My first Travel with Wendy adventure was visiting and exploring the little country of Holland. In Germany, it is known as “Nederland.” I love the Dutch, warm, welcoming and smiley. The people are contrary to the precarious and sometimes inclement weather we suffer from here in Stuttgart. This weekend, we left with snow and arrived to sunny skies in Holland only six hours away. This is what happens traveling in spring in Europe, you’ve got to go with it!
Holland is one of the most visited countries here in Europe and for most of us stationed here we visit at least once. For being such a small country, Holland has a lot to see. Our main goal was to see the tulips in Lisse, at the Keukenhof gardens. Having grown up in northern New York along the Rideau canal in Canada, I was well aware of Holland’s generous spirit every spring as their gift blossomed along the water in Ottawa.
However, having been a few times myself to Holland, I knew it was rich in culture, diversity and beauty. We visited the cities of Gouda and Delft as well and stayed in the beautiful town of Wassenaar near The Hague.
Gouda’s town hall
Gouda (pronounced Gowda) I know I’ve butchered that poor name more than a thousand times, I’m so sorry. Famous for their incredible cheeses and clog shoes, many do not know about their architectural beauties, amazing churches and historical market square. Every Thursday morning, farmers from all over Holland descend on the cheese market in the market square where the old town hall sites front and center.
What to see in Gouda
I created a walking tour of Gouda because we only had a few hours. Because of the size of our van, I found a great parking lot not too far from city center, Klein Amerika parking lot (it’s FREE.) It’s open, outdoor parking so my 7 ft. van had no issues squeezing into a small parking garage. Here is what we were able to see –
- Cheese shops
- Market square & Town Hall
- Visitors Center and Cheese Museum
- Sint Janskerk – St. John’s church
Our first stop was The Cheese Shop or –‘tKaaswinkeltje, where we met Anna and her lovely staff. Here you can taste several different types of Gouda cheese and make your purchases. She will seal your cheese at no extra cost, however, we did bring a small cooler to store our cheese treasures.
Our next stop was the visitor’s center, I always stop here on a trip almost first because there maybe something not on the internet that is advertised and worthy of seeing or revisiting. Gouda’s visitor center is also the cheese museum where you can walk the tower for panoramic views of the city for a small fee.
Next, we visited Sint Janskerk, this is Netherland’s largest gothic church with amazing stained glass windows. We arrived just ten minutes before closing, there was a €5 fee to visit the church, so we missed seeing the inside. However, this is a UNESCO World Heritage Dutch monument and I think just for the stained glass windows, it would be worthy to see. (I peeked, a little.)
Our digs were amazing. I found an AirBnb house for our 11 ladies that was unbelievable. We were staying in what is known as the “posh” part of Holland. Our host, Janna, was beautiful and gracious and we had every amenity we would need at the “Villa near beach dunes” in Wassenaar. About 20 minutes from all of our destinations, including the Keukenhof garden, this was a peaceful, beautiful get-away for all of us.
Wassenaar had wonderful restaurants, a nation-famous gelato store, Luciano’s, we had to try out and one of the best greek restaurants, Restaurant Eleni, I’ve eaten at yet in Europe. Restaurateur, Christos will immediately make you feel like family and his staff is extremely professional and accommodating. With our large group, they practically had to rearrange the dining room and did this with ease and graciousness. But the food, oh…my… YES!!! He greeted us with a snip of Ouzo and coffee at the end.
Of course, we also had to investigate this really old windmill in the center of town, Holland is notorious for their windmills. Wassenaar was happy to oblige.
Lisse – Keukenhof Tulips
On Saturday morning, we woke up early to beat the crowds to Keukenhof Gardens in Lisse. This is a must-see if you are in Holland in the spring. The most photographed garden in the world, we were there on family day. Arrive early, and pre-purchase your admission tickets, as well as parking tickets. This will save you A LOT of time. It was very easy to do on-line. Check out the tulip calendar for best weeks to visit for full-bloom.
Every year Keukenhof has a “theme.” This year it was “The Golden Age.” There were exhibits in every hall and theme gardens throughout the park. You should plan on at least six hours to tour the gardens properly. We began at 9:30 and left around 2:30. Everyone grabbed lunch there as they had restaurants and kiosks throughout the park.
I was able to squeeze in a visit, with my long-time friend Kim, who lives here now making this an unforgettable trip for both of us. I will forever be grateful to Mark Z and FaceBook to help reconnect old friends and make new ones, this is invaluable.
I also grabbed my daughter Katy, who was my other willing driver and helped me navigate my first TWW trip. I loved seeing the garden through her eyes for the first time too.
On our last day in Holland, we visited the city of Delft. Known for their blue china pottery and the artist Vermeer, Delft and it’s narrow canals remind me of Venice, Italy. By visiting the Delft Tourism website page, you can order a walking map guide for about €6 to be mailed to you or you can download it for free. The tourism office itself wasn’t very helpful. Here is what I found out on my own.
- Delft is OPEN on Sundays, especially the market place
- We happened to be there for a May Day festival (May 1st), lots of fun, with local pottery vendors!
- Several pottery shops and ATMs line the main square
After our walking tour and exploration of Delft we went to the Royal Delft Museum for an English Tour and High Tea. This was about €30/person included the hour guided tour and “high tea” in the garden.
Helpful tips for traveling in Holland
- Drive the speed limit, there are cameras just like in Germany
- Parking garages and parking lots (SOME only take credit/debit cards – NO CASH!) make sure your credit/debit card has the girocard and/or VPay (my Service Credit Union- would not work, but my German bank account did)
- Use Parkopedia before you take arrive to save you time searching, you can usually navigate to the parking lot.
Want to know more about joining me – here is my YouTube Channel for more information on joining me on the Netherlands Adventure for the tulip festival.