Hello Holland

With dreams of windmills and wooden shoes, our next travel adventure will include two months in the Netherlands. The first month we will stay in Alkmaar in the province of North Holland, and the second month we will settle into the small town of Moordrecht (near Gouda) in the province of South Holland.

Amsterdam canal

The Canals of Amsterdam

Mistakenly, the country of the Netherlands is often called “Holland”, because most of the populous and famous places are concentrated in the provinces of North and South Holland. This includes the capital of the Netherlands (Amsterdam), seat of government (The Hague), and most important port (Rotterdam).

N and S Holland Map 3

The 12 Provinces of the Netherlands

North and South Holland actually comprise just two of the 12 provinces of the Netherlands, a low-lying country populated by the Dutch. Esther was born in the Netherlands (Limburg Province), spent her first 17 years there, and still speaks the Dutch language like a local. Lucky for me, a whopping 90% of the Dutch also speak English.   

Houseboat with flag

Houseboat Living on the Rising Seas

In English, “Netherlands” translates as “lower lands”, a fitting label given that over a quarter of the nation’s land area sits below sea level. To stay above the rising seas, the Dutch have deftly engineered water control systems to reclaim their lower lands and protect themselves from North Sea storms and the scourge of global warming.

Clog salesman

Wooden Shoe Vendor

Over the next two months, we hope to keep our feet dry as we explore the Dutch provinces of North and South Holland. If rising waters try drowning our dreams, it shouldn’t be hard to find a good pair of wooden shoes.

 

Feature Image:   Molen de Gooyer, the tallest wooden windmill in the Netherlands, now a brew pub

 

20 thoughts on “Hello Holland

  1. Welcome back to Europe and how wonderful that you have chosen Esther’s home country as your next month at a time travel base. Does she still have relatives living in this area? I have been to Amsterdam many times, but don’t know much about the rest of the country, so I will be looking forward to learn more from your travels.

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    • Thank you for the welcome, Gilda. It is wonderful to be back. Esther has some cousins here that we hope to visit. We are currently stationed in the North Holland city of Alkmaar, about 45 minutes by train from Amsterdam. It is such a beautiful and historic place.

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    • Hi Janis! We spent our first five days in Amsterdam. As you know, it is a beautiful and interesting capital city, with a very lively character. We are now enjoying the slower pace of Alkmaar, North Holland. We even bought a couple of bikes and have been exploring the surrounding small villages and pastoral countryside. I hope you have the chance to re-visit in the not-too-distant future.

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  2. Hey Joe, have wondered where you guys would travel to next. Have been to Amsterdam but know very little of the country. Looking forward to seeing the country through your eyes, always an adventure.

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    • Hey Theresa & Bob! With its accessible airport, lovely canals, and many famous sights, Amsterdam makes for an excellent introduction to the Netherlands. We are very lucky to have the time to venture out into the countryside for a more in-depth Dutch adventure. So far, I can tell you that it is very flat but exceptionally beautiful.

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  3. We were on a Rhine River cruise last May that ended in Amsterdam, and I loved that city! I was only sorry we only had one day there. But until I visited there, I also thought that “Holland” was the name of the country. I look forward to reading about your travels in the Netherlands….and don’t forget to include a lot of photos!

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    • Hi Ann, The river cruises look like so much fun. I would love to do it some day. We saw many of the river cruise boats moored in Amsterdam, full of intrepid travelers exploring that great city. We have now settled into a more provincial life in North Holland in the charming town of Alkmaar, which is famous for its weekly cheese market. Rest assured, I already have lots of photos!

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  4. Sounds like a wonderful place to be! I’ve never been there so I’ll live vicariously through you.
    For one year we lived in Pella, Iowa. It’s primarily a Dutch community (biggest section of the phone book was “V”), yet never learned the difference between Holland and Netherlands until now.

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    • Haha! Lots of long unpronounceable names beginning with Van. Pella sounds like a wonderful place too. I did a quick Google search and discovered that it has a tulip festival, working windmill, and manufacturing plant named Vermeer. I might have to go there for a month some time.

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  5. I didn’t why Holland vs the Netherlands either. I visited Amsterdam for a couple days back in the late 70s and always thought it’d be fun to return, but never have. (Airport layovers don’t count.) It’s almost cheating to have a local as a guide, lucky you on several counts.

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    • Amsterdam is a very beautiful and fun city, but has a serious over-tourism problem. So far, I have really enjoyed my private tour of the less traveled places in the Netherlands, thanks to my lovely local tour guide.

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  6. Hello Joe, good to see you blogging again, look forward to reading more. I (Phil) have actually visited Alkmaar, by coincidence, on one of my football weekends with my buddy Adrian. Great little town: don’t miss out on the beer museum, I had a private tour there with the curator as I was the only visitor. Was really interesting!

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    • Hi Phil, It’s good to be back! You and your football buddies get to the coolest places. First Bilbao and now Alkmaar. We have not visited the Beer Museum yet, but with your recommendation and a stretch of upcoming nasty weather, we will be sure to check it out later this week. Cheers!

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