2017 NL: Amsterdam Museum

Today we headed into Amsterdam. AP2 wanted to see the “I amsterdam” letters. We didn’t get a close look. Well, that’s practically impossible! There are so many tourists in front of it – or even climbing on top of it – that you can’t get a very clear picture of it! Still, we got a nice view of the Rijksmuseum, too. Can you find the letters behind the crowd??

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We walked from Museumplein to Leidseplein and then took tram 5 to het Spui. From there, we walked to the Amsterdam Musuem (Kalverstraat 92). We’ve never really taken the boys to a museum before, so we weren’t too sure what to expect. I had images of them trying to drag us through, as bored and whiny children can do! But, no!! They were totally into it! We got them the audio tour, so they loved being able to point it at the different stations and hear the descriptions of what was going on. They also had a scavenger hunt for kids to find certain things in the museum and answer questions. There were so many interesting facts about the history of the Netherlands! (See the picture below about the different sea levels!) In the end, we were the ones trying to hurry them through! And we spent so much time in the museum part that we never even made it into the basement where they have special activities for kids! The museum used to be an orphanage, so they apparently have a sensory experience of what it was like to be a kid in the 17th century. But we’ll have to do that another time!

We continued walking the Kalverstraat to the Dam, but stopped for a bite to eat along the way at Lunchcafé Blom (Nieuwendijk 117). There was actually something to eat for everyone!!! (That’s a big deal in our picky family!) PER and AP2 both had broodje kroket. I had a warme ciabatta mozzarella with tomato and homemade pesto. Froggy had a hamburger. And Hippo had a tosti kaas – kind of like a grilled cheese. And we all shared some frites (french fries). Lekker!

After lunch we walked on to the Dam. There was a bigger Intertoys there, so we stopped in to let the kids spend the rest of their allowance 🙂 Then we walked on to Centraal station to take tram 5 back to the Museumplein.

We ended up spending about 4 hours in the city. And just as we were returning to car (parked in the Museumplein garage), it started to rain! Perfect timing!

Here is an idea of our walk from the Kalverstraat to Centraal station:

Map of Amsterdam

Is it good for kids?

Amsterdam Museum: Froggy (age 7) really enjoyed the museum. He’s kind of into history, so that helped. Hippo (age 4) liked using the audio tour, but I’m not sure he got much else out of it. So this might be something for a child at least 7 or older.

What about the cost?

Amsterdam Museum: Adults are €12.50. Children ages 5 – 18 are €6.50. And children 4 and under are free. Also free with the Museum Card.

Where is it?

Amsterdam Museum: Kalverstraat 92 in Amsterdam


2017 NL: Fairy Tale Theme Park

Today we went to the Efteling. We’ve been talking about it for a couple of years, but I’m glad we waited until the boys were a little older (7 and 4). It’s a fairy tale theme park with a little something for everyone.

The fairy tale forest – also known as a living picture book – has representations of 29 stories! Some of them, I had never heard of! And there is a synopsis of each story in 4 languages. We saved that for the end, though, so we didn’t see everything. It was time to get to the car to try to beat the traffic home!

The first thing we had to do was walk through the Adventure Maze. You know, the kind made out of tall shrubs? There wasn’t a beginning and an end – just go in, wander around, and try to find your way back out again. But watch out for the shooting jets of water! (It says it’s only for children under 1.5m, but plenty of adults went in, too.)

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The highlight of the day turned out to be the one roller coaster that both boys could ride. Well, technically, it’s a bobsled ride, but it works – and looks – just like a roller coaster. Now I myself and not a rides kind of person. So I sent my little ones on through the entrance with their dad and AP2. And wandered around for 40 minutes hoping I wouldn’t have a terrified, traumatized 4-year-old on my hands when they finally came out! Froggy has been on small roller coasters and was okay with them. But Hippo had never been on anything like it. Here’s the description from the website:

Be prepared for terrifying descents! Want to fly at 60 km/h? Slam through corners and feel the wind in your face. No snow, but you still shake in the bobsleigh run. The Bob is a 524 m long bobsleigh run and suitable for all daredevils.  In principle, everyone may ride this attraction. However, children under 1.20 m must be accompanied by an adult and the attraction is not accessible for pregnant women.

Yup. That’s what they did. Turns out, I was the only one whose stomach was turning! Both boys came off all smiles and were disappointed to hear they couldn’t ride any of the other roller coasters! Froggy could have gone on one or two others, but Hippo wasn’t tall enough yet, so we all agreed they’d go again another time when they could ride together 🙂

The other rides we went on seemed quite tame after that. There was a pirate ship carousel, pedal trains, and a steam train. We did not go up in the Thai Temple Pagoda with its super high panoramic views (no, Mama does not like heights!).

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We did, however, enjoy a couple of Dutch treats! Oliebollen are similar to doughnuts – fried balls of dough dusted with a healthy portion of powdered sugar. Usually, you can only get them around New Year’s, so I was excited to have one on a warm summer day! Then we had to choose between poffertjes or pannenkoeken for lunch. The boys won. I wanted poffertjes, since they are harder to find. Whereas you can find a pannenkoekenhuis on every corner – or at least in every town, it seems!

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Even the pannenkoekenhuis had a fairy tale feel to it!

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Pannenkoeken being made in the circulating oven.

One thing I really appreciated about this theme park was the amount of shade! There were trees everywhere!! Don’t get me wrong, we still needed our sunscreen. But even on this day that was not supposed to be too hot – about 75 degrees – we were still looking for refuge in the shady spots!

Is it good for kids?

Absolutely! I’m not sure I would take a child younger than 4. Although I saw plenty of people with strollers. I just prefer to wait until the kids can walk the whole time and get the most out of the rides!

What about the cost?

Well, compared to Disney World, not bad. But it’s still not a cheap day out. Tickets cost about $40 per person, and parking is $10. Only children under 3 get a discount. Although you can save a bit if you order tickets in advance online (which also saves you time to avoid lines at the park entrance!). Once you’re in, all the rides are included. Of course, if you play any of those games to try to win a giant teddy bear, you have to pay for those.

Where is it?

The Efteling is in the south of the country in a town called Kaatsheuvel (please don’t ask me to pronounce it!):

2017 NL: Say Cheese!

We had a quieter day today. PER went in to the office to work, so he dropped us off at Oma and Opa’s house. We took their two small cars to the local cheese farm and clog factory called Clara Maria in Amstelveen. Froggy wasn’t too happy about the smell 🙂  But when we got inside, we got to see a demonstration of how they make wooden shoes.


Top to bottom: phases of making a wooden shoe


Creating the wooden shoe

They actually use a model (white shoe on the outside) as the guide. Then the machine just follows the pattern to create the basic shape of the shoe. Next, they use a different machine to hollow out the inside. The wood is damp, so it has to dry for a day and a half before they can continue working on it.

Next we went inside and saw a video of how they make the cheese. You could also look through the glass to see the cheese-makers hard at work. Both Froggy and Hippo were quite fascinated. And so was I!

But the best part came next: tasting the cheese! There was a simple butter cheese, a mustard cheese, Italian herb cheese, garlic and herb cheese, smoked cheese, whisky cheese, spicy cheese! So many to choose from … and taste! I’m not even a big fan of eating cheese on its own, but these were so delicious! I bought the smoked cheese and a small wheel of butter cheese along with their mustard dill sauce to enjoy while we’re here for the month. Maybe we’ll go back and get some to bring home, too! If you have them seal it (which they do there for free), you can take it back with you to the US!

They also have a wonderful gift shop. Yes, you find some kitsch, touristy items, but they also have some really nice things to get as souvenirs. I love to bring home their wooden tulips (though packing them can be tricky!). And we have a couple of snow globes with windmills in them. Plus, I like to get Christmas ornaments – for us or the kids, or even as gifts for the kids’ teachers.

Is it good for kids?

The boys (ages 7 & 4) were quite interested in the demonstration of making clogs and the video of how cheese is made. Hippo enjoyed seeing the cows and new calves, but Froggy was not a fan of the barn smell 🙂

What about the cost?

There is no cost to go in. They do offer guided tours, but I didn’t see a cost for this on their website. They let you taste the cheese for free! Souvenirs – well, those you have to pay for 🙂

Where is it?

Not too far south of Amsterdam, a short drive by car.

Sorry, Google maps isn’t working on this one. Here’s the address:
Clara Maria Kaas- & Klompenmakerij
Bovenkerkerweg 106
1188 XH Amstelveen
The Netherlands

2017 NL: Settling in

We arrived yesterday at the house in Huizen. The kids were eager to explore the rental and see where they would sleep. PER went to get some groceries, while the kids and I found a game to play. Then Oma & Opa came over. And a little while later, our au pair from last year (AP2 from Austria) arrived to spend the first week with us! We just ordered pizza for dinner, and we enjoyed settling in.

So today was our first official day. The kids were happy to have their special breakfast that they only get to eat in the Netherlands: bread with Nutella 🙂  There is a ping-pong table downstairs that the boys have been enjoying – having never played before!

Around noon, we headed in to Huizen. It’s a quaint little Dutch town with small houses and narrow streets. First, we walked to a snack bar for lunch: hamburger, chicken nuggets, french fries, and for the brave (or the Europeans) kroket – a kind of minced meat that is breaded and fried and eaten on a roll with mustard. I didn’t care for it when I first tried it, but if I can put ketchup on it instead of mustard, I don’t mind it — but that is a horrifying idea to any Dutchie!

Then we walked back through the town to a toy store called Intertoys. They boys each had their allowance to spend on some new things while we are here for the month. (I’m terrible about paying them regularly, but I always keep track of the last time I paid them. Um… it was early March! So they had saved up quite a lot!) The store was a little small, but the kids managed to find plenty of things they wanted. With some gentle directing, they chose some toys that should last the month: a box of LEGOs, a domino marble run, and a game called Pisa in which you take turns adding tourists to different levels, trying not to let the tower fall over!

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From there, we went to the Albert Hijn to get some groceries. We wanted to let the boys pick out some things they thought they might like. Froggy (age 7) has been getting so much better about trying new things. He’s even ready to try some fruits and vegetables! Thank goodness! They have a favorite wheat cracker we always get, along with some pretzels for snacks.

Later in the evening we went back to Huizen for pannenkoeken – Dutch pancakes – at Pannenkoeken restaurant Dickens. They are as large as a plate and much thinner than our American pancakes. And one is usually enough! The boys like to get it with Nutella and roll it up to eat it. I like mine with strawberries and cream. It’s kind of like eating dessert for dinner! But you can also get savory, like ham and cheese. There was also a small playground outside where the kids could play afterward or even while you wait for your food. The restaurant was right near a canal, and it was picturesque: