Close to Amsterdam is a hidden gem, Utrecht. I have been to this compact city several times. The city is 30 minutes by train from Amsterdam and the same amount of time from Schiphol. It is a lovely city with canals and ideal for walking. The centre of the city is a short walk from the station, just head for the bell tower. It is also like all Dutch towns well signposted.
Utrecht is an ideal day trip or alternative place to stay from busy Amsterdam. If hotels are full in Amsterdam and you want to be close then Utrecht is ideal. Similar to Amsterdam there are lots of canals, museums, parks and things to do. It is a short walk from Utrecht train station to the Dom Tower, Netherlands highest bell tower and the centre of town. To check out train times you can look up the train timetable
Where we stayedt
We pushed the boat out a bit and stayed at the Grand Hotel V Karel in Utrecht. It is a lovely hotel with an excellent breakfast and beautiful grounds. It is only a five or so minute walk to the centre of town and has some lovely gardens and fountain.
What to do in Utrecht?
A couple of things to do in Utrecht are to climb the 450 odd steps to the top of the Dom Tower to get a wonderful view of the city. It is the tallest church tower in the Netherlands around 112 metres high and on a clear day you can see Rotterdam. The second thing to do is take a relaxing canal ride. The circular route is worthwhile to get your bearings. There are also many museums to visit or you can just find a café beside a canal and watch the world go by.
My wife and I visited the island of Texel in the North of the Netherlands in August 2011. It is the largest of the Wadden Islands and first of a chain of small islands north of the city of Den Helder. Texel is around 25 km long and 9 km wide and a major resting place for birds during the migration season. It also is ideal for cycling and walking.
Where we stayed
We stayed at the Hotel de Strandplevier in De Koog. The hotel is located near the town and a wide range of restaurants. They also hire bicycles at the hotel which is convenient. See my review below:
We had a great time exploring the island by cycling around it and there is plenty to do especially if you like birdlife. Texel also was also the location of one of the last battles in the second world war. There also is a great bus service if you want to travel around the island.
We took the train from Amsterdam to Den Helder, then a short bus ride to the ferry which costs 2.50 euros return per person and takes around 20 minutes to get to Texel. From there you can link with a bus to De Koog or the town you are staying and then I would suggest hiring a bike.
What to do on Texel?
If your a birdwatcher this is paradise with a wide variety of birdlife including Avocets, Black-headed Gulls, Black-tailed Godwits, Brent geese, Common Gulls, Cormorants, Herring Gulls, Jackdaws, Pied wagtail Lapwings, Sandwich Terns and Shellducks. Another good place to visit especially if you have kids is Ecomare which is the oldest seal sanctuary in Europe. It also has a range of other wildlife.
Regretfully my camera was rubbish for bird photos, however I did take a few other ones.
A useful resource to find out what to do on Texel is the following website:
My father was from Beringe and ever since I was a kid growing up in Manurewa in New Zealand I had a fascination to see where he was born and eventually after leaving school at 15 I saved for a couple of years and booked a flight. Since 1979 I have visited and lived in the small town of Helden-Beringe in the southern Netherlands province of Limburg. I turned up at the age of 17 at Schiphol (which still looks the same today) at Xmas and had my first encounter with snow and lots of it. I ended up working at Limoveld a steel manufacturing factory for a couple of years. Broke my hand in an accident, experienced a couple of carnivals and developed a life long love for frikandel, herring and cycling. Since then I have been back and forth between New Zealand before finally settling in sunny Hove in South East England.
Beringe’s claims to fame is some of the best white asparagus in world, Napoleon’s canal ends at Beringe and every few years several other towns with the same name meet for the Beringe Games. I also have a lot of relatives living there including 3 aunts and 1 uncle and there sons and daughters and their sons and daughters. Last year I introduced my niece from New Zealand to Beringe.
It is a great place to live and work. In summer the weather is beautiful and warm with lots of cycle tracks and the Peel national park nearby to explore. If you ever get the chance then do visit, this year I am doing a four-day cycle festival held annually and where you cycle sedately to cafes to eat cake and drink coffee. One year my wife and I introduced my aunts cyclist friends Pimms which went down a treat as it is not a common tipple in Holland. I will definitely be taking a bottle with me this year.
This random photo is from last year. It was taken at a pub at 2am in the morning in Amsterdam. I am the sober looking one on the far left. I was hoping to do one other trip with the lads (and wives) and we did to Krakow earlier this year and had a great time. It would be nice if I could persuade them to meet me somewhere exotic in Asia. With 80 days to go or 1,920 hours or to stretch it out to 115,200 minutes or even further to 6,912,000 seconds the departure date to Vancouver seems a long way away. I have a horrible habit of procrastination, hence I have made a to do list, today I crossed nothing off it. Still back to procrastination and the boys weekend in Amsterdam where I had lived for two years. I was the tour guide. We did the usual, wandered aimlessly along the canals then did a canal tour on
a boat, visited the newly rebuilt and refurbished Rijksmuseum to look at the Rembrandts and Vermeer’s before heading out for a night on the town. I persuaded the lads to go to the Carre theatre a famous Dutch theatre where we watched a bizare show in which the main star had managed to break her elbow but still went on entitled Cirque Stiletto or along those lines. I am not sure they have forgiven me for the 2 and a half hours of different acts although some were spectacular others were a bit bizarre such as the trampoline dancers?
We had a lovely dinner at a restaurant which had mostly locals. Then a bit of a pub crawl. Where Ken from Eastbourne kept saying we don’t have this in Eastbourne. I am looking forward to another day or two in Amsterdam when we go to visit our relatives next month in the metropolis of Helden Beringe in Limburg, try finding it on a map you will struggle.