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BOE21 tour in May

Set & ready for the tour in May and I'm wondering if anyone could give any good advice about sites to see on off time, and weather tips during this time of year. I will be flying in 2 days early, so restaurants in Amsterdam & Haarlem would be great too. Anyone else going in May?

On a side note, I attended the travel expo last weekend where RS was a speaker. It was nice.
Thanks in advance

Posted by
468 posts

If you like VanGogh, get advance online tickets to see the VanGogh Museum in Amsterdam on one of your days before the tour begins. You will not have adequate time to visit in your free time during the tour day in Amsterdam. If you get tickets for opening time, it won't be super crowded. It's a great museum!

Posted by
177 posts

Tatiana we took this tour last year (April 19-May 9) and just loved it. You will have so much fun. We arrived two days before and spent one day in Amsterdam and the other day doing a countryside bus tour. Not sure when you are arriving but the Van Gogh Museum is open late on Friday night which is when we went. Definitely get your tickets before leaving because you can pick the time you want to go. They let us in about 30 minutes before our scheduled time. It is well worth it. I would also go to Sara's Pancake House (located at Raadhuisstraat 45 (just down the street from the Ann Frank House)) to get Dutch Pancakes. There are over 100 choices (at least it looked like that many), so fulling and very inexpensive. Planning on going there again when we return to Amsterdam in the future. Since the tour starts in Haarlem there is so much to see. Definitely make time to go to Grote Kerk church, just beautiful. Also visit the Corrie Ten Boom House, you can make reservations on line for a tour time which we did not but we were lucky to get in. I did hear that some of the other tour members in our group did not get in because of the prior reservations. They only take in about 20 people at a time and there are only a few English version tours during the day. Haarlem ended up being one of our favorite little towns we visited on this tour. Have fun.

Posted by
8203 posts

This is one of my favorite tours...ever!! I goofed and altho I spent the night before the tour started in the tour hotel in Haarlem, I went in to Amsterdam that day and did the Dutch Resistance Museum. Our tour didn't start til 5 and I think yours meets up at 2, right? In retrospect, I wish I had spent the day in Haarlem because I missed so much there.

If you are coming in 2 days ahead (is that 2 nights?) does that include the half day of the day your tour starts?

I would spend the night before the tour in Haarlem, at the hotel if you can get in, then spend the morning before the tour doing the Corrie TenBoom house as Carole suggests plus the Church of St Bavo and wander around.

For your full day (or is that 2 days?) in Amsterdam, I would do the Van Gogh as suggested and the Dutch Resistance Museum (Verzetsmuseum - no advance ticket needed). I found that very interesting and very helpful when we toured the Ann Frank House. You will do a canal boat ride with the group so I would skip it. There is a Maritime Museum that many enjoy or just walk around. It is an amazing place once you get used to NOT walking in the bike lanes, lol!

I hate to always bring up my Trip Report for the 21 day tour, but here is a link in case you can glean any tips from it. I went in August so that is different but you might find something helpful.

https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/tours/21-day-best-of-europe-8-26-14

Did I tell you this was a wonderful tour??

Posted by
4 posts

My husband and I are taking the BOE21 Tour in May too! We signed up for the May 15th tour. Thank you for starting this discussion.
I have been hoping to collect the same helpful tips.

Posted by
13 posts

Thanks everyone, for the tips.
Wow, Pam...I am so glad you dropped that link! That is wonderful and useful information. I will be returning to that many times, I think. I was worried about clothes packing and the weather in early May.

Looking @ my ticket this morning, I remembered that I will be arriving early Friday & I meet with the group on Sunday. I'm not sure what time my tour starts on Sunday yet. I did reserve those 2 nights in Haarlem @ the same hotel, so I'll check in Friday @ 3. I'm a bit worried about jet lag!
From what I've searched and read on the internet, I can take bus 300 into Haarlem, or figure out the train situation and go from there. Depends on how tired I might be & what's easier at the time,
whether I should check my bag @ the station and walk around Amsterdam for a bit or go directly into Haarlem that day.

When the tour is over in Paris, because I bought a round trip ticket, I will also need to hit the trains to get back. So I will need to figure that one out as well. So far, I know the Thalys rides from Paris to Amsterdam in about 3 hours. I'm sure there is much more to figure out there, like from Hotel to which train station etc.
That gives me another night to spend in either Amsterdam or Haarlem, and the next morning I catch my flight back.
I am really looking forward to this, thanks again for all the replies and tips. I'll soak up all the info I can.

Posted by
177 posts

Tatiana we took the Bus 300 to Haarlem it was easy to find (just outside the airport). You just pay the Bus Drive (I believe 5 Euros) and the bus takes you to Haarlem. There are numerous stops along the way but you will be know when you get to Haarlem. I would get off at the Haarlem train station. I am a fanatic wanting to know exactly where I am going when I get somewhere. I used Google Earth to view the surroundings. In fact it shocked my husband when I knew where we had to go to get to our B&B prior to the tour, knew the exact street to turn on. We arrived on the Friday before the tour at 6:00 in the morning. We were so excited jet lag never happened, we stayed active outside until late that night then hit the bed about 10:00. Definitely did not take long to fall asleep. You will have a great time.

Posted by
4572 posts

Don't neglect Haarlem! The Franz Hals museum is wonderful, and there's a quirky science museum that is worth several hours. (I don't remember the name; if nobody else mentions it I'll dig back through my notes.) And the Oulde Kirke (I think) right on the main square is worth a look. Yes, Amsterdam is loaded with sites, but please spend at least one day exploring Haarlem.

I'll also second the suggestion of the Van Gogh Museum, by the way. It's wonderful.

Posted by
116 posts

My husband and I are on the one that starts May 1. We will arrive 3 days early and stay in Haarlem. Looking forward to a bike trip.

Posted by
8203 posts

I'm glad you got the 2 nights ahead in Haarlem. I would go directly to Haarlem from the airport. Amsterdam is crowded and I feel I need to be alert and on my A game in this city, so trying to tour with jet lag would make me anxious.

In Haarlem, I would check in to the hotel then walk around. The big church is right across from the hotel and the main square is just at the front of the church. Find a place for dinner then crash. I didnt do this but ask at the hotel desk if they have a map of Haarlem. There are some neat bridges over canals. I agree with Google walking your route to the hotel. I wound up taking a taxi as it was pouring rain when I got there on the train and I just thought....what the heck, ride!

Saturday you can go in to Amsterdam if you like. The folks in the ticket booths at the Haarlem train station are very nice and the station is small and easy to figure out. You can buy a round trip or return ticket. If I remember correctly there are yellow barriers you have to touch your ticket to. Watch what everyone else does!

If you have already purchased your plane ticket and cant do a return from Paris you will want to buy your Paris ->Amsterdam ticket soon. The Thalys train is cheaper if bought well ahead.

I'm glad you found my trip report helpful!

Posted by
4 posts

My Husband and I are taking this same tour in May. Any suggestions on what is the best form of transportation from Paris to the Charles de Gaulle Airport? Also, how early before the flight do you recommend to be at the Airport? We have never gone through customs before. Thanks in advance for your help! PS - I love all the wonderful suggestions!

Posted by
99 posts

Hi Tatiana,

When I was there last spring Haarlem had a wonderful "Markt" in the town square (very close to hotel) on Friday or Saturday. All kinds of wonderful local food & treats and more could be found. Too many tasty items to sample them all!

Davey :)

Posted by
13 posts

Davey,
The Markt sounds right up my alley!
That & a bike tour sounds like my part of heaven.

Posted by
4572 posts

Brooke, when we did this tour, our hotel arranged a shuttle to the airport. About 6 of us shared it, so it was cheaper than a taxi, and much more convenient than public transportation.

I don't remember how early we had to be at the airport; someone who has been there more recently can advise you on that.

Posted by
697 posts

When we arrived 2 days early for our 21 day tour we stayed in Amsterdam....and in retrospect, I wish we had stayed at the same hotel as the tour hotel. It's a great hotel and you won't spend much time in Haarlem during your tour. You'll just do a walking tour and possibly a windmill museum (not sure if that's officially on the itinerary or not). I really wanted to see the organ in the Oude Kerk (which is right by the tour hotel in Haarlem). We did see the Frans Hals museum in Haarlem before our tour started but we had to rush through it as we only had a little over an hour. Also, the Corrie ten Boom house! I wish we had been able to see that!

If you are there two days early you could always take the train from Haarlem to Amsterdam for the day and if you do that, I highly recommend getting advanced tickets for the Van Gogh musuem. It was really really great!

You are going to have so much fun on this tour! I thought it was the trip of a lifetime.....until we booked our second RS tour, lol!

Posted by
936 posts

Tatiana - here is a link to my trip report. We toured last fall in October. There are mention of several restaurants we enjoyed (or not!) as well as some free time places. I especially enjoyed the Archaeological Museum in the corner of Grote Markt in Haarlem. There is a video in back that is most informative. We spent an afternoon in Teyler's museum there and thoroughly enjoyed it!

21 BOE Tour

Posted by
10 posts

Hi Tatiana --
I went on the BOE21 last September. It was an incredible journey for our entire tour group. I arrived in Amsterdam at 7 am a day before the tour started. I followed the RS instructions for catching a bus to Haarlem. Then walked from the train station to the hotel. I stored my luggage at the hotel and toured Haarlem. I had an early lunch in one of the little outside cafes in Grote Markt. It was wonderful to sit in the sunshine after a long flight. I then went and walked around the Grote Kerk. By mid afternoon, jet lag set in and I returned to the hotel for a rest. That evening, I had dinner at Pizzeria-Ristorante Venezia, recommended by RS. Atmosphere is warm and cozy, food excellent! Don't forget to stop by the Herring Stand in the center of Grote Markt. Pickled herring and other fish. The next day to Amsterdam is easy, just catch a train at the Haarlem train station.
I did a scrapbook of our adventure, https://www.ricksteves.com/tours/scrapbooks #55. Included is a list of tips that will get you through your trip. Don't forget a rain jacket.
Bon Voyage....it is a trip of a lifetime! ..........nancy

Posted by
697 posts

I was going to add, look at the scrapbooks for the 21 day BOE tours....there's are a bunch of them. I know at least a half dozen of us did one!

Posted by
29 posts

Hello Tatiana!

My husband and I will be on that tour starting May 1st! Hope to see you!

Posted by
333 posts

Hi Tatiana!

I took the 21BOE tour last May 4th. I flew in four days early, staying in a houseboat in Amsterdam for the first 3 nights and then arriving in Haarlem the day before the tour. I extended Paris with an extra three days and then spent 5 days in Scotland. I too entered the scrapbook contest. Here's the link if you're interested: http://thatstevesguytrippedme.weebly.com

I went as a single. I had the time of my life (though I had my share of travel mishaps too, lol)! What took me most by surprise was the cold. I wish I had packed more warm clothes! I had one pair of jeans, a pair of black slacks, a few pair of capri pants, a bunch of lightweight shortsleeved shirts and two button up sweaters. I wish I had packed fewer capris and at least one more pair of jeans. I wish I had a hoodie jacket/sweatshirt/pullover sweater, a couple of long-sleeved tees and a couple less short sleeved things. Be sure to tuck in a pair of gloves and a hat if you plan to take the gondolas up to the Schilthorn in Switzerland!

As far as sites to see? So many! It really depends on your interest level. I have really enjoyed my mini Viator tours. If your BOE tour is going to Keukenhof, then perhaps take a day tour to see the windmills/Volendam, take a mini tour to Delft and watch how they make pottery. With my pre-BOE time I took a day trip to Bruges (I'd been to Amsterdam 3 years before that and seen a lot of the city, so wanted to experience Belguim). Visit the Viator pages. Even if you don't take their tours, it can give you great ideas of what you might want to see and do. Of course Amsterdam has tons of great museums, but you'll see a ton of those on your BOE. It really does depend on what you like to do. I took a canal cruise, even though you get one on your tour. I was so tired when we took our canal cruise on the BOE that I could hardly stay awake to appreciate it. So I was glad I took one on my own.

Like the other posters, give yourself plenty of time in Haarlem too. It's a small town, but has so much to offer! I made a point of reading the Diary of Anne Frank and The Hiding Place- Corrie Ten Boom right before my tour. It makes it all the more special then when you go to their homes.

Have a great time on your trip! I can't wait to go back!
Lisa

Posted by
13 posts

Hi Lisa,

I love your blog about your trip! So cute and very well put together, I really enjoyed the fact pages :-) One of my favorites I've read so far.
Thanks for the tips, everyone has been so great with chiming in some great info & It has been so helpful.

I will look up the Viator tours. I'm going only a couple days early and have a room at the same hotel as the tour. As soon as I started reading everyone's tips, I regretted not getting there even earlier and staying in Paris a few days after! I guess that's a good reason to book another trip soon.

Tatiana

Posted by
116 posts

Lisa--first, loved your scrapbook. Thanks for the clothing tip. I'm on BOE in May. I did notice a lot of jackets in your group photos. Guess I'll add a sweater or vest
Patty

Posted by
333 posts

Thanks ladies for the compliments on my scrapbook!

I think layers are the key for Europe in May. We dealt with a lot of rain. It was chilly more than cold and the rain just reinforced the chill, so a sweater or rain jacket was necessary a lot of the time. So a few easy on easy off pieces that can tuck into a backpack for quick retreival will be a benefit. Thick shoes that shed water and aren't slippery on wet surfaces is also important. Having two pair of shoes was also great, as sometimes one needed a full day to dry out. I had a pair of water proof hiking boot/tennis shoes, which were great on mountain trails and wet/muddy areas, and then a lightweight pair of sketchers go walks, which were perfect on the warmer, dry, city days or days when my other shoes needed some extra drying time.

I cant wait to read about your trip experiences! It'll be here before you know it!
Lisa