From our house sit in France we made the epic journey all the way up to the Netherlands. We stayed in a bungalow in a holiday park in Renswoude, about half an hour from the city of Utrecht. It was pretty fun staying in a holiday park – our little cottage had a cute backyard with a hammock (otherwise known as the swing), and the park had a couple of playgrounds, sand pit, jumping pillow and a pool. It was a pretty fun place to stay – except that it rained almost every day so we hardly got to use these cool things. The jumping pillow was quite fun while wet though, and Pete and Elena loved romping all over it.
The Netherlands was a pretty cool place to be. We really liked the friendliness of the people, the food (oh my goodness, we discovered a heavenly food called stroopwafels), the buildings, the fields with their black and white cows, windmills and the greenest grass we have actually ever seen. It was the also first time in a while we felt comfortable speaking English to people – most people spoke very good English and we didn’t feel like chumps mispronouncing words and failing at languages in general.
We spent a day exploring the nearby city of Utrecht, a medieval city with winding canals all through it. Also the home of Miffy, as we learned, and we spent a fun afternoon in the Nijintje (Miffy) Museum – which was much more like a huge play centre for little kids based on the Miffy books. It had so many fun and interactive things to do, and was a real hit with most of our family.
One of the funnest days we spent in the Netherlands was at the Hoge Veluwe National Park, a sprawling parkland with a cool concept – free white bikes that you can ride around the whole park. The idea is that if a bike is just sitting there, it is up for grabs. We really enjoyed getting into the bike culture that is so big in the Netherlands – the country is so flat everywhere, it is no wonder that they ride everywhere. The cycling was so cruisy that we dreamed of getting bikes at home and riding around everywhere. I think I will have to get very fit before I can ride to my house at the top of a very long hill…
We visited a beautiful town called Amersfoort, one of our favourite places we saw in Holland. It was just a big town with a really nice feel to it, with art markets and food markets in some of the squares. Pete and Elena climbed 450 stairs up the top of Omze Lieve Vrouwetoren (The Tower of our Lady) to get a great view of the town, and we went to a traditional pancake house for lunch where they served up some really delicious savoury pancakes, while a Dutch choir sang outside.
We couldn’t visit the Netherlands without going to Amsterdam, and we had a great day discovering this famous city, filled with its museums, and street performers, and beautiful parks. We liked walking through the huge Vondelpark, and loved playing in this amazing fountain nearby which sent up different walls of water, sometimes trapping us in, sometimes soaking us with water while we tried to guess the right time to escape. Elena and Kilian had a great time playing hide and seek in the ‘I amsterdam’ sculpture, and probably ruining about 50 people’s photos. We finished the day by watching a puppet show in the main city square. Elena talked about it often afterwards, although it was all in Dutch and we had no idea what was happening. Amsterdam is a big, energetic and interesting city, and someday I’d like to come back and spend a bit more time exploring.
On our last day in Holland we decided to go to a fairy tale theme park that we’d heard about called Efteling. This place was so cool. I liked it better than Disneyland. It was based on different fairy stories and folk tales, and was really family oriented, so they had very few adult rides, and heaps of attractions for younger kids. I don’t really like rides so this was perfect for me. There were quite a few rides that we could take Kilian on, so Pete was able to run off and go on a rollercoaster or two while me and the kids enjoyed some nice, slow rides. I did go on one of those swinging pirate ships with Elena at her request. I hated it while Elena was laughing away and loving it. She went on straight after with Pete and would have done it again and again. There was a whole forest dedicated to different fairytales, and we went to a live performance which was just amazing, with flaming swords and tricks on horseback and actors actually rising up from inside a lake. I think I could go on and on about Efteling, because it was incredible, but it might get a bit boring. Anyway, I would definitely come back to the Netherlands for this!
I think I would come back to the Netherlands for lots of things. We loved it and it was a great way to (almost) end our time in Europe.
We drove back to London via the Eurotunnel (crossing 4 countries in one day!) to sell our car and fly to Norway on Saturday (which is where we are now!).
P.S. We sold our car. We obviously didn’t have time to fuss around, so we listed it as “a great deal, amazing price, heavily reduced, quick sale etc etc” and literally had like 15 people call us within 3 hours, and sold it 4 hours after listing it. We’ve never sold a car so quickly. It was crazy.