For Christmas I told my mother I'd take her to see the Dutch bulbfields this Spring. I wonder of anyone out there can advise me on the following...
A) when should we go?
B) where is the best place to head for?
C) where should we stay?
On the way back, I want to take my Dad to some of the First World War battlefield sites. Again, any advice gratefully received.
In Flanders Fields in Ypres is a must see - there is also a fantastic War Memorial and many war graves around - basing yourself around Ypres is IMHO the way to go.
But In Flanders Fields is a must.
Does that mean you are going to the Keukenhof? Only open from mid-March to mid-May, so I guess that's when its is at its best. That part of Holland is (a) flat and (b) cramped, although anywhere from Amsterdam to Rotterdam would be within one hours drive. You could try staying at a beach hotel in Noordwijk, Wassenaar or Zandvoort.
No tips on WWI battle fields, but if you are going by car through Eurotunnel, watch out for the speed traps on the A10/E40 between Brugge and Gent.
If you do nothing else, visit Ypres in the evening for the Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate.
Tyne Cot cemetery (near Passendale) is truly humbling ... row upon row of white gravestones.
Cheer yourself up with a selection of fine Belgian beer and a fantastic meal at the Hommelhof restaurant in Watou.
Try to stay a night in Arras, good hotel is Les Trois Lupins in the Grand Square.
Hope these links help
I would visit the Keukenhof to see the bulbs in flower. at Lisse. The flower parade is on the 26th April
I used to stay at De Nachtegaal ( Nightinggale)Hotel in Lisse 3*or the Golden Tulip Hotel Lisse 4*
I know the area so well i could be your guide. !!!
Go see Vimy Ridge, Canadian memorial and trenches etc. Whole place is utterly astonishing
I know nothing of these tulips of which you speak, but in respect of WW1 battlefields I suggest you may like to take a look at Messines Ridge, south of Ypres.
It marks the place in 1917 where 20-odd giant mines were exploded as part of a successful assault. It clearly showed that the lessons of the Somme were being learned.
The Canadian capture, a few months earlier, of Vimy Ridge, north of Arras, was equally impressive.
I think its easy to forget the British Army's successes and over concentrate on fearsome events like the first day of the Somme.
In this respect the 1918 'Battle of Arras', 8 August 1918, was the most important day of the war. It marked a decisive defeat for the Germans, they realised they were going to lose the war and Ludendorf effectively had a nervous breakdown.
I am not sure what there is to 'see' in these places but they are probably the three most influential you could visit and it ought to bring home the fact that by late 1918 the most effective fighting force on the Western Front was the British Army. It was the best army we have ever put into the field before or since. A citizen army at that.
It might be worth talking to older members of the family and doing some research on the CWGC website. There was almost certainly someone killed in WWI so you might be able to visit their grave (if there is one of course). Even if there is no known grave they would commemorated on a memorial somewhere near where they were killed.
Anywhere around Chateau Thierry on the Marne is a good base to see many war memorials and battlefields. Long while since I was there so can't give you any more details.
Alex - what a pretentious prat. "That part of Holland is (a) flat and (b) cramped,"... Gosh, we're in awe of your worldly knowlege.
Closing with "No tips on WWI battle fields, but if you are going by car through Eurotunnel, watch out for the speed traps on the A10/E40 between Brugge and Gent."
Iain's post was about WWI battlefields. What a pretentious prat.
May I suggest that you invest in probably the finest book ever written on the Battlefields of Northern France and Belgium. Written by the late Miss Rose E B Coombs MBE, "Before Endevours Fade" (BEF was the anacronym of the British Expeditionary Force) this magnificent book details the sacrifice made on our behalf by so many. It is a book of immense power and feeling and is a fitting tribute to the fallen of our Nation, the Commonwealth, our Allies and, uniquely, our then foes. As you visit the hallowed grounds, think of the words of Geoffrey Winthorp Young,
"There will be voices whispering down these ways'
The while one wanderer is left to hear,
And the young life and laughter of old days,
Shall make undying echoes "
Verity, Unlike you I am not at all pretentious, and if you reread the the title of the post you may realise what a prat you are.
I used to live in Rotterdam and Hilversum, so I know the area very well. There are many interesting places in to go in Holland, but that part is quite frankly dullest bits a few miles west of Schipol airport, and probably not the greatest place to stay.
Holland is flat and cramped.
I am shocked. Shocked!
Look at: http://www.keukenhof.nl/nm/sitemap-english.html to get an idea about tulip viewing; it is open Mar 20 - May 18.
See also: http://www.hortus-bulborum.nl/ : Every year from April 6 through May 16. Hat tip: http://www.justplants.co.uk/
So why put your big footprint across the north see when the Spalding Festival is still alive and well?
If you are passing through then stop off in Bayeux. The war graves will bring tears to your eyes (I confess that I cried uncontrollably) and the museums bring understanding to those who were not there and recall to those who were.
You know my email address so get in contact privately should you wish to...the local Round Table are extremely welcoming so dinner is guaranteed :-) and one of them is a renowned WW2 historian.
Alex wrote: "I used to live in Rotterdam and Hilversum, so I know the area very well. There are many interesting places in to go in Holland, but that part is quite frankly dullest bits a few miles west of Schipol airport, and probably not the greatest place to stay."
SO ... WHAT?
"There are many intersting places to go to in Holland"/ Well, lah di dah. Iain didn't ask for fun suggestions for what to do in Holland. That wasn't the point of his post.
He was asking for grave sites. He is taking his father to see grave sites of British soldiers. People who were buried in that land who had made the most terrible sacrifice for us.
Stick to the subject. He wasn't asking for poncy tips about speed traps, you pretentious, show-offy twerp.
Ypres is amazing but one word of advice. Watch where you step. No mines to speak of, but my friend split is head open tripping in a tunnel which led to me falling in a puddle up to my neck. Although I was a few inches shorter then.
The Somme memorial was a particularly humbling experience.
If you hire a car in Holland and use the main roads and motorways, beware of the averaging speed cameras - they're everywhere.
I was over there last year and was surprised to get a speeding fine through the post a few weeks later. No point in ignoring it; the hire car company will have all your details.
It's a taste of what's to come on British motorways.
Verity is not a sentient being Alex so ignore her. Sad really how she takes herself so seriously.
And thanks for the tip on speed trap A10/E40. I will be there in April visiting Ypres and Arras
I country should be judged by its people, The time I spent working in NL I found the people very friendly, industrious and pro British. the words Dull and Holland do not go together as far as I am concerned. The skill in which the Dutch have created their country out of nothing is a wonder to behold and should be admired and respected by all and yes Alwx you do sound like a pratt.as we say in Norfolk put brain in gear before mouth or you will never get past Thursday
I would spend time with the bulbs rather than the battlefields. I could never go to them again it is just far to upsetting
Martin Curtiss . How can you have a 'fantastic' War Memorial. I think you should choose your words more carefully with more respect.
You make the whole thing sound like some sort of theme park experiance.
Ypres Iain, Tyne Cot cemetery, Passchendale unforgettable.
Not all of the Netherlands is flat. Not all of it is cramped. But that's a ridiculous discussion and not why we are here.
People have already mentioned the Keukenhof as the centre of all things floral in bulb season (I should know - this is what I do for a living!). But there are plenty of bulb fields around and, if you have time, a little ambling around in the area can be rewarding. Some of the small towns in the area are nice to stop by too.
If you get a Falk road map, they show the bulb-growing areas with little tulip symbols.
Leiden is a nice place to stay and has some good restaurants. The Oudt Leyden pannekoekenhuysje on Steestraat is well worth going to for traditional Dutch pancakes (much better than it sounds, I promise). Alternatively, stay in central Gouda, although that's a bit further from Lisse. Utrecht is my favourite place in the north of the Netherlands, but that is possibly a little too far from Lisse for you.
Forgot to add: I'm guessing that your parents might be of an age where the motion-sickness-inducing Eurotunnel might not be for them. I'm only in my 30s and find it quite disorienting and avoid it at all costs. I travelled with a colleague on it a while ago who was very nearly sick after only 15 minutes.
So I recommend the Norfolk Line ferry to Dunkerque. The boats are modern and well equipped (they've just been refurbished) and you can put your feet up for the crossing. There's a good reason why there are lots of Dutch and Belgians on those boats - it's a good route.
Don't know too much about bulbs, other than they were traded more than gold years ago.
For the battlefields, type in CWGC.com and 'Dale'. Forget the first names and service.Go for both wars if you like.
Follow a name and see when, where and why they died and where the graveyard is.
Can offer no advice about the Battlefields, Iain, but about the Bulb Fields I certainly can.
As others have mentioned, Keukenhof Gardens are an absolute MUST. They are the most amazing spectacle, unbelievably beautiful and very very big. As Johnny Norfolk says, have a look at www.keukenhof.nl - tells you everything you need to know. Think you have previously mentioned that your mother has problems with her hip - you can hire a wheelchair at Keukenhof and the website tells you how. It is a huge place and you need to allow plenty of time to see it, and it is so gorgeous you won't want to miss anything.
(When I was there a couple of years back, there was a small group of Americans who were in absolute awe, kept saying how wonderful the place was and there was nothing so spectacular in the States!)
Never mind the Dutch bulb fields: why not visit England's forgotten treasure - the 50th Spalding Tulip Parade takes place on Saturday 3 May 2008.
See http://www.flowerparade.org/ for more details.
England's finest: so much better than your common dutch bulbs.
Verity, we know that you are an attention seeker but if you have nothing worthwhile to contribute then why not say nothing?
Who would have thought that Verity would have had a go at someone in a blog post like this?! Ha ha! Very amusing!
Who does she think she is to criticise other's comments? Live and let live, Verity - as someone once said. Comments enrich the debate on Iain's blog - please don't discourage people from posting. And if you feel so strongly about other people's "wrong" opinions, why don't you write your own bloody blog? If we couldn't laugh at you, we would all find you rather boring.
Graybo - War graves.
Graves of boys and young men, some as young as 16, poorly equipped,living in trenches in conditions we would consider too appalling for a stray dog, who made the ultimate sacrifice for Britain. And don't forget many of those men had fiancées waiting for them back home ... and they never came back. And with so many killed and so few young adult men left at home, there was a whole generation of young women who never married. What a terrible, terrible war.
I would not be able to visit any of the war graves. The tragedy is too heartbreaking.
Jafo - War graves of people who died for us, or a flower festival? Hmmm ... tough choice.
I am shocked that so many men here are such trivial little things. And Graybo gets motion sickness on Eurostar. Oh, boo hoo! Thank God those men and boys who fought for us were made of tougher stuff!
Jafo - I must have missed the part in Iain's post where he asked for advice on tulip displays.
Having actually read his post, I "thought he was taking his father, who is probably in his Seventies, to see First World War graves of British soldiers.
"...there was a small group of Americans who were in absolute awe, kept saying how wonderful the place was and there was nothing so spectacular in the States!)"
Americans are notoriously polite.
I've always wanted to see the Menin Gate.
My apologies for people who mentioned the Dutch bulbs. When I read Iain's post, I could swear that he only mentioned taking his father to the War graves. Iain, did you add the top paragraph about your Mother, and tulips later?
Admittedly I'd only just got up and had my first sip of tea,but I don't think my eye would have elided over the first paragraph of a post ...
I do apologise to the others.
I'd really recommend you go to the flower market at Aalsmeer. Make sure you see the auctions. It's a fascinating venue not only for the immensity of the place and the numbers of flowers, but also for the way you can see market forces in operation.
Tyne Cot is the one essential site to see for a British Cemetry - truely humbling.
The Ypes salient is worth a tour - just to find the odd by chance small cemetry so well kept in the middle of almost nowhere.
I find Ypres itself somewhat sacerine now - although the Menim Gate and its ceremony is indeed worth it.
Depending on your parents sensibilities, the largest French and German cemetries are a short drive away from Tyne Cot. Both are worth a visit in their different ways.
As for time of year, any of the warmer times.
The advantage of Tyne Cot et al is that it provides a wonderul excuse to drive back from the Netherlands on a road that avoids the autoroute in that part of France. From about Bruges onwards towards Calais, you get a more pleasant if slower road.
I took my mum about 8 or 9 years ago - when she was about 70 - to Bruges, Tyne Cot and Ypres. Well worth it.
The answer to B. is HOLLAND.
You can't miss the Lutyens Monument. www.newstatesman.com/200607170049 explains why.
Verity - as Iain opened his post by saying he had promised his mother to take her to the bulb fields, and intended to take his father to visit the WWI battlefields on the way back - I did think you were a little harsh over my well-intended advice!
By the way, the Americans were talking amongst themselves (at the next table at lunchtime) about the glories of Keukenhof, they weren't trying to impress anyone.
As a matter of interest, have you ever actually been to the bulbfields? Enjoying the beauty of the flowers is not something one needs to apologise for.
Verity said ... "Admittedly I'd only just got up and had my first sip of tea ..."
Tea? Surely it was your usual vitriol.
"Admittedly I'd only just got up and had my first sip of tea"
Well as euphemisms go that's got to win a prize...
Just get out Alistair Sawday's guide for lovely accomodation and great food.
there was a small group of Americans who were in absolute awe, kept saying how wonderful the place was and there was nothing so spectacular in the States!)
"We have ... put wonderful young men and women at risk, many of whom have lost their lives, and we have asked for nothing except enough ground to bury them in"
Gen Colin Powell, 2003
"Just get out Alistair Sawday's guide for lovely accomodation and great food."
But it doesn't cover either Holland or Belgium.
You're not Alistair Sawday are you?
dick wishart said...
"The answer to B. is HOLLAND."
Either Iain edited his post or the top of his post wasn't available on my computer when I first booted up, because all I read was a very short post that Iain was taking his father to Holland to see the War graves, and I posted some comments. I was puzzled that people seemed to be flocking around talking about tulip bulbs.
When I came back, later, there was the bit about his mother and the bulbs.
I do apologise to those I wrongly castigated.
The Yorkshire Trench system at Boezinge is a must. See here;
You can take this in alongside the other places already mentioned.
I endorse the mention of the Dunkrik ferry service from Norfolk line. I lived in Antwerp for a while and came to use this method to and from the UK regularly.
Have a good trip!
It's way off your route but the Canadian monument at Beaumont-Hamel (http://maps.google.co.uk/maps?t=h&hl=en&ie=UTF8&ll=50.075583,2.65064&spn=0.022034,0.048881&z=15) has always left me in awe and trepidation of what 1914-18 must have been like. The site retains some of the opposing trenches as well as the graves of those that were lost.
On a lighter note, remember to take some lip salve with you to Holland. It will help you cope with chewed lips from Amsterdam.
Iain, where are you going to sail to - this will dictate where you can visit.
I have spent this weekend on the Somme with my son (again) and stayed at Mash Valley B&B - www.mashvalley.com.
The Somme is amazing - and although the trech systems are not as well presenrced as Yrpres (perhaps with the exception of Newfoundland Memorial Park at Beaumont Hamel), there is still an enourmous amount of history that you can see.
The Somme is easy to get too - about 90 mins drive from Ypres. Albert is the main town, and there are good hotels and restaurants there, and local Gites as well. I have a list of them if that helps.
I can give you a potted history of the Somme if that helps too, and lend you all my books.
This weekend, one of the most touching sites was the German Soldatenfriedhof at Fricourt, which had obviously been visited by a group of British tourists, and they planted 'In Rememberance' poppy crosses. Good to remember that Germans suffered in the battle too!
However, if you are in Belguim, you must must MSUT go to Ypres. The three battles of Ypres deserve some good research before you go, but whatever you do, go to Tyne Cott Cemetary, and also the Menin Gate for the evening service.
Also, join the Western Front Association.
Verity, you don't apologise do you? You feel bad that, not for the first time, you've been shown to be a bile-filled halfwit.
Guys, Verity apologised. Give her a break - we all enjoy her posts/rants/wit.
Iain, there are a hell of a lot of people on this post who clearly apreciate the history of the great war. Would you be intersted in acting as a focal-point for a tour of the Somme and Ypres regions?
I'd happily do the donkey-work, organise ferries and accomodation etc. I could also guide the bit on the Somme as I know it well - perhaps with a more knowlegable soul taking responsibility for Ypres - about which I know shamefully little given its massive importance.
So - Dale's Diary on Tour?
What do you think?
Iain - and finally, if you want a good few tomes to get stuck into, look at Lynne McDonald's books on the great war. 1914, 1915, Somme, They Called it Paschendale, 1918, the Roses of No Mans Land and a few others. If you are going to Ypres, start with They Called it Paschendale.
Pick yourself up a copy of Major Holt's Battleield Guide as well!
And go to the Cloth Hall, The Menin Gate, and Hill 60 too!
I agree with "King Lear" Vimy Ridge is an excellent choice. I have a relative buried at Aubingy-en-Artois near Arras, it's one of several WW1 Commonwealth War Graves in the area. Arras is great if you like Flemish architecture.
Suggest you go to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Website, here:
Wow! "pretentious"; "prat", "twerp", etc, etc. All that "vitriol" over something as uncontentious as a blog request for holiday advice. No wonder wars start!
Iain, I'm sure it's too far away for your father and he'd probably want to visit British war sites anyway, but I do recommend visiting Verdun at some stage in your life. As a convinced Eurosceptic, I think it explains a lot of the mentality behind the Euroenthusiasts' attempt to prevent another such war. There is something very evil, still, in the atmosphere there and Forts Douaumont and Vaux are frightful places. You simply don't get the same feeling in a British Commonwealth War Graves Commission site, moving as they are.
The best book to read on Verdun by a country mile is Alistair Horne's Paths of Glory.
I hope you have a good trip.
12:15 A.M. Been having little drinkie poos have we? If a sober adult had been unable to come up with a sharper - although pointless - post than yours, he would have skipped the whole idea and saved the cyberspace.
Iain, if you're ever in Southeast Asia at the appropriate time, the sunrise service for the Commonwealth citizens who died a the hands of the Japanese is very moving. The Singporeans keep the cemetary up beautifully.
Heres a photographic album of what the Somme looks like today
Everyone is having a go at you Verity, I am not trying to join in ... but ...
You remark that our soldiers were poorly equipped. Well they were not (and only the tinyest of numbers were under 18) and I suspect you would find that they were rotated out of the trenches more often than our troops in Afghanistan get rest.
Nor was there (in the UK at least) a 'lost generation'; the 'pals' battalions and losses by some public schools gave that perception in some areas ... but thats another story.
If I can continue on my hobby horse ... I am sure it is worthwhile visiting the WW1 battlefields, I would love to do it myself sometime, but quite frankly it is meaningless without some proper understanding of what went on. 'Mud Blood and Poppycock' and 'Forgotten Victory' are two very accessible and well researched books which a visitor ought to read before embarking on such a journey.
I would also suggest that you go to the Keukenhof, however, I would suggest that you base yourself in the beautiful Dutch town of Maastricht, you can be in Ypres in about 2 - 21/2 hrs and be in Keukenhof in about 2 hours.
For an extra stop I suggest that you also visit Waterloo or perhaps take a trip to the Ardennes where you have both 1st WW and 2nd WW battle-sites to visit.
Anyway whatever you choose I am sure your mother and you will have a wonderful time.
Den Haag is a good touring location - you can get round town on trams. Katwijk and Noordwijck are fine - but exposed and the wind drives off the North Sea. Scheveningen, just north of the Hague - really part of it, is a good compromise. By the sea lots to eat including the obligatory raw herring. There's good cultural stuff in the Hague. Delft can be reached by train or a rather long tram journey ( the centre is relatively compact ). (Dutch public transport actually works - but you'll need a car for wider afield). You can also get a train to Amsterdam and reach the boats (and oddly trams) that do city tours without much of walk from the central station ( do not take your car into Amsterdam !). The fast ferry from Harwich is a good option.
Also there are boat trips from Katwijk which cover a lot of the Dutch basics - polders, dykes, low bridges (duck - really the Dutch don't warn you twice), windmills etc. All combined with a very civilised bar / cafe on the bottom deck (where you can keep warm if needed ! ).
See http://www.rederijtriton.nl/ ( my Dutch is a bit rusty, but I think this is the company I took my family on the 3 hour tour with ). The cruises go from here I think.
The Dutch are great - speak better English than we do and are about the only people in Europe who actually (genuinely) like us.
The Ossuary at Verdun is one of the most extraordinary buildings in Europe. If you go round to the back of the monument you can see through small windows the neatly-stacked bones and skulls of unidentified combatants - horrific and moving. The Verdun forts should also be visited. May I also suggest Arnold Zweig's novel, Education before Verdun, written from the German standpoint, as background reading, one of a trilogy by a deeply humane writer who ended his life in exile from the Nazis in Palestine.
Andrew at 9.25 am and Anonymous at 3.38 pm both mention Verdun.
Until I went there a few years ago, I don't think that I fully appreciated what people meant by "industrial scale warfare." The scale of the killing is hard to take in. It was the only battle that was exclusively French vs Germans - and resulted in 800,000 casualties.
Conversely, if you ever lose your way in the French / Belgian border country, you'll see lots of little villages, most of which have a small WWI cemetery.
When I've talked about these cemeteries to work colleagues from France and Belgium, they have all said that, because of these cemeteries and monuments, their countries live with the reminders of two world wars on a daily basis. Spend any time around Ypres and you'll see that their ceremonies aren't for the benefit of the tourists.
I think that Andrew is right. Many continental Europeans do see the EC first and foremost as a way of preventing wars. By that measure, the EC has been a success; it's a pity we got all the back-door socialist crap with it.
C) An hotel
I claim my fiver.
Iain Keukenhof is the best place for bulbfields, located in Lisse about 20 minutes south of Amsterdam. It is a really splendid day out with plenty to see. The dutch are skilled at keeping the display going throughout the open season, however I would recommend going mid to late in the display season. There are indoor pavilions to jump to in case of April showers, however I never needed them.
Hotels - Amsterdam is full of them depending what you want to see and do in the evening. Foodwise the selection is very diverse so all tastes are catered for. Leidseplein has plenty of different types of restaurants. Disadvantage of Amsterdam is parking, but you win some and lose some.
As for WW1 battlefield tours, if you are self touring buy a Holts tourguide and follow that. Central area for the battlefields - you cannot go wrong near or in Ypres but you have to book early for hotels. You could get a hotel in Lille and drive to Ypres daily, but its nicer to be on location. You must see the Last Post ceremony at the Menin gate.
If you are anywhere near, don't miss the war graves at Arnhem. The care with which they are kept brought tears to my eyes. Well worth the detour.
Someone suggested staying in Maastricht. It is undoubtedly lovely, perhaps the loveliest city in the Netherlands, but travelling up and down the A2 is not to be recommended - it is often one long traffic jam. Utrecht to Maastricht has taken me four hours before now.
good on you Iain - I make a point of going down to the Australian war memorial in London and paying my respects 3 or 4 times a year.
These Men travelled thousands of miles to defend the Empire and paid a price. They were the sons of farmers and miners who left this country to escape the European malaise but nonetheless came back when called. They may have been foolish in that choice but they deserve respect. I remain in awe of their sacrifice.
Iain, please take a moment to remember them for a moment in your prayers, secular or otherwise. We'll never know those boys and men and who knows, I doubt they would have approved of the society we live in but we can only be thankful for the life we lead as a result of their deaths.
Verity why dont you go and spread your wisdom on some other blogs. It seems so unfair that only we have the benfit of your insight.
closer to home - try the American airfield cemetary at Maddingley near Cambridge. A field of crosses and occasional Stars of David. I think the most moving ones are inscriptions that read "three comrades who fell together". i.e. it was not possible to extract their bodies seperately from the wreckage of their plane crash.
And on some of them the date of death is a year or so after 1945 as they were mortally injured before the official end of the war and died long after so still considered as part of WW2 war dead.
If and when visiting Verdun you must realise that this was why the Somme was fought when and where and for as long as it was.
The graves around the Somme are there for a purpose, they kept France in the war.
The further point worth considering is what was it which changed in France between the wars and turned the resolve of Verdun into fatalism of Vichy?
Maybe Franco-German guilt lies behined the EC.
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