Southern Relax Tour
Netherlands Bike + Boat Tour
The Southern Relax Tours are very similar to the regular Southern Tour. They differ in that this tour runs in the opposite direction, is more relaxed with fewer miles cycled per day, and provides more opportunity for sightseeing and enjoying other attractions en route.
Tulip Time is from mid-April to mid-May. On selected Saturdays in the Spring, the tour is referred as the Southern Relax Tulip tour which includes stops at the Keukenhof gardens, and many rides through various tulip fields.
Starting and ending in Amsterdam, where it seems there is never enough time to do and see all their is to do and see, this tour also visits the prestigious towns of Haarlem, Leiden, Delft and Rotterdam. Haarlem is one of the first stops. This small town has a beautiful square on which the famous St. Bavokerk sits. This impressive Gothic Basilica contains the magnificent Christian Muller organ (1727) with 5,000 pipes on which Mozart, Handel and Liszt have all tested their skills. The city is also known for its monuments (it has over 1000!) and beautifully restored hofjes (courtyards). Rembrandt's city of birth, Leiden, will embrace you with its lively atmosphere and shop-filled narrow streets. In 1575, William of Orange founded Holland's first university here, which is now world renowned. Delft, of course, is famous for its Delftware (handsomely painted blue and white china) that was developed in the 1500's. This quaint little town was also the workplace of the great Dutch painter Vermeer. The tour will finish in Amsterdam. This bustling capital was built in a circular shape using a canal network. Its many waterways allowed the city to become extremely prosperous in the trading industry. During the highly successful Golden Age in the 17th century, merchants were constantly trying to outdo each other in building their elaborate houses along the canals. These houses with their distinctive gables are just some of the beautiful architecture you will find in Amsterdam.
- On the Standard class boat, The Liza Marleen:
April 20, April 27, May 4, 2013
- On the Comfort class boats,
- The Eva Josiena:
April 27, May 4, May 11, and May 25, 2013
- The Wending: June 29, July 6, July 13, July 20,
July 27, August 3, August 10, August 17, August 24, August 31, September 7, 2013.
- The Zwaan: May 18, 2013
Where You’ll Stay
For this tour different class boats are used on different dates. Please see dates and pricing.
- 7 nights’ accommodations on board
- Breakfast buffets, packed lunches, 3-course dinners
- Coffee and tea on board
- Tour guide
- 24-speed hybrid bicycle
- Route information
- Ferry fares en route
- Entrance to the Keukenhof (flower garden, during spring)
- Road book (one per cabin)
What’s Not Included
- Bicycle protection
- Helmet rental (must be reserved in advance)
- Museum entrance fees, approximately €15 per tour
- Beverages (incl. alcohol), available on board
- Maps for self-guided option (€9.10 per map. Tour requires three maps.)
|Tour||Bike + Boat|
Easy, guided tour with variable cycling distances per day in and around interesting cities and towns.
- Amsterdam, boarding at 2 PM, sail to Vianen.
- Vianen - Gouda, 25 miles (40 km)
- Gouda - Delft, 25 miles (40 km)
- Delft - via Katwijk - Leiden, 25 miles (40 km)
- Leiden, roundtrip Kager Lakes, 19 miles (30 km); Optional: visit to Lakenhal museum or visit to Keukenhof during Tulip Season
- Leiden - Haarlem, 23 miles (37 km)
- Haarlem - Amsterdam, 25 miles (40 km)
- Amsterdam, disembark at 10 AM.
*All distances are approximate. The above planned itinerary is subject to change due to changing wind and weather conditions and other unforeseen circumstances having to do with mooring requirements, etc.
SATURDAY: Amsterdam - Short bike ride, ± 12 mi (20 km).
Boarding begins at 2 PM. When you arrive on board the boat you can put your baggage away in your cabin and then enjoy a cup of coffee or tea. It is also a good moment to become acquainted with the guide, skipper, crew, and of course your fellow passengers.
The bicycles are distributed and straight from the moorings of the boat you can take a short trip by bike through quiet parts of town. If time permits, you can also cycle outside the city. The ship will depart for Vianen by 3 pm.
In the 12th century, Amsterdam was no more than a modest settlement at the mouth of the Amstel River, with open connection to the sea. Because of this, it expanded rapidly with its famous rings of canals in the Golden Age (17th century). Powerful merchants had their large, elaborate mansions built here which showcased their wealth. Amsterdam is a city to be explored on foot and their are many places of interest. The palace on the Dam Square is sometimes called the 8th wonder of the world because it is built on 13,659 piles. Museum Square with the Rijksmuseum (National Museum), Stedelijk Museum (Museum of Modern Art), Van Gogh Museum and of course, the Anne Frank House. Other very characteristic features of Amsterdam are its numerous Hofjes and the floating flower market. You will love the hundreds of houseboats that line the canals which is so typically Amsterdam. There are approximately 2, 500 houseboats in Amsterdam. Did you also know that there are 600,00 bicycles in Amsterdam? In the evening you dine on board. During the meal, the plans for the rest of the week are discussed.
SUNDAY: Vianen - Gouda, 25 mi. (40 km)
From Vianen, the cycle route goes along the Lek River to Schoonhoven, a town with a rich history in the traditional craft of silversmithing. After leaving Schoonhoven, the route continues along the river "de Vlist" to Gouda. Do not just think of cheese, however, when you think of Gouda, but also of pipes, treacle waffles, earthenware, stained glass windows, a picturesque town hall and romantic canals. Gouda is an old Dutch town with a virtually intact town center. The 123-meter long St. Janskerk (St. John's Church) with its world-famous stained-glass windows, the fabulous Gothic Town Hall, and the Waag (Weigh House) are well worth a visit in Gouda!
MONDAY: Gouda - Rotterdam - Delft, 25 mi. (40 km)
From Gouda you cycle past scenic polders via Kinderdijk to Rotterdam. Kinderdijk has the largest group of winldmills in the Netherlands. The windmills at Kinderdijk were still actively used until 1950. These days, a large pumping station is responsible for controlling the water level in the polder.
In Rotterdam you embark and from there the ship takes you to Delft, famous for its pottery, the 'Delft blue'. The painter Johannes Vermeer has made the town famous, but it is also known as the town of William of Orange, who lies buried in the Nieuwe Kerk. In 1572, William of Orange chose St. Agatha's monastery as one of his residences. Today it is the Prinsenhof Museum. It was from here that he led the revolt against the Spanish tyranny of Holland. He was murdered on the steps of the Prinsenhof on July 10, 1584, by Balthazar Gerards, a Spanish sympathizer. Two bullet holes in the wall of the stairs bear witness to this event.
Some other attractions in Delft are the Botanical Gardens, and the Tabaks Historisch Museum (Tobacco Historical Museum). The Botanical Gardens are an oasis of peace, color, scent and silence, with various walking routes providing opportunity to take in the spectacular and varied plant life.
TUESDAY: Delft - Katwijk- Leiden, 25 mi. (40 km).
From Delft, you will cycle in the direction of The Hague, through the Haagse Bosch, a large park, and past the Royal Huis ten Bosch Palace. A tranquil cycle path through the dunes leads you to Wassenaarse Slag. Here, some remains of the Atlantikwall can still be seen. The Atlantic Wall was an extensive system of coastal fortifications built by the German Third Reich in 1942 until 1944 during World War II along the western coast of Europe to defend against an anticipated Allied invasion of the mainland from Great Britain. Five bunkers are connected by nearly 3,000-foot long brick tunnels. Now this underground network serves as a bat reserve! It was nearly 1,700 miles long. This defense line, which was never completed, not only consisted of bunkers, but also of canons and mine fields. At some places the bunkers are still there, such as in Zandvoort, Scheveningen, Oostende (Belgium) and Normandy (France).
Continuing on through the dunes, to Katwijk aan Zee, an old fishing village (the inhabitants still speak their own dialect called Kattuks), you will follow the course of the Oude Rijn (Old Rhine) ending in Leiden. Leiden originated around 800 AD as a market place at the confluence of the Old and New Rhine rivers, the Vliet river and the Mare (‘Leyten’ means ‘at the waters’). For a long time it was the second city after Amsterdam. It was the center of the textile industry in Medieval times. A well-known episode from the history of Leiden is the siege of 1574 by the Spanish. These were finally driven away after dikes had been broken through and a Watergeuzen (see Rotterdam) fleet had come to help. Leiden is the birthplace of Rembrandt (van Rijn!). It boasts 14 museums, including the Rijksmuseum for Anthropology with many priceless foreign objects, the Municipal Museum (Lakenhal, 1640) including works by Dou, Steen, Rembrandt and Van Goyen, the Rijksmuseum of Antiquities with Egyptian antiquities. The Hortus Botanicus (Botanical Garden), a 400-year-old garden with innumerable exotic plants and trees, is certainly worth seeing. In the center of town you can go shopping or enjoy sitting on an outdoor terrace on the water’s edge.
The ship is moored near the Zijlpoort, a gate that once formed part of the city walls.
WEDNESDAY: Leiden – round tour Kagerplassen, 19 mi. (30 km).
The Dutch lakes have not always existed. As a result of the dying down of a virgin forest, fenland came into being. Much later the inhabitants dug out the peat and thus created open water. The direct connection between these waters and the open sea, via the Haarlemmer Lake and the IJ, caused a continual erosion of the lake borders. Lower-lying parts submerged and eventually a large surface of water was the result. Several areas in this region owe their names to the times of the open connection with the IJ Lake. One example is the Hellegatspolder, Hell's Hole Polder, where in the old days many a ship went down. In the 17th century there was a lot of activity around the lakes, such as agriculture, cattle-breeding and peat cutting, but also shipbuilding. In the 20th century tourism strongly grew in importance in this region, aquatic sports associations were founded and the number of marinas and camping sites grew. Your cycling route takes you along windmills, meadows, farms, picturesque villages and, of course, water. Little ferries take you across to the next village or island. When the weather is warm and sunny many locals try and find some cooling off on or near the water. There are several beaches and lawns for sunbathing close to the water.
For nature lovers, too, there is a lot to be enjoyed. The Kagerplassen (Kager Lakes), Braassem and Wijde Aa are part of the Holland-Utrecht peat and meadowland, an ultra-Dutch landscape of international fame. In springtime the marigolds dye the meadows yellow. This is also the breeding season of the lapwing, the godwit, the redshank and all sorts of ducks. The brown marsh harrier likes to breed in the reedy borders of the islands. Only after all the birds have hatched is the grass mowed, quite some undertaking, since all haymaking machines and tractors are taken across by ferry. And after mowing, all the equipment, as well as the hay, must be taken back again. Discover and enjoy the many aspects of the Kaag and Braassem region.
You can also opt to explore Leiden on you own.
In Leiden you can visit De Lakenhal (Cloth makers' Hall) where twenty of the best-known paintings of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam are exhibited, painted in the Golden Age and the Renaissance Period by artists then living in Leiden. The Municipal Museum De Lakenhal is located in a beautiful historical building from 1640. It was opened to the public as a museum in 1874. However, until 1800 it had served a totally different purpose: this is where the famous Leiden cloth was appraised and this is where the governors and the Syndicate of the Cloth Guild would meet. The Lakenhal shows you the typical Dutch city life from the 16th century to the present day. Among other things the museum has a unique collection of (Leiden) silverware, engraved glass, pewter, tiles and paintings by famous Leiden citizens like Cornelis Engebrechtsz and Lucas van Leyden (16th century) and 17th century painters such as the young Rembrandt, Lievens, David Bailly, Jan Steen and Gerard Dou. Matching their own exhibition of the Dutch landscape (such as works by Van Goyen and Porcellis) the museum has an important collection of Dutch landscape paintings on loan from the Rijksdienst Beeldende Kunst (Agency for the Visual Arts). The museum regularly organizes exhibitions of old and modern art as well as of current historical subjects.
Leiden has always been a source of inspiration to many artists. In the 16th century Lucas van Leyden excelled and the golden Age added to the glory of the arts. In Rembrandt's Leiden days and the years to follow there may have been as many as 150 artists in the hustle and bustle of Leiden in those times. Many of them were to gain fame and their works can still be found in museums and catalogs all over the world. Leiden's artistic leaders were Rembrandt, Jan Steen, Jan Lievens, Gerrit Dou and other painters.
*Please note that during Tulip season, this day will include a visit to the Keukenhof by public transport. It is an overwhelming blaze of colors of seven million flowering tulips in a magnificent 80 acre background of traditional and modern gardening architecture. Various gardens and gardening styles can be found and spread throughout the park are approximately eighty sculptures from well known Dutch artists.
THURSDAY:Leiden – Haarlem, 23 mi. (37 km)
Through the dunes you will cycle to the beach and then to Haarlem. The Haarlemmermeer (Haarlemmer Lake) is a former lake, but nowadays a polder. Schiphol Airport(Schiphol which literally translated means Ships' Hell!) is situated here, some 13 feet below sea level, which makes it necessary to constantly pump water out to keep a dry soil. The water from the polder is pumped into a circular canal around the polder. From here the water is transported to the sea. You may want to visit the 'Cruquiusgemaal', Cruquius Pumping Station, one of the three steam-powered pumping stations that drained the Haarlemmermeer between 1849 and 1852. Today it is a museum, giving a clear idea of the Dutch 'battle against the sea'.
Once in the city of Haarlem, you have a short ride through the city to see some typical 'hofjes' (almshouses), old houses around a central courtyard, now usually housing elderly people. These 'hofjes ' are definitely worth a visit.
Haarlem, which rendered its name to Harlem, New York, is a lively city with good shopping possibilities. At the same time there are many interesting 17th-century sights here. In particular the Grote Markt (Market Square) or St Bavo's Church (1390-1520) are the best examples. Mozart was only one of the many St Bavo's organ players. Other famous attractions are the Frans Hals Museum (with many 17th-century paintings), the Town Hall, the Weigh House and the Vleeshal (Meat Hall, branch of the Frans Hals Museum, also with many 17th-century Dutch masters). On the river Spaarne the oldest museum of the Netherlands can be found: Teyler's Museum, with drawings by Rembrandt, Michelangelo, Raphael and others.
The ship is berthed in the city center, with a view of St Bavo's Church and with easy access to the Grote Markt with its many outdoor cafes.
*Please note that during Tulip season this day will include wonderful cycling through the flower beds.
FRIDAY: Haarlem – Amsterdam, 25 mi. (40 km)
From Haarlem you sail to Spaarndam, a picturesque village on the edge of Haarlem, in the direction of Amsterdam. Spaarndam’s name comes from the dam built in the Spaarne river to limit the danger of flooding from the sea. Here you can find the statue of Hansje Brinker on the IJdijk. Hansje is a character from an American novel, who saved the country from flooding by putting his finger in the dike.
The Buitenhuizen ferry takes you across the North Sea Canal and from there you cycle to the Zaanse Schans. The Zaanse Schans, with its traditional weatherboard houses, warehouses and windmills may give you the feeling of stepping back into the 17th or 18th century. Yet this is no open air museum, but a lively neighborhood where people live and work. Among other things a cheese farm, a clog maker and an old bakery can be visited here.
SATURDAY: Individual departure from Amsterdam