Because I’m always talking about how much I love the Netherlands, my parents wanted to go there while they were here visiting us.

It fell to me to pick a place to go, and I discovered it was not that easy to find somewhere that Sean and I had not been before and that had a reasonably-priced, highly-rated hotel with parking and an elevator and that was close to public transportation.

One of the few places that met the all the criteria was the city of Nijmegen.


Njimegen claims to be the oldest city in the Netherlands, although the city of Maastricht also makes the same claim.

Regardless of which city is correct, I thought Nijmegen would be an interesting place to visit because of that.

The trip started off on a bit of a downer when we found ourselves in standstill traffic several times. What should have been just over a 3-hour drive ended up taking us almost twice as long.

That meant we basically just had time to go out and have dinner that evening.

The hotel clerk recommended a place within walking distance called Bistro de Bok.


All four of us had great meals so the recommendation was spot on.

Here’s an example of why I love the Netherlands. When we got to Bistro de Bok we decided to dine al fresco even though it was a bit chilly out. While we were waiting for our food, it started to rain and the restaurant’s outdoor tables had no umbrellas. The waitress went to the pub next door to ask if we could eat at their outdoor tables, which did have umbrellas. They said sure, no problem. Mind you, this pub does not even serve food. Several pub employees showed up for their shift while we were eating. They just looked at us, shrugged and smiled even though they knew we didn’t get our food from them. I don’t think we would have had quite the same experience in a lot of other places, but everyone we’ve encountered in the Netherlands has been so nice and easygoing and laid-back and friendly. They really just seem like a live-and-let-live kind of bunch and I generally find it relaxing to be there.

The next day we headed to the Grote Markt, a large market square where an actual market was being held.


Unfortunately, as you can see from the gray skies and wet pavement, it was raining that morning.

Luckily our first stop, Stevenskerk or Saint Steven’s church, was an indoor location.


Construction on the church, the oldest and largest in Nijmegen, was begun in 1254.

When you go into the church you can pick up a laminated card that’s available in several different languages. The card gives you information about sights in the church.

We picked up a card, did a little tour of the interior of the church and then headed back outside.


Just across from the church is that Latin school that was founded in the 16th century. It was at one time run by the Catholic church, and you can still see the statues of the twelve apostles between the upper windows.

Although it was not yet open for the day, we swung by the Café in de Blaauwe Hand.


It’s the oldest café in Nijmegen and the name translates to “in the blue hand”.

The name comes from the indigo pigment that was used to dye cloth. The dye was very difficult to wash off, so when the cloth dyers would go to the café after work, their hands would still be blue.

The rainy weather was pretty miserable at this point, so we decided to go to another indoor attraction.

On the way there we passed this house, built in 1550.


It’s called the Besiendershuis or Toll Master’s House.

The house is only a block or so away from the Waal river. The toll master used to collect tolls from ships passing by on the river.

Apparently the area around the Besiendershuis was pretty seedy at one time. The walking tour brochure Sean had picked up from the tourist information office earlier in the day says “It was a noisy affair with brothels, disreputable lodging houses and pubs” around the turn of the century.

It doesn’t say which century, and I’m assuming the 20th, but you never know. Maybe the disreputable lodging houses were still there at the start of the 21st century.

In any case, it looks like a lovely neighborhood now.

Just around the corner from the Besiendershuis was our indoor destination, The National Bicycle Museum Velorama.


“Fiets” is the Dutch word for bicycle and it always amuses me when I see it for some reason.

I think it’s because it reminds me of the famous phrase “Feets, don’t fail me now!” (hence the clever title of this post) and then I picture someone trying to pedal furiously away on their bike.

You probably remember from the post about Rotterdam that there are more bicycles than people in the Netherlands, so it’s no surprise that they would have a museum dedicated to bicycles.

The museum has 3 levels showing the evolution of bicycles over the last 200 years or so. The bikes are from all different countries. Here are some of my favorites. 

There were several bikes with horse heads on the front of them, in honor of the animals that have helped people get around for so many years.

That bike is actually shaped entirely like a horse, though, with legs and hooves.

We think recumbent bikes are new, but their origin actually dates back to the 1800s.


The name of the museum was a little misleading because they had tricycles too.

This is a rail bicycle.


It was actually made to be ridden along a rail, as you can see in the photo illustration above the bicycle. It was built by a bicycle factory in New Jersey that was partly in swampland, so the rail bicycle was invented for employees to get to work safely and quickly.

On the middle floor of the museum is a separate room called The High Wheel Lounge dedicated to those bicycles with huge front wheels and tiny rear wheels.


The philosophy behind this design was the bigger the wheel, the greater the distance the rider could cover. I still can’t fathom trying to ride one of them. Apparently they were used mostly for showing off and they were not safe at all, as you can imagine.

This one is called a dicycle.


It differs from the bicycle because the two wheels are parallel to each other. You can’t really see it in the photo, but these vehicles also had a small wheel in the back to prevent them from falling over backwards.

The top floor of the museum had the most modern bicycles.


I would have killed to have had something like that red Huffy Radiobike when I was a kid.

We had purchased a little tour booklet at the museum and their description of the Classic Bicycles section states “These so-called ‘classic-bicycles’ are pimped versions, looking like motorbikes, cars, airplanes etc.”

It made me chuckle to see the word “pimped” in the English version of the booklet.

It was really interesting to learn and see that early bikes had no steering or braking mechanisms and that they were made of wood (including bamboo!) or metal, including the wheels.

Rubber tires did not come along until much later, nor did chains or gears.  

Some early bikes were “manomotive” so were operated by hand and arm motion instead of foot pedals.

The museum has lots of other types of vehicles including four wheel cycles, tandem bikes and folding bikes.  There is bicycle equipment on display including the first electrical bicycle light in the world, and cases of bicycle-themed memorabilia.

Also on display are bicycles that were used by Dutch queens and princesses.  

The museum was actually pretty fascinating and I’d recommend a visit if you find yourself in Nijmegen.  There is a little café in the museum and there is also a hotel (Hotel Courage) that’s connected to the museum that looked very nice.  The hotel clerk was even kind enough to call a taxi for us to get back to the hotel.

At this point the weather was starting to clear up and I was also realizing that Nijmegen is unfortunately not the cute little canal-filled Dutch town that most first-time visitors want to see.

Don’t get me wrong – Nijmegen is a perfectly nice town. It’s just that in hindsight I would have picked a different town for my parents’ first visit to the Netherlands.

In fact I wish we had been there just a couple of weeks later, because it was the 70th anniversary of Operation Market Garden, a huge but regrettably unsuccessful Allied airborne operation. It looked like there were going to be all kinds of commemorative events going on for the anniversary.

Oh well, live and learn.

Anyway, we decided to take the train to ‘s-Hertogenbosch, meaning The Duke’s Forest. It’s usually just referred to as Den Bosch – The Forest – for short.

Ah, this is more like it!


And this too.


We had a nice little stroll around town followed by a good meal and then took the train back to Nijmegen. 

The next day we drove to Utrecht. Sean and I had been there before but it’s a really pretty city and we were determined at that point to show my parents something with a wow factor, so we decided a return trip was in order after all.

Den Bosch was a start, but Utrecht is sure to impress anyone.


Sean and I did get to see one thing that we missed on our last visit.


The cloisters area of the St. Martin’s Cathedral (aka Dom Church) was closed for an event the day we visited the church on our last trip, so I was glad we had a chance to see it this time.

Here are my mom and Sean after taking photos of the canal while my dad stands by patiently.


See? Look at all those bicycles!

After some lunch and a little walk around the city, we drove back to Nijmegen.

We went back to the hotel to relax for a bit and then had dinner at the hotel’s restaurant.

My mom and I ended up splitting an appetizer and a cheese plate.



Of course I had to have fries too because they are hands down the best in the Netherlands.


We were all surprisingly impressed with our meals.


We stayed at the Mercure hotel next to the train station and I can highly recommend their restaurant for dinner. The waiter/bartender was also very friendly and helpful, and the kitchen staff was nice enough to have split up the appetizer and cheese plate for me and my mom before it got to the table.

On the way home the next day we stopped in Remagen, Germany where Sean and I had also been before.


We wanted to show my dad where the famous “Bridge at Remagen” was.

In March of 1945, at the end of World War II, the Ludendorff railroad bridge connecting Remagen and Erpel was the only important bridge still standing over the Rhine river. The American Army captured it and the bridge collapsed 9 days later. The rest, as they say, is history. Let us just say that Hitler was not pleased when the bridge was captured.

In the photo above, across the river you can see what looks like a tower. That was part of the bridge.

That concluded our weekend in the Netherlands, a country I can’t get enough of. I’m looking forward to our next visit!


About the author: Trish