Few Countries Work as Well as the Netherlands
For the past week, I’ve been enjoying a cruise with Scenic Cruises across the country of the Netherlands. I have found a new appreciation for this wonderful, small country. The July cruise departed from Amsterdam, where we had no problems with delays, luggage or transport, despite the nightmares being reported about thousands of lost bags and five-hour check-in lines.
As we departed Schiphol, we could see the long, long queues, people were outside of the terminal just trying to check-in. It’s the beginning of the school year, so people here were eager to get out and go on vacation.
The ship, the Scenic Crystal, is identical to the Scenic Azure that I took during my cruise last year on the Douro River across Portugal. I love knowing the layout of the 225′ vessel, it’s easy to find things and nothing is too big.
We traveled south out of Amsterdam to the town of Veere, which reminded me a little bit of Cape Cod. It has the boats tied up on the docks, the yacht club, and the hundreds of mostly Dutch tourists mingling around, going in and out of little shops and enjoying a visit to the museum and the big church.
What struck me in Veere was the bounty of open fields all around and in the town. They had sheep that grazed right near the center and left so much of the area open.
Even after being settled for thousands of years, open space is abundant in Veere and in most of the Netherlands. The way that Scenic does their cruises and excursions really works for me.
After breakfast, guests set out each day on one of three excursions, which usually take between 9 am and noon. I’ve chosen several times to take bicycle rides and today’s jaunt on the bike paths, and safe biking streets of the city of Hoorn took me into the countryside, riding along the water and seeing the farmland and water views.
We stopped by a small town called Blokker, where they have a big sign designating the site where the Beatles played a concert (as the backup group) in 1964 before Ringo was their drummer. The streets near here have small rivers on either side of the road with each driveway being a bridge and small boats docked in the river/ditches.
This whole region is mostly active farmland and our bike trip was delayed by a large tractor trying to back into a driveway. A stop at a former mill found a long line of local people buying bread and pastries in their local neighborhood stop.
The Netherlands is one of those places that makes you wonder how they manage to get it so right. Between such easy biking, liberal government, generous benefits to students and mothers, and their incredible engineering work at Delta Works that has kept the North Sea out of their country, it all just works marvelously well.
Scenic’s ship, the Scenic Crystal is just the right size for me… so that it fits in every lock up and down the Rhine. There are six different dining options and the excursions are just the right length. I know just where everything is on board. And the cabin feels plenty large with a big bathroom.
The staff can’t do enough to help with whatever I need, yet they never make you feel like you have to tip, since tips are included! Love that!
I am looking forward to a night of fun Monday when I stay over for a night in Amsterdam at the Yotel. Then home again, home again, to the steamy Pioneer Valley, my garden, and my cat pal Tony.