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Road Trip: Holland and Belgium

Day 1: Amsterdam to the Hague (40 miles)

Set out from Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, following the signs for the A2 to Utrecht. The passing countryside (dikes; pitched-roof farmhouses; windmills) bears a striking resemblance to those Jacob van Ruisdael landscapes of centuries ago. Home to one of Holland’s best universities, Utrecht has a vibrant mix of shops, cafés, and restaurants. Begin with the half-hour-long, 465-stair climb to the top of the 14th-century Domtoren church tower—worth it for the views alone. Back at street level, browse for antiques in the shops on the Oudegracht (Old Canal), the historic center’s absurdly picturesque main drag. Grab a sandwich at the hip organic bakery Broodnodig (lunch for two $25), then get back on the road, looking for the A12, which takes you straight into the Hague. Headquarters for the International Criminal Court and home of the Dutch royal family, this is the country’s stealth good-taste capital. Check in to the Hotel des Indes, a Luxury Collection Hotel (doubles from $370), a grande dame on Lange Voorhout square that underwent a total makeover by French design star Jacques Garcia three years ago. For dinner, there’s the tiny Maxime (dinner for two $100), where the lacquered walls and velvet banquettes are a sumptuous backdrop for a light, seasonal menu (try the North Sea bass with fennel and cucumber).

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