It was the option of the pickup a mile from home, that attracted us to a
Shearings holiday. That and the opportunity to travel the Dutch canals on the MV
Amazonica cruise ship. It was a civilised way of spending five days in Holland.
I had supposed it would not be feasible to drive a coach around all the
destinations to pick up a ship full of people; and so it transpired. In fact the
pickup was by minibus, and our driver was waiting for us at the designated
place. We travelled via Peacehaven to collect another passenger and then along
the coast road to Dover. The coach was filled from other feeder minibuses, which
had been hired to cover different parts of the country. It was clearly a
carefully organised system and timing was quoted to the minute.
The travel plan was to board the coach for the ferry to Calais. We had a
smooth crossing before travelling on to the Novatel hotel on the outskirts of
Lille for dinner and an overnight stay. Careful planning was again evident. We
dined as a party and exactly the right quantity of food was allocated, down to
the number of croissants for breakfast.
Our cruise ship was moored at Amsterdam. Excursions around Amsterdam were
organised including a wine and cheese party on a night tour of the canals. For
the adventurous a ticket can be purchased, which permits unlimited travel for
two hours. I favour trams for these journeys safe in the knowledge that the
transport has to follow the lines back the way they came. Our return to the ship
had to be by bus and although we had memorised the number we were unsure where
to find the bus stop. Fortunately a Dutch lady steered us to the right vehicle
since, to add to the confusion, the bus did not change its number until just
Cabins on the MV Amazonia were quite spacious. An adequate lounge with bar
was an attraction in the evening when we were entertained by a singer and
musician on an electronic keyboard. Whereas the facilities were less than are
available on an ocean going cruise they were sufficient since there were
excursions every day.
At meal times the waiters were particularly attentive. Individual food
preferences were noted. My wife dislikes cheese, and this was removed from any
dishes that were given her. Slightly tongue cheek, I asked for no garlic and
this, also, was noted. Most of the staff were Czech. They spoke English nearly
as well as the Dutch.
We particularly liked the village of Hoorn; a place that had its beginning
in the 15th-16th century. It retains an historic charm and a relaxed atmosphere.
Unfortunately it rained but shelter could be found in the many coffee-houses. We
chose one decorated with enormous weighing machines hanging from the ceiling.
They made an intriguing contrast with the delicacy of the servings.
Volendam is orientated to the tourist industry. Many windmills are
operating and demonstrations given of a variety of industries such as grinding
corn, and hammering rock. Cheese making by ladies in traditional costume was
popular. I was more interested in the machines for making clogs. A master clog
was fitted alongside a piece of wood and the shape hewn out by a grinding wheel.
It was constrained to follow the shape of the master clog by a similarly shaped
prod that moved over the outline. The whole operation was completed in a few
We arrived via inland waterways at Schoonhoven the fourth day. It is a
quiet town founded in 1280 and as long ago as 1375 the silversmith trade was
started. The numerous shops selling watches, gold and silverware maintain the
centuries' old traditions. It was a sunny day and drinks could be taken outside
The visit to the magnificent Keukenhof gardens was organised for the fourth
day. We roamed along the extensive arrays of tulips, hyacinths and many other
flowers. In the greenhouse varieties of orchids were displayed. It was a place
to relax and contemplate the surroundings over a cup of coffee or two.
On our return journey to Lille we stopped for an afternoon tour of Antwerp.
An opportunity to view the famous Gothic cathedral and its enormous spire, dally
over a cup of hot chocolate in the Grote Markt and watch the world go by.
The remainder of the journey was the reverse of the outgoing. We had the
same hotel, the same dinner and the same number of croissants for breakfast.