The Netherlands is a great place to visit either as a main destination or as a stopover for a couple of days. I have always enjoyed flying KLM and use them often for our many groups travelling throughout Europe. Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport is an east hub to fly into from North America, and I like the airport layout over other big and busy European airports.
Amsterdam itself has many interesting places to visit and explore. The city is full of history, great architecture, canals, bridges, museums, great shopping, cyclists, interesting cafes, the Anne Frank House, the Heineken Brewery, and yes, the notorious red light district. Not many people venture outside the city during a stopover, but one of our favourite day trips is from Amsterdam. We always try to do it on a Wednesday, so we catch the Edam cheese market show.
Our twenty minute early morning trip to Zaandam starts after a good breakfast at our centrally located hotel in Amsterdam. On the way, you can enjoy the beautiful Dutch countryside including dikes and plots of land reclaimed from the water, called polders. Starting in the late 16th century, the Zaandam and the Zaan river area were important wood milling regions during the “Dutch Golden Age” with thousands of saw windmills. In the 19th century, the area became a leader of the “Industrial Age” in the Netherlands.
Starting in 1961, the Zaanse Schans was turned into an open air museum with windmills and buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries. Various wooden houses, barns, shops, warehouses and windmills were transported here starting in 1961. The buildings along with traditional farmsteads, paths, ditches and fields depict how village life was like during that prosperous time.
When we arrive at the Zaanse Schans parking lot, you will undoubtably smell chocolate from the nearby cacao processing factories. Entrance to the Zaansee Schans is free, but some of the workshops and windmills located throughout the grounds are museums and require an entrance fee. You can purchase a ticket to have access to all the museums.
One of the first buildings you will see on arrival is the Kooijman Souvenirs & Clogs Wooden Shoe Workshop. Here you can see a wooden clog machine demonstration. Afterwards, wander throughout the site checking out the bakery, fisherman’s house, weavers house, clock house, merchant house, cheese house, pewter house, pancake house and see how vats and barrels are made at the cooperage. With a little breeze, you can see the sails of the windmills slowly turning while the inner workings churn away. The windmills saw wood or mill oil, flower, spices or pigments to dye cloth. Some windmills allow visitors to climb up to the deck via narrow stairs for a nice view of the river and the area.
The Zaans Museum, located by the parking area, opened in 1998, and contains clothing and artifacts from the area. At its Verkade Experience you can see original chocolate and biscuit factory machines from the early 20th century at work. The museum also has a café and shop.
Another short 20 minute drive, and we reach Edam, which is famous for its cheese market that started in1520. Edam cheese is round with a flattened top and bottom and is coated with a red paraffin wax which allowed it to age well and not spoil on long voyages. Its unique taste plus the lack of spoilage made it extremely attractive for exporting throughout the world. The market was closed in 1922 when cheese began to be made in factories rather than by local farms.
At the original market, farmers would bring their cheese using horse drawn cart or by boat. Once they arrived, the cheese carriers, who wore different colored hats depending on which cheese guild they belonged to, would load the product onto wooden barrows. Once the barrow was loaded, the carriers placed carry straps over their shoulders and walked the precious cargo to the cheese tasters. The tasters would drill a core sample from the cheese and based on the exterior wax, smell, taste and other factors began to bargain the price with the seller using a series of shouts and hand claps. When the price was settled the cheese was taken to the weighing house to determine the final amount to be paid.
Every Wednesday in the summer from 10:30 to 12:30, the town re-enacts the hustle, and bustle of the market at the Jan van Nieuwenhuizen Square. The colorful market includes many family members, including children, wearing traditional costumes, dresses and clogs plus kiosks selling cheese. Throughout the performance, horse carts and boats arrive, cheese carriers scurry at a comical pace and bargain shouts and hand slaps can be heard. So visitors understand everything that is happening, there is a person on a microphone explaining the entire process. It’s quite interesting and fun to witness.
Next, we will travel from Edam to the seaside fishing village of Volendam to visit a local smokehouse that was founded in 1856. Smoked eels at one time were an important staple food in the Netherlands but recently a drop in the eel population and the resulting price increase has made it a delicacy. Today, the 5th and 6th generations of the Smits’ family keep their family’s secret fish smoking process and traditions alive. The smoked eel is their specialty and during the eel fishing season the entire family is involved in the cutting, gouging, skinning, digging and filleting of the eels. The Paviljoen Smit-Bokkum offers private tours of the smokehouse to introduce people to the traditional eel fishing, processing and smoking activities. In addition to eel, they smoke salmon, dorado and sea bass using pine wood. The eel is delicious and at their restaurant you can try various local dishes. The location also has a shop and a small Palingsound (eel sound) Museum dedicated to Volendam’s unique and famous pop music.
Volendam, once a simple catholic fishing village, is now Holland’s best-known seaside town and is visited by millions annually. The Volendam Catholic fishermen had their own typical costumes and dialect. The town’s boardwalk, once home to fishermen’s wooden shacks, is now adorned with colorful wooden houses, tourist shops, cafes and restaurants. As you walk through the town and its shops, you will see locals wearing the traditional clothing. If you explore the village’s narrow lanes in the old neighborhoods, you can still see some of the old fishermens’ houses.
There used to be hundreds of vessels at one time when Volendam’s fishing fleet had access to the North Sea, but after closing its access, the harbour contains only a few fishing vessels doing fresh water fishing on Markermeer lake. Nowadays, leisure boats and the ferries that go to the nearby island of Marken occupy the majority of the harbour space.
Some restaurants offer tasty local seafood dishes and cool drinks on patios overlooking the harbour. For a quick lunch, food stands and take away restaurants sell kibbeling (battered and fried fish nuggets), herring, shrimp and of course smoked eel.
A visit to the Volendams Museum provides an interesting look into the town’s history, costumes, traditions and art. If you have time, you may consider taking the Volendam Marken Express boat to Marken.
On the way back to Amsterdam, and a short distance from Volendam, we will stop at the Henri Willig Jacob’s Hoeve cheese farm. The staff wear traditional clothing, and they give a short introduction and demonstration of the cheese making process. The number of cow goat and sheep cheese varieties is quite overwhelming but very interesting to sample. Some flavours you might encounter include truffle, cumin, pesto, red chili pepper, coconut, pepper, rosemary and garlic. They are all for sale in various sizes along with other Dutch souvenirs and foods. You can also see the cows in their new stable especially designed for the organic farm’s herd of Jerseys.
It is only twenty minutes back to Amsterdam and as you enjoy the countryside you can decide on what great restaurant you will go to tonight. I think an authentic Indonesian “rijsttafel” or rice table would be a great way to end the day. The rice table was brought back to the Netherlands from the Dutch East Indies where it was created by the Dutch as a festive way to showcase their colony’s diverse and multi-ethnic Indonesian cuisine. The rice is accompanied by a multitude of small meat, vegetarian and condiment dishes that may include spring rolls, satay meat skewers, curries, fish, boiled eggs, spicy sauces, peanut sauces, vegetables, and fried bananas. It is great for sampling different tastes and for sharing. You can find Indonesian fast food and restaurants throughout Amsterdam, but a place like Tujuh Maret or Ron Gastrobar Indonesia offering a rice table is definitely something you should experience.
Explore Europe With Us
Azorcan Global Sport, School and Sightseeing Tours have taken thousands to Europe on their custom group tours since 1994. Visit azorcan.net to see all our custom tour possibilities for your group of 26 or more. Individuals can join our “open” signature sport, sightseeing and sport fan tours including our popular Canada hockey fan tours to the World Juniors. At azorcan.net/media you can read our newsletters and listen to our podcasts.
Images compliments of Paul Almeida and Azorcan Tours. This article was original published in March 2021.
Canadian Tire uses customer data from loyalty rewards program to boost sales
By Brett Bundale
One of Canada’s biggest retailers is using customer data mined through its loyalty program and credit cards to drive sales and counter the potential demand impact of rising prices.
Canadian Tire Corp. Ltd. said Thursday it is focused on attracting and engaging rewards members as a way to gain insight into shopping habits and shape sales through promotions.
The company’s emphasis on its rewards program underscores the growing value of personal shopping data in the highly competitive retail environment.
“In addition to the rich first-party data we can mine through our Triangle Rewards loyalty program, our Triangle credit card provides critical insights into our customers and their preferences and shopping behaviours,” Greg Hicks, Canadian Tire president and CEO, said during a call with analysts to discuss the company’s quarterly results.
“Our ability to engineer demand with our high-low programming across all banners has us being much more relevant,” he said. “We feel prepared to address any concerning shifts and spend behaviour at a customer level.”
Canadian Tire raised its dividend by 25 per cent as it reported its first-quarter profit and revenue rose compared with a year ago.
Overall, the company reported net income attributable to shareholders of $182.1 million or $3.03 per diluted share, up from $151.8 million or $2.47 per diluted share a year earlier.
Revenue for the quarter ended April 2 totalled $3.84 billion, up from $3.32 billion in the same quarter last year.
Comparable sales at its Canadian Tire retail business grew 4.5 per cent, with automotive, hockey and winter categories leading the way.
The company’s Mark’s banner saw comparable sales gain 17.1 per cent amid stronger sales of industrial footwear and jeans while SportChek stores gained 10.2 per cent on higher winter sports and apparel sales.
Meanwhile, Canadian Tire’s use of loyalty member data highlights the increasing sophistication of in-store and online promotions that aim to boost customer spending.
Canadian Tire retail, for example, has created a new “offer widget” function, that encourages customers to use rewards to earn bonus electronic Canadian Tire money if they purchase a particular product.
In testing, the offer widget drove a 17 per cent increase in sales at Canadian Tire and a 34 per cent increase at Mark’s, Hicks said.
“If you went back two years ago, you would have seen a lot more of a store being 20 (per cent) off as an example,” said Gregory Craig, Canadian Tire chief financial officer.
“The use of targeted promotional offers is much more significant than it’s been in the past.”
Using customer data to target sales more effectively also benefits margins.
“With all of the data we have at our disposal, we’ve never been more able to really understand the value consumers crave,” said TJ Flood, president of Canadian Tire retail.
“We’re always trying to strike that balance between managing margins and inspiring demand and also not giving an inch on being priced competitively.”
Still, the company is managing through a tight labour market and ongoing supply issues.
“When you look at labour in the marketplace right now, it is challenging,” Flood said. “But our dealer network is very entrepreneurial, and very, very aggressive at the local level with attracting and retaining talent.”
Although there are concerns about how shutdowns in China will ripple through the global supply chain, Hicks said the impact is minimal.
“It’s important to know that the ports in Shanghai and Beijing are not shut down,” he said. “The reality is the supply chains out of China are functioning better than they were a year ago.”
Hicks added that the company has adjusted lead times and is continuing to use charter vessels to ensure inventory arrives on time.
While shoppers may start to rein in spending amid high inflation, he said the company is ready to roll out its “demand elasticity drivers” and rewards program to deliver choice and value to customers.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 12, 2022.
Companies in this story: (TSX:CTC.A)
Shaw shares down with competition regulator set to oppose Rogers deal
Toronto – Shares in Shaw Communications Inc. fell in early trading after the company and Rogers Communications Inc. said the Commissioner of Competition plans to block their merger.
Rogers and Shaw said late Friday they were informed that the commissioner intends to file applications to the Competition Tribunal in a bid to prevent the $26-billion merger.
The companies say they remain committed to the deal and have offered to address the competition concerns.
RBC Capital Markets analyst Drew McReynolds says he believes the probability of the deal ultimately getting approval remains high.
McReynolds says he believes changes to the deal can be made and that the Competition Bureau is focused on the nature of the remedy package.
Shaw shares were down $2.99 or about eight per cent at $34.57 in early trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange. Rogers has agreed to pay $40.50 per Shaw share.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 9, 2022.
Companies in this story: (TSX:SJR.B, TSX:RCI.B)
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