This week my brother Mark and I cycled around the Netherlands. Mark lives in Australia and we’ve kind of formed this little tradition of going on cycling holidays when he’s back over. This is our third one, our first was 12 years ago where we cycled over Dartmoor. 2 years ago we picked the Somerset levels. We both enjoyed the lack of hills last time and Mark is an active travel consultant, so of course we picked the Netherlands.


Flew from Bristol and picked up my hire bike from A-bike rentals, met Mark in the Vondelpark and had a picnic. We then cycled to where we were staying, Pension Homeland, an old Royal naval barracks, it was a lovely quiet space just past the Nemo museum in the east of the city, and still really close to everything.

Two model ships on top of a lift

Mark had got one of those pizza cruise type offers with the hotel booking so we went along not expecting very much, we cycled to Amsterdam Centraal and parked the bikes in the astonishing new underground (and underwater) bike park. The cruise and pizza were surprisingly fun, we shared the boat with a German hen party and a coach load of Polish pensioners the vibe was politely jovial and the staff were great, pizza was surprisingly good too.

A corridor inside the Amsterdam bike park there are concave pillars and bike racks either side. On the ceiling are light blue round lights with old images of Amsterdam etched on them

After that we had a couple of drinks in the Monkey pub, this pub was sighted in the original Dam and sailors used to give away their monkeys they had as pets from exotic adventures in exchange for booze (or so the legend goes). We exchanged euros for (drink name) after the hat we wobbled back towards the hotel and spotted our first windmill, which was also a microbrewery so of course we had to stop for an ale and some Bitterbalen.

Mark and I enjoying a glass of Jenever, behind us is a statue of a monkey with a Christmas hat on, in June


Got up and had a great breakfast at the hotel, then set off south towards Utrecht, it was an incredibly pretty route along wide shipping canals and the more windy river Vecht. Nearly all of the route was on bike paths or bike priority roads and there were loads of people out cycling and boating. We stopped at an old star fort turned into a cafe for a coffee; a small village cafe on a really busy bike road for lunch; and at a river side bar with a terrace right on the river for a cheeky half before rolling into Utrecht late afternoon. We stayed at the Hotel Mitland about a mile from central Utrecht, me and the family stayed here on our epic interail trip a couple of years ago, amazingly it was the cheapest option available in Utrecht as it’s a lovely hotel.

A river cruiser passing under a bike bridge, Mark is on his bike looking down on it

A windmill. The sails are furled, the sides are made of thatch

A very posh looking river home in front of the river. In the river is a very posh looking river cruiser with very posh looking people looking like they are having a good time

A lift bridge open with a boat going through

We decided to walk into Utrecht to stretch the legs in different ways, Cate had recommended Djakarta for tea and we weren’t disappointed. After that we strolled down to look at the busiest bike road in the Netherlands, which was pretty quiet at around 8:30pm. Strolling back we stopped in an old gay bar and had a long chat with a lovely hetro ex-icehockey player who’s Dad was gay. After that we bumped into a jazz festival (how Dutch) full of young kids having a good time. The band, meerkat were good, and after that there was a DJ spinning (and quite often skipping) records from a vintage car. I’m fairly sure Mark and I have become Utrecht dad dancing tiktok memes.

Mark looking very excited at a table full of Indonesian food

Utrecht city centre, the canal is lower with a bank full of cafe tables and umbrellas, there is then a higher street level with old buildings

A large crowd at the Utrecht jazz festival, there red ribbons threaded across the lamp posts

A DJ set being played out of the top of an old red car

The festival wrapped up around 11ish and we shuffled off back to the hotel more inebriated than we originally intended, talking nonsense and gawping at the Utrecht Municipal Theatre on our way home.


We woke up around 8ish to torrential rain and decided to lie in until checkout, this was a trick I learned from interailing, usually hotel check-in’s aren’t open until 3 so there’s no need to rush to the next place, we hoped setting off later would mean we missed the rain. We did not.

Mark and I taking a selfie in wet gear, looking very damp

We had a lovely long brunch at Kushiin (another Cate recommendation, thanks Cate!) before finally setting off, it didn’t take long until we had reached the outskirts of Utrecht and were thoroughly soaked. We then cycled in awful conditions on busy roads. After cycling on dedicated bike roads the whole day before, this was not a happy experience. We got to Oudewater after a couple of hours of being soaked. My hire bike was starting to struggle, the gears seized up in the rain and I got a puncture on the back tyre pulling into the village. We decided to stop for lunch at Eetcafe Lumiere to dry out and fix the tyre. The waiter even helped me fix the tyre!

My bike upside down so we can change the puncture

Another windmill, this one is plastered

It stopped raining and we set off again, we quickly dried out in the heat and were back on canals and quiet roads. We saw loads of storks and herons on the Polders as we cycled past Gouda. As we approached Rotterdam it started to heavily rain again. The approach into Rotterdam was long and were soaked and tired. We hit Rotterdam proper at rush hour, the city felt less cycle friendly than a lot of the Netherlands. There was a lot more shared road with cars and trams. At one point a DHL delivery driver was blocking the cycle lane so we had to pull across tram tracks to avoid it, I misjudged it and my tyre got stuck in the track. I managed to leap from the bike before it tipped and I was really lucky the car on the opposite side of the road saw what happened and braked early as my momentum made me run into the opposite lane. We arrived at the hotel port, wet, tired and shaken up. It wasn’t as nice a hotel as the previous two but we were too tired to care.

We unpacked all our wet gear and were relieved the towel rail in the bathroom worked, we headed out to find something to eat and found a great place just down the road, Cafe Stejn. The food was great and just what we needed after a not entirely fun day. Over dinner we checked the forecast for tomorrow and agreed to change our plans.

The Rotterdam cityscape, in the foreground is a bench and a scooter, I snapped this cycling into a headwind on the bike path

A big plate of ribs!


We woke to rain again which helped us stick with the decision we had made the previous night. We would spend the day pottering around Rotterdam before catching a train to Leaden and cycling from there to Nordwijk. I’m glad we did, Rotterdam is a really interesting city with lots of great architecture, we still ended up cycling 12 miles round the city checking it out, and managed to pick up a further two punctures to my shitbox bike. We rounded off the day visiting Luchtsingel it was one of the early examples of crowdfunding for improved urban connectivity. The wooden walkway was starting to show its age, but the highline-style allotment at the old station was a lovely space.

Old boats and old building in Delfshaven, one of the few old parts of Rotterdam left

Bikes parked in front of 3 towers

The Markthal a large cylindrical building with a beautiful mural painted on the ceiling. The end of the building has large glass windows and frames a tower with a witches hat style roof

Kijk Kubus a square series of buildings pivoted on one of its corners on a column, it gives the impression of a building looming over you, I didn’t like it

Luchtsingel, a highline style allotment garden on an old rail line, you can see the catenary pole in the foreground

Mark doing a star jump inside the wooden luchtsingel pedestrian bridge, it is painted yellow

From there we caught the train to Leaden and cycled through some incredibly well maintained neighbourhoods towards the sea, we cycled through dunes, sheltering us from the strong Northerly wind and arrived at Nordwijk at around 7pm. We stayed at the Two Brothers hotel which felt apt! We got changed and set off to look around Nordwijk, it was the first place that felt a little rundown, a lot like our average seaside town in the UK, it reminded me of Burnham on Sea.

Along the front we stopped to check the menu at an Italian restaurant. An old lady stopped to talk to us, she was 98 and walking her dog. She recommended a seafood restaurant down the road, we thanked her and went to check it out. It did look good but was expensive so we headed back to the Italian restaurant, just then the lady was walking back down the opposite side of the road, saw us and let out a cry of anguish, we gave her apologetic gestures as we shuffled in. We speculated on the relationship between the woman and the ancient waiter in the restaurant as we devoured two enormous pizzas.

Posh houses at Leiden, they are modern style with glass fronts and decks to the canal in front of them, all the houses were like them

The North sea, there is a river trench heading to the sea, Mark is in the foreground on his bike

The beach at Nordwijk, it is a fine white sand beach, it was very windy

Nordwijk sea front, this is as rough as the Netherlands got, thats to say theres a gaudy romanesque hotel and some 70’s style flats, in the background is a ferris wheel. The paved road surface is immaculate


The final day of cycling, the first half was in the dunes and the second took us inland to Zaandijk via Haarlem. Although it was shorter it was my favourite day. Despite the bikes bottom bracket sounding like it was going to explode all day, the ride was varied and interesting. The first half through the dunes was different to anything we had seen so far and even had a few “hills”. The second half of the day was equally interesting, Haarlem was another pretty well maintained town and after that we followed the Ij, the large waterway that connects Amsterdam to the North sea. We had to get a ferry to cross the Ij it was only a short trip but cool to watch as it timed when to leave between some pretty big boars navigating up a very narrow strip of water.

Mark and I taking a selfie riding our bikes in the sand dunes

Panoramic shot of sandunes, they go all the way into the distance and have dense foliage

The square at Haarlem, there is a large townhall and other old buildings, the square is decorative brick

A large ship sailing down the Ij canal, the car ferry we used to cross it is to the right of the image moored on the opposite bank

Another windmill, this one is green and has a house attached to it

A brick water tower next to a liftbridge

Zaandijk was on the Disneyland side of ‘beautiful dutch town’ we didn’t hang about as we needed to get the bike back to Amsterdam and Mark had some leaflets he had printed to ship to a conference he was going to in Belgium. We headed back to Amsterdam on the train, did our chores and met back up in the monkey pub for an end of ride celebratory drink.

Mark and I enjoying an end of ride beer back in the pub with the monkey in the Christmas hat

Classic Amsterdam shot of the narrow houses along the canal

We got the train back to Zaandijk and had a lovely stroll around the windmills in the twilight, surprisingly there was only us and a small group of Japanese tourists, a real surprise after the hustle of Amsterdam and a lovely way to end a great trip.

Wooden houses at Zaan Schaans, very beautiful but it has an air of Disneyland preservation about it

The original Albert Heijn shop, a wooden building. Albert Heijn is a bit like a tesco extra in the UK

4 windmills in a row at Zan schaans


Had some regular catchups today and Agile in the Ether at lunchtime which as always was full of curious and insightful people. I talked more than usual, but found my mouth and brain weren’t quite meshing. I hope my comments were useful and not taking up time as there are always so many good ideas and thoughts.


I read the first half of radical candour on the plane over and didn’t love it so much so I decided to download crucial conversations for the journey back, which is similar but is gelling with me better, I should finish them both and compare next week. During the trip, I was reading Rubicon, the triumph and tragedy of the Roman republic by Tom Holland, not sure why I picked it, maybe it was me watching too much election news last week. Anyway its a fairly dense subject and well written. It’s interesting to see how democracy (as was) in the republic failed and the causes back then.

A couple of weeknotes caught my attention last week, Steve’s had an interesting challenge about why aren’t more digital folks talking about AI? I have personal thoughts, perhaps I’ll unpack them next week. Neil’s return to weeknoting and his reflection on the challenges of weeknoting in commercial settings resonated.


Haven’t really watched any telly, when I got home Phoebe is still watching gogglebox and enjoying it. I want to watch the Paris shark movie.


Started painting the spare room today, god I hate painting.


Next week is the ‘doing’ week of July so I’ve got a plan I’m hoping to smash through, the week after Hand Phoebe are up at Stoke Mandeville for the week and I’ll be looking after Freya, she has the Friday off school so I need to think up something fun to do together.