We actually took this trip in early August when the heat on the continent was sitting steadily over us so it was time for a quick escape up north. We chose the Netherlands because we heard the beaches are nice and I have friends there who said we should stop by their place for a beer any time we were around. The trip is a 4 hour drive so we took our car this time and set off on a Friday morning. We didn’t know it at the time, but we picked the second hottest weekend of summer to be out of town so this was excellent timing.
First stop was a Unesco Heritage Site called Kinderdijk, the site where the famous windmill pictures are from. Kinderdijk is a village/town on a point of land in a warehouse/shipping area. So as we were driving in, we were a little confused as to where we were headed. But if you look closely, there are little brown signs with a picture of a windmill along with arrows and distance markers. In addition, our phones had no issues getting us to the center of town.
We saw parking along the streets but were unable to determine if they were only for residents or not, so we used the huge parking lot next to an office building that had other tourists’ cars in it.
We walked through town and made our way over to the information area. Unfortunately there was only one boat tour running and they were completely out of bike rentals! It wasn’t too warm so we opted to grab ice cream bars and walk the paths instead. Again, excellent decision on our part because later down the path was one ice cream stand that was absolutely swarmed with people. He was located in front of a museum we wanted to check out so we turned off the main path.
The museum was a functional windmill and a chronicle of the family that used to live in and maintain the windmill. A breif history, since I knew none of this before we left, the windmills were actually homes to the workers who used them. They were built to pump water out of canals into the sea so the fields wouldn’t flood (I could not believe how flat and wide the country is and how low we felt, and I’ve been to Florida). This was dangerous work because the spokes of the mills move fast, much faster than I would have thought, and they come right down to the ground during rotation. The amount of people that can be packed in one windmill was impressive, the family had 13 children plus their parents living in the tiny house. This museum allows access to all the floors plus a peek into the inner workings of the mill at the attic level and at ground level.
Continuing on down the path, we noticed a side path that was across the canal and ran parallel to the main road. We took this route to get away from the crowds and were hoping for more photographic opportunities. The path was not paved and the reeds and grass formed a sort of tunnel but there were spots where the foliage wasn’t as thick so we had lots of viewing opportunities. At the end, on a little point, we crossed back over to the main road, and here’s where we would have done this differently. We walked down to where we thought the next museum was and continued on when in reality, we weren’t close to where we should have been at all and this was a long hike. There wasn’t really anything terribly interesting along this hike until the end where the path joined back up with the town and we could see into people’s’ pretty gardens and yards.
When we finally reached the car, we started the drive over in to Rotterdam; we didn’t intend to stay but we wanted to drive through. I’m not really sure what’s there but it was a fun way to get to our actual destination, The Hague, and made for a more interesting drive than the highway.
In between The Hague and Rotterdam is a town called Delft, and I would absolutely recommend stopping here. It’s adorable and very walkable and has the picturesque canals and old town that make us think of Dutch culture. We stopped for lunch (at an Irish pub, we just needed comfort food…) just off the square with an excellent view. We walked around the square, around some allies and antique shops and gave ourselves a tour of Delft. Lots of excellent photographic opportunities. After our quick stop and some more pictures, we were back on the road to get to The Hague.
Part of the draw of The Hague was the beach, we didn’t have a lot of time to spend and it was already about 5:00pm when we got there, so we parked in a garage and headed straight for the sand. The boardwalk was cute and there was a Jetson-era pier where people were bungee jumping. The water was really cold but we each put our feet in and then retreated to our beach towels to watch a bit of sunset. Finally we were back in the car and headed to our apartment that was nearby in the old town of the city.
The first snag we had was trying to find parking; similar to Wiesbaden (and honestly a bit like Washington DC) the parking rules were complicated and strict in the residential areas. We were staying in an AirBnb so we were in a quiet neighborhood with not a lot of parking. Zach got out to look for the apartment and I began circling the narrow roads to find us a spot. There were so many cars parallel parked along the canals that I thought it would be no big deal. But then I pulled up to a spot on a canal and it was a lot more anxiety inducing than I imagined. Instead of seeing the road in my mirror, it was the edge of a road with water 6 feet below. The next morning we walked around a bit looking for breakfast and taking ourselves on our own personal quick tour before we left for Amsterdam.
We were staying in a hotel this time and it was an excellent location; we stayed in the southeastern part of the city within the canal rings and we were on a tram line (plus they had parking in the back of the hotel). We dropped our bags and headed to the central area near the train station via tram to catch a canal tour. It was hot this day so being on a boat below the road level and with lots of trees was a nice way to cool off. The tour was about 2 hours. We opted to not do any museums this time around so that we could see the most amount of the city possible. This allowed us to find an excellent cheese shop and bought two sheep cheeses that were delicious on pasta and by themselves.
We ended up having dinner in a converted city gate now restaurant that was also a square with great people watching. At some point in the evening, a couple next to us overheard our English and our small talk soon turned to a 3 hour conversation with our new friends (who were beginning their river cruise the next day, lucky!). We had planned to try to stay up till 11:00pm so this was perfect; we really wanted to see what the Red Light District really looked like at night so we parted ways and headed that direction. We were only a block away so we were immediately in the middle of the party. The windows in the brothels were as I expected, well-lit with beautiful women in them but some were really elaborately decorated and the girls inside wore matching costumes. Lots of places to buy products that are illegal elsewhere and a party atmosphere in many of the neighborhoods made for excellent bachelor/ette parties and we saw a lot of them.
The next morning we had breakfast at our hotel so we could do another quick tour of the city on our own before heading out. Amsterdam is really pretty and very clean, next time we visit we’d like to see the shore and some of the northern parts of the city. But we had a lunch date with friends of mine so we set off shortly after breakfast.
My friends, who I met while in Dubai, live in Utrecht which was about an hour from Amsterdam. We got there early to see the city square and walk through old town. An artist has gone through town and outlined where the old city walls were; now they are art exhibits. Small slits in the ground with steam rising from them and a green light. It sounds more interesting than I’m making it out to be right now. There is a pretty cathedral that looks like it is split in two with a walkway in between and in one of the courtyards a concert was being set up. This was one of the prettier old towns we’ve been in and I think a weekend away here will be in our future.
We met Wouter and Daniella at their apartment a 10 minute drive away and had an excellent tapas style lunch prepared by Wouter. After they took us to an Australian restaurant for a beer and this really incredible Dutch dessert of baked apple. The place was dedicated to watersports and they had an elaborate wakeboarding zipline setup. If we had more time Zach probably would have gone in immediately.
The drive back to Germany felt long and we ended up in some traffic but still only about 5.5 hours long. I’m excited to get back next summer or maybe even go in the winter for some canal skating.