Literally meaning 'The Low Countries,' almost half of the Netherlands once lay under water. On the delta of three major rivers - the Rhine, Maas and Scheldt - the country owes its existence to the conquest of water through astonishing feats of hydraulic engineering. From the 16th century windmills were used not just to keep the land dry but also to drain entire inland lakes. With around half of the country still at or below sea level, the fertile, pancake-flat stretches of land known as polders are bisected by a network of drainage ditches and canals which control the water table beneath huge open skies – while miles of protective dunes protect the long coastline to the west and north. The towns and villages of the country's twelve provinces are often picture-perfect places of gabled townhouses, pretty canals and church spires - each one often a profoundly separate place with its own distinct identity.
There’s perhaps nowhere else in the world where you can hear so many different accents, even dialects, in such a small area. In spring and summer the world famous bulbfields turn into huge, bold vistas of colour. Originating not from the Netherlands but Turkey, tulips continue to grow extremely well on Dutch soil and have almost become part of the national identity.
Spring is a delightful season. It’s the time of year when the days start to get longer, brighter and warmer, and we begin venturing outdoors again, noticing the beautiful changes in nature. Spring is when many of our favourite flowers are in full bloom, and there’s no better place to see tulips, daffodils, and crocuses in all their glory than on a Dutch bulbfields river cruise.
This was the first time we have been on an organised tour and we really couldn’t fault it. We stayed at the very Italian, shabby chic Europa Palace which admittedly does need an update but for us it added to the charm of everyt...
What a terrific cruise - my wife and I first-timers! We enjoyed the stress-free Eurostar connection St Pancras to Brussels. Our cabin was on the Ruby deck (middle deck) on Jane Austen - superb, comfortable and cleaned to a very ...