Traveling in a train from Paris to Amsterdam via beautiful Belgium is what I am doing as I chronicle my two week Western Europe vacation covering the Netherlands/Holland, Switzerland and France in a three-part series.
Netherlands/Holland: Maastricht, Utrecht & Amsterdam
The culture capital of the Netherlands, this is one of the oldest cities in the country. Centuries of German, French & Roman influence has added a lively cultural overtone to the little city. Museums, forts and cathedrals dot the romantic city, as do the famous picturesque squares & cobbled streets.
Dutch Wooden Clogs
My favourite city in the Netherlands, this is a university town that houses the biggest university in the heart of Holland. Again, although Utrecht is a very old city, the modern cityscape reflects the old world architecture and manages to preserve the local character. The compact city centre, numerous canals, waterfront restaurants and the hustle-bustle of the student population cycling away or studying under the trees in parks gives Utrecht an almost village-like feel.
The landmark of the city - the Dom Tower, is a church tower standing 112.32 meters tall on a huge square, now called the Dom square. Shopping streets, bars and restaurants surround this landmark.
Dom Square Canal
While we stayed at the Grand Karl V in Utretch, the chef in the restaurant was very friendly and obligingly whipped up a decent vegetarian pasta in white sauce garnished with rocket leaves (a popular green herb used all over Europe). I dint particularly warm up to the taste of rocket leaves as it has a very weird after taste that I’m unable to describe.
The friendly chef at Grand Karl V
Pasta in White Sauce
Grand Karl V is a heritage hotel and the building is more than 500 years old. The dining area, the kitchen and the restaurant have preserved some of the old dungeons.
One of the many canals
I fell in love with this city as tradition & history blend beautifully to offer a unique big-city life with an old world feel. The student population lend a young, energetic and dynamic feel to the growing city.
The capital of Netherlands and the biggest city in the country, it was named after a dam was built in the river Amstel that flows through the city. A bustling and lively city, there are loads of touristy places such as the Ann Frank house, red light district, Van Gogh Museum, Keukenhof Tulip Gardens and historic canals.
This is one country that is very tolerant towards the use and sale of marijuana and it is actually legal. It is interesting to note that such drugs are available in “coffee shops” and if one is in need of caffeine, then head to a “café”.
Most Dutch food is predominantly non-vegetarian. Therefore, my choices were pretty limited to regular fare such as sandwiches and salads. However, we gorged on hot Dutch waffles with maple cream – absolutely yumm. One evening, we decided to try something different from the breads and walked into a Turkish restaurant. Baked aubergine with tomato and cheese, and some sweet Turkish wine – a nice hot dinner on a cold windy evening!
A chance discovery near the Ann Frank house was a lovely little bakery selling cake-pops – round balls of cake on a stick – much like the lollipops. It was absolutely delicious and rich with different attractive frosting and decoration. Some of them looked so pretty we hesitated to bite into them!
Beauty. brilliant colours, bulbs and flowers of various sizes, shades of green I’d never seen before - that is the famed Kuekenhof Tulip Gardens of Holland. A fantastic visual treat!
People make a country – and this is so true of beautiful Netherlands/Holland. The Dutch are such a warm and friendly lot. From personal experience I can say that they do not hesitate to help tourists, always have a smile and ever ready to chit-chat!
Another thing I loved about this country is that it is very pet friendly. Being a pet owner myself, I was delighted to see dogs pottering all over with their owners – on the trains, in buses, in cafes, in malls and supermarkets…just about everywhere!
Also, it is an English speaking country, so for people who do not know a foreign language, it is an added advantage. Would love to come back here!
Jij Bin Mooi Netherlands.