The Weather in the Netherlands

The weather in the Netherlands, as you may expect, can be very … wet. There were days during our month when it just poured from morning until night. Luckily, those happened to be days we’d planned to have a quiet day at home anyway. Good timing!

Mostly, the rain isn’t really a big deal. You see the clouds coming, get out your umbrella, and continue on your way. The rain stops, you fold up your umbrella, and continue on your way. It certainly doesn’t stop the Dutch! There are still just as many cyclists on the road, even in wet weather!

PER says his mother always used to tell him and his brother, “You aren’t made of sugar. You won’t melt!” We tell our boys that they are more than half Dutch, so they will be just fine in the rain 🙂  (I myself am 1/8 Dutch, and so I tip the scale for them a bit!)

Sometimes if you are really lucky, you might even see a rainbow! When we first saw this one, it was just a faint streak in the sky. And it wasn’t even raining on us yet. As we got closer, the color intensified. Then it started to rain, quite hard, but we could still see the rainbow. And then we got a real treat – it spread over the street into a full arc! I took several dozen pictures, but of course it was never captured quite as brilliantly as it appeared in real life.

Usually, if it rained at all, it was just a short time. And the sun would come out from behind the clouds and warm us all up. It would often start out at around 70 degrees – or cooler – in the morning. But by the afternoon, we were shedding our jackets and glad we’d chosen to wear sandals, as it warmed up to about 75. Not exactly the stifling heat and humidity of the Philadelphia area in August!

Most of the time, I wore cropped pants, short sleeves with a light sweater or rain coat, and shoes or sandals. We did have some hotter weather when we first arrived, and we were wearing shorts and tanks. The bottom line is, you have to be prepared for all kinds of weather in the Netherlands! And layering is key!

Now, if you know anything about the landscape of the Netherlands, you may know that it is flat. Very flat. One of the reasons it’s so ideal for cycling! But it is also good for harvesting wind. The modern windmills are peppered across the green acres of land. But sometimes, you see so many, you can’t even begin to count them. When we were on our way to Hans & Grietje in the Flevoland region, we were gaping at the number of them! Again, you just can’t really capture that on film. But I tried!

 

2017 NL: Muiderslot – Storming the Castle!

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I think today was my favorite day on this trip! I’ve been to my fair share of castles throughout Europe, but the Muiderslot Castle in Muiden was an interactive surprise – especially for the kids!

The day didn’t start off so great. It was a gray and rainy day. Not one of the quick rain showers we’ve had often enough, but pouring down, feet-soaking rain. The wind was blowing pretty hard, too, so our umbrellas were of little use. Add to the mix that you can’t park very close to the castle, so it was about a 15 or 20-minute walk, and I think we were all a little grumbly.

We were greeted by a horn-rimmed owl! Really – there was a woman standing there, with an imposing owl perched on her arm!

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As we climbed the steep, time-worn stairs in one of the turrets, there were places to stop at different levels and learn a little more about the castle. But on the way down, the fun really began! We all got to be knights and ladies of the castle! They had fun dress-up opportunities for adults and children alike!

That chain mail was astoundingly heavy! I thought Froggy was faking a little as he slowly drudged over to the fireplace to have his picture taken. But it was really weighing him down!

In the next room, there was a virtual jousting tournament, where two visitors can “mount” a saddle and see who knocks the other off first. Froggy knocked his grandmother down twice! 🙂

There was so much to see and do! Be sure to get the little booklet for the kids. They collect stamps along the way and get knighted at the end! We missed this part, and I’m sorry we did!

There is another tower to climb that allows you to go up along the castle wall. And after you finish storming the castle, there are lovely gardens to enjoy. There is a small cafe, too, but we decided to eat our lunch in town.

We enjoyed the old town of Muiden. On our walk to the castle, the rain let up just enough for us to enjoy a swiveling bridge that opened to let a big boat go through!

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The sun had come out when we were walking the gardens. And we decided to have lunch outside in the old town. Among us, we enjoyed tostis, uitsmijter on toast (sunny side up eggs), a smoked eel sandwich, bitterballen (like mini round kroketten), or some even had appeltaart (apple pie) for lunch!

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Is it good for kids?

Definitely! I think Hippo was at just the right age (4). I’m not sure I would have taken him last year. And Froggy (age 7) really enjoyed it, too. It’s so interactive, there is plenty for everyone to enjoy.

What about the cost?

Online tickets for adults are €13.50. Children ages 4 – 11 cost €9. And children 3 and under are free. It is also free with the Museum Card. The children’s quest costs and additional €2. They also offer group prices.

Where is it?

2017 NL: Zaanse Schans Windmills

I think Zaanse Schans is one of my favorite places we’ve been! We went there last year, too, and the kids were excited to go back. They wanted to show it to their American grandparents.

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It is like stepping back in time – minus all the tourists! But it’s not overly crowded. It’s like visiting a village from the 18th or 19th century.

There are plenty of things to see, but we like to go to the windmill first. The one called De Kat is a paint windmill from 1664. Yes, they actually mill pigments! And they still do today! You can even buy little bottles of them to take home and make your own paints – instructions included!

You can tour the windmill to see the large gears at work. Climb the tall, steep ladder to go to the upper level and walk out on the deck of the windmill to see the sails turning up close, as well as beautiful views.

There is much more to see and do here as you walk through the picturesque old town. There is a chocolate shop, a bakery, a cheese shop, and a pewter foundry. There is also a museum of the original Albert Heijn grocery store. It looks quite different than the ones we go to today!

Near the parking lot is also the Zaans Museum and Verkade Experience, where you can learn about the history of the area and take a small tour of a chocolate factory.

Oh, and did I mention there is a Pannenkoekenhuis where you can have a delicious lunch? There is another restaurant and a cafe, if pancakes aren’t your thing. But really – what kid doesn’t like pancakes?!

Is it good for kids?

We took the boys here last year, too, at ages 6 & 3, and they had a great time. It’s nice to be outdoors, and they loved the windmill. Although Hippo had to be carried up and down the steep ladder at age 3. This year, he needed some guidance, but that was all. Then again, he’s our adventurer. Froggy needed some help getting down last year (age 6), as I recall. Last year, we did not visit the museum, as the boys had had enough. But this year they were up for it! They enjoyed the free audio tour, too.

What about the cost?

There is no entrance fee to the grounds, but you do pay for parking (€10 per car) and to go through the museum and chocolate factory. Sorry, I can’t find any info on the prices on their website!

Where is it?

GPS address: Schansend 7 in Zaandam

2017 NL: Van Gogh + Kids?

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In the boys’ Montessori school, they have learned something about Van Gogh – and especially his sunflowers. So we always thought it could be a fun museum to see with them. We tried to go last year, but the timed tickets were already sold out for the day and time we wanted! So this year, we bought the tickets for the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam before we even left for the Netherlands.

Even with timed tickets purchased in advance, it was the most crowded museum I have ever seen. And it seems to be like this all the time!

We got the boys the interactive tour for children. Hippo (age 4) was not impressed by the works of the great master. So mostly he and my dad sat on the various benches telling stories. Froggy, on the other hand, loved it (age 7). On the handheld screen, he was given a small piece of a painting and had to figure out which one it was. We had to help quite a bit, especially as he was too short to see over the heads of crowd of adults.

The advantage of the scavenger hunt was that it gave him something to focus on and something to do. But I also wonder how much he really took in? Still, he’s only 7! So I think it was a pretty good introduction – and a positive experience – for his first museum of artwork.

We were surprised by how prolific a painter Van Gogh was! He created over 900 paintings! And what a variety there was to his style! It was quite striking. There were many famous paintings to be seen, such as the Sunflowers and many of his self-portraits. We were, however, surprised to find that his “Starry Night” is actually in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

If you don’t mind crowds, then by all means, visit the Van Gogh Museum. My mother, who is an artist herself, found it very inspiring. Personally, such crowds make me rather stressed, especially with young children. So I might have preferred to take them to the Rijksmuseum instead, where there is a great variety of art to be seen – including some Van Goghs! My mother-in-law recommended the Rembrandt House Museum, but that will have to wait for another trip for us….

Is it good for kids?

I’m not so sure. Hippo (age 4) was definitely not interested. Froggy (age 7) did fine with his interactive scavenger hunt, but I’m not sure how much art he actually saw. But overall, I’m not sure I would have done this one with the kids, in hindsight.

What about the cost?

Adult tickets cost €17. Children 18 and under are free. Entrance is also free with the Museum Card.

Where is it?

2017 NL: Rijksmuseum & Canal Tour

Today was an adult day! We left the kids with a sitter, so PER and I could take my parents into Amsterdam in the afternoon. We spent time in the Rijksmuseum, had dinner, and took an evening canal tour. We wanted to do the canal tour at night, but alas! it doesn’t get dark here until about 10. Since the sitter needed to leave by then, that wouldn’t work!

The Rijksmuseum was quite impressive. It’s massive, for one thing. And the building alone is gorgeous. And it is filled with floor after floor of art from the past five centuries. (Just be careful not to get lost! We had to go out and have our tickets scanned again to get back in!) Too many famous artists are represented to mention. The one that caught my eye the most (because of its light) was painted by an artist I had never heard of before.

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We bought tickets ahead of time and just used our smartphone to get them scanned at the entrance.

We also bought tickets in advance for the canal tour. But I don’t know if that was necessary. There are many options for canal tours. Ours was good – by Lovers (no, that’s not lovers, but actually a family name pronounced differently!). I liked that part of the top was open, so we could take pictures a little more easily. Here are a few things we saw:

  • Some typical Dutch architecture
  • Canals with bicycles chained to the railing of the bridge
  • Centraal Station – you wouldn’t know from the other side that it is built right on the water!
  • Nemo science center
Is it good for kids?

Rijksmuseum: Although we did not take the kids (ages 7 & 4) with us, I think they would have enjoyed the museum.

Canal Tour: The canal tour might have been a bit slow for them. It lasted about an hour. Maybe if we did it during the day – or even in the afternoon as a kind of “quiet time” for them – it would be okay. But that might be something we do with them when they’re a bit older.

What about the cost?

Rijksmuseum: Children up to 18 are free! Adult tickets cost €17.50. You can get an audio tour for an additional €5. Also free with the Museum Card.

Canal Tour: Tickets start at €12.50. There are a number of different options, including hop-on-hop-off tours and combination tours (with museums, etc.)

Where is it?

Canal tours can be found all over the canals. Or you can buy tickets online. Be sure to note where your tour leaves from!

Rijksmuseum:

2017 NL: Wintergatan Marble Machine!

When Froggy was 4, he got his first marble run for Christmas. It became something of an obsession! We now own at least half a dozen different kinds. And he also discovered an amazing world of marble run videos on YouTube. Surprisingly, there are several connections to the Netherlands!

One famous marble run maker is Jelle Bakker. While we’re here, we’re finally going to see one of his giant marble runs (or knikkerbaan) – the Marble Tsunami! Check out Jelle’s YouTube channel for amazing homemade marble runs!

Meanwhile, today we had quite a treat! Froggy asked recently where a marble run would go when it was retired. We were somewhat confused by his question. But apparently, he had seen something on YouTube that told about the Wintergatan Marble Machine. It was being retired and would be on tour this summer. In fact, it is on display at the Spelklok Museum in Utrecht! Well, of course we had to go and see it!!

Do you know this famous marble machine? A Swedish musician named Martin Molin spent hours at the Spelklok Museum in Utrecht and was inspired to create his own kind of music machine. Only his would use marbles (or silver bearing balls) to make the music. After 16 months of work, he posted the video of his original music being played by the marble machine, and it went viral almost instantly! This is what it looks like:

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Unfortunately, the machine no longer works. Apparently, Molin created it as he went along – without a plan. So there were some flaws in the design. It also had to be taken apart to be transported, and it had even more trouble when it was put back together. Still, for fans of this extraordinary musical marble machine, it was quite a sight to behold!

I understand it will only be on display for the summer of 2017. But if you missed it, the Spelklok Museum still has a lot to offer! It has all kinds of self-playing music machines from the past several centuries. There are some interactive displays where children can crank the handle themselves to hear music playing. And there is a station upstairs where you can make your own paper for playing a music box (be sure to get the paper when you buy your tickets).

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We also enjoyed the big organ grinders. And when we’ve seen them on the streets or in the town squares, it was exciting to now know how they work!

Is it good for kids?

The boys (ages 7 & 4) really enjoyed the museum. They love music, so they enjoyed hearing the different kinds of musical machines. And they liked working the few that had handles to crank. Of course, for them, the highlight was seeing Wintergatan’s marble machine!

What about the cost?

Adult tickets cost €12. Children ages 4 – 12 are €6.50. (I assume children under 4 are free, but the website does not explicitly say that!) Entrance is free with the Museum Card.

Where is it?

Dutch Food: Poffertjes

The first time I visited the Netherlands was 10 years ago! Hard to believe! My then-fiancé took me to visit the Keukenhof – a beautiful flower park that is open at the height of tulip season (from the end of March to mid-May). The park itself is lovely. And then you can go up into a windmill for a spectacular view of sprawling tulip fields!

While at the Keukenhof, I was also introduced to poffertjes. They are little puffed pancakes, eaten with butter and powdered sugar. Lekker!! I like them so much, my husband bought me a poffertjes pan for Christmas!

The other day, after playing tourist in the morning, we went to a Poffertjeskraam for lunch. It’s kind of a poffertjes stand – except there were tables to sit and eat.

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This one is in Bussum. Very quaint. Although, I thought the poffertjes were a bit underdone and doughy. Still, it was so much fun to watch them make the little pancakes on the enormous griddle!

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Look at this thing! It makes 240 poffertjes at one time! They use a two-pronged fork to flip them – at record speeds! When I make them at home, they are a bit of a mess 🙂

And here’s the final product:

Did I say lekker?!! Yum!