Holland & Belgium trip inspires new appreciation for the finer things in life
Jane Lehr has some advice for travelers considering a Holland & Belgium in Springtime trip: the Rijksmuseum is not to be missed. And luckily for them, this April marks the grand reopening of the renovated national museum in Amsterdam after a ten-year, massive reconstruction. “It was the crème de la crème,” the 22-time traveler said. “The flowers were spectacular, of course, but probably the biggest surprise to me was how much I enjoyed the art galleries. This [trip] can be a gripping study in art appreciation. Allow yourself to get caught up in the Dutch masters and in the museums.
A rare moment for Jane Lehr to be in front of the camera, here at the Kinderdijk windmills.
The vacation inspired Jane, 73, to explore her own creative side. And although she posts an online photo album at blurb.com with her newer single-lens reflex camera for all of her trips, she says that this one was by far her largest. “I took so many pictures, and there was so much to do—sometimes up to three things in one day—even though it’s one of Grand Circle’s shorter trips. I’m usually the one with the camera lagging in the back of the group. Those Whisper devices are great so I can still hear what the Program Director is saying.”
A passport stamper who’s visited all seven continents, Jane had never even flown through the Netherlands until last spring. As she does for most of her vacations, she added on both the pre-trip extension to Bruges and the post-trip to extend her time in Amsterdam with the philosophy that she may never have the opportunity to return again.
The canals of Amsterdam were one of the most fascinating parts of Jane's trip.
“The wonder began in medieval Bruges: its architecture and its marvelous Groeninge Museum filled with Flemish primitives. The detail of the paintings still astounds me. I love Europe’s awe-inspiring cathedrals. Antwerp ’s is an art gallery in itself: five original Rubens! In Ghent , it’s Van Eyck’s famous room-size altarpiece, Adoration of the Mystic Lamb. In The Hague we visited the small Prince William V gallery; there was art from floor to ceiling. In Delft, it was Vermeer’s gallery—what a jewel!”
Vase painting in the Delftware factory.
Besides opting in for most of the optional tours, Jane’s travel philosophy also includes determining when special festivals and events occur and choosing those departures. She was in the Low Countries last year for the decennial Floriade flower exhibition; planned an India trip for festival season; and was lucky enough to travel to Haarlem on the Sunday of the city’s annual flower parade on her Amsterdam extension. “It was kind of like our Rose Bowl here,” said the Shingle Springs, California, resident. “There were floats in the main square and it only happens once a year. The theme was communications and there were everything from Indian smoke signals to carrier pigeons to newspapers all done in flowers. It was absolutely beautiful!”
Jane's group visited Haarlem during their Amsterdam extension. "We were so fortunate to be the only GCT group last year to see these floats. They are displayed in Haarlem's main square just one day a year following an annual flower parade."
The theme was especially relevant for this former newspaperwoman who re-entered the work force as a technical editor in the aerospace industry after having three children and living overseas. Her late husband, Darwin, was in the Navy and was stationed in Japan, although she did far less traveling than she’d hoped as a military wife. It’s one of the reasons she saved all of her overtime money—to travel after retiring. Jane said by far some of her favorite travel memories she’s made were on Holland & Belgium in Springtime. “I’ve been to places like Denmark, where there were vibrant yellow fields of rapeseed, but nothing like the different bands of colors like in Kinderdijk. It was just absolutely breathtaking, the reds and purples. We were able to climb up the windmill and look out across the countryside at all the vibrant colors, which I love. It was a completely new experience for me.”
Keukenhoff offered many scenic paths and vibrant colors.
Jane is all about embracing “new experiences,” and this self-described adventurous traveler likes the balance between free time and guided explorations on Grand Circle trips. “Because I took that post-trip in Amsterdam, I did a lot of things on my own there. I squeezed in all the museums and the Anne Frank House, and it was really easy to get around on the trains. It's nice if your Program Director takes you on the train or subway the first time. In Russia, where the Metro art is famous, my Program Director marked on my map the best spots to get off and explore.”
As for Lehr, her next exploration may come as a surprise to some—although she’s been everywhere from Antarctica to China and Turkey, she’s never been to England, and will join Grand Circle’s England, Scotland & Wales trip soon. Until then, she’ll be admiring the souvenirs she picked up in Holland and Belgium. “Besides making a digital photo album of each of my trips, now I bring back an art souvenir. I have a very tall living room wall that’s now covered with travel art. I love to look back and remember the circumstances. But Holland & Belgium may be the first trip that I bought more than one. I brought back a little watercolor from Kinderdijk and at Keukenhoff I bought a small print of the flower fields.”
Another one of her trips might just be a bit more local. “We do have a wonderful gallery near me in Sacramento. I made it a point to get there after coming home and realizing how much I appreciated the art in Europe.”
If you’d like to learn more about this trip from our travelers, check out this video featuring Grand Circle Cruise Line travelers like Jane describing—in their own words—what made their experiences in Holland & Belgium so memorable.