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??

img_20191125_133918_7967572004934716820304.jpg

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?

img_20191125_142100_700476885487368308183.jpg

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!!

The Waiting Game

Anyone who has traveled anywhere knows that at some point, you will be stuck somewhere waiting … and waiting … and WAITING.

Waiting for the plane to take off. Waiting in the airport when the plane is delayed. Waiting for the car you rented to be returned by another family. Or waiting for the car seats you rented along with your car to be returned by another family. Waiting in a restaurant. Waiting for a train. Waiting in line to get into a museum or other attraction. There are so many opportunities to WAIT when you travel!

When you have kids, waiting can be torture!

img_20191125_133918_7967572004934716820304.jpg

The whining starts. There’s no where to sit. Everyone is tired and CRANKY! So what do you do?!

If you’re lucky, you have some space and can pull activities out of the luggage for the kids to do. You know, like all those activities I talk about in my TRAVEL ACTIVITIES tabs at the top of this page 😉

But if you’re stuck waiting for a rental car in a train station, for example, (like we were one summer in the Frankfurt train station – we waited almost an hour!) – THEN WHAT??

Then you need EASY GAMES TO PLAY THAT NEED NO PROPS! Here are some ideas that have worked like a charm to pass the time:

  • I Spy – You know the drill! Someone picks something that they see, and then everyone takes turns asking questions to try to guess what it is. We usually give a general clue, such as a color: “I spy something yellow.”
  • 20 Questions – Similar to I Spy, but instead of picking something you can see, you pick anything you want. You can ask that the “chooser” define category (animals, famous people, etc.) or give some parameter (“I’m thinking of something red.”). Then everyone takes turns asking yes/no questions until someone guesses the answer.
  • Simon Says – I like this game for giving the kids some activity, but within a controlled manner. This way, the kids can get out some energy (hop on one foot five times!), but they are not running all over the place.
  • The Alphabet Game – This is my personal favorite. You need to be in a place that has a number of signs – the more signs, the easier the game. You start with the letter A and try to find a word that has an A in it. Then move on to B, etc. We always take turns. We played it in the Frankfurt train station that time we waited for an hour for our rental car, and I added the rule that they had to say the word that had the letter in it. This way, they were saying German words, too 😉  (Hippo was too little to read, so we helped him out.)
  • Rock, Paper, Scissors – This one doesn’t take much time, but it can be fun to play!
  • Make up a story – One person could tell a story. Or tell a chain story, where one person starts, then the next person picks up the thread, and so on.
  • Take pictures – I prefer not to turn to technology in these situations. But another idea is to let the kids take some pictures with your phone. You could even give them some specific instructions: Take a close-up of a family member’s eye! Find a red triangle! Get creative!

One thing that I really like about these games is that they get everyone involved. If you just hand your kid your phone, then there is no interaction. We have turned some awful waiting situations (did I mention that Frankfurt train station incident?!) into a really fun time! Not only did the wait seem shorter, but we laughed an awful lot!

Germany with Kids: Dinos & More at the Senckenburg Naturmuseum

20180724_102103.jpg

Senckenberg Naturmuseum in Frankfurt am Main

If your kids like dinosaurs, they are going to love the Senckenberg Naturmuseum in Frankfurt!

But this natural history museum has a whole lot more than just dinosaur skeletons. We decided to start upstairs instead of heading straight for the dinos. For one thing, a large school group had just entered the dino room, and we wanted to avoid the crowd. It turned out to be a good idea. I think the boys (ages 8 & 5 now) had a lot more patience to look at all of the other fascinating animals than they otherwise would have if we’d let them look at “the good stuff” first. Kind of like waiting for dessert 🙂

There are almost countless animals to be seen in taxidermy. We found it so interesting because – unlike at a zoo – you can get right up close to them. There were so many birds – from penguins and gulls to flamingos, peacocks, and many colorful parrots and the like! Even some teeny, tiny miniature birds. There were turtles and snakes, moose, and bison. There was a rhino, a leopard, a baby giraffe, and elephants, too. And an enormous skeleton of a whale.

The exhibits focus on evolution and other scientific developments as well. There are small exhibits on volcanoes and space.

And we didn’t even make it through the entire museum! It’s HUGE!

But let’s face it. My kiddos wanted to see the DINOSAURS! The view from the floor above was great. Especially to see the flying dino (sorry, I forget which one it is exactly!). But it also gives a great view of the T-Rex. Other dino bones to be seen include triceratops, parasaurolophos, stegasaurus, brachiosaurus, and iguanodon. Some only have a partial skeleton, like the leg of the Supersaurus. There are more, but I didn’t catch all of their names.

I have to admit, I wasn’t too sure about going to see a bunch of skeletons, but it was quite astounding to stand under the enormous T-Rex or to check out the huge crest of the triceratops.

20180725_215441.jpg

So if your kids are into dinosaurs, put this museum on your list!

Is it good for kids?

Absolutely! There are also two different kids’ guides that you can get. I was a little disappointed in the dino one. I had hoped it would be more of a scavenger hunt for facts of something. But it included questions like, what’s your favorite dinosaur and which dino would win if they competed in the Olympics? My kids weren’t interested in them. So they weren’t worth the few Euros extra to buy them.

What about the cost?

Tickets for adults, ages 16 – 66, cost €10. Kids ages 6 – 15 are half price. Kids 5 and under are free. They also offer family tickets for 2 adults and up to 3 kids (ages 6 – 15). And there are other discounts for students and seniors.

Where is it?

It’s about a 35-minute walk from the Altstadt (old city center) in the western part of the city. We chose to drive from out hotel near the Altstadt, and it took about 20 minutes, including parking in a garage. (They are having a heat wave here – temps in the 90s – so we didn’t want the kids out in the sun for too long.)

20180724_103829.jpg

NL with Kids: Make a Wooden Shoe!

 

2018-07-13 14.48.24-1 - Copy

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!

IMG_20180713_161123 online

 

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!

2018-07-12 15.28.55-1

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)

2018-07-11 13.01.42

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!

2018-07-11 13.17.28 - Copy

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.

2018-07-11 10.50.19

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.

2018-07-11 10.56.392018-07-11 11.00.32

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?