First day of Cycling – Zaandam to Haarlem with a Stop in Zaanse Schans



IMG_1420Our first day of cycling through the Dutch countryside started right after our satisfying breakfast on board the Magnifique III.  This bike & boat tour was so well organized.  After dinner the night before, the guides, Arie and Tami, gathered us all together near the bar and reviewed our itinerary for the following day, explaining the route we would be taking, handed out maps and written route directions and in general got us all up to speed on how it would work.

In the morning, after breakfast, they had all of our bikes set outside with a name tag attached to each bike so all one had to do was look for your first name!  They had already adjusted the seats to the height they thought would be good for each individual and made any adjustments on the spot, if necessary.  After a little practice getting used to the bike in a nearby empty car park, we were soon peddling along through the village of Zaandam in single file.

Half of us were English speaking; the other half spoke Quebec French, so Arie took the half that spoke English, and Tami led the other group along the same route.

Below are a set of pictures that show the inside of the map, a close-up of the route written directions and I also highlighted the map in green so you can see the route we cycled (about 33 kilometers).

Our first stop was in the recreated village of Zaanse Schans.


Zaanse Schans is a neighborhood with historic windmills and distinctive green wooden houses which were relocated here to recreate the look of an 18th/19th-century village. The Zaans Museum has regional costumes, model windmills and interactive exhibits on chocolate making. Artisan workshops demonstrate rare handicrafts such as wooden clog carving, chocolate making, spice grinding with giant stones, and cheese making to name a few.

We parked our bikes and had about an hour or so to explore the village, visit the inside of windmills and stroll through the village admiring the houses and architecture.


Each windmill served a distinct function.  Some were sawmills, others ground earth and minerals for paint making, while others ground spices or grain.


We didn’t have enough time to go into each windmill but you can bet your bottom dollar that we did visit the chocolate making one! Once inside one could grab a paper cup and make your own cup of hot chocolate and of course buy all kinds of wonderful delectable chocolate creations such as truffles!  Yum!


IMG_0578I particularly liked these unique items.  It looked like a box of rusty old locks, keys, wrenches, and pliers, but in all reality, they were made out of chocolate!  So realistic looking! What a clever idea!


IMG_0586Once outside again, I sat down on an old grist stone with my cup of hot chocolate and savored its rich taste.  As I sat there admiring the view, I paid particular attention to the ground we had been walking along.  I had assumed we were walking on small pebbles, but much to my delight I discovered upon closer inspection it was really a lot of seashells!



We are all familiar with the fact that the Dutch Merchants sailed around the world collecting spices, so I visited the mill that grinds those spices in powder…

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…then I walked around the neighborhood of old homes in the village enjoying their unique structures, quaint cottages, and gardens.

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The time was running out so I headed back toward the entrance to rejoin the rest of the cycling group and came upon the clog making factory!


Inside, they had all sorts of clogs on display in glass cases and some nice vintage posters.  Some of the clogs were the usual one would expect to see; while others were quite unique and made me laugh!


They even provided demonstrations of how they make them in the clog making section, but I didn’t have enough time to sit and watch.  Looked fascinating.

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Soon we were all cycling along the rest of the route through the countryside enjoying the fields and “fresh air” (a term Arie liked to use meaning a bit of a headwind!)



IMG_0629The terrain is very flat with a small bridge here and there so the peddling was pleasant as we viewed cattle in the fields and canals everywhere.










IMG_0634We stopped for lunch at the ferry crossing.  After breakfast each day, the boat provided provisions for each of us to make our own packed lunch from a choice of cheeses, meats, fruits, drinks, and sweets such as cookies or candy bars.  They think of everything!

We enjoyed the view along the river as we ate our lunch and waited for the ferry to come over to our side to carry us across so we could peddle the rest of the route to Haarlem.

As we peddled through the countryside during the course of the day, the boat made its way from Zaandam along the canal to the next destination, Haarlem. When we arrived, there it was, docked, waiting for our return!

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Once we parked our bikes and changed our biking clothes into something more comfortable, we all gathered in the lounge exchanging ideas, photos, stories and enjoying ourselves while dinner was being prepared.


This group of fine folks I am with are from a place relatively close to my own neck-of-the-woods, Reno, Nevada.  It was really fun to hang out with them and get to know them. (From left to right: me, John, Patty, Gail, Liz, Patty, and Sharon)


After our scrumptious dinner, we all enjoyed some more chit chatting, cocktails and laughs and once again gathered together for a ‘briefing’ on the next days’ itinerary, which includes a visit to the world-famous Keukenhof Gardens!  This is the place I’ve been waiting for and the whole reason I wanted to come to the Netherlands in the first place.

As usual, however, that will be a blog post of its own and you won’t want to miss the glorious displays of tulips, hyacinths, daffodils and all other sorts of spring bulbs!

Attitude of Gratitude ~

I am so lucky to be traveling with such wonderful, fun-loving folks and having such expert guides making my bike tour a breeze. I am also grateful to have the opportunity to visit ancestral lands from my mother’s side of the family.  My mother’s maiden name is Tholen, with ties to the Netherlands and Germany. Like my trips to Scotland, I feel akin to this magical land of Holland and its people.



Author: Claudia Frew

Adventuresome, independent, and fun-loving 68-year young American great-grandmother who loves to travel; often going solo!

6 thoughts on “First day of Cycling – Zaandam to Haarlem with a Stop in Zaanse Schans”

  1. Your bike excursion sounded so interesting with the windmills and the fact that the boat traveled along and met you was really cool. Can’t wait to see all the bulbed plants in the next post!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi Gary! So pleased you and Sharon enjoyed this latest post. Been working on editing the photos for the next. Soooo many photos – is proving difficult which ones to share and which to leave out since there are about 300! Geez!


    1. Hi Suzie… had a feeling you might like the windmills! I know I did, and thought of you when I was there. I especially liked the kissing Dutch girl and boy set like the one mom used to have sitting over the kitchen sink when we were kids.


      1. Oh yeah, I remember those dutch figurines! Forgot about them. The tulip gardens were just spectacular and you had such great weather and sunny conditions for it. What a feast for your eyes and such a great experience for you! It’s just amazing how many kinds and variations of bulb flowers there really are. Beautifully landscaped with meandering streams and water features. Great post Claudia!


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