It’s something we’d wanted to do for a long time. Holland and the Bulb Fields in a motorhome! However, we never managed to get round to actually going there.!
Our first trip to Holland, back in our touring caravan days had been a bit of a revelation! Come on, let’s face it. You never really hear of that many British folk, heading to that neck of the woods for their Summer holidays. But we loved it and always said we’d return.
The bulb fields of the Netherlands, are of course, world famous! Sprouting out of the earth each year, somewhere between late March and May (weather and bulb type depending). These amazing blooms of multi-coloured hyacinths, daffodils, crocus and Tulips and many other blooming lovely flowers. Are the epitome of Springtime Europe.
So heading off for a few weeks to catch the best of the blooms. Had us arriving in Abbenes, 7km from the world famous Keukenhof, that’s the world’s largest flower garden. Just in time to catch the height of the displays, during the 2nd week of April. This was the start of our tour of Holland and the bulb fields in a motorhome.
The Netherlands is pretty campervan friendly. Although, they don’t have as good an Aire system as France or Germany. However, they do have lots of private camper-stops and we plodded over to Het Groene Hart. A perfect little small-holding type place. Situated right next to the cycle paths (that’s not too unusual!) and complete with toilets, showers and electric, perfect!
Holland is definitely one of those countries, where you are really having to literally get on your bike! Luckily for us, although we don’t have a bike carrier on our La Strada (that’s our campervan!). We do, very conveniently have our two folding Brompton Bikes. It’s at times like this, that they come into their own. As, no sooner had we got the van parked, than we were off out exploring.
Cycle heaven, it is! Off we peddled, firstly to Kaag, a pretty village. Where we hopped on a boat to cross a canal to a peaceful little island. All for 1 Euro each….bargain! A quick cycle round, before getting back on the boat and onwards then to Sassenheim and Noordwijk. Which is actually on the coast!
Yes, before we knew it, our little Brompton wheels, had covered a staggering 26 miles, we just couldn’t get enough! It helped when those first bulb fields came into view. Hyacinths of lilac, pinks and whites. We could smell the scent, before were set eyes upon them. It was like being in a florist shop!
So, this is how it is, if you want to see the bulb fields. Yes, you can see the masses of flowers, over quite a large area, 5000 acres of it. They are just planted in fields, as crops would be. Each field will grow a different variety, colour or mix. Therefore, the smells and vibrancy of the displays are just beautiful. There’s a driving route for the Bulb Fields, it’s signposted and easy to follow.
The route takes you through Noordoostpolder. But to get the most out of the season, it’s best to take to the bikes and make use of the Dutch cycle path systems. These are everywhere, easy to navigate and flat. This way, you can take your time and get up close and personnel with your favourite blooms.
It’s also possible to walk, but it’s vast areas, so those feet soon get tired. Then, there’s the campervan, driving is an option too. Although, somehow, you don’t seem to get the same intimate feel. You do, however, when you’re out in the open air, for hours on end!
Now, for our visit to the big tourist draw….that’s The Kukenhof! It’s popular, there are coach loads of visitors here. Car parks are full to the brim and flowers like you’ve never seen before….it’s just blooming marvellous!
It’s basically gardens, greenhouses, lakes, cafe’s, shops, filled with bulbs, to give us visitors a jolly good day out! It costs to get in. It was 16 Euro per adult on our visit in 2017 but worth it for the experience. We parked up easily enough despite the crowds. Wrapped up in the chilly winds, we took our time meandering though the various pathways and displays.
Personally though, were aren’t really ones for the tourist routes. If I’m honest, we were just as happy milling around the rainbow coloured fields surrounding the area. Driving on to Lisse, we had planned on a walk through the bulbs. But Sunday traffic jams prevented us from getting close enough.
Instead we headed North, out to the coast and the National Park Zuid-Kennermerland. This vast sand dune park, had us back on the Brompton’s along more excellent cycle paths. A great place for our picnic and our daily excercise!
A quick drive over to the promenade to catch a look at Zandvoort. Had us tempted out the van for a bit of a walk. Before parking up for the night at a campsite just outside Haarlam. Always hyperactive, it was back on the bikes after first stopping for a picnic. Along the easy 3km cycle route, arriving in the centre of Haarlem. A pretty nice, bustling town on a canal with town squares full of coffee shops and pavement bars.
We had tried to park in the centre, with the campervan. Unfortunately, our British bank cards weren’t accepted at the parking meters and neither was good, old fashioned cash! Something that seemed to be a bit of a pattern here.
Leaving the Bulb fields behind, Amsterdam came calling! There is a camper stop here, but as we pulled up at the locked gate, so did several other people! As the attendant came over to ask each van how long they’d like to stay. Our own response of “not sure yet”, didn’t go down too well. So we, hot footed out of there, to Camping Vliegenbos up the road.
At €26 per night, without electric (they had no pitches available with power), it wasn’t too bad a price. From here it’s 10 minutes max on your bike to the FREE ferry crossing. Which leads you to Amsterdam Central Station in just a few minutes. There are ferries running all day right through to midnight if needed.
Camping Vliegenbos is one of those that attracts the young backpackers. Now, this is Amsterdam, anything goes and you soon know about it at 3am. This is when the young mob, are still chanting, singing and smoking their recently bought Amsterdam specials!
That aside, it’s a good base and Amsterdam is fab! We used our Brompton’s to navigate the city, saving time and feet ache. It’s a free for all on the cycling streets of Amsterdam, an experience in itself!
If you haven’t been, Amsterdam is quite a place. It’s got charm in bucket loads! It’s different, very liberal and full of gorgeous character houses which line the canals.
There is, of course, the seedy side of town, the Red Light district, which is what it is. Then there’s the coffee shops, the smoke filled clouds of non-conventional tabacco drifting in a haze through the streets! Arty types are everywhere, bringing a youthful mix and a brilliant choice of vintage clothes with fabulous quirky stores.
If you want Anne Frank Haus museum, then book first. The queues are huge, we’d been on a previous visit, so gave it a miss this time. It’s a unique experience in itself. There are other museums, Van Gogh is one. We chose to just wander around the food halls, markets and intricate alleyways. The kind of back street side of the city.
Zaanse Schans was next on our tour of Holland and the bulb fields in a motorhome. This place is a popular stop for the day trippers and you can see why! It’s not only a lovely village but it’s also home to several beautiful windmills. Housing various trades from clog makers to cheese producers, spices, shops and museums. There’s a parking fee for motorhomes of €10. Possibly a bit steep but it’s convenient and the place is rather lovely.
We stopped the night at Volendam at the Marina. A rather common practice in The Netherlands and a really good use of space for the motorhome folk. Volendam is a busy seaside town. Lots of tourists were milling around the traditional style buildings in the centre of town. A nice atmosphere with plenty of little shops and cafe’s.
It’s also a great place to cycle from to reach Edam, around 3km away. There was a bit of a headwind, so we took a bit longer! Edam is a nice small town, famous for the Cheese, but also a pretty place with canals and ornate buildings. Perfect for a quick nibble on the famous stuff before moving on to our next stop, Alkmaar.
A Park & Ride at Alkmaar was our handy parking spot. As usual on this trip, out came the Brompton’s and off we cycled for around 2km to the busy town centre. Lot’s of small shops, giving an individual feel mingled with more canals and nice architecture.
Driving on after a bit of an exploration on foot, we decided to stop the night at Hoorn. Here we found another marina that welcomed the motorhome’s, Jachthaven Grashaven, Hoorn. They also provided us with use of their facilities….hot showers (1Euro), waste emptying, electric and toilets. All for 15 Euro per night, a very welcome addition.
The following morning we walked into Hoorn from the Marina, another typically Dutch character town. Getting around in Holland is rather easy, everything is well sign-posted, so walking, cycling and driving is rather simplified.
After leaving Hoorn, we took a drive out to Enkuizen and Medemblik. Then over to the coast to Callantsoog before parking up for the night at the Marina Willemsoord in Den Helder. This old naval base is now a mix of shops and restaurants and has motorhome parking for 13.50 Euro per night. Including use of a the really excellent facilities. A contemporay shower and toilet area along with motorhome dump and electric (1 Euro for 2 hours) and free wi-fi.
From Den Helder, it was time to cross over the 30km long straight road across the sea to Kornwerderzand. Through Bolsward and on to Sloten. This small pretty little village was where we had lunch, next to a marina, of course, where else in Holland!
Next up was the most stunning, if not a little tourist ridden of places, Giethoorn. An area of National Park, small narrow canals and our stop for the night. Alongside a larger canal at a private campers top, Camperpaats Haamstede.
This quirky little camperstop at 13 Euro per night, included use of very good showers and toilets. They also provided a very eccentric indoor information room! Here, you could sit in an old barn type building. Where the owners had provided log burners, sofa’s and a range of rather unique artefacts scattered around to add to the feeling of being in some sort of abandoned forest hut…just up our street!
Next morning, we braved the cold wind and cycled across the canal. Along the hub of mini canals, tiny arched bridges and beautiful cottage style buildings. Rather a lot of tourists mingled through the paths, although it’s quieter than peak season apparently. This is Giethoorn, we’d never heard of the place before. Since our trip, lots of people, mainly Dutch folk that we’ve met on our travels. Have certainly mentioned it to us!
It’s swarmed by coach loads of day-trippers, so be warned! Visit off-season or arrive early or late if you’re there during Summer. There’s not much passing space on those little bridges, so you’d soon get frustrated. Those idyllic instagram shots, would probably have a few unknown’s glaring down your lens!
Never ones to follow like sheep. We were keen to get out out of the coach drop off zones of Giethoorn. Ready to explore the wider countryside on our bikes. So, 30km later, through the pretty Spring landscapes surrounding Giethoorn itself. We’d well and truly immersed ourselves into the quieter areas.
Full of pretty fields of crops, stalls selling local jams, hedgerows where nesting Tits flew out around us. Farmers gathering crops by hand, stopped to give us a nod, as we cycled past. An added adventure, of a small river crossing at Jonen, had us boarding a barge for 3 Euro. Always good to have something a little different and unexpected, we felt like something out of an Enid Blyton book!
Well and truly shattered after our day of peddling. We headed on to Arnhem and a camperstop out of the centre at Latham. This yacht club camperstop for 15 Euro, had showers (50c), toilets and dump station. It was a pretty spot, overlooking a lake, better than staying in Arnhem itself. Which had a rather uninviting looking motorhome Aire, by the river.
Taking a walk through Veluwe National Park on a well marked forest trail was a nice detour. Mainly because we like a forest walk. But also we had the great pleasure of witnessing a wild Stag run right in front of us! We always say, we never know what we’ll see on a walk! Usually it’s the wildlife that is the best surprise!
Arnhem itself, is incredibly interesting. If you don’t already know, it’s famous, due to the battle of September 1944. Which was then brought to to cinema world in the epic Holywood film, A Bridge Too Far. We parked up after driving over the the bridge. Before following a marked trail of commemorative points of interest through the town.
We find war history incredibly interesting. Perhaps, due to it being the era that our parents were born in and our grandparents fought through it. Arnhem has an excellent museum, located at Oostereek, in a beautiful mansion type property. This was headquarters of the allies during the war and now displays the most interesting of information, all about the battle, known as Operation Market Garden. It is apparently closed at present for major renovation works and isn’t due to re-open until the end of 2021.
From here, we walked through the grounds, which was the actual battlefield. It’s now a beautiful area of woodland, where marked footpaths take you through to various landmarks. Passing deer parks and pretty ponds. It’s always amazing how something so lovely can be born from such devastation.
Arnhem also has a really good town centre, some good shopping and plenty of cafe culture. For us though, it was time to head back into Belgium. For our last few days before catching the Calais ferry back to Dover. Until next time Holland! This concluded our tour of Holland and the bulb fields in a motorhome.