Magical castles in South Holland

Tall, direct and often - extremely- extravert. The Dutch are not known for being refined, courteous or even humble. Dutch style is sober. In every day life you'll hardly ever find the ground covered with a red carpet in front of you . Fortunately we have a great Dutch tradition on Pentecost. On this bank holiday you can live your fairytale. See what it's like to live like a king. Several estates and a few magical castles in South Holland and in other Dutch regions open their doors to the public. A day to dive in a world of glamour and exciting history.

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Easter tulip celebration in the Keukenhof area

The blooming spring flowers make the Keukenhof area fantastic to explore between March and May. There are many special events in that period and the Easter tulip celebration is fabulous. The region of tulips, daffodils & hyacinths transforms into one big spring flower festival. Pack your easter eggs, fill your bottles with eggnog, get out of Amsterdam for a daytrip and discover the Keukenhof area with these tips.

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Leiden-Keukenhof bike tour : Family Outing

It's a 40 km bike ride, around 24 miles and a great mix of different typical dutch landscapes. the Leiden-Keukenhof bike tour is definitely worth it and a great idea for a family outing as well. See for yourself.

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November Light Festival Utrecht

It's a tradition of my own. When heavy grey clouds make autumn days gloomy I turn to the magic of light. Christmas lights in Holland city centres are little crisps, they make me feel at home. But, what really ignites the fire within me are the different light festivals. The November Light Festival Utrecht is like entering a feelgood fairytale.

november-11-saint-martin-celebration-utrecht

(updated 2 November 2019)

During the November Light Festival Utrecht the city celebrates its patron saint Sint Maarten, in English known as Saint Martin.  The celebration of previous years was a big success, which is why  the city organises different activities for the entire family again this year. All week long.

sint-maarten-lantern-parade-utrecht

I was completely enchanted. A giant lantern in the shape of Saint Martin himself led a long lantern parade. Children, their parents and members of different organisations followed with unique lanterns in all sizes and shapes. They didn't just walked through the streets: they sang, danced and their enthusiasm was so contagious that many joined the festivities. By seeing, hearing and living this November Light Festival Utrecht my inner happiness manifested in an all giving radiant smile. All of Saint Martin's friends and fans united in the small courtyard of the St Catharijne convent. Here  they sang songs about being together, being merciful and sharing with those in need, the exact same virtues connected with Saint Martin. In 2019 this light parade takes place on Saturday evening 9 November.

The November Light Festival Utrecht or Saint Martin's celebrations takes place from 3 till 11 November 2019

More information on all activities can be found on http://sintmaartenutrecht.nl/sint-maartensviering/programma

 

 

 

 

 

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Making of Hague Peace Challenge: Palace Tour

A Hague Peace Challenge wouldn't be complete without a stop at the Peace Palace in The Hague.  To come up with a good question and a creative assignment, I wanted to visit this mustsee in The Hague again, but I needed an incentive. Then my friend Jacqueline Alders, owner of I Guide you Through The Hague  told me that the annual summer Peace Palace tours had started again.

Peace Palace The Hague front side Peace Challenge Verita's Visit
Front side Peace Palace The Hague

Guided Tour through Peace Palace

One of the main goals in my life is to find the exceptional, to get off the beaten track. A long time ago I worked for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. One of the many departments organised a trip to the Peace Palace and, like many, I was curious to find out how the building looked from the inside. So, I went along. I remember beautiful objects, stained glasses, amazing decorations.  if you haven't done it: a guided tour through the Peace Palace is definitely worthwhile. There is no proof that I went inside; you are not allowed to take any pictures.

This statue is a gift by Chili to the Peace Palace. It represents the women, children and elderly who suffer from war.
This statue is a gift by Chile to the Peace Palace. It represents the women, children and elderly who suffer from war.

Peace Palace tour

There is a guided tour offered at the Peace Palace in which you are allowed to take pictures. It's the guided tour through the garden of the Peace Palace. Our guide Roos - what's in a name- not only told us about the flora and fauna, the landscaping and the statues, objects and plants that were given to the Peace Palace by the different nations. She also explained how shortly after the competition for the design of the Peace Palace, three garden architects were invited to compete against each other for the design of the grounds around the building. Thomas Mawson won the competition and became the designer.

Peace Palace guided tour garden Verita's Visit

Peace in the Palace Garden

In an earlier post I have tried to define peace. Mawson associated peace with balance, harmony, symmetry, soft leaves and no thorns ( except for the roses), water. While walking through the garden I thought about the the base of the Hague Peace Challenge. imaginary situation of constructing a second City of Peace and Justice in the Middle East.  I thought it would be interesting to integrate Mawson's ideas in the design of the City or in The Hague Peace Challenge itself.

If you are interested in visiting the gardens ( only in Dutch, on request in English) or the Peace Palace itself, use this link.

 I want to know more about the The Hague Peace Challenge

 

Update:  In The Hague Peace Challenge the question and creative assignment about the Peace Palace will be based on what you see and hear in the Visitor's Centre. If you are participating in the challenge, it could be a good idea to visit the centre before. Go for the opening hours to the website .


Top places to see heather in the Netherlands

 Sometimes I get so excited, I’m near to obsessed. The last weeks I’ve been checking different websites, social media almost every hour to see the updates. Updates of what, you might ask. Well, you know how in winter some Dutch are glued to the weather forecast hoping for the Eleven Cities Tour to happen? And you also know how in spring some Dutch and many tourists check sites like bloemenradar to see if and where the tulips in Holland are blooming? Well, then you should also know about the spectacular sight Dutch nature offers in August.

National phenomenon in August in the Dutch national park near Amsterdam
National phenomenon in August in the Dutch national park near Amsterdam

When is the best time to see heather in bloom?

These days I can just check on sites like Staatsbosbeheer or Natuurmonumenten if and where the heather is blooming. People living in the different Dutch regions where the heather flowers can be enjoyed now compete with each other to get the best pictures of the purple fields. A few years ago I still had to go and search the best places for heather myself. There even were years in which I went to one particular spot to find out the heather beetle had already eaten all the beautiful flowers, a day later I would go to another place to discover the heather was already gone. This year, seeing the pictures on the websites mentioned above it is an exceptional good year for the heather. One piece of advice: if you want to see the heather fields, go now. They only bloom a couple of weeks.

heather dunes Schoorle duinen national park Holland-veritasvisit
Schoorlse duinen one of my top places to see heather in the Netherlands

Top places to see heather in the netherlands

Three of my top places to see heather in the Netherlands this year are:

De Posbank, Gelderland. A beautiful hilly area with fantastic view points over the purple heather fields. I’ve cycled this area in Veluwezoom so many times, I can almost dream it. You can even spot deers and of course many sheep J It’s amazing!

Schoorlse Duinen, Noord-Holland. This is where I went to this year. With the whiteness of the dunes, the fantastic blue skies and the purple fields it is truly breathtaking. In Schoorl itself is a beautiful dune right in the middle of the town, which you really should visit. Around it there are several bars and restaurants and just around the corner is a Pinoccio where you can get a delicious ice-cream.

Dwingelerveld, Drenthe. This Dutch province is known for its dolmens, the prehistoric burial chambers. The cycle route through this area is diverse and quite surprising. You find different types of landscapes and these dolmens are scattered through the beautiful scenery of purple heather flowers.

Cycling through the Dutch dune landcape filled with heather
Cycling through the Dutch dune landcape filled with heather

Cycle routes and walking trails through nature parks the Netherlands

In this blog I have, as a true cycle fan, said I cycled these areas. There are of course also many walking trails through these nature parks in the Netherlands.  The most beautiful walking trails are explained on https://www.natuurmonumenten.nl/routes/de-mooiste-routes-over-de-heide

Walking trail through dunes & heather fields
Walking trail through dunes & heather fields

I do wish you a marvellous time in the midst of nature and heather. Please share your pictures of the purple field of heather in the comments or on facebook . In case you need any help in finding the best route, where to rent a bike or accommodation, you know where to find me.

Enjoy!

Got distracted by a branch of acorns
Got distracted by a branch of acorns

 

 


Afsluitdijk Water Wonder of the Netherlands

A tourist bus stops in front of the bridge. A group of Danes or German step out of the bus and follow their guide to the other side. Two elderly ladies eat an ice-cream while crossing the bridge. It looks so easy, but still there is no way you can get me to cross that bridge.

The longest Dutch dike

I'm standing in the middle of the Afsluitdijk, the 32 kilometer long dike that functions as bridge as well as frontier. It connects the Dutch provinces North Holland and Frisia (Friesland) and at the same time separates the North Sea from the IJsselmeer.   Quite a remarkable construction, if you think about it. The IJsselmeer once was sea, the Zuiderzee. It was a great area to catch saltwater fish. But  many floodings occured in the Zuiderzee region as well. Something had to be done. Sooner or later.

Lely Engineer water technology Afsluitdijk Netherlands-veritasvisit

 

The Afsluitdijk and a metrostation in Amsterdam

If you take the metro between Schiphol and Amsterdam Central you pass a station called Amsterdam Lelylaan. I've passed it so many times, I had to really think out loud where I had heard the name before when I stood in front of the statue of Cornelis Lely in the middle of the Afsluitdijk. Turns out he is the guy who came up with the Afsluitdijk. He was an engineer and had tried to get his plans to dam the Zuiderzee through in the Dutch parliament since 1913. In that year he became minister of Public Works. For years he promoted his project, but only in 1918 the government saw the need of the Afsluitdijk. In 1920 a start was made on the construction of the Afsluitdijk. The job was though and the project took years to finish. In 1932 the last stone was put in place.

Working on Afsluitdijk 1932 monument-veritasvisit

Last Stone of the frisian- north holland dike

In the middle of the Afsluitdijk is a stop where you can see the IJsselmeer as well as the North Sea. At the North Sea side is a statue of a stoneworker. On the opposite side is a watchtower that serves as a monument for the last stone that was put in place here.  I find it amazing how so many people can cross this bridge with this wind - there's always a strong wind up on a Dutch dike- , with cars passing  below at 130 km/hour.  Lely has turned his back on the sea, his statue focusses on the IJsselmeer and on the land which is protected by the Afsluitdijk. I turn my back to the bridge and walk back to the car.

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Impressions Flower Parade Westland Day

The last years I've seen the floating Flower Parade Westland on Delfland day, the last day of this local festival in South Holland. It was like a tradition, you could find me near the Schaapwei mill in Rijswijk, near 't Haantje and later on near the Nieuwe Plantage in Delft.  This year I wanted to see the boats decorated with flowers, fruit and vegetables at the start. I chose the Westland day on Saturday for a special reason.

Picnic time at Flower Parade Westland
Picnic time at Flower Parade Westland

Flower Parade Westland, it is a Dutch celebration

What I like about the Dutch is the way they turn a local festival like the Flower Parade Westland into a full day family outing. Early morning they load their stuff on their bikes or in the trunk of the car and head to their perfect spot to see the flower and vegetable decorated boats pass by. They reach their destination far before the start of the parade and then settle. Take out their foldable chairs, their picnic material, put their children on a blanket with some toys, give their dog a bone and then they're set.

Colourful boat supporting sick children.
Colourful boat supporting sick children.

Now I've followed their example and the last years I've taken my picknick basket. Then I discovered that on Saturday, the Flower Parade Westland Day there were all sorts of small local markets in the Westland towns. So, I decided I would buy some Westland produced local fruit and vegetables on the way. After the first stop, Sonnehoeck, a historical grape grower I became more and more excited. Everywhere were these stalls where you could buy tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With my basket loaded with all kind of yummie stuff I cycled to the start of the Flower Parade, the Trade Park Westland where the first decorated boats where already passing by.  A man saw my basket and a big smile came on his face. Turned out he had worked at a grape nursery in the Westland as a teenager and had a summer job in picking tomatoes. That was before he moved to the east of the country where he met his Chinese wife, who simply is delighted to see all the boats. He brings her to the Flower Parade Westland every year and while she is enjoying the decoration, memories flash through his mind. Love the way you can so easily get in contact with people during a local festival. And, at the Flower Parade Westland you'll find out a lot of the spectators have some kind of personal link to the festival.

Close up artistic creation Westland Flower Parade winner
Close up artistic creation Westland Flower Parade winner

I took my picknick basket and found a spot on top of a bridge, which offered quite a different perspective and from there took some pictures and some vids. The vids can be found on my Instagram account.

This boat even used flowers in the costumes!
This boat even used flowers in the costumes!
This decorated boat is my favourite. Love the mix of vegetables and flowers
This decorated boat is my favourite. Love the mix of vegetables and flowers

 

In 2021 the Westland flower parade will take place in July


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How a small café by the harbour became the core of the Vlaggetjesdag Challenge

It wasn't supposed to get all the attention, but somehow it did. A small café by the harbour became the core of the Vlaggetjesdag Scheveningen Challenge. This is how it happened.

Flags Flag Day Scheveningen-veritasvisit

Celebration of the Dutch New Herring

The new herring catch of the season calls for a typical Dutch celebration. A typical Dutch celebration calls for a challenge by Verita's Visit. So there we were, me and a bunch of international minded people, at the harbour of Scheveningen with just one mission: find out what Vlaggetjesdag Scheveningen was all about and if it was more than Dutch new herring.

King William and Madonna at Vlaggetjesdag

The participants had no idea what to expect, there were question marks all over their faces when we met at the Scheveningen library. As there was some drizzle outside that was expected to turn into heavy rainfall, we headed inside for a short introduction. The given information could be used during the challenge.  King William, Madonna, the painter Mesdag and of course the Dutch herring, also known as Hollandse Nieuwe  all dropped by in this introduction.

 

the go with the flow festival challenge

Exactly at the moment the rain stopped, the participants, now divided in teams, were off to the first location in the Scheveningen harbour where they had to answer a question and complete a creative challenge. Now, finding your way in a local festival is quite a challenge by itself, so at first all teams were a bit lost.  By the time they had done two or three challenges they got the hang of it. They somehow realized the best thing to do was to just go with the flow, dive into the festivities and have fun.

Enjoy the local atmosphere and get social with a local

The best thing on local festivals like Vlaggetjesdag Scheveningen is the atmosphere, everyone is relaxed and it's easy to make contact with locals or visitors.  Just like in the Leidens Ontzet Treasure Hunt  the participants of the Vlaggetjesdag Scheveningen Challenge had to step out of their comfort zone and get social with a local.

Sharing Experiences during Herring & Corenwijn tasting

At the end of the Scheveningen Vlaggetjesdag challenge we all gathered at Restaurant de Dagvisser. In this small café by the harbour we tasted 4 exquisite herring dishes with 4 types of Corenwijn. All teams shared their experiences there. When I asked them why they all had chosen the song 'Het kleine café aan de haven' for one of the challenges they all responded in unison: "Because it was the shortest!"

Tasting Dutch Herring & Corenwijn
Tasting Dutch Herring & Corenwijn in a small café in the harbour ( actually a restaurant ;) )

Small cafe by the harbour of Scheveningen

Athough they were all enjoyed, it was not the Hollandse Nieuwe,  the fishers' boats, the stands demonstrating the local crafts or the men and women in traditional clothing, it was a small café by the harbour that became the core of the Vlaggetjesdag Challenge edition 2016.

Female net repairer Scheveningen-veritasvisit


Special tour event activiteit Verita's Visit kaas & meer

The City of Summer Festivals in Utrecht Region

Rain. Companion for life. It was not invited at the party of this small city of summer festivals in Utrecht region, but still it came. It didn't matter, people were enchanted by the street theatre and the international festival was a huge success.

Drums Brought Me To Woerden

Music attracts people like honey to bees. From afar I could hear the beats of the drum and it was as if my OV-fiets was put under a spell. I've never been faster in locating a moving music band. I was immediately engulfed in the group of spectators that were dancing on the upbeat rhythm of the samba band. Big raindrops came down, but we weren't bothered by it, summer music brought a tropical atmosphere in the city centre of Woerden

Hendrik Jan de Stuntman in Woerden Street Theatre-veritasvisit

City of summer festivals 2016

In summer the small city of  Woerden turns into a city of summer festivals. Hardly a weekend goes by without some food event, concert, or artistic performance. Yesterday, 25 June 2016, street artists from all around the world took over the city. Together they showed how diverse street theatre can be. Hendrik Jan de Stuntman was slightly confronting, Funny Hats was creative, Fjarno the Parno taught us something about commercial spirit, Le Ballerine brought a magical dance on stilts, while Parasolo used the stilts to tell us about friendship. Then there was Medusa's World full of fairytale like creatures and many many more amazing artists using movements, gestures and facial expressions to tell their story.

Colorful dancers street theatre festival-veritasvisit

Final scene: the artist uses words to introduce himself.

"I chose this job because I like it. The real job is my life. I thank you for coming, in rain, in non-rain."

Luca Belleza, Italian street artist and master in threads and balloons.

Luca Bellezze Street Theatre Festival Woerden-veritasvisit
For more pictures of the Street Theatre Festival Woerden 2016 go to https://nl.pinterest.com/veritasvisit/

City of Summer festival agenda

A wonderful day full of wonders in Woerden. Take a look at the city agenda to see which events and festivals are coming up in this summer festival city.

Supertip

Never visited the city of Woerden and its surroundings or are all your friends on holiday? Verita's Visit organises customised Culture & Cheese tours,  an all senses experience full of food, culture, history and nature. With this activity and the small challenge you can do, you easily connect with locals and other travellers, so you can visit the food festival together afterwards. You can easily request more information or book by following the link above or sending an email to travel(@)veritasvisit.nl

 

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