A well deserved week-long break is ahead of us. I realize that many of you will hop into your cars to speed away on a road trip, or take off to Schiphol to visit wonderful areas and cities in Europe, but I would like to direct your attention to this small country, our home; the Netherlands. There is so much to do here, so please let me share some ideas with you.
The Netherlands usually divides the vacation periods of schools across the country, so they do not all take place at the same time. At ASH, we usually have our break mid to late October. The country is, for this reason, divided in three regions - north, south and center - and alternate the time frames for breaks by region so not all students are on break at once. The Dutch use their vacation time by spending a few days in different cities, enjoying some last minute sunshine in southern Europe or just putzing around the house. Popular is booking a week in one of the vacation parks, such as Landal GreenParks. You can find them all over Europe. Maybe an idea if you are still looking for what to do during October break.
But, let's do a little driving around and so you really get to know The Netherlands. Driving south, head in the direction of Rotterdam to enjoy a visit to the harbor by boat and continue to the windmills in Kinderdijk. A great next stop will be in the province of Zeeland at the Delta Works, sometimes referred to as the eighth wonder of the world - and not without a good reason. And, while in Zeeland, do as the locals do, and eat some "Zeeuwse mosselen". Would you like a good place to eat, talk to our HS Counseling Assistant, Gera Klijnsma, she will tell you where to go.
Continuing east to 's-Hertogenbosch, also known in short as Den Bosch, you should make a stop to order the best type of pastry in the world, a "Bossche Bol", but don't count the calories. Also, in Brabant, the wonderful amusement park de Efteling. Dutch families prefer to visit the Efteling above the Disney Theme Parks (although my youngest daughter would disagree with this). Keep on heading south-east and we will arrive in the province of Limburg, a world apart, as it is more French than Dutch. The little white town of Thorn, and the capital Maastricht are beautiful places to visit. And yet another place to discover a local type of pastry, the "Limburgse Vlaai", a pie crust with fresh fruit or other fillings, delicious. Not to mention that Germany and Belgium are nearby; visit Aachen, Düsseldorf or Cologne in Germany, or Liege in Belgium, great cities to explore. Those interested in war history should take a drive to visit the Second World War Cemetery of Margraten, which is very impressive. Or, just south of the border in Belgium, the city of Bastogne to learn more about the Battle of the Bulge.
Driving up north again, stop to visit the province of Gelderland, specifically the cities of Arnhem and Apeldoorn on the Veluwe, as they are one of the more popular tourist areas amongst the Dutch. Take some time to enjoy the monkey zoo Apenheul, or the Open Air Museum, with the recently opened Center for Dutch History, which is just around the corner. As we travel even further north, we land in the province of Overijssel, where you can visit our "Venice of the North", the town of Giethoorn, by renting a boat or a "punter" (a flat boat) to explore this beautiful town.
Returning to the south, take some time to explore Utrecht for a number of reasons, including the annual LegoWorld Festival in the Jaarbeurs, the Museum Catharijneconvent (where you learn about the history of Christianity in The Netherlands), or perhaps the museum Speelklok tot Pierement, a musical museum that makes for a perfect outing for the whole family. And, if you are a big fan of the "Big Bang Theory", you know which museum Sheldon would visit first - the Railway Museum, a fun outing for the entire family.
The adventurous ones amongst us can drive all the way up to the northern provinces of Drenthe, Groningen and Friesland, where there are many activities to explore and enjoy. In Drenthe, you find the grave tombs known as the Hunebedden. In Friesland, you can enjoy the stunning lakes, and in Groningen be sure to visit the beautiful Borgen (Estates), such as the Menkemaborg.
When you travel back home, pass by either the Afsluitdijk or maybe you'll decide to visit one of the Wadden Islands on the way. Texel, the very first island,has a wonderful centre, Ecomare. Ecomare is a nature museum, seal sanctuary, sea aquarium and a bird sanctuary. It is located in the National Park Dunes of Texel. You can visit the Dune Park via Ecomare. By wandering around, you will find all kinds of information about nature in the wadden and North Sea. Being in the province of North Holland you'll find the history of the IJsselmeer and it's fishing villages. The Zuiderzeemuseum is a wonderful place to walk through, experience life in the former fishermen town's smell and eat smoked fish and see old school classes, rope-makers, bricklayers etc. Worthwhile a visit for the entire family. You could even travel back via the newly reclaimed land, known as the Flevoland. For the shoppers amongst us, be sure to take note of this fantastic stop, Bataviastad, an outlet center next to Bataviawerf, which is a great place to visit for the young and young at heart, who have a passion for old tall ships. Take a moment for yourself and do some shopping while your family is entertained by the tall ships. In the same province you'll find another amusement park Walibi, more suitable for older kids.
So, after this grand journey, which provinces are left to explore? Close to home is the province of North-Holland with the cities of Hoorn, Alkmaar and Amsterdam, as well as the province of Utrecht; two provinces that are easy to visit during the weekends. The Castles of De Haar and Muiderslot are two great places to visit. Actually, this country is so small, that it is never a problem to visit our farthest corners in more than a day's journey. Nearby the Muiderslot is the village of Hilversum where we can find the Dutch TV studios. In Hilversum you'll find a wonderful Institute for Sound and Vision. If you are interested in modern and old technology, this might be a place of interest for you.
Feel like relaxing on the trip? Then skip the drive with the car and use public transportation. Below are a few ideas for museum visits in the three provinces around us, South and North Holland, and Utrecht. You can visit the well-known museums such as the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Mauritshuis in The Hague, and the Kunsthal in Rotterdam, which are always popular attractions. But have you ever considered the smaller museums? Check out "De Tassenmuseum" (Bag Museum) in Amsterdam. Did you know that Queen Elizabeth of England actually communicates with her bags? Or, that Maxima is using bags which belonged to the grandmother of her husband, former Queen Juliana? This history, and more is to be seen in this lovely museum. The Maritime Museum, with a replica of the Tall Ship, "Amsterdam". This all is next to the "NEMO", a fantastic interactive science museum (ask our MS students, they visit the NEMO and have great stories to tell you.) When you are at the Maritime Museum or the NEMO, don't forget to climb the outside stairs of the NEMO for a fantastic view over Amsterdam and realizing that, at that moment, you are looking at the (almost unchanged) 17th century shoreline of Amsterdam. And another view to the old shoreline comes from the EYE museum, a wonderful film museum at the Amsterdam harbor. Next to the EYE Museum is the ADAM Lookout. Although I haven't been there myself, I have heard that the best view of Amsterdam, (really 360 degrees) can be seen from there.
Staying close by, you can take a quick trip to Leiden and The Hague. Fantastic for kids is the the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden in Leiden. In The Hague, see what is playing at the Omniversum Imax, or enjoy all of your favorite attractions on a small scale, at Madurodam. Kids and adults truly enjoy the Mondriaan collection at the Kunstmuseum and the Escher Museum. The learning that takes place in these museums is beyond words. Just a 30 minute drive from Wassenaar is Archeon, a step into history and Roman Times in the Netherlands. even the younger ones love this park as it is very hands-on. Another 30 minutes north of Wassenaar is Europe's largest playground the Linnaeushof, I mentioned this playground in my earlier Weekend Tips. Two items that are very helpful to have are the NS Voordeelurenkaart (the discount card for train travel), and the Museumjaarkaart (the discount card for museums).
Perhaps you may find some time to pick up a good book and read, in between city and museum visits. Below are my suggestions for an easy read about our history:
- "The Embarrassment of Riches: An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age" (Paperback) , by Simon Schama
- "The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Forgotten Colony That Shaped America "(Paperback), by Russell Shorto
- "Amsterdam: A History of the World's Most Liberal City" (Hardcover) by Russell Shorto
- And, a small and very easy but informative read: "Dutch history in a nutshell" by Herman Beliën and, Monique van Hoogstraten
As you can see, there is something for all ages and interests to keep your family busy during the break (which is, after reading these tips, way too short to explore this great country). For now, I wish you a fantastic and relaxing break and we'll continue exploring together with Weekend Tips when we return.