined twelve other riders and Emma and Denise, our guides, in Leiden for over 200km on the bike.
So what does a bike tour in Holland look like?
Day 1: We met and toured Leiden (on foot, not bike) before moving on to Noordwijkerhout (I have no idea how to say that!) where we checked in to our hotel and got fitted for our bikes and then rode out to the beach along the North Sea to test out our equipment.
Day 2: On the bikes by 8:30, we rode 9km to the world famous Keukenhof Gardens with plenty of time to enjoy the gardens.
Another 9km through tulip fields to a restaurant for lunch, and finally a 14km ride back to our hotel. (Did I mention it was 45° and raining? Oh well, not much we can do about that.)
Day 3: A morning ride of 17km through the dunes concluding with a coffee stop.
Then another 15km to The Hague where we ate Dutch pancakes for lunch with a final ride of 10km to our hotel in Delph after a stop at a Delph pottery shop.
Day 4: We were in Delph for King’s Day, a national holiday and celebration of the King’s birthday. Orange was the color of the day and the celebration included all day concerts in the city square as well as a city wide “yard sale”. Tables and blankets throughout the city filled with items for sale.
There was also an optional ride of 35km through the Dutch countryside, but I decided to opt out and instead walked around Delph watching the locals celebrate.
Day 5: I’m glad I skipped the previous day’s ride since we rode 60km on day 5. We started with a 20km ride through agricultural lands and an area of windmills before stopping for lunch in Rottemeren.
The second leg of 17km ended with a stop for coffee and sweets and then the final leg ended in Noorden at our hotel where we spent the final two nights overlooking a lake.
Day 6: The final day of riding turned out to be the windiest day (but also the sunniest) of a very windy week. After riding 26km to the day’s lunch stop, half of the riders opted for a shorter return trip of only 6km, instead of the planned route of 20km. John and I were among the riders who took the shorter ride since we were both battling congestion after a week of riding in rain, sleet, hail and wind, with no day reaching 50°. No, this is not typical April weather in the Netherlands. The week prior to our tour it was in the 60s and sunny and the week after, the temperature reached the 70s on several days, and again it was sunny. We were just unlucky in the weather department.
I can’t think of a better way to see The Netherlands than by bicycle since this is a country where everyone rides, and I can’t think of a better time to visit than in April when the tulips are at their peak, but I’d like to enjoy their typical mild spring weather instead of the crazy extremes we rode in for a week. Fortunately, our group took the wild weather in stride, with no complaints, and we’ll certainly have tales to tell about our bike tour in the country of tulips.