An Afternoon in the Netherlands

One of the things I love about coming to visit Oma & Opa in the Netherlands is simply … being in the Netherlands. I love soaking up the different culture. It’s great to do and see different things, but I often enjoy the simple things the most.

Now that the kids are getting older, we’re talking more about these differences together.

Today was a rather dreary day – overcast skies, light rain on and off. In other words, a typical late-fall day in the Netherlands!

But that didn’t stop us! We walked to the shops, about 1.5 miles away. Just bundled up a bit to keep warm and dry.

We went to a snack bar for lunch. While PER had a broodje kroket (Kroketten are made with meat ragu, breaded, and fried. And you eat them on a roll – broodje – with mustard.). Froggy went with what he knows: chicken nuggets (kip nuggets), fries, and a vanilla milkshake. Of course, they don’t taste exactly the same as they do back in the States!

After lunch, we had a wonderful holiday treat: oliebol! It’s basically a fried dough ball. I had a plain one with powdered sugar. PER went for apple. And Froggy? He went all out and had the one with Nutella! Heerlijk!

One the walk home it rained. But hey, that’s Dutch weather for you! Just put up your hood – or not! – and keep walking 🙂

Back in the Netherlands!

We’re back! It’s been well over a year since we last flew to the Netherlands. But this year we decided not to go in the summer, but to wait until the week of Thanksgiving … and the first week in December … to return to the Netherlands. It feels like a long time since we’ve been here, and it’s great to be back!

The flight over was uneventful, which is good! As usual, I only sleep for about an hour. But both kids did much better! It’s hard to sleep when the lights are on and food is being served. And then when they turn out the lights, there are so many screens flashing, I can’t keep my eyes closed. How do you avoid suffering from jetlag??

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Even with 6 hours of sleep, it’s hard to stay on your feet while waiting for the rental car!

Our flight left about three hours later than our summer flights usually do. Leaving after 9 pm meant the kids were up well past their bedtime, but maybe that helped them fall asleep? I liked landing later. We arrived around 11 am. So even though my head was nodding at times, I actually stayed up until after 8 pm! I’ve never made it through the first day without a nap!

We drove straight to Oma & Opa’s. We were all hungry, so Oma had some food ready for us. And what did Hippo get for his first meal?

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Chocolate “vlokken” – or flakes – of course! You put them on buttered bread (the butter makes them stick).

The rest of the day was rather uneventful. After visiting with Oma & Opa, we settled in to our rental house. It’s fun to live the way the Dutch do while we’re here!

The kids made it to their normal bedtime, around 8. They were up at 4 am until we told them to go back to sleep! Then Froggy slept until 9, but Hippo had to be woken up at 11!

Today has been a quiet day. We went to the shops and got some food to stock the kitchen. It was fun to see some of the things for Sinterklaas!

I’m so excited to be here during the holidays!! I’m not sure how much there will be to do, but I’ll post what I can here! I know that we will be seeing Sinterklaas at Muiderslot Castle. And we will go to a Christmas Market in Aachen. I can hardly wait!!

NL with Kids: Make a Wooden Shoe!

 

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Today was one of the most fun experiences we’ve had!! We returned to Clara Maria, the dairy farm and clog factory in Amstelveen. When we were there last year, we got to see a demonstration of someone making a wooden shoe. That was pretty cool.

But today, Hippo actually GOT TO MAKE HIS OWN SHOE!!! It was so exciting!

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First he hammered the ax into the block of wood to trim it down to the right size. Then they put the block of wood in place. The machine works automatically from a template to create the outside shape of the shoe. Then it gets moved to the next machine to hollow out the shoe. This machine also works from a template, but you have to do it manually. It left behind a lot of shavings, so those had to be cleaned out, too.

Now here’s the crazy part. We learned that the wood was still very damp once the outer layer had been carved away. So the wood has to dry. It can take weeks to air dry. So how about using a fan? Or maybe if you blow really hard into the shoe?? We thought it was a joke. But no, really! When the instructor blew really hard into the shoe, water bubbled out of it!!

The wood at the top of the shoe is left in place, so it can stand up. After that was trimmed down a bit, we took it in to be engraved. He chose to have his name and a windmill on it.

I have been to Clara Maria at least a half dozen times over the years. I’ve seen the shoes being made. But I’ve never seem them let a child make one! We didn’t even ask for it. We thought we were just going to get a demonstration.

And to top it all off, we got to keep the shoe for free! I was ready to pay for it, but no. They said we could have it.

Well, we ended up buying an awful lot of cheese to bring home 🙂  It’s seriously the best cheese I’ve ever had. All different kinds of Gouda cheese. And they make a mustard dill sauce to go with it that is deeeeelicious!

So if you happen to go through Amstelveen (not far from Amsterdam), definitely stop by Clara Maria. You never know what will happen!

NL with Kids: Flowers, Canals, and Stroopwafels

Today we went in to Amsterdam. I’ve been enough times now that it just feels normal to me 🙂  But we have our babysitter with us on this trip, and AP3 flew in from Switzerland to join us for the week. So we had to show them something of this beautiful place.

We drove in and parked at Leidseplein, just as we always do. There is an underground parking garage beneath the Albert Heijn grocery store. When you come up, you are right at the Van Gogh Museum, the Rijksmuseum, and of course the big “I amsterdam” letters.

From there, we walked down to the flower market at the intersection of the Kalverstraat and Leidsestraat. It is a row of stalls that sells bulbs, wooden flowers, and other souvenirs.

But we also got a sweet surprise along the way. Have you ever had a fresh Stroopwafel?!  Well, if you ever get the chance, go for it! These were so delicious!

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He puts a lump of dough in the iron to cook. Once it’s ready, he takes it out and puts it on that red board, where he cuts it with a round cookie cutter. Then he takes a knife and actually slices it in half! I don’t know how he takes something so thin and splits it open like that! Then comes the stroop – they syrup – in the middle (that’s what he’s doing in this picture). Then put the pieces back together, and you’ve got a fresh-made stroopwafel! (Last year, we tried them with nutella, and we actually did not like the combination! Read more here.)

We enjoyed our treats as we walked back toward one of the boat tours. We took the same tour as last year. Only today, we went during the late afternoon, around 4pm. The day was unusually warm with a bright, clear blue sky. So the boat tour was actually quite warm! And here’s a tip: if you buy your tickets in advance, don’t wait until the last minute to board! We had to split up our group of 6 into pairs, and all of us were facing backward.

After the one-hour tour, we headed out to enjoy some pannenkoeken.

The top two on the left are both savory. The one at the bottom is rolled up with nutella for the boys. And as usual, I had strawberries and cream. Yum!

For more information about canal tours, see this post 🙂

NL with Kids: from Edam to Marken

After our short visit to the cheese market in Edam, we drove around to the village of Marken, about 20 minutes away.

Marken is another quaint little town. We walked through the village until we got to the water and then decided on a restaurant to have some lunch. We went to De Taanketel. Note that they do not offer a kids’ menu, but they do have options for kids if you ask 😉

Then we took a beautiful – but windy – walk along the dyke. You can actually keep going along a very narrow strip of land, but we decided to stop and turn back after about 20 minutes. (see the map below)

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The kids enjoyed their tostis (like a grilled cheese) and the walk. But their favorite part was the treat we got on the walk back: poffertjes! I think they were the best I’ve ever had. Perfectly crisp on the outside, soft and fluffy on the inside. And of course, served with plenty of butter and powdered sugar!

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It was just a little stand, so they didn’t have one of the huge poffertjes pans.

Is it good for kids?

As I said, the boys enjoyed it. Although it was not their favorite day 🙂

What about the cost?

It’s a town, so it’s free! Depends on what you want to do there 🙂

Where is it?

NL with Kids: Cheese Market

There are still several cheese markets in the Netherlands that you can visit. Today we went to the one in Edam. It is no longer a working market, but more of a demonstration. We had never been to a cheese market before, so I was excited to check it out.

The market is only open on Wednesdays.

Parking was very clear an easy – in a field within walking distance – costing only €4.

Then it was a short walk through the old, quaint town of Edam.

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We arrived around 10:45, and already there was quite a crowd. Although there were benches to sit on, they were full, and it was standing-room only. But don’t despair! There actually isn’t a whole lot to see 🙂  So if you are a bit patient, eventually some space will open up, so you can get a closer look.

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You can watch the men throwing the cheese balls to each other as they set them up on the ground. And look at the bottom picture on the right: see them carrying the cheese on a kind of sleigh?

If you look carefully, you’ll notice that the cheese comes in two colors: yellow and red. The colors have nothing to do with the cheese itself. It used to be that the red balls were the ones marked for export, while the yellow balls remained to be sold in the Netherlands.

You might also notice that you can buy the smaller balls of cheese for €15. We did not, so I can’t tell you how it was 🙂

There are several nearby towns that you could check out while you’re in the area, such as Volendam and Marken. Volendam is quite close, but we chose to take a short drive to Marken.

Is it good for kids?

Alas, I have to admit that the kiddos (ages 8 & 5) were not very impressed. We only stayed about 15 minutes before there were complaints of boredom. Still, I say it was an interesting experience. Maybe we’ll try another one when they’re a few years older…

What about the cost?

The market itself is free. We paid €4 for parking.

Where is it?

Wir fahren mit dem Zug!

I can’t believe the summer is almost upon us! We’ll be heading back to the Netherlands and Germany for a few weeks. I will certainly be posting about our travels!

This year, we’re doing something completely new! Well, at least new to the kids! We will be taking the train from the Netherlands to Germany! I am SO excited! I just love the train 🙂  We’ll leave from Amsterdam, change in Utrecht, and arrive in Frankfurt. I just can’t wait for the boys to experience train travel in Europe!

Of course, I have to come up with some activities to keep them occupied on the long train ride. As much as I love to look out the window, I don’t think they will be doing that for the entire trip!

I started looking around for some train ride scavenger hunts. There are tons of them out there for car rides, so I figured it should be easy, right? Wrong. I could only find one so far! And it was for a trip in the US going up to Maine (click here to check it out). So while it was inspiring, it won’t exactly work for us.

So I went back to my travel scavenger hunt that I made for the car and updated it with new images for the train ride!

 

As you can see, there are two sets of things to search for. And for each set, there are three versions:

  • one with words and images
  • one with just images
  • one with just words

Some of the new vocabulary include:

  • die Baustelle
  • die Kirche
  • die Fabrik
  • der Bahnhof
  • der Fluss
  • der Wolkenkratzer
  • der Kran
  • das Schloss
  • der Tunnel

Obviously, a lot of these things can also be seen from a car! So feel free to refresh your old version of this travel game, even if you are going on a road trip!

I am going to print out the copy with words and images, one for each of the boys, and put them in their travel binders to play a game of I Spy. They can mark off what they see with a square sticky note or a pencil or crayon. I’m trying to travel extra light this year! So I won’t bother to laminate them. If I want to use them again next year, I can either print out a fresh copy or laminate it then 🙂

I actually will print out a whole set to laminate, so we can start practicing vocabulary now. I’ll cut up the squares, so we can play games like Go Fish and Memory.

Download the PDF for FREE here: Travel Games on the Train GitA

Gute Reise!