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Thursday, December 15, 2016
Utrecht, Netherlands (A hidden jewel)
Prior to any hotel or chateau booking vast research is done as we want to know as much as possible about our destination, including the full history, which is typically what drew us there in the first place.
There is so much more to the Netherlands besides Amsterdam and tulips and windmills. Yes these mentions offer rich enjoyment and numerous adventures but the Dutch people, so modern, open and a tolerant society, we found the people to be one of the most charming things about the Netherlands.
We are also intrigued with their canal system and wharfs, endless bicycle enthusiasts and charm of the university town of Utecht just south of Amsterdam and much easier to navigate in and out of the city by car. Fourth largest population in the Netherlands and also the capital of this brilliant Dutch country.
Many of the historic city houses go back to the middle ages.
According to BBC Travel it is said Utrecht is the 4th happiest place in the world. I would not dispute that. Like most Dutch cities, Utrecht offers an vast network of cycle paths, which makes cycling much safer. Driving a car you must always pay attention to the humans in their bike lanes with signals and all.
Most amazing 33% of all city journeys are by bicycle, (cars account for 30% of trips). Bicycles are used by young, old, and families. The variety of bikes you’ll see including the most traditional upright, steel-framed bicycles, (with few or no gears) is most fascinating. Thousands of bicycles are parked in town lining the canals which to us is part of the allure that calls you in.
The continuous activity in the city center offers so much from sidewalk cafes to boat rides, museum's and shopping. The canals are most beautiful and being there in fall added that much more color to the slightly rainy day we visited. The Domtoren, a 14th-century bell tower with city views, stands opposite the Gothic Cathedral of St. Martin on central Domplein square. The city center is small enough to explore on foot but we could have used 2-3 days more to explore further as 1 really wasn’t sufficient.
One of the highlights for us was bike riding on some of the designated trails in a small village of Soestduinen, and Soest north of Utrecht. Our lovely hotel provided us with free bikes and as it was a very cool day there may have been a fee if we had been gone for 4-5 hours. I have attached a link to a video we made during the ride. The video is a bit rough but hope you enjoy. The bike paths are endless and there are countless ways and opportunities for anyone to ride a bike in Holland (as Americans seem to only want to call the Netherlands, urrrr).
Our Bike Ride Adventure Link: