This past month, Philly Home Girl Rachel Shaw, joined her mom, two aunts, an uncle and her 90-year old grandma on a river cruise through the Netherlands and Belgium. Rachel and family were joined by 150 travelers on the boat, where the average age was approximately 60+. From leisure and research to a little bit of work, we checked in with Rachel to see what kind of fun she got into on the go:
Out of the Netherlands and Belgium, which was your favorite?
I really loved the little town of Enkhuizen in the Netherlands. It was an old yet quaint fishing village. I tried raw herring and went to The Zuiderzee, a sweet interactive museum that had reconstructed a whole fishing village of the past. In order to make it happen, the museum had to transport buildings from all over the country and rebuild them. I highly recommend going.
What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
My aunt and I rode bikes through the 18th century windmills of Kinderdijk. Even in the rain it was beautiful and the 19 windmills still function. They are massive up close.
Did you meet any stand out locals? Tell me about one person you met.
It was really humorous for me at first to be on a cruise of all 60+-year-olds, but the time with family was amazing and I met a lot of interesting fellow travelers on the boat. Start a conversation with someone new and older than you. Everyone has stories and adventures to tell.
What was your favorite meal?
I mean, anywhere I can eat smoked salmon every day is fine by me.
Any cool shops, houses, branding that caught your eye?
With a background in graphic design, I was definitely nerding out at all the amazing art and typography I got to experience on the trip. I was able to visit two of the oldest printing presses in the world in Antwerp, Belgium, and The Plantin-Moretus Museum, an old mansion and print shop that used to be owned by a publishing family that they transitioned into a museum.
Plus, these people take their flowers SERIOUSLY. I went into several flower shops that had the most unique, beautiful arrangements. Fresh flowers are a way of life in the Netherlands. Most houses you pass by have flowers in the window.
As for shops, the Dutch take the cake. I became obsessed with all the interior decor shops. Their design in general is so simple, understated, functional and elegant!
What little ordinary thing did you miss from your regular routine?
When you are on a cruise, you have to be back on the boat at specific times or they'll leave without you. It's a luxury to come and go as you please.
Did you learn anything about yourself while traveling?
This trip allowed me to slow down. Traveling doesn't have to mean a fully packed itinerary. I appreciated the time I had to meander the streets, take a break from my smartphone, get lost, and have a beer.
Has this trip inspired any future ones?
I love to travel and I'm always ready for my next trip. Japan or South Africa are currently top of my list for my next international foray...but I'd go anywhere!