Europe & Britain | People & Stories

Travel Director diaries: Spend 24 hours in the Netherlands with Travel Director, Ilja

Curious about life on the road as a Trafalgar Travel Director? In the latest of our Travel Director diaries series, we caught up with Ilja to find out what a day in her life is like.

This Netherlands-based Travel Director changed lanes to pursue a career as a documentary filmmaker, but after five years she found herself still captivated by coaches and tours passing by. A people person and travel lover, Ilja put away her camera and joined Trafalgar on the road again in 2018. 

When she’s not leading tours through Europe, the Dutch national is preparing for the race of a lifetime. This December Ilja and three teammates will race across the Atlantic Ocean, trying to beat a world record while rowing for cleaner oceans.

Today Ilja shares her Travel Director diaries from the Best of Holland Belgium and Luxembourg trip. This is Day 3, exploring the once-in-a-decade Floriade Expo and breaking bread with a Dutch farming family. Let’s go!

6am Wake up call 

I try to wake up as late as possible as I’m better in the evening or late at night, but there’s loads to do so I usually get up around 6am on the road. I’ll look through the day and see if there is anything else I need to organise, I’ll send emails and I’ll contact venues or places that we’re going to visit to double check. 

I’ll create the seat rotation and then go to the breakfast room. I’ll take a coffee myself before checking in with the people having their breakfast. Then we get ready to leave for the day.

9.15am Once-in-a-decade Floriade experience

Half an hour drive from the hotel we arrived at Floriade Expo 2022. This is a once-in-a-decade International Horticultural Expo where you can explore what it would be like to live in a green city of the future.

I gave an introduction on the coach, explaining this year’s theme – nature loves technology, technology loves nature – and handed out maps so the guests could explore the huge expo. The highlight is the cable car that gives you a view over the green park. 

I also pointed out places to stop for coffee and lunch, as we stayed here until 1.30pm . Unfortunately it was a bit windy and cold on this day, but Floriade is brilliant.

RELATED BLOG: Everything you can look forward to seeing at Floriade 2022

1.30pm Medieval castle time

Next stop, we ventured to the imposing Muiderslot Castle. This is an Optional Experience but everyone chose to join today. It’s one of two remaining medieval castles in the Netherlands, built in the 12th century, and it’s part of Amsterdam’s defence line.

If you asked a child to draw a castle, this is what they would draw. The UNESCO World Heritage Listed castle looks almost like a cartoon and it’s very cool. We met with a Local Specialist for a 30-minutes tour of the castle where the rooms are refurbed in 17th-century style. The guests then had half an hour to explore the gardens and moat.

There was an exposition in the garden or the backyard of the castles on water management. Muiderslot Castle was actually built as a defensive castle and they could choose to flood the area so that attacks couldn’t reach the castle. 

GET INSPIRED BY: Best of Holland Belgium and Luxembourg

3pm Nothing bitter about this Dutch snack

After the castle we walked through the beautiful and peaceful village of Muiden. Here we stopped at an old Dutch inn called Cafe Flores. We enjoyed a short rest with drinks and bitterballen, which is a traditional savoury snack kind of like croquettes. Everyone had a great time and we sat up in the attic, which is really cool.

RELATED BLOG: Travel Director diaries: We spent 24 hours in Switzerland with Trafalgar Travel Director, Ellen

5.15pm “The miller is waiting!”

We ventured over to the town of Katwoude to visit the gorgeous windmills. People always love it here so much.

On the way to the mill we had a lot of fun onboard the coach. A guest named Doris shouted “My miller is waiting for us!”, and that become our group’s running gag.

“I’ve never had a miller waiting for me in my whole life,” Doris said. And then when we arrived she squealed “There is my miller!” as he waved to us. Very funny. The miller gave a fabulous explanation of how it all works and toured us through the space.

6.30pm Be My Guest with the Family Pauw

Nearby in Katwoude, we dropped into the Pauw Family farm for dinner. The meal with this Dutch family is always lovely as the mother, father, three kids and sometimes the in-laws also sit down with us and enjoy a buffet of traditional Dutch fare.

Dutch fare? Lots of potatoes! Usually the meal includes hutspot or hotchpotch (a traditional dish of boiled and mashed potatoes, carrots, and onions), Dutch meatballs and salad.

We’re only half-an-hour outside of Amsterdam, but this is the countryside and a working farm. After dinner the father takes us around to meet the cows, cuddle with the calves and ask any questions about life as a Dutch farmer and the seasons.

9.15pm Back to the hotel

So, that was a full 12-hour day. I can never go straight to bed – my mind is always too awake – so I usually scroll on social media or do exercise.

I’m training for the cross Atlantic rowing race, so if I have the energy I’ll always do a workout or at least some pushups. I carry those elastic exercise bands with me so I can squeeze in a workout on the road. It’s obviously a challenge to train for the big race!

My next tour I’m the Wellbeing Director, so that gives me a little more time to work out while travelling.

That’s what a day in the life of Trafalgar Travel Director is like. Have you been on tour with Ilja or are you thinking of taking the Best of Holland Belgium and Luxembourg trip soon? Leave us a comment below…

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