The amazing medieval center of Bruges is on the list of Unecso World Heritage Sites and is possibly the most renowned historic Flemish city. Here our northbound western route starts with an afternoon of biking to the historic suburb of Damme. After a city walk in Bruges the barge sails out the same night.
Before going north to the Netherlands we make a loop to see more of Flanders. We visit Kortrijk, the charming former center of flax, and Ypres. The latter is a very picturesque Flemish city, completely destroyed in WW-I and beautifully restored. The former wool hall houses a very impressive and moving museum of the incredible set of events that took place in Flanders Fields, the same fields you cycle through.
Through the scenic Leie River valley with mansions of the Flemish nobility we cycle to Gent, one of the best-kept secrets of Flemish beauty. Here, where Charles the fifth was born and from where he ruled the Habsburgian Empire in the 16th century, we have a day off to enjoy the shops, museums and churches. The view from Saint Michaels bridge of the famous three towers of Gent: the Saint Nicholas Church, the city belfry, and the Saint Bavo Cathedral is spectacular. Don't forget to buy some chocolate and to taste the Belgium beers - the best beers of Europe - before we set off to the Netherlands.
In Dutch Zeeland we visit the towns Vlissingen (hometown of Flushing New York immigrants), the capital Middelburg and the historic fishing towns of Veere and Zierikzee. A highlight is cycling over the impressive water-engineering project of the Eastern Schelt Storm Surge Barrier that protects Zeeland from the North Sea.
Once in the province of South Holland, we go to Kinderdijk where we visit one of the 19 windmills that are on the Unesco World Heritage List. Dordrecht - one of the oldest cities of Holland - and Gouda, famous for its cheese and 15th century city hall, are on the way to Amsterdam. Your last full day is spent in Amsterdam.
Bruges is about a four-hour train ride from Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam. Trains usually run twice an hour.
Tours begin on Saturday in Europe; you must leave the USA on Friday to arrive on Saturday. Guests need to arrive at the barge by noon the day the tour starts. On the last day of the tour guests debark by 9:00 am.