Last month Andrew Matthews, Ski & Sports Tours Co-ordinator, and Gemma Howell, Ski & Sports Tours Consultant, packed their bags and fled the office to Amsterdam and Cologne in search of the best places to stay, attractions to visit and fixtures to play (and the best spots for a cheesy tourist pic!).
From stadium tours at the Amsterdam Arena and Professional Coaching at AZ Alkmaar, to overnight stays in a 16th century castle – not forgetting some seriously world-class sports opportunities along the way – here’s what Andrew and Gemma got up to on their inspection trip…
Our sports tours to Amsterdam and Cologne are already pretty good, but we always strive to be the best and decided to visit both destinations to source brand new accommodation, fixtures and excursions to make your future tours the best they can possibly be.
Our first stop in Amsterdam saw us visit three different accommodation types, each one perfectly suited for school groups. From hostels through to 4-star hotels (and even a 16th century castle), we have accommodation to suit every variety of tour. It was great to cement relationships with the new accommodation and, after a full day of travelling, we couldn’t be happier at the sight of our beds!
We woke bright and early for the Amsterdam Arena Tour, an excursion we were particularly looking forward to. Our Tour Guide, Bryan, was superb, a really engaging speaker who would be perfect for student groups. As well as seeing the usual stadium functions, we were also treated to stadium safety and controls – an educational stadium tour is never a bad thing!
It was time to move on to our AZ Alkmaar meeting, arranged with a view to setting up Professional Coaching at the club. We were shown around the training pitches situated next to the stadium, as well as the first team changing facilities and players’ lounge, both of which are included in the package. With lunch available at either the players’ lounge or the Louis Van Gaal Café, we knew this would make a great addition to our Professional Coaching package.
Today we once again met up with our contact at AZ Alkmaar to take a look at their training complex. Based in Zaandam, the facility is brand new and perfect for football groups. The first team train here during the week and students are encouraged to watch and meet the players – always an added bonus on any Professional Coaching tour.
We think it’d be a great idea to mix the training sessions, having some of the group at the academy and others at the stadium, to give groups a real feel of what a professional club operates like.
Next up was a visit to Duinrell amusement park – a very pleasant surprise! Although not the biggest park, it will definitely be a hit with groups. Easy to get to, relatively cheap and some pretty awesome rides, Duinrell receives a big thumbs up from us.
We started our day with some accommodation meetings before travelling into Cologne to visit some excursions. Our first stop was Cologne Cathedral, a truly impressive building and the perfect place to walk around and explore its rich history.
Next we visited the Cologne Chocolate Museum – a favourite with our Concert Tours department’s groups! With lots of interactive features, plus the opportunity to try lots of different chocolates and samples (nothing like a mid-day sugar rush), this would be a great excursion for those looking to do something that little bit different. Chocolate lovers, you’re welcome.
Our final stop of the day was at the Olympic and Sport Museum, perhaps the most suitable excursion for our groups we visited this week. The museum has the perfect blend of retro sport games, interactive exhibits and Olympic history to keep groups entertained for a whole afternoon. There are even football pitches and basketball courts on the roof (yep, roof!) should anyone fancy a quick impromptu match or training session in some unforgettable surroundings.
With evening setting in, we had something really special planned – a tour of the Rheinenergiestadion Stadium. To our surprise we had booked onto a German Speaking Tour (we guarantee this won’t happen with our groups!). But despite not being able to understand the guide, it didn’t distract from the great tour of this fairly iconic stadium. An absolute must if you visit Cologne.
We got up early for our meeting with Taxofit Youth Football School Koln to discuss the potential training programmes of our football groups. We’re delighted to report that it was a fantastic meeting and that they’re extremely flexible to meet any of our groups’ requirements. All coaches are graduates of the German Sport University Cologne, each with a minimum of a UEFA B Licence. There’s also the potential to purchase Bundesliga match tickets for groups to enjoy when they finish the coaching.
Having worked with professional clubs across the world in the past, we were blown away by the professionalism of Taxofit Youth Football School Koln and wouldn’t hesitate to send groups here for a real German football experience.
After 5 long days it was time to head back to the UK, safe in the knowledge that we had cemented some superb relationships with accommodation and excursions in both Amsterdam and Cologne. We can’t wait to introduce these into our itineraries moving forward!