I know, I know: some of you are still skiing. Yes, I’m officially jealous.
But for those of us who’ve ended our seasons, I bid you good news: there’s life on the other side. Sure, if you’re like me, transitioning from skiing to not-skiing isn’t so easy. I wrote about this a few weeks ago: how about 10% of people get Seasonal Affective Disorder in reverse — the onset of summer triggers symptoms of depression. No, it’s not as common as winter SAD, but yes, it’s definitely something that happens.
So that’s why this year I decided to fight my blues by doing something that’s been on my bucket list for a number of years: biking through the Netherlands during tulip time. The idea of traveling by bike has benefits. You can get a perspective that’s up close and personal, something you don’t necessarily get when you travel by car or train. Plus the Netherlands is a cyclist’s paradise, with a network of bike trails that has to be seen to be believed: you can get just about anywhere by bike. And unlike my home state of Vermont, it’s all flat, so biking is easy-peasy.
Not being one for traveling in large groups, we went with an outfit called Tulip Cycling. Tulip Cycling has a great system: they map out the route, provide you with bikes and GPS, arrange and book the hotels, and cart your luggage from one place to another. It’s not a group ride; you go by yourself or with whomever you like. Travel averages about 43 km a day, though shorter, alternate routes are also available.
We started our trip in Haarlem, a city to the northwest of Amsterdam that’s easily reachable by train. Our first day took us through a landscape that I never associated with the Netherlands: sand dunes along the coast of the North Sea. These brought the only hills we encountered on the entire trip.
The landscape changed dramatically once we left the coast. In a few short miles we were biking through the country’s famous tulip fields, replete with gorgeous flowers in eye-popping colors.
We made a stop at the world famous Keukenhof gardens; the 90 acre spread makes it the largest garden in the world. One word: magnificent!
We spent our first night in Leiden. For those of you who’ve seen PBS series The Miniaturist, this is where the exteriors were filmed. There are gorgeous canal houses lining a network of canals.
Day 2 dawned rainy and windy, so we opted for a short alternate ride, bypassing The Hague, which I very much would’ve liked to see. However, the countryside was beautiful, the people friendly — a farmer even invited us into his barn during one intense downpour — and we actually ended up biking by an indoor ski slope.
We ended the day in Delft (yes, of blue tile fame), just in time for King’s Day. King’s Day is a national holiday marking the birth of King Willem-Alexander. The entire country celebrates. Businesses are closed and people crowd the streets to celebrate. It’s a huge, Netherlands-wide party.
Day 3 brought us better weather. We biked from Delft to Gouda, a beautiful town and yes, home to the famous Gouda cheese.
The next day was spent traveling through beautiful countryside, including a stop at Kinderdijk, a UNESCO World Heritage site that features 19 monumental windmills built between 1738 and 1740, the largest concentration of old windmills in the Netherlands. We ended the day at Schoonhaven, a lovely town known for its silver work.
Our last day of biking brought us to Utrecht, a Dutch town known for both its university and its canals. Here we stayed in perhaps the coolest accommodations of the entire trip: an apartment in a converted wharf cellar along a canal. Utrecht is the only city in the Netherlands with wharf cellars, many of which have been converted into restaurants or apartments.
We followed our bike trip with four days in Bruges, Belgium. Known for its medieval buildings, cobblestone streets, and lovely canals, Bruges has a UNESCO-protected historic core and is a lovely place to explore.
All in all, a great trip. Did all this make me miss skiing less? No. But it did remind me that yes, there are plenty of other things to enjoy when your season is over. Traveling to different places is one of them.
I’d do it again in a heartbeat.