Our last summer in Europe is being well spent if I do say so myself! This year traveling is a bit more complicated since we now have Poppy, but I feel good about our plans. If we didn’t have Poppy I would probably travel too much, and wear myself ragged to get in all the last trips, so it has actually worked out quite well. Brock has 3 weeks off from Kindergarten, and so far in those weeks we have taken a little trip to Holland, and another to Bavaria. Those two trips have been to two of the most beautiful locations we have visited. Hands down. But see for yourself, here is Holland…
Earlier in the Spring I tried to pull a quick visit to Holland while Fil stayed home with Brock and Poppy. The train tickets were incredibly cheap so it would actually have been more cost efficient to go that route and enjoy a good book along the way… but the hotels were way too much. I put it on the back-burner, regrettably. Holland has been one of my favorite regions in Europe and I desperately wanted one more visit before we left.
I was really feeling the urgency to do this because after this summer Fil will be away on mission, and I will be home with Brock and Poppy prepping for our move. When Fil gets back our household will have already been packed on the ship and headed towards our next destination… and we still do not know where that is. August is going to be crazy for us with Fil’s change of command, his long overdue fishing trip, and our visit to the states for my sister’s wedding. It’s a lot and July was creeping up fast so I put down my foot and found two days that Fil could watch Poppy easily, days when it looked like a simple to-and-from work type of schedule, and searched for a one night stay for Brock and myself.
I lucked out and booked an AMAZING little cottage. The cottage is in the very back of a residential garden and provides the homeowners with a little extra income. It was gorgeous and made our visit to Holland so very picturesque.
Brock loved “our house”, different from “our home” which he calls where we live. He loved that “our house” had a Dutch door (top half can be open while the bottom is closed) he could play with, a ladder to the loft bedroom, and outside was beautiful with a pond, playground, and chess set built into the paver-patio. There was a winding trellis/hedge that separated “our house” from the main house so we had our own little private oasis. Basically, I wanted to steal the whole garden and live there… or at least have an amazing she-shed that I could escape to and read and quilt. Definitely something to keep in mind when we eventually settle down in one spot. Oh! And to top it off, the husband brought breakfast out to our cottage for us in the morning! Fresh squeezed orange juice, still hot hard boiled eggs, fresh from the oven croissants, and plenty more to fill us up for our day of adventuring.
Ever the Type A personality, I had pre-arranged for us to rent a bicycle with a seat for Brock. I timed it so that we would get to the Zaanse Schans, buy our tourism card, and enjoy the sights as we walked to the bike kiosk. When we arrived, the bike was ready to go. The attendant thought it was pretty funny that I had brought a helmet for Brock, as he said, “in Holland we don’t need helmets”. When I showed him Brock’s arm, which was already banged up as he tripped over his own feet in the parking lot walking, he laughed and said I was right.
I wish I could say that I buckled Brock in and we were on our way, but it really does take a minute to remember how to ride a bike, especially with a 40 pound kid on the back. Sure, I had motorcycles and a moped in high school… but getting that moped put an end to my bicycle riding days. I think it had been over 15 years since I had ridden one and I definitely showed my lack of skill among the locals who ride bikes more that they drive cars. We were a bit wobbly, but we got going and I am convinced that bicycling is the only way to see Holland. We biked though the park and out through the surrounding fields. Riding that bike around was my favorite part of the day.
I am realizing now that I may have jumped ahead of myself a bit… Zaanse Schanse is a tourism park a little outside of Amsterdam. In the 1960-70’s locals realized that their old way of life was being lost so they sought to establish this park. Original buildings from the region were relocated here to make a mini town where visitors could see Dutch architecture and learn about the different types of windmills, cheese making, weaving and more. A perfect day trip for tourist from Amsterdam… and the best way to experience so much of the Zaanse region in one day. Today it is one of the top tourist destinations in the country, and rightfully so.
I wore Brock out touring all the buildings. Literally, he fell asleep before I even had pulled the car out of the parking spot around 3 pm. We toured one of the windmills that was used to make paint, a specialty of the region. Large cogs turned and pressed the paint powder for the different colors. We climbed the ladder inside to the top part of the mill and were able to walk out onto a deck to get a view of the whole area. Other mills onsite produce oil and cut lumber.
Naturally, we bought a ton of cheese. I am convinced there is nothing better than Dutch gouda. When we got home I weighed it all and realized it was over 10 pounds, but quite a bit is going home to NJ as gifts with us in August so its not all for us.
We also went into the weaving house and Brock was able to help the demonstrator make cloth that would be used for sails on the trade ships (back in the day) as well as the sails on the windmills.
I was in heaven all day long. I cannot get enough of the beauty of the Netherlands, as well as their industrial history, and so wish that I had grown up knowing this was part of my heritage. I only recently discovered that almost all of my Great Grandmothers ancestors were from the Netherlands, and England before that. I always knew I had Polish and German ancestry, but I wish I had known about my Dutch heritage. All the things I have learned about the Dutch people, and my ancestors in particular, have made me even more proud to be Dutch.
The Dutch keep impeccable records, so that line of my heritage I was able to trace back the furthest. Going back 17 generations to the 1500’s, I landed in Naarden, a star shaped fortified town outside of Amsterdam. My ancestors lived there for about a hundred years before immigrating to New Amsterdam, which would later be called Manhattan, New York City. From there, they moved to New Jersey and prospered as farmers. One ancestor even fought alongside General George Washington in the American Revolution!
Naturally, I visited Naarden while I was in the area…. Below are a couple pictures.
Naarden town hall, built in the 1500’s
The town hall is the pride and joy of Naarden. As I stopped to take a picture, a local man said just that to me and started up a conversation. I loved the little fort town, and actually texted Fil that if we ever have to leave the USA, this would be our destination. The streets were paved with bricks in a herringbone pattern, and all the buildings were either brick or painted white with either dark green or black details. So beautiful.
Having a glass of wine as we sat on the canal for a snack was the perfect end to the day. Brock was thrilled to wave to all the boaters as they passed by, and I just absorbed the nautical town with the friendliest residents I have ever met—in ALL of our travels.
The perfect little getaway. That is all I can say.
To see more of the beauty, follow this link to an album I posted on Flickr with lots more pictures.