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The Classic Car Museums of Belgium and Holland Friends Trip 2011

An Account of the trip by Sara Billett, Friends Liaison Committee 

It was late May and another early start for a “Friends” trip to European Classic Car Museums. Many of us have been on these visits before and we are now a harmonious well disciplined group moving as one. So we were swiftly unloaded from the coach into our first hotel in Brussels and down to dinner with the precision of a military operation. Only a whole load more fun.

Our first museum, Autoworld, is located in the Parc du Cinquantenaire, half a mile from our hotel. Housed in the exhibition halls built in 1905 to commemorate 75 years of Belgium Independence it is a collection of some 400 vehicles dating from the 1880's to the 1970's. The vehicles begin with a fine and extensive display of Veterans. You then follow a route at ground level illustrating the history of the automobile while on a mezzanine level there is a time line of notable makes and models most popular in Europe for each decade. Ever eager to improve our cultural education our guide Lance and driver Gary provided a tour of Brussels including the Atomium before heading off for The Hague and our hotel for the next three nights.

Day 3 and we head for the Louwman Collection, surely one of the finest collections of some of the finest cars in the world. Numbering over 230 exhibits this museum starts with the days of horse drawn carriages. It proceeds with cars purchased to exemplify the unusual, the rare and exotic. For example a 1917 Woods dual fuel petrol electric car. Each area reveals a further marvellous selection as the exhibits move from single vehicles to themed displays including French Deco inspired design, Italian exotica, German pre war horse power and Rolls-Royce opulence. In addition to the vehicles the museum has magnificent displays of paintings, trophies and automobilia of every description. Lunch was taken in the restaurant where a hot air balloon and airship section float overhead. Lance continued our varied programme in the afternoon with a visit to a delightful Japanese garden and a tour of cultural highlights of The Hague.

Next morning we travelled to the Old Timer Museum. Created by Cees de Rijke, whose haulage business was established after the war, it is located on the trading estate where his empire grew. The museum comprises four halls of some 200 cars, lorries and motorcycles collected over the last forty years. Many of the vehicles in the first hall are Fords - Model T, A and B in various guises. While the final hall is dedicated to commercial vehicles including a magnificently decorated Artic painted to celebrate 40 years of De Rijke, the halls in between cover the history of the cars in both full size and model form. Our afternoon was spent in the delightful and picturesque town of Delft with its canals and many historic buildings.

Next day en route to Calais and our ferry home we stopped off in Bruges for sightseeing and a little lunch in the magnificent town square before being spoilt once again by Lance with the last of the cakes and chocolates he provided for us throughout the trip.

Our thanks go to David and Ann Ross for setting up the holiday through Tailored Travel, to our driver and guide who looked after us wonderfully, and to our group who were once again a delight to travel with and enjoy some excellent car collections.

 

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