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e Zoeker windmill as seen from Het Jonge Schaap windmill in Zaanse Schans

Being a tourist at Zaanse Schans

Frequent travelers often express a certain disdain for places that are “touristy,” meaning crowded with tourists: San Marco’s square in Venice, for example, or the Tower of London, or the Forbidden City in Beijing. Many of us avoid such places, preferring the more off-the-beaten-track destinations. Tourist destinations, though, are popular for a reason. San Marco’s…

Colorful bulb gardens at Keukenhof, in the Netherlands

Visiting Dutch Gardens

When you think of the Netherlands and gardens and flowers, what comes immediately to mind? I assume your answer is “tulips.” Tulips are cultivated here in huge quantity and they or the bulbs are exported all over the world. Keukenhof and Giethoorn One of the biggest attractions for tourists in the Netherlands is Keukenhof, a tulip…

Amsterdam Central Station

Amsterdam Central train station sightseeing

If you find yourself with a few hours to kill at Amsterdam Central train station, there’s plenty to do right nearby. First of all, if you have shopping bags or luggage with you, don’t schlep them with you. Inside Amsterdam Central, on the right side of the building if you are looking at it from…

The Sex Museum's entrance is a storefront on busy Damrak.

The Sex Museum Amsterdam: cure for insomnia

This entry is part 13 of 22 in the series Amsterdam Museums

The first thing you see on entering the Sex Museum Amsterdam is a life size statue of Priapus, the Greek god of fertility, and he’s … well, let’s say he’s pretty turned on, and well-endowed. Review of the Sex Museum Amsterdam The rest of the museum goes downhill from there. Unfortunately, if I want to keep…

Eenrum church in Groningen province

Churches of Groningen province (part 1)

When I first arrived in the Netherlands back in 1997, one of the first bits of sightseeing I did, besides exploring my new hometown of Groningen itself, was to go on a driving tour of village churches in Groningen province. The idea came from my favorite guidebook: the Michelin green guide to the Netherlands. The…

This view looks out of the entrance gate to Bourtange. The earthen embankments on either side are the walls of the fortress.

Bourtange: a Living Fortress

I recently wrote about Fraeylemaborg as one of the local off-the-beaten-path sights I like to show overseas visitors. The other sight that’s high on my list is the fortress village of Bourtange. History of Bourtange Did you know that much of what is now the Netherlands was once ruled by Spain? The “Eighty Years’ War” (1566-1648)…

somewhere on my commute between Groningen and Leeuwarden after a dusting of snow

The Beauty of a Dutch Commute

A couple of times a week, I commute to my part-time job in Leeuwarden, in Friesland province. Sometimes I drive, but as much as possible, I like to take the train. I start by bicycling to the train station in the center of Groningen, parking the bike and boarding the train. The train trip takes about 35…

The Martinitoren rises above the clutter of market stalls on the Grote Markt in Groningen.

The Martinitoren: a Groningen Landmark

About a year ago I wrote a post about Groningen, the small city where I live. I mapped out a route that started at the train station and wound its way through the city, ending at the landmark Martinitoren. The Martinitoren Today, for the first time in several years, I climbed the Martinitoren, and it…

Fraeylemaborg as seen from the garden behind, in Slochteren, the Netherlands

Fraeylemaborg: the “ancestral home”

Whenever I refer jokingly to Fraeylemaborg, a small castle in Slochteren, as “the ancestral home,” my husband rolls his eyes, but he’s given up on correcting me. You see, one branch of his family occupied Fraeylemaborg for several generations. Unfortunately for us, but fortunately for everyone else, the house (I think the British would call…