A reader’s guide to barging in Holland

In about a month, I will be traveling to Holland to take a romantic barge trip through the tulip fields, to visit some of the small villages along the canals, and to spend a few days in Amsterdam and then in The Hague. I’m not worried about packing – I’ll take a small carry-on and minimal clothing – but I am very interested in being intellectually prepared. I would like to have read the books, visited the …

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The Captain’s Farewell Dinner

Click to see Sebastian’s interview Everyone dresses for dinner.  Even Captain Jules is out of his working clothes, and our guide Lea, who joins us for the last meal, is a revelation in a filmy long dress. And the menu?  Sebastian explains what he is cooking for us (click here or on his photo at right). The cheeses for this evening are special too – an epoisse, a Sainte Maure de Touraine and some new and aged …

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Day Six: Last Full Day on Board Le Panache – Cheese in Gouda and Frans Hals in Haarlem

This week has flown by, and now we are down to the last day.  After breakfast we head out to a farm and cheese factory and learn how the famous cheeses of Gouda are made. We had a tasting of the cheeses and they were so good that I bought a round which I’ll take home in my checked luggage. It is sealed in wax and vacuum sealed in plastic, so it should be fine.  I always …

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Chef Sebastian

I finally get a chance to chat with Sebastian when he has a quiet moment in the kitchen.  He is so young, but undeniably gifted. His full name is Sebastian Amberville, he’s English and he has very good culinary chops.  He has apprenticed with Gordon Ramsay –“That was hell”, he explains. “They spent the first half of the time tearing you down, destroying your confidence, making you feel useless.  Then they start building you back up.  Pure …

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Day Five: Windmills Trump Floriade

It puzzles me why anyone would take a Spring cruise through the tulip fields of Holland if they had no interest in flowers, historic cities, museums or local culture.  And why would you come on a cruise like this and spend your afternoons watching movies in your cabin? But we all have our different reasons for traveling, I suppose. The majority of passengers have decided that they do not want to be bothered with a trip to …

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Day Four: Delftware and Dutch Vodka

A morning run through Delft is perfect – the streets are quiet and running past the old city gate that Vermeer painted, and along canals sided by pretty Dutch houses makes the experience more than just good exercise. After breakfast, we walked from the boat to the Royal Delft Factory (http://www.royaldelft.com) where we toured the factory and museum and visited the showroom.  I was very tempted to buy a piece or two – blue and white china …

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Day Three: The Flower Auction at Alsmeer

There are not many things that can get me out of bed before six am, but the promise of a visit to the world’s largest flower auction did the job.  We headed out in the grey mist of a Dutch morning, drove for about thirty minutes, and entered the massive structure that houses the Flower auction. Chances are pretty good that any flowers you may have bought, anywhere in the world, passed through this building.  Agents sit …

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Day Two: The Splendour of Dutch Gardening: The Keukenhof

One of the real delights for someone like me who loves a morning run is that you can jump off the barge and head out for a five km trek with ease. The morning streets of Haarlem were quiet at 7am, and I had time to notice that the wisteria and peonies are blooming in thegardens here. Breakfast was served at eight, though there was coffee readyat 7 – and afterwards, Lea took us on a guided …

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Day One: First Night on Le Panache

There are really only two things that can make or break a cruise for me. I am not caught up in worrying about the thread count of my sheets, or the fragrance in my toiletries. And in my experience, most cruise itineraries are great if you approach them in the right spirit. But if the passengers are disagreeable, or the food is below par, I won’t be having a good time. The passengers on this sailing of …

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The Barge: Le Panache

In the late afternoon light, the La Panache barge looks welcoming, moored alongside the historic buildings that line the canal in the old part of Haarlem. After getting settled in our rooms and cleaned up a bit, we all met again in the main salon, where Amy, who will take care of our every need for the next six days, greets us with a glass of champagne, and fresh French oysters on the half shell. Chef Sebastian …

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