The first country on our Best of Europe Tour was the Netherlands. After arriving at the Amsterdam Airport, we took a taxi directly to our tour hotel, Haarlem’s Hotel Lion d’Or. Since we arrived a few days early, we were able to ease into our adventure with a short trip to Delft. We wandered the streets and canals of Delft taking in the architecture, churches, gothic Eastern gate, and unique modern art exhibits.

Canal View
Delft, Netherlands
Maria van Jessekerk
Delft, Netherlands
Delft, Netherlands
Enjoying Time Together
Delft, Netherlands

If arriving early, plan a flexible, relaxing day. Leisure walks and sightseeing may help you stay awake and adjust to Europe’s time zone, but being flexible allows the opportunity to nap, if needed.

One thing we quickly noticed is that everyone, and I mean everyone, rides bicycles. There are more bicycles than people! We saw people in business attire, elderly, families, and even groups of teenagers going out all riding bicycles. We saw three bicycle parking lots at the Haarlem train station alone. One was a multi-level garage for bikes. Such an active lifestyle.

Sadly, we didn’t get pictures of everyone riding their bikes because we were concentrating on not getting run over. But this picture shows one of the small parking areas at the Haarlem train station.

Open Monumentendag

We were fortunate to be in Haarlem during Open Monumentendag (Europe’s Heritage Days). During the event, many of the city’s museums were open free of charge. Some buildings that aren’t normally open to the public, are opened for this annual event.

Meeting our Group

And so our tour officially began…

Lisa organized the Meet & Greet at our hotel. We got to meet all of our new best travel buddies. 

The group included solo travelers, friend groups, younger and older couples. There were chill, relaxed travelers and Type A super planners (guess which category we fit into, and we weren’t the only ones!!). But the best thing was that everyone shared the same enthusiasm for the next three weeks.

As we went around the room, introducing ourselves, Lisa asked each of us to share what we were looking forward to the most. Some people knew. We, on the other hand, completely drew a blank. Was there one thing more than anything else we were anticipating?

Of course, we were the first couple called on to share so we said everything – meeting people, seeing new places, experiencing local culture, trying new food, seeing famous pieces of art – just everything! It will be interesting what we think at the end of the tour.

Hotel Lion d'Or
Haarlem, Netherlands
Group Tour
Haarlem, Netherlands
Group Gin Tasting
Haarlem, Netherlands
Rijsttafel Group Dinner
Haarlem, Netherlands

Group Highlights

Anne Frank Statue
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Canal Boat Ride
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Open Air Museum
Arnhem, Netherlands

Personal Highlights

Royal Palace
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Van Gogh Museum
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Van Gogh's Sunflowers
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Heineken Museum
Amsterdam, Netherlands

Local Cuisine Spotlight

Bitterballen – one of Holland’s favorite snacks!

Meat and gravy balls, breaded, and fried

What’s not to love?! We ordered these at several different places. Each were made a little different, but all were delicious.




The beautifully lit city is perfect for a night stroll. Ultimately, you’ll end up in the Grote Markt (center square). 

We struck up a conversation with some locals (a group of single young men) who were kind enough to share one of their front row tables with us.

It was so relaxing to sit back, enjoy a beverage, and people watch. The real entertainment was watching our new friends unsuccessfully interact with SEVEN different bachelorette groups. 

Night Street View
Haarlem, Netherlands
Grote Markt
Haarlem, Netherlands
St. Bavokerk
Haarlem, Netherlands


Before our group headed to Amsterdam, we were all given same day round trip train tickets. We asked Lisa if the tickets were good for 24 hours after activating or if they expired at midnight. She laughed and said good question, but who is going to stay out after midnight? Ha ha, the Texas empty nesters are here to have some fun.

We ate dinner and then walked through the Red Light District till our last stop, Amsterdam’s Icebar. We were definitely the oldest couple there, but we had a blast with this detour to the arctic.

We made it back to Haarlem minutes before midnight, so the tickets were not a problem!!!

Night Canal View
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Ice Bar
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Red Light District
Amsterdam, Netherlands

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