ideas for family cycling holidays in holland/europe
Does anyone have first-hand experience of cycling over reasonably flat terrain with kids in Europe? We had a fabulous time on France's Ile de Re last autumn, largely due to the fact that they have dedicated cycle paths all over the island, which made the whole thing so peaceful & un-hurried....we are keen to repeat this kind of holiday, but it's hard to find info. (other than for organised tours in Holland, which is looking a bit tame, theme-y & tulip-y.... am I wrong??) Obviously 1) it's easy to reach Holland from the UK so we tick green boxes, & 2) they have a brilliant cycle path network, but I'd love to hear from someone who's got tips on doing the itinerary yourself (pref. with tips on lovely wild places to visit), or maybe someone who knows another area in Europe with similarly fab bike lanes. I know it sounds snotty but I can't stand the idea of being dragged around cheese markets & people in bloody national costumes, then having to stay on a barge with 20 other people etc etc! Help!
The only slight problem is that flat can get a little boring. We spent 3 weeks in Holland this summer and loved it, not least because riding with a child (my son is 11) on the bike paths is wonderfully relaxing, as well as sort of lively: dedicated traffic lines, and you get to be in crowds with other cyclists, and you can simply follow the bike path signs (usually) to other cities. We didn't get out to the more rural parts much, though we're hoping to do that next time.
It sounds like you'ld be coming from the UK, with your own bikes, which is ideal. Our one big disappointment was that the rental bikes were pretty dreadful.
I grew up in the Haarlem area and till I was 7 we only used our bikes to get around. Even after we got the car we went out most weekends on our bikes. It is one of the thing I miss about not living in Holland anymore. The bike network is one of the most extensive you will find in any country in the world. You have the option of touring, or picking a home base in a one or more areas and then exploring them with day trips. I would avoid Amsterdam because of the traffic and depending on the age of the kids, cities are likely NOT what they want to visit the most. Being near a city like Leiden would be much nicer. You would be close to the beach, and the extensive network of loads of bike paths that run through the dunes. Growing up only 5 miles from the coast we used to ride to the beach or ride along the dunes regularly. The area is also rich with activities for all ages. If the kids are younger LineusHof is Europe's largest playground. I haven't been to it in 2 decades, but from what I can tell from its web site, it has been kept up and has grown. If you go in the Spring time this is also the area that is covered in Tulips and other bulb flowers. For a completely different Dutch experience you could also consider going to the province of Drenthe. This is a beautiful part of the country that is much more agricultural, and the cities are small. I've spent a week there back in the late 1980's with my aunt and uncle and cousins and we had a realy enjoyable time. During the summer there is also the Fiets-4-Dagen. This is where they set out different routes for 4 days for various distances and you ride on your own. You get your "passport" stamped along the way and at the end you get a medallion. We did the walking version in Haarlem every year from the age of about 6 starting with 5 Km and working our way up to 10 Km when I was about 10 or 11. These are always fun festive activities, and the routes try to take you through different areas.
The Dutch VVV (trourist office) also have loads of cycling routes setup in and around many cities to take your throughout the area. The lists give street by street instructions, but there are also signs for the routes along the way. These are usually done to maximize seeing interesting sites.