River Vecht Cruise
9.15am (depending on location)
Meet and greet with your English-speaking guide / driver in the hotel lobby, from where you will be taken for a 25-minute drive by luxurious private vehicle to the picturesque village Loenen aan de Vecht, where you will board a private historical saloon boat for a spectacular cruise on the River Vecht.
A cruise on the Vecht means cruising past beautiful estates. During the 17th and 18th centuries, the rich merchants of Amsterdam built 200 estates along the Vecht, looking to invest their wealth and for a peaceful retreat in the spacious outdoors. They spent their summers here, returning in the winters to their homes along the Amsterdam canals. Life was good out in the countryside; they received guests, went hunting or fishing, cruising on the river or drank tea in their tea pavilions.
Along the Vecht you will see many of these tea pavilions. Each estate had its own tea pavilion, and no two were alike. Some of them were built with a boathouse beneath them, some were round and others square, some had a thatch roof, others a roof of lead. It was a place that people enjoyed to sit: to see and be seen. It was important to people at that time to show off their wealth. Such a pavilion put them in full view, so that all those passing could see that they drank tea, a very expensive drink in the 17th century!
We will go through picturesque villages such as Nieuwersluis, Breukelen and Maarsen where they will open up their bridges just for us.
The cruise will end at Brasserie Oud Zuilen in Oud Zuylen, where you will have leisure time for lunch. The restaurant is beautifully situated, with a spectacular view over the River Vecht. www.brasserieoudzuilen.nl
Slot Zuylen Castle
Fully refreshed, we continue with a short scenic drive to, and a guided tour of Slot (Castle) Zuylen, which is one of the oldest castles along the River Vecht. The castle has a rich history, passing through various families and boasting some influential inhabitants – including several powerful women, like the writer Belle van Zuylen (Isabelle de Charrière). During the private guided tour, you can experience daily life in a real castle.
The castle has a history dating back to 1250, when it was used as a strategic point on the banks of the River Vecht. It was a sturdy tower (keep) with thick walls. Two centuries later, due to a conflict rebellious citizens from the nearby city of Utrecht destroyed this keep. In 1522, Willem van Rennenberg built a large castle with an inner courtyard on the ruins of the former keep. An impressive gatehouse together with a moat and a drawbridge were added to make the castle easy to defend.
In 1665, through marriage the noble family Van Tuyll van Serooskerken became the owners of Slot Zuylen. A major alteration was realized in 1752. The architect Jacob Marot, son of the famous French architect Daniel Marot, was hired to convert the castle into a comfortable 18th century country mansion. A forecourt with a new entrance was created. A hall with a staircase were added to provide all the rooms with an entrance to the hallway. The Van Tuylls resided here until the 1950s when the family decided to set up a foundation which made it possible to open up the castle for the public.
Belle van Zuylen lived at Slot Zuylen until she was 31 and married Charles de Charrière, who allowed her the independence she so desired. Her extensive correspondence with philosophers like Rousseau, Kant and Voltaire reveals that she was an unconventional and emancipated woman. She attended lectures (physics and maths) at university but, as a woman, could only do so from behind a curtain. At an early age she wrote her first novel “Le Noble” in which she satirized the nobility. www.slotzuylen.nl
From here, you will be taken back to your hotel in Amsterdam, where you have the remainder of the day for your own leisure. You will arrive back around 4.15pm.