We had a house swap in Arnhem which is an hour or so west of Amsterdam. One great thing about house swapping is that we get to visit places that we wouldn’t have thought of or are not on the tourist track. We love Holland so were happy to try out a new area and this one did not let us down. Arnhem is delightful. It’s a very green city with lovely trees everywhere, parks, bike trails (naturally), and rivers. Plus there are some great museums and nature parks.
We spent a day at the huge Netherlands Open Air Museum. There
are 40 or more houses/barns that have been brought in to show Dutch life
through the centuries. We really learned a huge amount about farming and historical
pieces that we weren’t aware of before. The weather was amazing that day too
and perfect for wandering around or taking the trolley that trundled the
perimeter of the park.
We also loved the The
Kröller-Müller Museum art museum
which is located in the middle of a national park (De Hoge Veluwe National Park).
Again, gorgeous weather and driving around the forest was incredible. I wish we
had time to have walked (or you can rent bikes) there as the paths looked
lovely. The art museum holds the second largest number of Van Gogh pieces in
the world and has some lovely collections including Picasso, Seurat, Monet, and
Mondriaan. There is an outdoor sculpture garden too that is the largest in
Europe. A day wandering around this itself is needed.
Then we also visited the WWII museum which is extremely well done. The immersive areas with noise and flashing “bombs” are intense but memorable. Arnhem was the site of a big battle and subsequent movie so this museum remembers all of this. It was a good expansion after just coming from Dachau.
The beaches in the Netherlands run up the entire coastline pretty much. Similar to Belgium and Northern France, they are wide swept beaches with sand dunes and parkland. The tides are pretty big so sometimes the water is a long walk out. Still the wide beaches are nice and offer a lot of room to play on.
The dunes near our beach area in the Hague are large parkland with bike paths, walking paths and horse trails. We have foxes, rabbits and even 2 shaggy cows and their calves wandering around. That gives you quite a turn when you see these on the loose actually and we were kind of nervous to walk past them running freely (they have enormous horns).
There are restaurants on the back at almost every beach access point and these are filled with low benches and large throw pillows and tables. Very relaxing. Plus most have children’s play equipment – trampolines and slides and big piles of buckets and shovels. They know how to keep parents AND children happy!
We are living about 5 minutes to the beach, which is wonderful. We have a neat restaurant on our beach access and lots of families head there. From our access to the right we did discover allows dogs off the leash and is a nude beach! That was an interesting discovery after we first set up our blanket and got settled with book for mom and buckets for the kids. Charlotte said, “mom he has no clothes on.” Being used to naked children on European beaches I simply kept reading and muttered something about “ignore it/it’s just nature” only to put my head up a few minutes later and give quite a gasp! The group of adults near us was a bit startling to see completely naked.
We have grown used to it but as a group we all veer to the left side of our beach which is not clothing optional and doesn’t allow dog off the leash. Both seem more sensible on sand!
We enjoyed Leiden so much that we took Grandma and older brother Ben back on Wednesday. Market days are Wednesday and Saturday but the weekend one is the biggest and also has an antiques market which is nice. Crowds are higher and it is fuller on Saturday but there are more stalls for sure. Just depends what you want.
We also found plenty of boat trips from small one family style to larger groups in covered boats. Most last 1 to 1.5 hours. The smaller boat drivers are open to bartering with taking children for free etc.
The Littles and I headed out to Leiden today because we had read an older blog post here by Marta when she lived in The Netherlands and she described the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, the National Museum of Antiquities.: http://www.rmo.nl/english/
This is one of the top ten Egyptian museums and has lots of mummies and artifacts which made Max excited. There were very few people in the museum and it was a relaxing walk around for a few hours. There were great children’s interactive pieces and a nice bookstore and café. Children were free and I only paid 9 euros so a great deal.
Sorry for the poor picture but the mummies were great!
We discovered a lot of other good museums in Leiden we want to go back to but just didn’t have time today. We did see the Pilgrim museum and where Rembrandt went to school. There is a great windmill near the train station that you can climb up in and learn about the history. The steps are a bit narrow, steep and tricky to come down after climbing about 5 floors – not accessible for all!
It was also market day (Wednesday and Saturday) and this was huge. The first one we found just straight down from the station and near where the boat trips go from (we are planning one of these for next time ) there was a neat antiques market. Then the main one was further into the downtown area and here were fruit and vegetables, flowers, snacks, clothing, material, fish, and everything you could want. It was great but crowded. We also found a British and Australian shop that had loads of Tesco products – hey we miss home and it’s so close!
The weather was nice so every outdoor café was packed with people. They all sell basically the same things: drinks, sandwiches or salads. There are toasties or brodjes Cheese, ham, or sometimes tuna either toasted or on a baguette. This seems to be the Dutch national dish!
Leiden is an old university town so had a few more “interesting” places too. The Littles spotted an Asian restaurant and fell into raptures at the pictures of sushi. They are huge sushi eaters but it is very expensive in Europe so have not had any for 2 months now. The price at this one was reasonable and 12 euros for them, 15 for me for all you can eat! This was not a buffet and they made all sushi to order plus some small cooked tidbits. It was very good although we all ate too much and needed a nap after!
The Littles proclaimed this a wonderful day. Mummies and sushi and NO rain! I agreed.
I’m hooked on Delft and especially the Thursday market there so we went over for the afternoon. We loaded up on good and cheap vegetables and fruit. A large bag of new potatoes (tiny Dutch ones) were 1.95 euros and I got some amazing persimmons that were like jam to eat. The children are desperate for more as they are hooked. We bought smoked herring which Max and I liked but we have yet to try the raw herring that everyone seems to love here. You get a gutted raw herring on a bread bun and top it with diced raw onions. We love sushi so want to try it but somehow it’s taking more time to work up to. I see people just holding the herring up and munching them down plain too. Hmm. I think it’s the bones that put us off more than the rawness.
But market day has a festive feel to it and there are musicians playing plus the horse-drawn organ, which is quite loud. The outdoor cafés were full and I think coach tours from England were in town as there were so many Brits there.
Visited the municipal museum today and luckily this one and a couple of others are right on our bus line so we pass them every time going into the center of town. The bus line we are on (24) is a great one as it hits all these sites including the Peace Palace. The Mauritshuis museum is currently closed and so many of the pieces have been put onto one floor of the G Museum. It’s a rather industrial and clinical building and except for a few period rooms, lacks charm. We liked the pieces on loan and quite a good array with Rembrandts and Vermeers. Charlotte had wanted to go because this she wanted to see Vermeer’s Girl with the Pearl Earing and so she was happy as it was on display. She said it was better than Mona Lisa as it was bigger, no crowd and she liked this painting more as the girl was prettier. Budding art critic here!
There were some lovely old rooms with high ceilings and period doors etc. but in the middle were strange Asian-inspired sculptures. I thought they had a rather Pokemon look to them or some kind of modern Manga figures – since there was no information about these we were at a loss to know what it was about.
There was large display of the Dutch movement by Mondrian. It did not hold our attention really (we like classics more) and downstairs had a very strange and large exhibit that we could not really figure out. Items seemed to be grouped by color (at least I think they were) with new, strange things like a shoe or photograph bunched in with older pieces. Perhaps there was a deeper meaning but it was lost on us.
Another high though was a huge dollhouse that had been built in the XXX. It was very detailed and intricate paintings on walls and tapestries plus supposedly showed snapshots of houses and life at that time. We all enjoyed peering into the rooms.
Anyway an interesting museum. I wouldn’t go back but glad we went and once they build the new art museum I think that would be a better place to head to.
We visited the Escher exhibit which is in the het Paleis in the Hague. It’s a lovely old building – part of a row of houses and would not jump out as being a palace and purchased by Queen Emma the late 1800s. It’s a lovely building and the area is filled with grassy areas, sculptures, and has a peaceful feel. Worth a stroll around the neighborhood and supposedly on Thursdays and Sundays there is a book market in the area. We will have to go back and see.
Escher has always fascinated me so it was good to learn about him and what drove his paintings. Plus he grew up and exhibited in the surrounding areas so it was neat to put visuals to the towns. He did a series of pictures using a birds-eye perspective from the top of New Church in Delft and looking down at the market place so since we had just climbed that tower and seen the same views, we were all interested in seeing his take on the same thing. I could see some similarities. The top floor has some hands-on exhibits to let you experience some of his perspective “tricks” and we got to stand in one room area as shown in the picture, where everyone looks different sizes. It’s a nice museum and about an hour or two to take it all in.
We took off on Saturday for Rotterdam as it was lovely weather all day but rain heading our way (sadly also heavy rain in England for the Queen’s Jubilee). The trip there was easy and fast by train and once in there is a fast and clean Metro system. We noticed there was one Metro line ending the The Hague but the people at the train station had not mentioned this and said best way to get there was train so I am not sure how/if that works well or cheaply.
We raced to catch the boat trip on the river and got there just as the gang plank was going to be pulled up. This was a three-hour boat trip through Rotterdam’s harbor and river over to Kinderdijke which is a beautiful historical windmill area with 19 or so built in the late 1700s.
The weather was lovely and the clouds scurrying across the sky made for an oil painting back drop.
We climbed inside one windmill and looked at the little beds tucked away into corners and marveled at how people got up and down the steep ladders. Some of the windmills seem to be inhabited and there are videos on YouTube of some families who live there still.
Back on the boat we ate a leisurely lunch on deck from the onboard restaurant and proceeded (as we found out later) to get a little sunburned! The boat docks at a neat riverside area with amazing new buildings and fascinating architecture which Rotterdam is known for. It was highly bombed during WWII and so has been rebuilt in very modern style.
We went to the large downtown area and it was packed with people doing their Saturday shopping. All the major stores from UK and some US were there as well as the leading Dutch ones. We were on a quest to get Max new shoes and were successful finally after finding a discount Dutch place and not the UK chains which were horribly expensive. We bought name brand tennis shoes for 20 euros so not bad.
The snack stands and small groups of musicians throughout the downtown give it a festival feel which is fun. However the crows were a bit off putting for us plus McDonalds on every corner (really) and commercial feel to it was not that exciting. Jake said it felt like a huge outlet mall and we agreed.
The architecture of Rotterdam was neat to see and the bridges and rivers fascinating but I don’t know that we will be heading back again to the city but I highly recommend Kinderdijk.