Belgium and Holland were full of sights, culture, and cuisine. We were greeted with cool weather and only a few hours of rain — something I was told was quite remarkable for the time of the year. During our last two days on the tour, we were even met with sunshine, just in time to visit the famous tulip gardens. We visited several cities. Some were small and quaint — Veere and Kampen; and some were bustling with activities — Bruge and Amsterdam. All were picturesque and full of rich history.
The local cuisine was quite the treat: waffles, chocolate, appeltaart, cheese, and beer all around.
True Belgian waffles are sweet and delicious. They could be found at cute, little chocolate and candy shops along the streets of Brussels and Bruge. You can have them topped with just about anything. I liked mine with fresh strawberries and whipped cream.
Belgian chocolate is unlike any chocolate I have ever had. A local guide recommended Dumon Chocolatier in Bruge, and it was truly amazing. I recommend pausing, closing your eyes, and letting your taste buds take over.
The appeltaart at Café Winkel in Amsterdam was delicious: a deep-dish-style cake filled with apples and cinnamon and topped with whipped cream. Dining at a café is a truly relaxing experience and unlike anything I have experienced in the U.S. Meals are meant to be enjoyed, and you should always plan ample time to sit, relax, and enjoy your favorite espresso drink.
Gouda cheese can be found in delis, cafés, and shops around the cities. I had my broodje kaas (cheese sandwich) on rye with spicy mustard and pickles: a no-fuss sandwich that satisfied the soul.
The Dutch are very proud of their brewing history. It is quite common to see locals enjoying a cold beverage at cafés all day long. We also made a stop in Amsterdam at Proeflokaal Arendsnest, a bar devoted to Dutch craft beers. It was fun to see and try the local flavors. There is definitely an art to pouring and serving a beer.
The trip was capped off with a visit to the Keukenhof Gardens — “Kitchen Gardens” — with its stunning display of floral delights. Beds of tulips surrounded us at every turn as we strolled along the walkways. Surrounding the gardens were fields and fields of tulips — planted not for their beauty, but rather, to harvest tulip bulbs. There was a windmill on site that we were able to climb up into. It was fascinating to see the way the gears worked, and it provided us with an amazing view of the tulip fields. The gardens are open for only eight weeks out of the year, making them a must-see for anyone visiting the area during that time.
The trip to Belgium and Holland was an amazing adventure. I am so thankful for the experience and the friendships made along the way.