Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Zeeland Musts - What I'd Show You, If I Could

When people come out to visit us, I feel it is my personal duty to introduce them too all things wonderful -- wherever we may be. The thought of someone leaving without seeing something that I find dear troubles me to no end, which is why I'm forever packing up the kids and heading out to explore. Most recently, it's Zeeland (The Netherlands) and Bavaria (Germany) that have become the objects of our affection.

In August, determined though I was to make my Uncle Paul, Aunt Teri, and cousins Alyssa and Evan's trip worthwhile, I also came up with an idea. Although our time here is almost up, why not make a little sample itinerary for people coming out to visit. It's a lists of sorts of my very favorite things to do here in this region -- and just as suitable for families with young children as it is adults and families with older children. (The Bavarian list will follow.)

You'll notice that I've focused on Zeeland (and surrounds) and left Amsterdam out of the equation. The reason being, that although it really is a must for anyone visiting Holland, I'd limit it to 2 days, as I find it paints a wharped picture of what The Netherlands is all about. There's more to this incredible country than legalized sex and drugs.

First, let me highlight what's so special about Zeeland. It's somewhat remote, so it still has a bit of a laid-back island feel. Many shops are still closed on Mondays. People are seldom in a hurry (and perhaps it is worth mentioning that anyone finding themselves in a hurry, will have €100 speeding tickets to pay -- imagine, being fined regularly for being in a rush. And I promise you, nothing teaches you to SLOW DOWN like several hundred Euros in speeding tickets.)

Only in slowing down, do you truly see the farm land, smell the onions, and spot lazy horses stretching in the fields (ok, that last bit is the current the scene in my own "backyard"). Here, life becomes so slow and relaxed, that you have time to contemplate the seasons. Time to read. Time to picnic. Time for values. Time seems to go backwards. To a simpler time. It really is all about time... time gained, that is.

And with all that time, you'll want to make the most of it.

1) For starters, when you have a day with good weather, take advantage of it! Get out on the cycles. Cycling maps are available at any tourist office (see http://www.vvvzeeland.nl/), and bicycles can be rented at the Middelburg or Vlissignen train stations. Many B&Bs also offer complimentary use of bicycles. One of my favorite cycling routes is through the "Zak van Zuid Beveland", including the sleepy towns of Hoedekenskerke and Baarland. If you can't fit the cycles in the car, take them on the train to Goes. From Goes you can take the old steam train to Hoedekenskerke.

Once there, don't miss the neat old train station (with a steam train, playground, wooden clog-making demonstration, great souvenir shop, etc) and picturesque windmill. Then cycle onto Baarland, where you can visit the Hellenburg ruins and enjoy lunch in an old church (or picnic on the lawn in front of an old castle) before returning to Hoedekenskerke. You'll want to check with the train conductor, but most days the last train back to Goes leaves at 16:20... and you'll want to be on it!

2) Explore Middelburg. If you have kids, spend the morning at the popular new MiniMundi theme park. If you don't, spend your morning at the Zeeuwse Museum, located in an old abbey just off the "Damplein" parking area.

In the afternoon, head into the city center. Park at the "Geere" parking garage (where you'll be sure not to get a €50 ticket for exceeding the time alotted by the meter), then take a short walk to the "Grote Markt", or main market square. Don't miss "Lange Jan" -- where for €3, you can climb 207 stairs for a wonderful view of the city (open from March until October, Monday to Saturday, from 11:00 - 16:00).

3) Another good weather day? Get out on the water! You can go windsurfing or kitesurfing on the "Veerse Meer" (visit http://www.windsurfschool.nl/ or http://www.xschool.nl/) , picnic on the beach (in Kamperland or on one of Vrouwenpolder's pristine beaches), and finish the day with a pot of fresh Zeelandic mussels at any number of restaurants.

4) Visit the old maritime town of Veere, with it's charming cobblestone streets, bell tower, and yacht harbour. You can also travel from Middelburg to Veere via boat. For information in english, contact the VVV tourism bureau. This is one of Zeeland's best preserved towns, and it really is magical.

5) Learn about the Zeelanders' constant battle with their water, evident both in their coat of arms, latin for "I struggle and I emerge" and their flag, depicting a lion half emerged in water. Two incredible museums: the Delta Works theme-park-like Neeltje Jans and the eye-opening Watersnood Museum in the town of Ouwekerke.

Additional Excursions:
Antwerp is a must, and is just 40 minutes from Zeeland. Park at the Grote Market parking garage, or take a train into the city. If you don't have children, start with a carriage ride of the old city center, then explore by foot. Duck into the catheral to the amazing works of famous Rennaissance painter Peter Paul Rubens. If you do have children, begin in the gorgeous Antwerp Zoo, with it's pretty english garden. Located just behind the central train station, this zoo was begun in 1843 and is full of well-preserved historic buildings. Once the kids are sleepy, let them snooze in the carriage while you explore the city center and stunning market square by foot.

Brussels or Brugge. In Brugge, eat Belgian waffles at "Carpe Diem" near the beautiful Wijngaardplein area, wander around the nearby convent, check out incredible Market Square. In Brussels, visit the "Grote Markt" and "Rue des Bouchers", or restaurant row, before heading out to the famous Atomium.

And there you have it, one of Liz's famous tours... in a nutshell.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks Liz, I just told Edwin I wanted to go windsurfing and tada, you provide the info:)