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Nice Things

NATURE AND THE GREAT OUTDOORS

canoe by the moon http://www.rijnstroom.nl/ paddle through the canals of Utrecht (U), or see the moon rise as you paddle through the woods (NL)

guided cycle or walking tours bhttp://www.letsgo-amsterdam.com/ Dutchies Frederik and Piet offer various guided bike tours of areas near Amsterdam (but not in it - too risky!) and guided walks in Amsterdam itself.

hiring a boat or ship  http://botenverhuur.pagina.nl/ This boat hire page has links to all sorts of watercraft available for hire, with or without a skipper. It includes boats for inland waters as well as at sea, and has categories for river cruise boats, motor boats, yachts, canoes, Friesian skutsjes, fully catered holidays aboard ship, party boats, 'whisper' boats, and even a gondola in Amsterdam. See also its sister pages of links for party & day trip boat hire, cruise boats, and watersport. (NL)

land, air and water fun http://www.glope.nl/ Have an impressive range on offer for a day of fun. The air (lucht) section includes ultra lights, helicopter lessons, and glider lessons. The water section includes midnight sailing, waterskiing, and beach-sea yacht adventues. The land section includes tough stuff like jeep rallies, quad tours and survival course, but also some cute stuff like scooter tours and 2CV tours. The site is all in Dutch, but you can always contact them in English. (NL)

ocean fishing http://come.to/zeevissen extensive site about ocean fishing, how to, where to, etc.  Unfortunately all in Dutch! (NL)

polder sport http://www.deboerinn.nl/ location: Kamerik (ZH). Specialise in rural sporty activities (some but not all typically Dutch) for kids, stag parties, or just for fun. Activities include tractor pulling, pitchfork throwing, building rafts and bridges, pole vaulting over ditches and to quote: 'everyone has cycled over the fields, but what about canoeing through them-' Well yes.  Showers for afterwards - bring dry clothes. You can also make Dutch farm cheese (boerenkaas), and they have lots to do inside in the winter months. Have your speakers on as you open the website to hear the cows. (NL)

SkÃtsjesilenhttp://www.skutsje.nl/english/index.html If you're into sailing, then you have to go out on one of these traditional Frisian sailing boats at least once. It can be a pretty expensive outing as most only offer rental of the entire boat (with skipper) but these have some reasonable prices for a few hours out on the water (with some extra activities):
For a higher price, you can also rent a skûtsje for longer periods - many are fitted out with beds, heating, water, kitchen etc so that you can enjoy a week out there.

tulips http://www.keukenhof.nl location: Lisse (ZH).  If you want to see tulips, Keukenhof is the place to go. Every spring - check site for exact dates.  Even if you're not a flower freak, the variety and beauty of the tulips and (in the Koningin Beatrix Pavillon) the orchids will knock you out of your socks. Keukenhof is surrounded by tulip, hyacinth and daffodil farms, so even if you don't go in, a drive around this area in the spring is worthwhile.

underwater sculpture garden http://www.rauwbraken.nl/ a submerged Roman sculpture garden in Strandbad Rauwbraken, near Berkel-Enschot (NB). You need a valid diver's certificate to do this. By arrangement only, tel: 06 - 26608402 (NL)

water gardens http://www.adahofman.nl Ada Hofman is an expert in ornamental ponds and her gardens are super spectacular. Her speciality is keeping ponds clear and clean without using chemicals or filters, and the gardens also serve as an educational centre. The gardens also have the largest green frog population in NL! The photos on the website doesn't really do it justice. If you like gardening, this is an absolute must.

wetlands safari by canoe http://www.wetlandssafari.nl/index2.htm Guided canoe tours through the wetlands near Amsterdam, May to September, a bargain at -30 for a 5 hour trip including extras.

windmills - new http://home.wxs.nl/~windsh/english.html With all the wind we get here, it would be a waste not to use it, and they do. The new windmills are the sleek, white metal structures with three blades at the top, just like we had in the lounge room at home, but much bigger.  Personally, I find a long row of gigantic shiny white windmills an impressive sight, but there is a lobby to stop them as they 'damage the horizon'! As Holland is making an effort to move toward more environmentally friendly energy, they're now considering placing them on platforms in the sea instead. This website shows you where some of the bigger clusters of windmills are.

and don't forget to try the section headed 'sport' for details on hiking, cycling, ice skating and inline skating.

ANIMALS

Apenheul - monkeys galore http://www.apenheul.nl/ location: Apeldoorn (Gld). Almost every sort of monkey and primate you can imagine, many of them running and jumping free around you. They also have one of the largest gorilla colonies in the world.

baby seal crechehttp://zeehondencreche.nl Location: Pieterburen (Gr). Orphaned seal pups and injured adult seals are brought here for care until they are able to be released back into the wild.  Worth a visit to see all those big brown eyes.

beavers in the Biesbosch http://www.dordt.nl/biesboschcentrum/ The Hollandse Biesbosch is a fresh water tidal area, which was created by the St Elizabeths floods of 1421, and is part of the Biesbosch National Park. The flora and fauna of this area is quite special. Musk rats - a deadly enemy in other parts of the Netherlands, as their underwater burrows weaken the dykes - are allowed to live here and their burrows can be seen at low tide.  Beavers have also been reintroduced to the area after a century and a half without them; a pair of them live in a protected area near the visitors centre, and can be seen sleeping by day (special window, weak light), or beavering away at twilight from the hides. The Biesbosch is an excellent area to go for a canoe or rowboat, or a hike - don't forget the picnic basket.

democratic dairies where else but the Netherlands would they have dairies where the COW chooses when it would like to be milked? Each cow has a collar with a microchip. When a cow feels a bit too full udderneath, she strolls into the (unmanned) dairy, where a machine guided by sensors attaches a pump to the udder, and the cow is milked. When it's done, the pump detaches, and the cow wanders back out for another snack. You can see this system in action at: Proefboerderij Waiboerhoeve, Wisentweg 55, 8219 PL Lelystad (Flv), tel: 0320 - 293475.

falcons, border collies and coach horses http://www.dierenclinics.nl/ This company runs outdoor courses to teach you the basics in falconeering; driving a coach of horses; and herding sheep or geese with border collies. Programs and prices are arranged individually to suit you. Based in IJsselstein (U). (NL)

Friesian horses  Not just a Dutch breed of horse, but also the oldest horse breed in Europa. They are always completely black in colour, and they are truly impressive looking horses. Info in English can be found at http://www.friesianhorsesociety.com/

goat farm http://www.geitenboerderij.nl/ Organic goat farm where you can meet the goats, see them being milked, and cheese being made. You can also have a crack at this yourself. They also have a farm shop, where you can buy all of their products, a patting farm, play area for kids, and café. Location: Amstelveen (NH) (NL)

otter park http://www.otterparkleeuwarden.nl/ Location: Leeuwaarden (Fr). Spread over a 7ha park, so you see the otters by boat, or in the underwater tunnel. They also have other animals including beavers (which incidentally is what they call the Brownies here! And they wonder why I laugh!) (NL)

parrots, emus and kangaroos on the loose! http://www.papegaaienpark.nl/ location: Veldhoven (NB). The Dutch Parrot Refuge cares for parrots brought to them by Customs, animal welfare groups, and pet owners unable to keep their parrots any longer.  Although their primarily purpose is to help parrots and educate the public, they also have a park which can be visited. They have some big walk aviaries (their Giant Aviary alone is 2,500 m2) as well as large cages, with about 2,200 all up. They also currently have 3 emus, and 8 'kangaroos' some of whom have been breeding. (I think the roos are actually wallabies going by the photo). You can take fresh fruit with you to feed to the animals. The website alone is extensive and worth a visit.

pigs  http://www.hetbeloofdevarkensland.nl/ the website translates as 'the promised land for pigs' and is run by Dafne Westerhof, a 'practical dreamer' and pig fan. She runs courses on getting to know pigs, and even for pig massage http://www.varkensmassage.nl (NL)

traditional shepherds These are still to be found in Drenthe. Jelle Kootstraat is a shepherd that doesn't object to visitors coming to watch him taking the sheep out to pasture every day. The herd leaves from the Holtingerschaapskooi every morning at 9:30, and returns about 4:30pm. Further info from the VVV in Havelte (Dr), tel: 0521-341222.

wild animal safari http://www.safaripark.nl/  See over a hundred species of animals and birds of prey from all five continents, in environs that have been made as 'natural' as possible (bar the climate of course). There are various ways to see the park: by safari bus, by safari boat, and with your own car. There is even a 4km walking track. There are also opportunities to participate in feeding the animals (and I don't just mean letting the kids wind the window right down). Next door is the sister company:
Safari Camping if you stay here you get unlimited free entry to the Safari Park and Playground at-
Speelland Beekse Bergen playground and swimming park for kids
All three sites in Dutch only (NL)

wild deer http://www.aardhuis.nl(NL) location: Hoog Soeren (Gld). The Veluwe area is where you're most likely to see deer, and this park has lots of them - the sort with big velvetty antlers. They're rutting in the autumn, so that's the best time to see them. You can also hear the stags making those impressive burping noises - it's called 'burlen' in Dutch (anyone know the English word?). If you'd like to hear it, click HERE and then click on BURL. The visitors centre / museum is the old hunting lodge of King William III, who lived at nearby Paleis Het Loo.

HISTORY - NOT NECESSARILY BORING!

Archeonhttp://www.archeon.nl Location: Alphen a/d Rijn (ZH). This theme park is divided into three sections: Prehistory, the Roman Period and the Middle Ages. Correct details have been followed as much as possible (e.g. no electricity) and it's both educational and fun. They grow crops from those eras, have artisans (using the same implements and raw materials as they did then), and on occasion there is food and music of those times.

carved underground caves & tunnels http://www.kasteelvalkenburg.nl/ Underneath the town of Valkenburg (L) is an extensive labyrinth of caves and tunnels, formed by the removal of the stone (rather like sandstone) for building.  The caves have been used over the centuries for refuge in times of war, but also as a creative outlet for local and professional artists, who have carved pictures into the walls, and created some beautiful (as well as some truly dreadful) sculptures. You need to a guide to take you through - there are about 8,000 passages in the tunnels with a total length of 157km! There are two entrances for the public: the Fluweelengrot, and the Gemeentegrot.  Personally, I thought the Gemeentegrot was nicer. You can take the tour there on a little open train, or by foot. There is a Christmas market in the tunnels from mid November to mid December - quite atmospheric, but extremely busy, so avoid weekends if possible, and get there early!

Delta Works (Zld) http://www.neeltjejans.nl/en/index.php Most of us here are living in a place that would still be underwater if it wasn't for the Dutch, but the work wasn't all done centuries ago. During the 1953 floods 1,855 people drowned; 47,000 homes, 500km of dykes, and large tracts of farmland were destroyed as well. The Delta Project was the Dutch response to this catastrophe, and it's the reason I sleep on stormy nights, despite living 5m below sea level. An impressive exhibition, and something you really ought to see while living here. It's located in the middle of the Delta Works, as you cross over the Oosterschelde heading south toward to Zeeland.

dolmens (megalithic tombs) http://users.bart.nl/~jbmeijer/frntpage.htm These date from the New Stone Age - approx 5,000 year ago - and probably served as mass graves. There are 54 existing 'Hunebedden' or megalithic tombs in the Netherlands, mostly in Drenthe.  The National Hunebed Centre is at Bronnegerstraat 12, Borger (Dr), tel: 0599 - 236374

drive over the IJsselmeer One more nice idea, perhaps en route to something else, is to drive over the IJsselmeer.  It's a strange feeling seeing so much water on both sides of the road without it being a bridge. The Afsluitdijk is part of the A7, taking you from the top of Noord Holland over to Friesland. I prefer the smaller one that goes from Enkhuizen to Lelystad - it's only the width of the 2 lane road, and you can clearly see the water on both sides the whole way. Especially impressive on stormy days, when the waves crash up toward you!

Netherlands Open Air Museum - Arnhem (Gld) http://www.openluchtmuseum.nl/Algemeen/engels-01.html Living museum of the Netherlands between 1700 & 1970 with over 85 buildings (windmills, farms, houses) daily demos of  bread baking, cheese making. Also has 'HollandRama' to quote: 'combination of futuristic time capsule and 19th-century panorama theatre. The time capsule has a rotating stage with seats which can be lifted to 7.5m; mounted on rails, it can cover a distance of 11 meters; while it can be turned horizontally 360 degrees. Together with theatrical lighting and scent, temperature, and sound-effects, the visitor is given penetrating and sensorial experiences and illusions.' The website also has 3D photos from around the museum that you can zoom into and around.

Netherlands Open Air Museum - Eindhoven (NB) http://www.historisch-openluchtmuseum-eindhoven.nl/ Similar to the museum in Arnhem. The website is not as detailed - don't know what the actual difference in the two is in reality. (NL)

Commonwealth war graves http://www.arnhem1944.com/ Useful (amateur) site in English about WW2 graves, monuments and events in the Arnhem area, site of Operation Market Garden. The official Commonwealth War Graves Commission website http://www.cwgc.org/ is also useful. Site has a search facility so you can look for graves of relatives lost in wars.

Zaanse Schanshttp://www.zaanseschans.nl Located at Koog-Zaandijk (NH). The Zaanse Schans is a living museum of 17th & 18th century houses and windmills, with artisans at work. Very popular with tourists as it's close to Amsterdam, so be early.

Zuiderzee Museum http://www.zuiderzeemuseum.nl/language/engels/index.htm learn about how the Dutch turned a large sea inlet into a large freshwater lake by building a dike from North Holland to Friesland (the Afsluitdijk).

FOR KIDS

Binnenpret Australian Indoor Beach http://www.strandnoorddijk.nl/ Noorddijker 26, Groningen (Gr) tel: 050-5497699. The owner lived in Australia for many years, and he has recreated an 'indoor Bondi Beach'! See the website for pics. Good place to throw a beach party (at least you can be sure of good weather)

jungleling - fairy tale park http://www.efteling.nl Location: Kaatsheuvel (NB). Including moving puppets in the woods, boofy gnomes ('People of Laaf') doing boofy things, and some wonderful theme rides. Beware! You may need to queue up to 2 hours for the rides!! Avoid achool and public holidays if possible and above all, get there early!

Europe's biggest playground http://www.linnaeushof.nl Not a fun park: Linnaeushof is a huge playground, with over 350 different pieces of playground equipment. They have all sorts of swings, seesaws, slides, and climbing equipment; also flying foxes, go-karts, boats, bridges, lookout towers, trampolines and so on. There are sections for kids of different ages. Lots of things to do indoors in case of bad weather.  Entry -6, open March to September. Located in Bennebroek (NH) near Haarlem.

more old fashioned fun parks Other 'slow fun' parks can be found in: (ZH), Gorinchem (ZH), Berg en Dal (Gld), Wijchen (Gld), Hengelo (O), Breda (NB), Hilvarenbeek next to the safari park Beekse Bergen (NB), Bladel (NB), Volkel (NB), Wanroij (NB), Tegelen (L), Groningen (Gr), Aalsmeer (NH), Zwaagwesteinde (Fr), (most of these sites NL only)

kid friendly café Enfant Terrible is a café especially set up so parents can eat and drink a snack while their kids run riot (under supervision). They will also babysit for up to 3 hours while you go out and shop.  Enfant Terrible, De Genestetstraat 1, Amsterdam (NH), tel: 020 - 6382884

Madurodam http://www.madurodam.nl Location: The Hague (ZH). Highlights of Holland in 1:25 scale. It may sound like a ghastly tourist attraction, but its actually lovely due to the attention to detail - thousands of bonsai trees, tiny flowers, things moving everywhere. The miniature of the Storm Surge Barrier just outside the souvenir shop is worth seeing - not so much for what it does, as for the looks of pride on the faces of the Dutch - this gate is what keeps their country from becoming the German coastline again. (The real thing is at Hoek van Holland.)

mazes to lose the kids in

The biggest maze in Europe is in Ruurlo (Gld) www.vvvruurlo.nl Open May to October. Let the kids loose in here, get yourself a cool drink, and hope they don't find their way out too soon! Tel: 0573 - 453926 (NL)
Or you can try this one in Bakkeveen (Gr) http://www.doolhofpark.nl/ This one has three mazes, one each of stone wood and hedge.  But- this one also has a heated outdoor pool! Tel: 0516 - 541493. (NL)

Omniversum http://www.omniversum.nl/ special effects cinema in the Hague (ZH). You lie back in your seat under a domed roof with a projection surface of 840m2, and that and the super-duper sound system submerges you in the experience. Programs include dolphins, '3D mania', Antarctica and the human body. And as of 01.09.2003: "Australia: The Great Outback" - fantastic shots of the Great Australian Bight, Lake Eyre in flood, and the Bungle Bungles, and an educational bit about what happens when the rains hit. But there are also plenty of shots of various cuddly and/or deadly animals.  A great Wedgie-eye view of the country - exhilarating, if a bit stomach lurching at times.

overnight at the zoo!  http://www.rotterdamzoo.nl/   At the Zoocamp you can stay at Rotterdam's Blijdorp Zoo after it shuts, help the keepers, enjoy a barbie, and then spend the night in the giraffe park. Price -40 and you have to be 9, 10 or 11 years old to qualify - apply early, as the places fill up fast; applications can be made from April onwards.

sub tropical swimming pools A lot of pools in NL are set up to serve the same function for the Dutch as the beach does for us - it's warm, there are waves, trees, a bar- Often there's also giant water slides, hot pools, massages and saunas. You can find some of these 'tropical pools' in Amsterdam (NH), Dordrecht (ZH), Eindhoven (NB), Emmen (), Goes (ZL), Gorinchem (ZH), - Hertogenbosch (NB), Hoorn (NH), Oss (NB), Rotterdam (ZH), Zuidlaren (Dr). (all sites NL) For those fleeting summer days in NL you can also go to some of the outdoor water parks like Bosbad Hoeven in Hoeven (NBr) or De Ijzeren Man in Vught (NB) (NL). And if you want more of a day out (more money, but more things to do while you're there) there's there's always the Tikibad at the Duinrell funpark in Wassenaar (ZH) http://www.duinrell.nl/duinrell_en/index.htm.

CULTURE

museums http://museum.pagina.nl/ The Netherlands has an enormous number of museums - this site has links to many of them (NL) tip! if you have a bank account with the Rabobank, you get 50% off the entry price to most museums. Show them your 'pinpas' (ATM card) at the ticket desk when paying.

Art Online http://www.artonline.nl/indexeng.html They describe themselves the best: 'Extensive information on museum and gallery exhibitions, fine art and antique fairs, auctions, museums, galleries, art and antique dealers, picture framers, artist materials, restorers, art appraisers, art removalists and packers, art insurers and art brokers, etc'

AVL-Ville http://www.avl-ville.com/frameset-center/index.htm an intriguing place by Rotterdam (ZH). To quote: 'This free state is an agreeable mix of art environment and sanctuary, full of well-known and new works by AVL, with the special attraction that everything is fully operational'. Sort of like Christiania in Copenhagen without the paranoia!

Delft Blue ceramics http://www.royaldelft.nl/ 'The last remaining Delftware factory from the 17th century still producing entirely handmade Delftware' and not only can you get a tour of the place, now you can also do a short course and make your own tile, and the price is reasonable. You can also order a personalized Delft Blue plate online (but this is a LOT pricier!)

fine art on loan http://www.artlease.nl/ another clever Dutch idea, originally to give young talented artists a regular income. You pay a moderate fee (-15 per month) and you can borrow up to 4 quality works of art, for min of 1 month, max of 2.5 years.  Good way to see what you really like, and what gets on your nerves after a few months. Some are for sale. Another address is http://www.kunstuitleen.nl/ (NL)

an original painting of your home http://www.schildershuis.nl/ get an original painting of your home, your pet, or even yourself. More than 30 qualified artists are available here to do your bidding. Click on 'schilderijen' then on 'stadsgezichten' and you'll see various paintings of the same house by different artists, so you can see the different styles. Prices from -500. The website is in Dutch, but you can contact them in English. (NL)

garden gnomes http://www.rijkderkabouters.nl/ I've found something for everyone here, haven't I? I'm sure some of you have been searching for this for years: a 5,000 hectares park filled with gnomes. Open from in spring and summer only. They even have a gnome shop with an extensive range on offer, as well as some witches, wizards and elves. Location: Eext (Dr) (NL)

Kröller-MüllerMuseum http://www.kmm.nl Excellent open air sculpture museum, spread.over 21 ha in the Hoge Veluwe National Park, Otterloo (Gld). Good in combination with a picnic and bike ride through the National Park (bicycles can be hired there).

The In Players The In Players are the oldest English speaking theatre company in Amsterdam. Their productions include plays by contemporary authors, pantomimes, musicals and original plays written by members of the company. Their audience includes the English speaking community in Holland, teachers of English, students, and others interested in theatre in the English language. But there's more! Not only cn you see their productions, you can join them!  They're 'always open to new members who would like to start a new life on stage or back stage'. All the money they earn from ticket sales goes into new productions, so you wouldn't get paid, but you would get the experience, and have buckets of fun! Interested?  Contact Nina on inplayers@xs4all.nl

Interbookbiggest art bookshop in NL, with over 10,000 art books, from new to antiquariat. Lange Haven 97, Schiedam (ZH), tel: 010 - 4266034

Pinkpop http://www.pinkpop.nl/ the oldest and most popular open air pop festival here, held every year on the Pinkster (Pentecost) long weekend in Landgraaf (L).  Tickets sell out early. (NL)

Oeral theatre festival http://www.oerol.nl/ Open air theatre on the island of Terschelling (Fr), two weeks each June.  200 different acts are performed in barns, on the streets, or with the background of the sea and dunes. Book accommodation early!

Lowlands - alternative cultural event http://www.lowlands.nl/ also known as 'A camping flight to Lowlands Paradise'.  Outdoor alternative cultural event, with music, theatre, literature, comedy, video, and more. Held over three days at the end of August at Biddinghuizen (Flv). The website alone is worth a visit! You can click to be taken to the English version.

PLACES TO STAY

hotels http://book-a-hotel-in-the-netherlands.com/ find and book a hotel room in the Netherlands online

bed and breakfasts http://www.fijnopreis.nl/ around the Netherlands (NL). Also http://bedandbreakfast.pagina.nl/ sorted per province.

'town camp sites' http://www.citycamps.com/en/index.htm To quote: 'The Town Camp Sites are situated in a rural environment, close to one of Holland's most beautiful towns with good connections by public transport. The well-equipped camp sites are an excellent starting point to explore the town and its surroundings'. The 13 camps are located in: Amsterdam, Arnhem, Breda, Delft, Emmen, Enschede, Groningen, Harlingen, Middelburg, Valkenburg and Rotterdam.

other camping grounds all over NL http://camping.pagina.nl/ It's not like camping out bush - there will probably be an on site bar and cafeteria! But cheaper than a hotel. (NL)

cheap camping out in nature www.kampeerclub.nl have 22 camping sites in NL, tent only,- 2 per night for members. Minimal facilities - if any - but legal, and you may even find it's just you and nature. (NL)

boat and breakfast http://www.boatandbreakfast.nl/ Historical boats in various locations around the Netherlands. Available only from November to April (Amsterdam the whole year) - the rest of the year they're busy with their transport work. All boats have central heating, good bathroom facilities, and a cosy living area. Most cabins are for two or more people, but one person per cabin is no problem. The skipper is also on board and lives in a separate area. Breakfast is served to you, and a kitchen is available for you to cook your other meals, if you wish. -  32.50 pp including breakfast.

boat hotel in Amsterdam http://www.amstelbotel.com something different for when staying overnight in the capital

tram for a night http://www.controversy.nl/ a special for the Melbournians! location: Hoogwoud (NH). Irma and Frank Appel live on a farm in North Holland. They have no ordinary house- Their bedroom was once a working double decker bus, their kitchen a Citröen HY, and a boat is their bath. Even their pets have interesting lodgings. Now they also run a B&B, which has its rooms in a retired tram. There are four compartments: Italian, American, French and English. - 50 pp including a generous breakfast and tour of their farm. A special for the nostalgic Melbournians! (Pretend you're Storming Mont Albert-) For the true tram fans, they are located just 12km from the historic Medemblik-Hoorn Steam Tram (only open from spring to autumn.)

The Queen of Pieterburen http://www.geenflauwidee.nl 'The Queen of Pieterburen' is a gorgeous place owned and run by Astrid Wevers (who was born in Yallourn). It was built in 1870, Dutch royalty has slept here, it has a theatre-restaurant, and Pieterburen itself is well worth a visit.  Astrid has lots of details on her site (click on What to Do in Pieterburen?) including visiting seal crèche & hospital, horse riding, day trips to some of the islands, and of course that most masochistic of Dutch past-times: wadlopen.  They also host creative art weekends.  The accommodation fees are moderate.  If you email or ring to book, ask for Astrid and don't forget to mention you're an Aussie! Her website is veeeerrry colourful and she also has a personal site, the Kangaroo Port. (And no, she isn't paying me to say all this!)

Dutch farm holidays http://www.dutch-farmholidays.com/

wine vat for a night  http://www.hotel-vrouwevanstavoren.nl/ Old 15,000 litre vats converted into hotel rooms (sort of ) at the Hotel Vrouwe van Stavoren, Havenweg 1, Stavoren (Fr), tel: 0514 - 681202 from -72.50 per vat (NL)

hanging pod tents http://www.hertshoorn.nl/ tents hanging by a hook from a tree trunk, in a prize winning, quiet camp ground on the Veluwe river in Garderen (Gld) (NL)

log cabin afloat on the water http://www.akkermansoutdoor.nl/ location: de Heen (NB). Spend the weekend on in a log cabin built on a raft, and float away the stress. Don't forget the Aerogard! (NL)

a night in a castle http://www.kasteelarrangementen.nl/ The Netherlands have an astonishing number of gorgeous castles. Kasteel de Haar in Haarzuilen (U) is absolutely fairytale. Or try Castle Geulzicht a neogothic English styled castle, which despite looking so very posh has some reasonably priced rooms.. This site offers arrangements for staying, partying, or holding a wedding party in various castles. Click on 'locaties' to see them all. For a complete list of castles (not all are open for use) try http://kastelen.pagina.nl/ (NL)

sleep in a lighthouse http://www.vuurtoren-harlingen.nl/eng/index2.html location: Harlingen (Fr). Yes, a real, working lighthouse! Play games and see how many boats crash! (that's a joke, Joyce!) Seriously, you'll be the only guests, and the lighthouse keeper brings you breakfast.  For a mere -249 a night!

old post office http://www.hetoudepostkantoor.nl/ location: Brummen (Gld). The old and pretty brick post office in this village has been converted into a small hotel with 4 bedrooms. Lots of the old PO features are still there, although the rooms themselves are modern and beautifully appointed. From -85 per room.

old Dutch cottages http://www.oomlammertentanteklaasje.nl/ this hotel has been built like a little street of old Dutch houses. Each house is fitted out as an old Dutch house would have been, with the bed in a recess in the wall. De Herberg van Oom Lammert en Tante Klaasje, Merk 3, Workum (Fr), tel: 0515 - 541370 (NL)

hotel room with own pool http://www.vandervalk.nl/gb/index.html Hotel Akersloot (from the Van der Valk chain) has two rooms with their own 3x5m pools! Of course there's a price, and its -200! Van der Valk Hotel Akersloot, Geesterweg 1a, Akersloot (NH), tel: 0251 - 319102 info@akersloot.valk.nl

world's smallest hotel The Grand hotel de Kromme Raake has just one room (and a reception desk) and is in the Guiness Book of Records. Molenstraat 5, Eenrum (Gr), tel: 0595 - 491600, -150 per night. www.eenrum.com, click on 'de Kromme Raake', then on 'english'

sleep in a monastery http://www.hotelhetklooster.nl/ Relaxed and friendly hotel run by a former war journalist. You can hire a canoe and paddle about, viewing the the gorgeous scenery. Hotel Het Klooster, Damsterweg 8, 9977 RH Kloosterburen (Gr), tel: 0595 - 481159, - 65 double (NL)

cheap, and- different http://www.thecht.nl/index2.html A little camping ground, which also has two huts - set in a little wood - each with a fridge, but no running water, and the bathroom & WC is the shared camp ground one- but hey, the atmosphere! The huts were built out of old manure storage silos! (But empty for over 20 years now.) Mini-camping 't Hecht, Stobbenweg 40, Dronten (Flv), tel: 0321 - 313971, - 27.50 per night for two, - 3.50 for each extra person (NL)

thatched holidays cottages http://www.molecaten.nl/en/leemkule/ Holiday park with pretty thatched rooved cottages, but also with wildlife (deer, foxes, boars), a children's farm, as well as modern stuff like a heated pool, sauna, bar, etc.

SPECIAL PLACES TO EAT AND DRINK

architectural dinner walks http://www.dinnerwalks.nl/ If you're interested in fine food and architecture - and you speak Dutch - then this is for you. An art historian guide takes you a walk around an old city, explaining and entertaining as you go, and stopping en route for 4 courses at different quality restaurants. - 50 for 4 courses and the tour. Participating cities: Alkmaar (NH), Amsterdam - Jordaan area (NH), Amersfoort (U), Delft (ZH), Deventer (O), Gouda (ZH), Den Haag (ZH), Hoorn (NH), Leiden (ZH) and Zwolle (O). (NL)

bar in a urinal location: Enschede (O) 'Gat in de Markt' is a tiny bar, run by the local student union, and you enter it by stairs right in the middle of the old market square, just as you'd expect. The atmosphere (especially olfactorily speaking) is strong! And if you think it smells just like it did when it had it's old business, then wait until you get a whiff of their toilets- now that's impressive!  Just go to the Oude Markt and follow your nose, or ask around. (Incidentally, the name of the bar, Gat in de Markt, is a little word joke: it is literally 'hole in the market', which is also their term for 'market niche'.)

boat trip with pancakes www.pannenkoekenboot.nl The Dutch love their pancakes and they love water, and this is a good combination of the two - a river cruise with fresh cooked pancakes, and even safe places for the kids to play. Trips leave from Rotterdam (ZH), Wageningen (Gld), Nijmegen (Gld) and cost -12 including as many pancakes as you can stuff in. Info & reservations, tel:: Rotterdam 010 - 4367295, Wageningen 0317 - 620911, Nijmegen, tel: 024 - 3601262. (NL)

dinner in an air traffic control tower http://www.oudetoren-schiphol.nl/ a restaurant in one of the old Schiphol towers - great views! De Oude Toren , Stationsplein Zuid-West 602, Schiphol-Oost (NH), tel: 020 - 4059610

Europe's oldest water tower 'De Watertoren' has a small but cosy Mediterranean restaurant in it, Watertorenweg 180, Rotterdam (ZH), tel: 010 - 4522555

Café Latei - everything for sale This lovely little café in Amsterdam doesn't just sell great coffee and snacks: everything else you see in there is for sale too, from the chair beneath you and the cup in your hand to the décor. No website, but details are: Café Latei, Zeedijk 143, Amsterdam, tel: 020-6257485

garlic restaurants two restaurants that specialise in garlic dishes. 'Look' has garlic everything - including the desserts.
Knoflook restaurant Look, 's Gravendijkwal 140b, Rotterdam (ZH), tel: 010 - 4367000 http://www.restaurantlook.nl/ (NL)
The Garlic Queen Reguliersdwarsstraat 27, Amsterdam (NH), tel: 020 - 4226426 http://www.garlicqueen.nl/

horror dinner http://www.tunneke.nl/ Location: Schijndel (NB). They call it a 'murder dinner' ( moordfestzijn) but there's no participation necessary - just loads of fun and entertainment. It's in Dutch, but that's no barrier - I was there with several non-Dutch speakers and they did several special acts in English just for us; just let them know on the night. Pretty good nosh at an all-you-can-eat grill and buffet, as and including drinks (including a large range of alcohol) for -41. They also have medieval feasts, fairytale feasts, gypsy feasts, and even a Pieter Breughel feast. Well recommended! Site is in (NL) with a little bit in English

opera with your pasta http://www.pastadiva.nl/ singing students who work here part time entertain you with a song or two during the evening as they serve you pasta.

weird and wonderful liqueurs experience dozens of unusual liqueurs, many of them uniquely Dutch, e.g. the old fashioned rose liqueur Roosje Zonder Doornen (rose without thorns)
Het Proeflokaal http://www.wynand-fockink.nl/ Pijlsteeg 31, Amsterdam (NH), tel: 020 - 6392695
De Drie Fleschjes Gravenstraat 18, Amsterdam (NH), tel: 020 - 6248443, with a bar that has barely changed over the last 300 years. (NL)

vegetarians http://www.vegatopia.com/restaurantgids/index.html (NL) listing of vegetarian restaurants, sorted by city. The site is in Dutch only, but all you really need to do is to click on the city.  Another page of more links useful to vegetarians is http://vegetarisch.pagina.nl/ (NL).

Whisky Café de Still http://www.whisky-destill.nl/engels.htm/ This Amsterdam (NH) café serves (wait for it) 549 different sorts of whisky! Be sure to have some Vegemite toast ready for the next morning-

NATIONAL CELEBRATIONS

Carnaval Held over the weekend before Lent. Carnaval is a catholic festival (yep, as in Rio) so it's mainly in the south of NL, notably in the provinces Noord-Brabant and Limburg. Whole villages participate, young and old.  On Saturday the Carnaval prince (elected on 11th November) and his "hofdame" receive the key to the town in order to have a long weekend of Carnaval madness (Carnavalsgekte - not necessarily carnal madness). Eleven is the fool's number (hence the election on 11/11) and "alaaf" - the carnavals salute - is derived from the Dutch word for eleven, 'elf'. Maastricht (L) has the most colourful Carnaval but is not always that accessible to outsiders.  The most prestigious parade is in Den Bosch (NB) - renamed Oeteldonck during Carnaval - and seems more open to less well dressed-up guests. If you want to join in, the basic outfit is boerenkiel, boerenzakdoek & klompen. A boerenkiel is the traditional dark blue farmers shirt (available at party shops and many toy shops during Carnaval), the boerenzakdoek is the patterned red hanky worn around the neck - most department stores will have them. And klompen are, of course, clogs! Available at any garden shop or hardware store. http://carnaval.pagina.nl/ has links to Carnaval clubs (verenigingen), Carnaval websites for different towns (plaatsen), etc.

Koninginnedag 30th April every year. It's actually the birthday if the last Queen (Juliana) but as Beatrix was born in the cold(er) rainy(er) month of February, they decided to keep it on this date.  It's a public holiday, and everywhere you look you'll see the flags hung out, people dressed in orange (the national royal colour), orange coloured food on sale, and on the day itself pretty much the whole country turns into one big open air flea market. You don't need a permit that day to sell on the street (within limits!) Creativity is appreciated! Good places to be are Amsterdam (NH) and Utrecht (U).

Sinterklaas Biggest day on the Dutch holiday calendar, and there's no website! 5th December, you can't miss it. As the story goes, Sinterklaas (the origin of our Santa Claus) is a Turkish bishop who lives in Madrid, together with his bunch of little black boys dressed in bright satin bloomers (not very PC) known as the Black Petes (Zwarte Piets). Sint and his mob arrive on a steam boat from Spain a few weeks before the 5th, to much jubilation. He rides around the country on his white horse, the Petes scampering beside him, and sweets and little cookies known as pepernoten are scattered as they go. Naughty children are whacked with a stick, shoved in the sack, and taken back to Spain and ground up to be made into next year's pepernoten. Or so the story goes. http://sinterklaas.pagina.nl/ has all the Sint links you'll ever need.

SHOPPING

Holland at Home "Holland at Home is an online supermarket specializing in products from the Netherlands. Alongside a wide range of grocery articles we also offer non-food items such as books, magazines and of course the indispensable wooden shoes! Only a small part of our range is kept in stock. Most orders are filled on demand. It will therefore take two to four working days for your order to be dispatched." This site is in Dutch AND English.

Bataviastad outlet shopping http://www.bataviastad.nl/uk/index.html location: Lelystad (Flv). Brand names at up to 70% off.

Beverwijkse Bazaar http://www.zwartemarkt.nl/ Europe's biggest covered market, with over 3,000 market stalls and shops. There are several distinctive sections, including the Zwarte Markt (Black Market), Oosterse Markt (Oriental Market), Grand Bazaar, Computermarkt and Struinschuur (like a big flea market). You can buy almost everything here, from fresh food and clothes to second hand goods and furniture. There is also a large children's playground, Darteldorp where kids over 5 can be left whilst you shop.  There is an entry fee to the Bazaar (around -2.80 depending on day), kids under 12 free. Darteldorp costs extra.  Open weekends 8:30am to 4:30pm, located at Montageweg 35, Beverwijk, tel: 0251 - 262626. (NL)

shopping on Sundays http://www.koopzondag.com/ lots of towns have a 'koopzondag' or 'shopping Sunday' when the shops are open. To find which towns have it when, you can check this site. (NL)

markets http://www.marktkalender.nl/marktkalendernl.html flea markets, Christmas markets, special interest markets, but it's a jumbled sort of site, and it's all in (NL)

winkelstraat http://www.winkelstraat.nl/ all internet shops in NL (NL)

BOOTS, SHOES & CLOGS

Sandy van Veen, the site originator, is a fanatical boot collector.  She also collects clogs, skates, and shoes of the more interesting variety. How could we not have a section devoted to these items here?

designer clogs http://www.vanlubeck.com/clogs/clogs.htm Patricia van Lubeck makes clogs to die for, including pink cadillac clogs, bikey clogs and satin wedding clogs.

International Museum of Wooden Shoes http://www.klompenmuseum.nl/location: Eelde (Dr).Biggest wooden shoe museum in Europe.

clogs - with a difference http://www.klompen.nl/ location: Luttenberg (O). Click on 'English' then have a look at the Workshop - ever seen a pair of clog boots for line dancing?!

Dutch Leather and Shoe Museum http://www.schoenenmuseum.nl/ location: Waalwijk (NB) Largest collection of shoes in the world!! (Imelda Marcos, eat your heart out-) (NL)

Friesian clogs http://www.frieseklompen.nl/frame.htm cow patterned, or with the Friesian flag design, online shop (NL)

prize winning clogs http://www.woodenshoes.com/ Prize winning manufacturer of the standard, certified clogs worn by farmers and workman all over Holland. Have an online shop.

Clog Dancing : a look at the pics on this site:
 www.klepperklumpkes.com Folkloristische dance group de Klepperklumpkeshave

MORE

Holland in 30minutes- http://www.holland-experience.nl/ location: Amsterdam (NH) To quote '-offers you the opportunity to see the Netherlands in a way you will never forget. All your senses will be stimulated in just 30 minutes as you hurtle through the Dutch countryside. A journey filled with adventure, fiction & reality.' All that in 3D, with moving seats, and even with smells, for -8. If you try it, do let us know what it was like!

Holland in the 1600s http://www.johannesvermeer.info The 'Virtual Johannes Vermeer House' is much more than the title suggests. It has a wealth of information on Johannes Vermeer, his life and his hometown Delft but also a lot about life in Holland in his time, as well as information on Vincent van Gogh and Delft Blue pottery. Read a fascinating article about love and marriage in Vermeer's day, subsequent (sometimes) pregnancy & childbirth, a rather interesting 17th century contraceptive device, or about school life for the Vermeer kiddlies. Also a good list of links for Vermeer fans.

hammam  (alias Turkish Bath) Get steamed, scrubbed, mudpacked, smeared, and massaged, while you sip on tea. Perhaps a henna tattoo on your hands too. Definitely best enjoyed with a bunch of friends (make it good friends, or at least people you don't mind getting naked with!) You'll be cleaner than you've ever been before (I had no idea I could carry that much dirt with me)
Amsterdam (NH) - Zaanstraat 88, tel: 020 - 6814818
Utrecht (U) - Groeneweg 54B, tel: 030 - 2932784
Gouda (ZH) http://www.hammam-habibi.nl/ - the one I go to regularly. I recommend the -25 deal.

Amsterdam's red light district - for those of you who are longing to go and have a peek, but don't dare go alone, Dutch actor Rob van Hulst runs lively tours through the Wallen, starting in a sailors bar (where else). You can wander safely about, see a show, dine with a famous old 'professional' who will tell you some good stories - depending on the tour and price.   Rob van Hulst Producties, tel: 020 - 6245720

House boat museum http://www.houseboatmuseum.nl/index.html location: Amsterdam (NH). See what it's like inside one of those homes- not as cramped as you might think.

more nice things to do http://www.leukedingendoen.nl/ (NL) you need to understand Dutch to use this site, but it's choc full of interesting ideas on what to do, where to go, courses, accommodation, etc. You can also search according to time of day, price, children or not, etc. They're one of my best resources. e.g. we stayed in a suite (with it's own Jacuzzi) in a 5 star hotel in Scheveningen for my birthday this year, and paid -60 for the room (for both if us) and a superb four course dinner for -16.50! (Sorry, I'm not telling - this will encourage you to learn more Dutch!)

NICE THINGS AT THE NEIGHBOUR'S - BELGIUM

Australian war graves okay, not a 'nice thing' as such, but an interesting (and/or significant thing) to many Australians.  There are many war cemeteries with Australian graves in the Benelux area, notably Flanders.  Here are some sites of interest:
Department of Veterans' Affairs Australian Dept Veterans Affairs site with details of two war memorials for fallen Australian soldiers in Belgium (Ieper & Zonnebeke)
http://www.inflandersfields.be/ In Flanders Fields is the Official site from the Ieper region.
http://www.wo1.be/  Not the Aussie Digger in this case, although he was their namesake.  These Belgian Diggers are 'a team of (respectful) enthusiasts digging for World War I relics', quite dedicated, going by their website which is in both Dutch and English).
http://www.cwgc.org/ Official Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. Site has a search facility so you can look for graves of relatives lost in wars.

Brugge http://www.brugge.be/toerisme/en/index.htm this town is just possibly even more gorgeous than its reputation would have you believe. An absolute must while you're in the area.

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