Posted on May 1, 2019 in Alumni News and News
We all began our journey to Brussels from different places across the country, excited for our week ahead exploring Belgium and the Netherlands. We had little idea what all was in store for the week. One thing was for sure, this group of Jayhawks would share memorable experiences together. We would come home with stories to share and pictures that couldn’t even begin to depict the beauty we would encounter. Let me share my adventure with you …
Day 2: Brussels, Belgium
After meeting up with a few of the Flying Jayhawks in Brussels we boarded a bus for a short excursion. In the downtown market square we walked past not one, not two, but what seemed like hundreds of chocolate shops, each unique in its own way. Chocolate Easter bunnies, chocolate eggs, chocolate covered bunnies, chocolate sculptures … every type of chocolate you could imagine!
The beautiful weather was perfect for walking the cobblestone streets and enjoying the architecture of the city. Next, we hopped back on the bus for the drive to Antwerp, where we would board the ship that we’d call home for the next seven nights.
Our group of 10 Jayhawks ventured out to meander through Antwerp’s quaint squares and cobblestone streets and see more medieval architecture. Our tour guide took us to the Great Market Square, past the Gothic Cathedral of Our Lady and then back to board the place we would be calling home. Once back on the ship, we all gathered for a delicious dinner, shared stories and connected with our new friends.
Day 3: Bruges, Belgium
We were excited for a full day visiting Bruges! The romantic city with an ambiance that has earned it the nickname, “Venice of the North.” The city is filled with tranquil canals, sturdy stone bridges and winding cobblestone streets.
I ventured to the De Halve Maan Brewery with fellow Jayhawks to learn about the strong tradition of brewing that dates to the 12th century. Belgium embraces its national drink and it definitely tastes better in Bruges! We climbed up a winding staircase (200 stairs in all) to take in the panoramic view of the city.
After the tour we had free time to explore the city and enjoyed lunch at a cafe along one of the canals. Jayhawks enjoyed some sunshine on the top deck as we began sailing down the river. For dinner we all met in the Panorama Lounge for the captain’s welcome reception, cocktails and a fantastic dinner.
Day 4: Veere, Netherlands
I couldn’t resist going out for a run along the river experiencing the Netherlands exactly how I had imagined it: Quiet little grass-lined paths surrounded by pastures of lazy sheep, a canal lined with boats and the fog slowly rising from the water. It was a picturesque morning.
After breakfast, some passengers embarked on the elective excursion to visit the Delta Works. The series of massive dams and storm surge barriers is an engineering masterpiece that protects the Netherlands: One-third of the nation’s landmass sits below sea level. In 1953, the North Sea waves wiped out part of the country.
For those who stayed aboard the ship, one of our AHI directors took us on a guided stroll through Veere, which included more cobblestone streets, quaint little shops and pop-up bakeries filled with samplings of fresh herring, too. Not everyone was brave enough to give it a try, but that left more for the rest of us. It was delicious! Our afternoon was split between more free time in the little village of Veere and setting sail back down the river towards Willemstad.
The evening was filled with an educational session about Dutch architecture, cocktails and another amazing dinner.
Day 5: Schoonhoven/Kampen
The excursion choices today included a trip to the Hague and Mauritshuis or the Royal Delft and porcelain factory. I chose to visit the Hague’s landmark buildings with several couples from my group. We saw the Binnenhof, which is home to the Dutch parliament. Plus, we saw the Peace Palace, which is the seat of the United Nations’ International Court of Justice.
Our stroll continued on the streets of Hague to the Mauritshuis, which houses works by Dutch and Flemish masters, most notably Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring.” We were all awed by the beauty of the works before us and could have spent hours viewing the art.
The evening included our very own cocktail reception! Jayhawks shared stories from their days on campus, favorite memories of Lawrence and a common love for our University. We had the staff doing the Rock Chalk chant, wearing Jayhawk stickers and learning just a small part of what makes the Jayhawks so special. (We may have even converted one Hokie, who was traveling alone and quickly became a part of our group.)
Day 6: Giethoorn
No one knew what this magical day would include. We boarded buses to the winsome little village of Giethoorn, which is free of cars and interlaced with footpaths and narrow canals.
The tiny wooden bridges, 18th-century farmhouses that lined the canals and the small-town Dutch life made it feel like a fairy tale. Despite the traffic jams along the canal, we enjoyed every minute we spent in this village.
The afternoon included a walking tour of Kampen and some free time to explore on our own. Since this was Easter Monday, many shops were closed, leaving the city quieter than usual. It was so fascinating to explore at a time when we felt more like a local than a tourist.
Once back on the ship, we set sail toward Amsterdam and enjoyed our dinner while sailing down the river to the most picturesque view of the North Sea.
Day 7: Amsterdam
We woke up in the morning to the lights of the city of Amsterdam. We were surrounded by other ships, filled with tourists excited to venture in to the capital of the Netherlands. After breakfast we ventured off the ship for a unique tour of Amsterdam. We saw a glimpse of the 60-plus miles of tree-lined canals that make this romantic city so unforgettable.
The afternoon was spent at leisure exploring Amsterdam. The streets were littered with bicycles and we were all warned: The bicycles will stop for no one! As one Jayhawk couple said upon their return, we all “cheated death” that afternoon! Amsterdam is filled with interesting neighborhoods and architectural gems: the Anne Frank House, the Tulip Museum, Rijksmuseum, Dutch Resistance Museum, the Floating Flower Market and much more!
We began the evening with a cocktail hour, stories to share from the day and much laughter among strangers that quickly became friends.
Day 8: Amsterdam – Kuekenhof Gardens
This 80-acre paradise included brightly colored tulips plus many other gorgeous blooms: hyacinths, orchids, hydrangeas, daffodils and many others. No picture could even begin to portray the magnificent beauty of the gardens or the fragrant smell. The masses of people that visit the garden each year are testament to its beauty.
Our last afternoon in the Netherlands came to an end and we all felt blessed to experience so many wonderful sites together. I enjoyed one more run along the canal-lined streets, visited Central Station and dodged a few bicycles along the way.
Our final night on the ship was a celebration of new friendships. The Netherlands is a small country overflowing with picturesque landscapes, amazing architecture, incredibly delicious cuisine, and the people are pretty amazing, too!
We enjoyed a week of unseasonably warm temperatures and not a single drop of rain! I’m certain it’s because we all packed our umbrellas, rain boots and rain coats. This trip once again reminded me of the power of the Jayhawk network. We boarded the ship as strangers and ended as friends who shared an amazing journey along the Dutch Waterways.
The Flying Jayhawks trip “Dutch Waterways” was April 17-25, 2019. The trip was hosted by Jodi Nachtigal, the Alumni Association’s controller. View more photos from the trip; pictures may be downloaded for personal use. Find more information about Flying Jayhawks trips, including a schedule, or sign up for travel emails.