We drove to the Netherlands for a long weekend.
It wasn’t that long of a drive from the KMC. It was about 4 hours for us.
We stayed at this absolutely darling farm in Vreeland – De Willigen Logies. It was only about 30 minutes from downtown Amsterdam.
Swans, storks, ducks, geese, sheep, cows, and a farm cat greeted us. It was magical.
We got to hold 5-day-old lambs, watch cows being milked, and pet the calves. They were all so adorable!
The storks were building a nest on a platform in a tree right next door.
We got the Holland Pass and it was worth it for the fast pass entrances, though we didn’t use all our tickets.
We ate breakfasts and dinners at our apartment. It was well-furnished and comfortable. We brought a grill pan and rice cooker with us, along with some basics. The village had an amazing grocery store where we stocked up a couple times.
Day 1: Downtown Amsterdam
We planned to drive to a train station, park the van, and take the train or Metro to downtown Amsterdam. We arrived quickly and easily to the parking area. When we found the train station, we learned that the electricity for the entire grid was down and might be hours before repair.
I had no intention of standing in the wind and cold in a train station, waiting for who knows how long, so we hiked back to the car, paid €3 for the parking that didn’t work out. Our train tickets were useless.
Driving downtown was an adventure with narrow roads, construction, cyclists everywhere, and no electricity. Trolleys were stranded and no traffic lights worked. We circled the museum district three times before we got the right configuration of one-way roads and constructions detours to pull into the parking garage.
The electricity came back on. Yay!
Then we rushed to the van Gogh Museum for the highlight of our trip. Photos are not allowed.
Shhh…we snapped a few of our favorites with our smartphone.
We were starving and bought some hot dogs at a stand to hold us over.
On the way to the Anne Frank House, we stopped at Sara’s Pancake House. I got the chicken and onions and the waitress suggested caramel syrup since that’s her favorite. I never would have thought but it yum.
We had a few minutes until our ticket time, so we walked around the block and just enjoyed the scenery.
The view of the Westerkerk from the canal bridge was beautiful.
We saw a few of these wheelbarrow benches in front of shops and had to try it out. Liz and Alex caught Tori unawares.
The statue of Anne Frank.
I highly recommend getting tickets online in advance to the Anne Frank House so you don’t have to wait in line. We rang the bell at a side door a few minutes before our appointment. They scanned our printed tickets and we walked on in. Perfect.
Alex did great all the through the house. He understood a lot more than I thought he would for a 5 year old! It really concerned him about the blacked-out windows. The museum-y part at the end was boring for him and he was tired. He just did awesome. No pictures allowed inside.
The canal boats docked early due to the wind and Alex was devastated. He cried the whole way back to the car. We had promised him a boat ride. We had boat tickets included with the Amsterdam Card.
I was upset too.
I wanted to cry and be carried to the car, but I’m a mom.
Day 2: Windmills and The Beach
We didn’t feel like going back downtown and figured we would explore Zaanse Schans. It was really close by.
I was worried it would be a tourist trap, but it was really quite delightful.
Each building has an educational demo or presentation.
The kids loved the shoe building with klompen demo, the clock museum, and the chocolate history presentation.
We ate pancakes at the café at Zaanse Schans. I love cafés in Europe. Pancakes, soup, beer.
We were getting cold and wet and it was still too early to head back to our apartment, so we drove over to the beach at Zandvoort.
Alex was born in Hawaii, but we moved when he was still a baby so he doesn’t remember the ocean.
We loved all the shells and sea stars!
We fell in love with Haarlem. The houses were gorgeous!
This would have been the logical time to see the Corrie ten Boom house, but I didn’t plan on that so we were probably like a block away and missed it.
Day 3: The Hague
We drove to the Maurtishuis for family day. The kids were ecstatic to do an art workshop and Aaron and I had a lovely lunch date in the museum cafe!
The last Sunday of every month is family day and kids workshops. I think it was €7 per child and well worth it! The workshop was in English and you can reserve a spot online but we just registered at the door for that afternoon (lucky!). They went on a tour looking for cloudy skies and then got to paint their own!
We saw The Girl with the Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer. It really is that beautiful.
They also had a special exhibit from the Frick Collection.
The kids checked out the educational backpack and loved looking for the musical instruments in one room and food items in another room.
We ate at a darling little pizza place across the plaza. It was pouring rain. We drove around and looked at the pretty architecture. There was no one out on a Sunday.
Day 4: Keukenhof
We went to see flowers at Keukenhof!
It was amazing.
I wondered if it would compare to Callaway Gardens but it was so much lovelier.
We first visited the building with the history of the tulip business. We loved reading about that. The word “tulip” comes from a Persian word, meaning “turban.”
I think we got there a tad early. Daffodils and crocuses were in bloom but not many tulips yet. Carolus Clusius brought the first tulips to Holland in 1593.
Luckily, there are several buildings with spectacular flower exhibits and we got our fill of tulips!
The love displays were fun for the kids!
Inside the main flower hall, there were these amazing flower walls that were perfect for photo backgrounds. There must have been every kind of tulip in there imaginable.
And daffodils, hyacinths, hydrangeas, begonias, and lots of other spring flowers.
We spent too much money on a rather nice lunch. But we were starving.
Alex finally got to see a windmill up close and inside.
The best part was the van Gogh flower exhibit!
There were stages and displays set up with flowers for many of his famous paintings.
We stood around and noticed all these other people climbing in for pictures.
And in Europe, there are no lines. People don’t know how to queue. They just jump in, shove past, and it seems rude to us.
The kids really loved looking at all the flowers. We spent the whole day at Keukenhof!
We really loved everything about the Netherlands. It was one of our favorite trips so far. We hope to go back to see more!
We loved the food, people, scenery, museums…maybe not so much the windy, cold weather.