Holland

Cycletours – Preparing for a Bike and Barge Tour to the Netherlands

In my last post I wrote of being a week away from our bike and barge tour of the Netherlands and the level of expectation that was building, especially when I saw pictures of the Keukenhof gardens in spring bloom. In this post I’ll explain why I chose Cycletours as the company to lead us through the canals and biways of the Netherlands.

Thomas Edison said the genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.  I take the same approach to preparing for my trips. The more you know about the destination, its people and its history the more likely you are to get a better understanding of the destination, its people and its history. I don’t buy into the “Just let it happen, man” philosophy as it’s very likely that sfa will happen other than getting drunk, stoned, ripped off or some std like syphilis. So I admit to being somewhat of a preparation fanatic.

For this upcoming trip to The Netherlands ( btw what are they nether to – China, Easter Island, Las Vegas?) I have booked hotels in Amsterdam and Delft, a bike and barge tour with Cycletours, dinner reservations at an Indonesian and traditional Dutch restaurant and determined exactly when we are going to the Van Gogh museum and Rijkmuseum – other than that it’s completely spontaneous.

After almost a year of anticipation the day has finally arrived to embark on our bike & barge tour of northern Holland. The only cruise I have ever been on previously was a blue cruise in Turkey and that involved a small boat as well. First an explanation as to how and why I chose Cycletours as the company with which to travel. If you google bike & barge tours there are a confusing number of choices that come up, including some well known international firms and a number of what seem like husband and wife providers. Prices range from an eye-popping $1,000.00 USD a day to somewhere closer to $200.00 a day including bike rental.

Faced with this gamut of choices I asked Henny Groenendijk, the Netherlands rep for Canada and she recommended Cycletours as it was a Dutch company and the first to offer tours specifically arranged around tulip time in Holland. I checked out the site and found this Tulip Tour which looked to be exactly what we were looking for and the price was quite reasonable. The next decision was which type of cabin to book. The company has three barges to choose from and three levels – Comfort Plus, Comfort and Standard Plus. Upon making inquiries as to the difference I learned that Comfort Plus was available only on the barge Zwaan and that while essentially there was no big difference in the cabins, the Zwaan had room for only 14 passengers while the other two barges Anna Antal and Wending held twice as many. So the choice was – join a group of 14 with one guide or join a group of 28 with one guide. The extra cost was less than 100 euros; the decision was a no brainer.

Another reason for choosing Cycletours was that since it was a Dutch company I reasoned that it likely would have a good mix of people from different countries as opposed to a British company which would probably have mostly Brits, a U.S. company Americans, etc. In the posts that follow I’ll describe each day and at the end I think you’ll agree that Cycletours was a great choice.

Now some research on our first stop, Amsterdam.

Searching audible.com for a good book on Amsterdam I came across Russell Shorto’s Amsterdam:A History of the World’s Most Liberal City and it has provided great insight into why and how the Dutch are so Dutch. I also spent a lot of time on Iamsterdam which has a wealth of information on things like the difference between a cafe, a coffeeshop and a smartshop – things one definitely needs to know to avoid embarrassment and a possible international incident. Also other practical advice like don’t take pictures of the prostitutes in the windows in the red light district.

On the other hand certain other preparations have been, shall we say, completely ignored. Alison has purchased some very snazzy looking bicycle clothes for both of us, so we’ll look like authentic cyclists;  however, the fact that we have never biked 45 kms. a day, even in our teens, might be problematic. My tennis knee injury (look it up), suffered not on the tennis court, but on the dance floor, has not fully healed and after just a few minutes walking I tend to become a gimp with a limp. So there is some trepidation about the biking part of the bike and barge tour. However, 60% of the word barge is ‘bar’ so there may be a ready remedy provided by Cycletours.

It is less than 48 hours to blastoff and I can’t wait. I may have a case of tulipmania. Tot ziens.


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