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Final Stage of Italy's Via Francigena: Tours & Information

Walk or Cycle the Final Stage of the Via Francigena: Tours & Information

 
If you want to experience the last stage of the Via Francigena, also known as the Italian Camino, you're in the right place. Here we explain what a Testimonium is, how far you need to walk or cycle to be eligible for it, why the final section of the Via Francigena is so popular, and we'll provide two affordable walking and cycling tours for you to complete the Via Francigena.
 

What is a Testimonium?

A Testimonium is the Italian equivalent of the Camino de Santiago's Compostela, or Pilgrim's Certificate. It signifies that the holder has walked or cycled the necessary distance to complete the Via Francigena. According to the European Association of the Via Francigena, it certifies that the pilgrimage was undertaken in a religious spirit.
 

How Long is the Final Stage of the Via Francigena?

To be eligible for the Testimonium, pilgrims need to walk at least 100km or 62 miles of the Via Francigena. This typically starts in the beautiful hilltop town of Orvieto and finishes in the eternal city of Rome, Italy's capital.
 
For pilgrims who choose to cycle the Via Francigena, the minimum distance is 200km or 124 miles. Cyclists need to start in the medieval town of Siena and follow the route to Rome. Note that these distances are equivalent to the Camino de Santiago.
 
Superb shot of Orvieto in the distance as seen on Via Francigena
 

Why is the Final Stage of the Via Francigena so Popular?

The last stretch of the Via Francigena is thoroughly enjoyable for these reasons:
 
  1. Being able to collect the Testimonium, i.e. the certificate of completion, is a rewarding sense of achievement.
  2. It's a beautiful walk. Even for those not interested in a 'pilgrimage', this journey highlights Italy's medieval villages, postcard perfect countryside, and charming local hospitality.
  3. The entire Via Francigena route takes 50 days to walk, as it begins in the Swiss Alps at St Bernard's Pass. The final stage is understandably more practical in terms of time and physical exertion.
  4. The final stage of the Via Francigena showcases the spirit of a pilgrimage. You get to experience the day to day walking, the social atmosphere of your fellow pilgrims, the changing landscape, and get to enjoy the delicious regional cuisine.
Hiking along the Via Francigena on the way to Pavia
 

Which Walking Tour Covers the Final Stage of the Via Francigena?

Via Francigena: Orvieto to Rome

This is a self guided walking tour that takes place over 10 days. Starting in the magnificent hilltop town of Orvieto, you'll venture to the lake town of Bolsena, the medieval village of Montefiascone (famous for its wine), and continue along the trail until you reach Rome. View this affordable tour here.
 
 

Which Cycling Tour Covers the Final Stage of the Via Francigena?

Cycle the Via Francigena: Siena to Rome

The Siena to Rome stretch of the Via Francigena makes for fantastic cycling. Daily marvels include the rolling hills of Tuscany, the beauty of Lake Bolsena, the intriguing villages of Umbria, and plenty more. The cycling is of moderate grading and it takes just 9 days to complete this spectacular ride. View the tour here.
 
Cycle Italy's Via Francigena
 

 
Have you collected your Testimonium or do you intend to? Let us know in the comment section which route you want to do.
  
  
Final Stages of the Camino de Santiago: Tours & Information

Final Stages of the Camino de Santiago: Tours & Information

 
Many Camino pilgrims choose to experience the final stage of the Camino de Santiago. This article will explain why the last section of the Camino is so popular, how far you need to walk or cycle to collect your Compostela (Pilgrim's Certificate), and present eight affordable walking and cycling tour options for you to achieve this goal.
 

How Long is the Final Stage of the Camino de Santiago?

According to the Pilgrim's Reception Office, the official service behind Camino credentials, pilgrims need to walk at least 100km or 62 miles of the Camino de Santiago to be eligible for the Compostela (Pilgrims Certificate). The general starting point for walking the final stage of the Camino Frances (the most popular route) is the town of Sarria, which is actually 115km or 72 miles from Santiago. 
 
Pilgrims who cycle the Camino need to cover 200km or 124 miles to be eligible for the Compostela. For cyclists doing the Camino Frances, this starting point is in Leon, and for those riding the Camino Portuguese, the starting point is in the delightful city of Porto.
Walkers on the Camino Primitivo enroute to Santiago de Compostela |  <i>Andreas Holland</i>
 

Why is the Final Stage of the Camino de Santiago so Popular?

Travellers enjoy walking or cycling the final section of the Camino de Santiago for several reasons.
  1. By completing the final stage of the Camino de Santiago, pilgrims are eligible for the Compostela (Pilgrim's Certificate), which is an official document certifying the Camino has been completed.
  2. It's ideal for those travellers who are short on time, as the final stage of the Camino de Santiago takes 7-8 days.
  3. The final stage of the Camino highlights the essence of a Camino pilgrimage. You get to experience the day to day walking, the social atmosphere of your fellow pilgrims, the changing landscape of northern Spain, and get to enjoy the delicious regional cuisine.
Arriving in Santiago de Compostela on the final day |  <i>Sue Finn</i>
 

Which Tours Can I Walk the Final Stage of the Camino de Santiago?

There are four routes and six tours that cover the final 100km stage of the Camino de Santiago trails leading to Santiago de Compostela.
 

1. Sarria to Santiago: Camino Frances

This is the most popular section of the Camino to walk and covers the last 115km of the Camino Frances from Sarria to Santiago. With UTracks, there are different ways to complete this
Arriving in the beautiful city of Santiago de Compostela after completing the Camino Trail |  <i>Edwina Parsons</i>
 

2.Tui to Santiago: Portuguese Way

Follow the famous scallop shells from the Portuguese town of Tui on this final section of the Portuguese Camino. This is the last of four stages of the Portuguese Way Camino.
Enjoying a quiet stage of the Portuguese Camino along Portugal's coast.
 

3. Ferrol to Santiago: The English Way

Walking the route from Ferrol to Santiago along the English Way isn't just completing the final stage of the English Camino, it's the entire trail! This is a naturally short Camino as it follows the trail English pilgrims walked from the historic port town of Ferrol, after arriving from the United Kingdom, to the holy city of Santiago de Compostela.
Colourful scallop shells on the Camino trail in Spain |  <i>Gesine Cheung</i>
 

4. Ourense to Santiago: Camino Sanabres

The Camino Sanabres is one of the oldest Camino trails, actually predating Christian pilgrims. This is a short Camino trail that, like the English Way, has no final section and can instead be walked in its entirety. 
Idyllic walking along the Camino Sanabres in Spain
 

Which Tours Can I Cycle the Final Stage of the Camino de Santiago?

If you prefer to pedal, these cycling tours will reward you with a sense of achievement for having completed the Camino.
 

1. Leon to Santiago: Camino Frances

This is the second and final stage of the Camino Frances cycling pilgrimage. Starting in the cathedral city of Leon, this tour includes breathtaking scenery, typical Spanish villages, and a few challenging sections that you can reward yourself with the delicious regional cuisine and wines of northern Spain.
Cycling along the Camino
 

2. Porto to Santiago: Portuguese Way

The first half of the Portuguese Way for cyclists begins in Lisbon, Portugal's capital, whereas this journey starts a bit further north in the stunning city of Porto. During this fantastic ride, you can expect coastal views, divine port wines, and the laidback local culture of the area.
Admiring the view on the Camino Portuguese stage between Porto and Santiago de Compostela |  <i>Pat Rochon</i>
 

> View all of UTracks' Camino tours.
 
Have you collected your Compostela or do you intend to? Let us know in the comment section which route you want to do.
  
Cycling in France: A Beginners Guide

When it comes to cycling in Europe, it’s virtually impossible to look past France as the best place to take your first trip.

Food, wine, beautiful villages - France is an ideal first time cycling destination world-class food and wine, beautiful villages, contrasting landscapes ranging from vineyards to alpine peaks - France is blessed with all the elements that make cycle touring fun and safe. 

What's more, the respectful attitude of locals towards cyclists should not be overlooked by first-timers. While countries around the world jostle with laws to help motorists and cyclists share public roads amicably, France is in a league of its own. In the French countryside, motorists must give cyclists a berth of at least one and a half metres, which is reassuring for travellers new to cycling holidays who want to explore the most visited country on earth.

So, now that you've got the country settled, the next question is where in France should you cycle? We've put together a list of our 5 favourite French cycling regions for beginners and explain why you should go to each, and when.

 
Soak up the history and architectural legacy of the ‘playground of the Kings' as you cycle through the heart of the Loire, stopping to explore grand chateaux, drink wine from cellar doors and sample local produce from lively markets. Just a short train ride from Paris, this relatively flat and iconic region can be made even more comfortable on a centre-based trip, on which you'll only have to unpack once. 
 
Our 5-days self guided Loire Valley Castles cycling trip is a great option for beginners, with daily excursions ranging from 16-56km. Best time to travel: April to October.

Burgundy

Burgundy offers much more than just exceptional wines
 
It’s not just oenophiles who should consider heading to Burgundy to sample their Grand Cru wines. The region also boasts some fine examples of classic French landscapes of gorgeous medieval villages nestled in rolling hills - a shining example of this is the walled village and wine capital Beaune, which is surrounded by the famous Côte d'Or vineyards. 
 
Our short 4-days self guided Burgundy Highlights trip is a great trip extension for travellers wanting to delve further into the heart of the region and test the waters. Daily cycling ranges from 43-65km. Best time to travel: April to October.  
 
Visiting Alsace is like stepping into a fairy tale. It's arguably one of the most beautiful regions of France, with its timbered houses, cobblestone streets and colourful buildings. Because of its location on the French-German border, the cuisine is like nowhere else in France, heavily influenced by its German neighbours. Its beautiful capital, Strasbourg, is also the home of the European Parliament. 
 
Cycle through the heart of the Alsatian vineyards and soak up the region's most beautiful villages on our relaxed 5-days self guided Alsace Wine Route Cycle. Daily cycling ranges from 21-49km. Best time to travel: April to October.

Normandy

Cyclists near the Normandy D Day beaches
 
The WWII memorials scattered along the D-Day beaches is one of the many reasons to visit this luscious landscape along the north coast of France. There’s also the impressive abbey of Mont St Michel, the traditional chocolate box-style houses that dot the coast, and opportunities to taste cheese and sample Calvados as you cycle along the Cider Route. 
 
Learn about Vikings, William the Conqueror and the events of WWII on our 6-days self guided Cycle Normandy. Best time to travel: April to October.
 
Bordeaux is synonymous with vineyards and some of the world’s best wine. Bordering the sun-drenched Basque country in the southwest of France, the region's coastline and landscapes along the Gironde River lend well to more gentle cycling itineraries. Vineyards have been thriving here for close to 20 centuries - the tiny wine capital of Saint Emilion is a testament to this and epitomises the region's outstanding food, wine, architecture, and rich history. 
 
Our 7-days self guided Bordeaux Vineyard Cycle is a great option for travellers wanting a good mix of activity and relaxation. Best time to travel: April to October.
 

 
>> Learn more about cycling in France.
 
 
  
Cycle Chantilly: 5 Reasons You Need to Explore Chantilly
Chantilly is a postcard perfect town in Northern France that is perhaps overshadowed by some of its more famous neighbours. However, we adore Chantilly's hidden charms and believe it's a truly worthwhile visiting it to get an authentic French experience. You can discover Chantilly on two UTracks cycling trips: the Cycle Amsterdam to Paris tour and the Paris to Bruges Bike and Barge tour.
 

1. Chateau de Chantilly

See the magnificent Chateau de Chantilly on a bike tour in Northern France
 
The top reason to visit Chantilly in France is, of course, to see Château de Chantilly. Set amidst landscaped gardens on the shores of an artificial lake, the castle is a storybook vision – sprawling pale yellow sandstone mansion with a slate-grey roof, turrets, and spires. The castle consists of two adjoining buildings. The Petit Château is the original (but restored) 16th-century part, while the 19th-century Grande Château or Château Neuf replaced the original castle that was destroyed during the French Revolution. Do not miss the Cabinet de Livres, which is home to literally hundreds of manuscripts and books including a Gutenberg Bible.
 
Intrinsic to the charm of the Chateau de Chantilly are its surrounding gardens which seem to be made for riding around by bicycle. In the heart of the gardens is the Hameau de Chantilly. Built in 1774, it is a collection of French Tudor style thatched roof cottages with richly decorated interiors. 
 

2. Musee Conde

See the magnificent Chateau de Chantilly on a bike tour in Northern France |  <i>Martine Savart</i>
 
The last owner of the chateau was Henri d’Orleans (the Duke of Aumale), son of the last King of France, Louis-Philippe. The duke rebuilt the Grande Château in the Renaissance style that we see today. He was an art lover and amassed quite a rich and varied collection of paintings and sculptures. These are on display in the Musée Condé, which is actually in the chateau itself. The layout looks quite random, which is no accident. Actually, by stipulation of the Duke, the layout remains unchanged and is in its original 19th century format.  Raphael, Poussin, Botticelli, Titian, Van Dyck, and more are represented. It is, in fact, the largest Renaissance collection outside of the Louvre.
 

3. Great Stables ( Grandes Ecuries)

See the wonderful horses in the Great Stables of Chantilly on a bike tour in Northern France
 
The Grandes Écuries or Great Stables are quite spectacular. Built by Louis-Henri de Bourbon, between 1719 and 1740, the Great Stables were originally home to 400 hounds and 240 horses of the royals. Today it houses the fascinating Living Museum of the Horse which displays equestrian works, riding equipment, rocking horses and other objets d’art. The daily equestrian shows which take place inside the stables are awe inspiring. They are a delicate combination of horsemanship, acrobatics – and humour. 
 

4. Creme Chantilly

A delicious creme Chantilly, one of the special treats of Northern France
 
We are in France, so of course there is an iconic dish. Chantilly’s claim to fame is a deliciously airy concoction — Crème Chantilly or Chantilly cream. A favourite with patissiers and dessert aficionados, it is cream and sugar whipped together until it thickens to form waves. 
 
There are various stories about the origin of Chantilly cream, all of which involve royal banquets. Whipped cream had been around in the French and Italian courts for a while, but the inspired addition of sugar took place in Chantilly at the Château de Chantilly where the Prince of Conde hosted frequent banquets.  A truly unique and memorable culinary experience is lunch at La Capitainerie restaurant, which is actually in a cave-like setting within the confines of the chateau and you can partake in a demonstration on how to make crème Chantilly. If you're hungry now, watch chef Mel from @miacucina_ give a demonstration on how to make your own Creme Chantilly at home.
 

5. Senlis

 
This hidden gem right by the forest of Chantilly is an easy 9km bike ride from Chantilly. This picturesque Gallo-Roman village is famed for its gothic Cathedral de Senlis and as being the home of Seraphine de Senlis, whom Australians came to love by the film of the same name and whose works are on display at the Art and Archaeology Museum in the centre of the town.
 

 
>> Want to visit Chantilly? Explore this beautiful town in Northern France on UTracks' Cycle Amsterdam to Paris tour and the Paris to Bruges Bike and Barge tour.
 
  
Camino Quiz: What do you know about the Camino in Europe?

Camino Quiz: What do you know about the Camino in Europe?

Are you a Camino Champion or the Ultimate Pilgrim? 

Millions of pilgrims have walked the Camino de Santiago since it was first established in the 9th Century. It is one of the world's most famous walking trails, beloved by many. Try our Camino Quiz to see how your Camino knowledge rates. 
 
There are 10 quick questions to answer. Afterwards, make sure you share with a fellow pilgrim and see how much they know about the Camino too!
 
 

Try our other Active Travel Quizzes:

 
>> Walking Quiz: What do you know about walking in Europe?

Want more information on the Camino?

 

How did you go on the quiz? Share your results in the comment section below. Also, please share any fun facts or questions with us!
  
Walking Quiz: What do you know about walking in Europe?

Walking Quiz: What do you know about walking in Europe?

Take this quick European walking quiz and see how much you know! 

 
A walking holiday in Europe is often a great full body work out. In this case, we want to exercise your mind! Start our Walking Quiz below. You'll probably learn a thing or two as well.
 
Don't forget to share and challenge your walking friends to see how knowledgeable they are on the trails of Europe too.
 
 

Try our other Active Travel Quizzes:

 
 
 
How did you go on the quiz? Share your results in the comment section below. Also, please share any fun facts or questions with us!
 
  
Cycling Quiz: What do you know about cycling in Europe?

Cycling Quiz: What do you know about Cycling in Europe?

Test your Cycling Skills about Europe's spectacular cycle paths 

 
Calling all cycling enthusiasts: test your knowledge of Europe's cycling paths on our quick quiz!
 
Like all good cycle paths, there are easy questions you'll coast along and some uphill stages that will have you baffled. Challenge yourself now, then share with a friend to see who deserves the yellow jersey.
 
 

Try our other Active Travel Quizzes:

 
 

Want more information about Cycling Europe?


>> Watch our Cycling videos
>> Read Cycling travel stories
 
How did you go on the quiz? Share your results in the comment section below. Also, please share any fun facts or questions with us!
 
  
What It's Like to Cycle the Camino de Santiago

What It's Like To Cycle the Camino de Santiago

Leanne answers frequently asked questions about cycling the Camino de Santiago 

 
UTracks Traveller Leanne Saward cycled the Camino Frances from St Jean Pied de Port to Finisterre on a self guided tour. In her words, "it was the most wonderful time of my life!". 
 
Read on to discover her first-hand account of what it's really like to cycle the Camino de Santiago and to view her answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about cycling the Camino.
 
Cycling the Camino |  <i>Leanne Saward</i>
 

Why did you choose to cycle the Camino de Santiago?


I was introduced to the Camino by watching The Way.  Both Tom’s story and the inclusion of real pilgrims as the minor characters in this signature movie drew me in.  
 
I love exploring quiet country roads and paths on my bike.  At a local charity ride event, I collected a brochure from UTracks (a sponsor) and found the self-guided cycling options for the Camino de Frances route from St Jean Pied de Port to Santiago, which is two tours combined: Spanish Camino by Bike: the Pyrenees to Leon and Spanish Camino by Bike: Leon to Santiago.  A perfect fit, as I was keen to have support, but the flexibility to travel at my own pace.  
 
I added a 100km extension from Santiago to Finisterre to finish at ‘the end of the world’.
 
Cape Finisterre, Galicia Spain |  <i>Marissa Ward</i>
 

How did you prepare for cycling the Camino de Santiago?


I read books and studied websites about the Camino, watched YouTube videos from previous cycling pilgrims and learnt some basic Spanish travel phrases.  I cycled 60-100km for sets of consecutive days, in all sorts of weather and included some hills!  
 
I also attended a UTracks information night.  Jaclyn’s experience of cycling this route instilled both confidence and a passion that I could take on this first trip to Europe … and solo! I also practised repairing and changing tyres.
 

How would you describe the cycling along the Camino de Santiago?


Seeing my gleaming black steed for the first time at Roncesvalles (after hiking over the Pyrenees) was overwhelming.  The realisation dawned that it was just these two wheels standing with me in the gap between the start and finish of this journey.  The trust I developed with my bike proved to be well founded!

I think the cycling is both easier and harder than walking.  Easier because you can travel further each day, or arrive early and explore villages.  Harder because the terrain and surfaces are sometimes narrow, strewn with boulders and so steep that you have to walk and push (or brake) and walk your bike.  
 
I came across a steep embankment with a bridge in ruins at the base that took me an hour to navigate down, across and then up the other side.  That situation was helpful in developing resilience and problem solving skills … and this was only the first day!  On balance, most sections are smooth, flat and well-formed, so don’t be discouraged.
 
Cycling the Camino |  <i>Leanne Saward</i>
 

What were the landscapes you cycled through like on the Camino?


Stunning.  Surprises at every turn that keep beckoning you forward and westward.  High mountain vistas touching the clouds, hills rolling beyond the horizon, the quiet ‘whoosh’ of wind farms, vineyards dripping with grapes, peaceful dairy and sheep farms, quiet medieval villages paused in time, bustling towns and cities, towering cathedrals, significant monuments, lush green forests, the open meseta plateau, mystical moors.
 
Cycling the Camino |  <i>Leanne Saward</i>
 

What was your overall Camino de Santiago highlight?


I stopped in the small village of Sansol for lunch and left my wallet, passport and credit card in the bathroom.  I only realised these valuables were missing when I stopped in Viana, 13km from Sansol.  
 
Before I left home, a friend had suggested I meet the couple operating Chill Out Cafe there, a drop-in centre for pilgrims.  Managers Terri and Lauren, who I had never met, generously offered to drive me back to Sansol to find my belongings.  We checked and retraced my steps and asked around, all with no result.  
 
Terri suddenly and with conviction said "We need to check all the possible hiding places – rubbish bins, bushes, rocks".  We systematically began looking in all the nooks and crannies we could find.  I was ready to give up this fruitless search when I spotted a small unobtrusive piece of wood propped against a wall.  
 
I moved it forward and was stunned to see my forlorn wallet!  When I zipped it open, I was totally shocked to find my passport and credit card.  The cash was gone, but I figured whoever found it needed it more than I did.  The sense of relief spilled into tears of gratitude and amazement.  This truly is the heart of the Camino and how it gives back to pilgrims…
 

What was your favourite food or drink along the Camino?


At a brief roadside stop to take photos, a local woman emerged from her house, picked three juicy red tomatoes from her garden and gave them to me, all with minimal conversation.  How thoughtful and delicious!
 
Cycling the Camino |  <i>Leanne Saward</i>
 

Did you have a favourite accommodation along the Camino de Santiago?


Villafranca del Bierzo provided the most ‘atmospheric’ accommodation, the Hostal la Puerta del Perdon.  I was given the El Nidito room in the attic, boasting an overhead window opening to the starry sky.  
 
The attentive owner’s son made up my breakfast in heatproof containers, walked the heavy precarious load up several flights of stairs to deliver it to my room the night before, so I could leave extra early the following morning to tackle the longest and most strenuous stretch of the Camino, 100km and 1,782m of ascent.
 

What surprised you the most about the Camino de Santiago?


I grew up on a farm, so the sights and smells of cattle, manure and grass were comforting and familiar.  However, I was surprised to see giant tractors squeezing through the narrow village streets until I realised that farmers park their tractors in a paddock on the edge of the villages where they live, and drive them to and from their farms each day.
 

What aspect of the Camino de Santiago did you find the most challenging?


The Camino is very well signposted with yellow arrows, scallop shells, lines of stone embedded in the roadways, signs made of natural materials, locals always ready to direct lost pilgrims and detailed guide notes.  Comments in the notes like this will try the patience of the pilgrim translate as ‘tough going ahead’.  
 
On a bike, there are sometimes choices to be made - a busy bitumen road vs a rocky path.  Which path to take?  The safest route?  Often no right or wrong answer … just part of the journey.
 
Cycling the Camino |  <i>Leanne Saward</i>
 

Do you have any advice for other travellers thinking about doing the Camino de Santiago?


Be careful what you wish for when you order paella.  I made the mistake of ordering the squid ink option and was presented with a dish where each and every morsel was stained black!  Looked very unappetising, but actually mouth watering.  In fact, any food on the pilgrim menu is bound to hit the spot after a long day on the bike!
 

How can you Cycle the Camino de Santiago?

 
View UTracks' affordable cycling tours of the Camino here: https://www.utracks.com/Camino/Cycling-the-Camino-de-Santiago
 
If you prefer on foot experiences instead, there is also a comprehensive range of walking tours too: https://www.utracks.com/Camino
 
Cycling through the morning mist along the Camino |  <i>@timcharody</i>
 
Have you experienced the Camino yet? Or do you have other questions you'd like answered? Let us know in the comment section!
  
Stroll the Glorious Tulip Gardens of the Netherlands

Stroll the Glorious Tulip Gardens of the Netherlands!

Easily the best Virtual Experience so far... 

 
With the tulip season in the Netherlands in full bloom (March - May) and nobody to see them, the owners of the Keukenhof Gardens have decided to bring the beautiful flowers to us at home! 
 
They've filmed a series of videos that will educate, inspire and dazzle you with the rainbow of colours that the Netherlands is famous for. Read on for more information about the Keukenhof, its history, and of course, incredible flower exhibits that will make you want to explore.
 
Keukenhof gardens flower arrangement |  <i>Brad Atwal</i>

What is Keukenhof?

 
Keukenhof is a Dutch word meaning 'kitchen garden'. It is one of the world's largest flower gardens and is known as the Garden of Europe. It is situated in Lisse, the Netherlands. There are over 7 million bulbs that bloom every spring, with a total of 800 varieties of tulips. A unique, unforgettable experience!
 
Cycle to the Keukenhof Gardens from Amsterdam |  <i>Richard Tulloch</i>
 

Keukhenhof Virtual Tours

 
 
So many colours!
 
 
 
Gardener Owen shows off the beautiful hyacinths.
 
 
For the whole YouTube playlist of Keukenhof videos, click here.
 

The History of Keukenhof

 
As told by their official website...
 
The history of Keukenhof dates back to the 15th century. Countess Jacoba van Beieren [Jacqueline of Bavaria] (1401-1436) gathered fruit and vegetables from the Keukenduin [kitchen dunes] for the kitchen of Teylingen Castle. Keukenhof Castle was built in 1641 and the estate grew to encompass an area of over 200 hectares.

Landscape architects Jan David Zocher and his son Louis Paul Zocher, who also designed Amsterdam's Vondelpark, redesigned the castle gardens in 1857. That park, in the English landscape style, still constitutes the basis of Keukenhof.

In 1949 a group of 20 leading flower bulb growers and exporters came up with the plan to use the estate to exhibit spring-flowering bulbs, signaling the birth of Keukenhof as a spring park. The park opened its gates to the public in 1950 and was an instant success, with 236,000 visitors in the first year alone. 2020 will be the 71th edition of Keukenhof, with A World Of Colours as its theme. During the past 70 years Keukenhof has developed into a world-famous attraction.
 
Flower Auction Aalsmeer |  <i>NBTC</i>

Walking & Cycling Tours of the Netherlands

 
View all of our affordable walking, cycling and boat based tours in the Netherlands by clicking here.
 
Have you experienced the joy of a tulip garden in the Netherlands? Tell us what it was like in the comment section below!
 
  
What the UTracks Team are reading now

What the UTracks Team Are Reading Now

Travelling vicariously through the pages of novels 

 
Now is really the perfect time to finish off all those novels that we've been meaning to read.
 
In their downtime, the UTracks team are escaping the limitations of their households by reading great books about adventures in Europe. Whether it's about food, intrigue, romance or mystery, these are the books that we are currently engrossed in. Let us know in the comment section what you're reading!
 

Dana Recommends

Dana is currently working from home in Sydney and to keep herself entertained she's doing a fair bit of reading and cooking. Her current shopping list makes me envious:
  • Bucatini all’Amatriciana – my go to comfort food – recipe by Marcella Hazan
  • Lots of curries & a chilli con carne, including now mixing my own spices! … 
  • Looking forward to: salmon on Good Friday (Ottolenghi’s ‘Bridget Jones’ recipe – very yummy, and maybe watch the film for some gentle English humour ) and Greek lamb on Sunday (if I get to the shops)
 
Jorge regularly leads our 'Best of the Camino' tours
 

Less – by Andrew Sean Greer

Arthur Less is turning 50 and his ex is about to get married to someone else – so to avoid responding to the wedding invitation Arthur accepts invitations to speak at literary events around the world. He travels from Mexico to Italy to Germany to France, then Morocco and India. 
 
It’s a funny and loving story – good for these strange times - full of mishaps and adventures. 
 
It won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. I finished it last year, it's memorable. I loved it.
 
 

Normal People – by Sally Rooney

Set in Ireland, the story follows two people from high school in their small town to university in Dublin, exploring their relationship as well as their own psyches. 
 
For me, it didn’t quite live up to its glowing reviews but it’s a good read - and a lovely last paragraph, so ultimately a good read 😊.
 
I bought it at Shakespeare and Co in Paris last year, so happy memories of that trip too!
 
Christchurch Cathedral, Dublin |  <i>John Millen</i>
 

Once Upon a River – by Diane Setterfield

Set in the late 1800s along the Thames River in England (between Cricklade and Oxford, so different from the Thames Path East tour we offer ) and bought because the story and one review in particular ( ‘this enchanting historical story is full of folklore and intrigue’) appealed. I’m only up to chapter 3 but it’s a fine read so far, richly written.
 
 
Cycling along the Thames Path in London with Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament in the background |  <i>Kate Baker</i>
 

Nat Recommends

 
Nat from UTracks in Auckland shares a book recommendation that transcends her to Italy.
 
Natalie Tambolash, General Manager UTracks NZ
 

The Little Italian Bakery - Valentina Cebeni

The blurb reads:
 
The scent of freshly baked biscuits, lemon and aniseed remind Elettra of her mother’s kitchen.  But her mother, Edda, is in a coma, and the family bakery is failing.  Elettra has many unanswered questions about Edda’s childhood – the only clue is a family heirloom: a necklace inscribed with the name of an island.  
Elettra buys a one-way ticket to that island, just off the coast of Sardinia.  Once there, she discovers a community of women, each lost in their own way, and eventually finds a way back to the past and herself.
 
Cycling along the quiet roads of Sardinia
 
Completely bought this book by accident and far removed from the usual crime novels that I read.  The essence of Sardinia is perfectly captured and it is easy to whisk yourself out of this world and picture yourself within that one.  A place where time has stood still for years on end, but where the secrets of the island have also been hidden in its past.  
 
A nice, light read, with a bit of mystery and some traditional Italian recipes scattered throughout the chapters that I cannot wait to try. 
 
 
Looking towards Finca d'Ofre from Soller |  <i>John Millen</i>
 

Efti Recommends

 
Like Dana, Efti is using this extra spare time on her hands to catch up on lots of reading and to further hone her cooking skills!
 
Efti Nure enjoying a hike |  <i>Eftie Nure</i>

A Wedding in Provence, by Ellen Sussman


A fictional story of a couple holding their second marriage in Provence, France surrounded by their immediate family in a quaint inn set in the small town of Cassis. The bride’s 2 adult daughters bring a little drama to the situation and it all quickly unfolds from there. Throughout it all, thanks to the author’s descriptive writing you can vividly picture yourself in the middle of the beautiful towns and countryside of Provence….. 
 
I read this to get me excited and inspired for my trip to France and Germany later this year...which has now been postponed. The book was still good though!
 
 
Barbentane Chateau, Provence, France |  <i>Kate Baker</i>
 

Junior Masterchef Australia (Series 2 Cookbook) – Around the world in 80 amazing recipes


It features a range of classic recipes from Australia (Anzac Biscuits), Spain (Tostadas), Italy (Gnocchi with Pancetta), Greece (Greek Lamb with lemon potatoes), China (Beef and Black Bean Stir Fry), India (Creamy Spiced Prawns with Basmati Pilau), England (Cottage Pie), France (Chocolate Souffle with Raspberry Coulis), Japan (Teriyaki Salmon), Morocco (Chermoula Fish with Orange Salad), Thailand (Chicken Pad Thai) and Mexico (Corn and Cheese Empanadas). All easy to follow, especially for novices like me!
 
 
Cooking class in Turkey |  <i>Nick Kostos</i>
 
What books are keeping you company at the moment? Let us know your recommendations in the comment section below.
 
  
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