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and Smell the Tulips:
Touring in Holland
By Theresa Russell
Note: The author, a seasoned cycling travel writer and frequent contributor to The Bicycle Exchange, is the author of the recently-published guidebook, Bed, Breakfast & Bike Midwest. This book was reviewed in our Spring '01 Feature Articles). She is currently working on a cycling guide to the Yucatan Peninsula.
A country with a multitude of bike paths meandering through the countryside seems like an ideal if not unreal dream for those of us who love to jump on our bikes and discover our surroundings. Yet, such a country does exist and young and old inhabitants of that country use the bicycle by choice as a means of transportation. Holland may well be the best choice for bicycle touring for cyclists at all levels of experience. Rainbows in the field morph into tulips. Windmills stand sentinel in fields and medieval towns. Castles remind you of a past life and vie for attention along the routes. So many bike paths, so few days.
the well-marked bike paths make cycling a joy, but in addition, it is the
proximity of towns along the paths that makes Holland ideal for even the
beginning touring cyclist. Families with
young children who may not be comfortable with road touring will also feel
comfortable riding along these well marked paths.
Unlike North America where towns seem to sprawl out with large distances
between each other, Holland is very compact. Several
little villages can be found along even a route as short as 37 kilometers,
making it quite simple to break a longer trip into easily rideable segments. Even towns with no major tourist attractions make perfect
spots for resting, enjoying a bit of cheese or sampling some of the offerings at
the genever bar.
Planning the trip requires no great skill as AWNB (http://www.anwb.nl/city/fietsen.htm) puts out maps, which show the bike paths through the country. Local tourist boards (VVV) often have maps, either free or very inexpensive, of the local area and the representatives there happily suggest routes with special attractions along the way. After all, this is a place where everybody bikes and finding cycling information is simple. Imagine that!
most difficult part of planning your tour of Holland will be deciding which path
to take. If you aren’t keen on touring
with gear, an excellent option is to base yourself in one locale and doing loops
from there. More adventurous types who just love to go and bike, with no
specific destination in mind, could simply follow the fietspads on a whim.
They all connect and eventually lead somewhere.
flat terrain makes it unnecessary to bring a multiple speed bike and it might be
more practical to rent one of the simple bikes that most of the Dutch use to get
around. The bikes usually have a rack on the rear and you will notice that many
of the Dutch have saddle bags attached to the rack for transporting whatever
they may need. n the other hand, if
you do go to the Limburg area, remember that the terrain does present some
challenges, as it can be quite hilly in certain areas.
One rather hilly area is that near Valkenburg. To avoid those hills, you
should consider going biking in a cave.
an activity for the family, this particular tour is lead by an experienced guide
who knows the way through the vast underground network.
The temperature is perfect and the experience is one that you won’t
likely forget. In addition to the cave biking you might also opt for an
interactive cave walking tour or a tour by quad. The combination of the walking and the biking involve about a half
in the big city, Amsterdam, you may choose to ride your bike throughout the
congested streets and alongside the trolley cars. But, another “biking” option exists on the canals of the city.
The bike boats as they are known, might remind you of the old pedal cars you had
as a kid. Simply put, they are
really paddleboats, which will give you the same work out and use the same
muscles as a bike ride on terra firma. With
several different liveries along the way, the bikes can be hired at and dropped
off at one of four locations giving you plenty of time to pedal through the
picturesque canals that make up the city. Old canal houses, charming houseboats
and quaint buildings line the canal.
Whatever area or whatever type of biking your choose, you can be sure of a memorable experience. And, if you need a companion, be sure to call me.
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