Once we pegged our dates for our trip to The Netherlands, we extended an invitation for other US family to come join us! Since we were well set up at Roelof’s house, we were in a great position to host visitors. Oma, Granpops, and Min all bought airline tickets to fly to Amsterdam and spend time with us!
Granpops’ flight was scheduled first — arriving almost two weeks after we got to The Netherlands. This worked out great because it lined up with his work’s spring break and we would have a few weeks to get settled in and ready to host.
Keller rented a car for the duration of Granpops’ stay, to make it easy to get around and reduce our reliance on public transportation. Don’t get me wrong, trains are a quick and efficient way to get around the country, but by the time you buy 5 tickets it costs as much or more than renting a car. Alie and Rudy lent us their car for Keller to pick up Granpops and then we used it that afternoon to pick up the rental car while Granpops rested at the house. The cousins came over for a while to play and Loes was absolutely DELIGHTED by the massive US cups that Granpops brought with him. She thought they were hilarious. Aside from that first afternoon, we were busy busy!
Regarding corona — things were starting to change. There were no major announcements or closures yet, but people were starting to hunker down and be a little more intentional about their activities. One of the southern provinces of Holland was having a significant spike in corona virus activity, now that we were two weeks past Carnival. Crowds were definitely lower at many of the places we visited this coming week.
Sunday morning we brought Alie and Rudy their car back and visited at their condo for a bit. After asking for directions on where to park in Deventer, they suggested we follow them into the city and they’d show us around.
We wandered through the heart of Deventer and enjoyed all the unique architecture so iconic to Holland. We grabbed lunch at a little cafe and enjoyed the warmth.
From here we decided to go check out a castle and art museum a bit north of town. We ended up at the Museum de Fundatie Kasteel Het Nijenhuis. The art was quite an eclectic mix, but the sculpture outside was interesting.
We also saw the largest tulip tree I’ve ever seen! It was massive and I am sure it is spectacular in the spring time when it blooms.
By now we were all a little chilled, so we drove back to Roelof’s and ate dinner before calling it a night. We were heading out to Amsterdam first thing in the morning, so our beds were calling.
Today we had tickets reserved for visiting the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam. They are timed entry tickets, so we had to be there by 10:45 in the morning. We scoped out a place with free parking at the end of a tram line and then took the tram into the heart of the museum district. We arrived a little early, so we wandered through the area and let Granpops get a feel for Amsterdam.
The Van Gogh museum was definitely on Granpops’ To See list, so we were glad to make a stop here. The kids completed the activity worksheet and remembered a lot about the various paintings from our prior visit.
From there we headed to eat at one of our favorite restaurants — Bakers and Roasters. The line wasn’t too bad and we were glad to rest our feet a bit while eating. Granpops chose a banana bread french toast and the rest of us ALL picked the eggs benedict. Mmmm, as good as I remember!
After our meal we went to the Het Scheepvaart Museum. This is a repeat stop for us but all new to Granpops. We didn’t have a ton of time, but we were able to explore the VOC Amsterdam replica trading ship and check out some of the inside exhibits.
Our last stop in Amsterdam was Metropolitan — our favorite little poffertjes shop! They made a fresh batch for us and we were all bit sugar-laden by the time we were done.
We stopped quickly at a grocery store before leaving Amsterdam for some dinner supplies and then went back to Wilp. It was a long day and we saw a lot!
Today was cold and rainy, so we opted to take a day off and take it easy. We hung out at the house, played some games, and generally relaxed. I practiced driving our manual rental car for a while, got groceries, and we all went to dinner at Pizzeria La Cantina in Deventer. It was respectable, though we all agreed that we do NOT like fish on our pizza. 😉
Another big day for us! Today we were heading to Rotterdam. This is a new city for us to explore, as we didn’t make it to Rotterdam on our previous trips. We parked in a park-and-ride garage and hopped the subway into the city.
We came out right by the bright yellow cube houses! These were built in the 1970s as a completely modern living community in the heart of the city. There are a total of 55 units and almost all are occupied by private homeowners. You can tour one of the units and it’s quite clear that you need a fair amount of specialized furniture to make the rooms work. They’re quirky! Caden said he’d be up for living in one, but I think the rest of us like our vertical walls a bit too much to give them up. 😉
Nearby was the large Market Hall — a very unique building with food stalls and markets in the central courtyard area and on lower floors. We had some tasty coconut balls as a little snack while the kids played a game of chess.
Next we walked down to the little tourist information center, which had a great exhibit in the basement about the history of Rotterdam. I hadn’t realized that Rotterdam was essentially leveled by the Germans during WWII, so that is why the city as a whole is so modern — it’s all been rebuilt in the last 70 years. Some building have been rebuilt to look similar to what stood before, but most of Rotterdam took this as an opportunity to update, modernize, and innovate.
We also bought tickets for the Rotterdam Harbor Tour. We boarded a large boat that took us down the Nieuwe Maas River and past some of the shipyards, warehouses, and distribution centers for the port of Rotterdam. Rotterdam is Europe’s largest sea port, thanks to its ease of access to the sea and the long, wide River Maas.
We passed a large cruise ship that was docked in the harbor too, which piqued our interest. When we got off our tour boat, we hopped a ferry across the river and then snagged a tour of the SS Rotterdam cruise liner. It no longer serves as a cruise ship, but it was one of the flagship boats and sailed from 1959 through 2000. Now it serves both as a unique hotel in Rotterdam and offers tours. We each got audio guides and worked our way through the ship — seeing everything from the front holds, to the bridge, to the bars and dance hall. We were finally chased out by the end of visiting hours, so we headed back to the rental car and back toward Twello.
We stopped for dinner at a burger restaurant in Barneveld. We got a little cross ways with the management, as they didn’t like us bringing in our own bottled water to drink (after we DID order drinks from their menu), but we were fed at the end of the night. I’m pretty sure they were grumbling to themselves about those “stupid Americans.” It had been a long, packed day, but we really enjoyed exploring the tip of Rotterdam!
Oma flew in today too! She is spending the first few days next door at Greet’s, but then will be changing over to stay with us once Granpops heads home.
Today was Granpop’s last day in Holland. Amsterdam and Rotterdam were the two biggest things on his list, so once we checked those off we moved on to lower priorities.
We planned for a lower key day after Rotterdam, so we visited the Open Air Museum near Arnhem. This is a huge open air park and museum where dozens of historic buildings from all around The Netherlands have been relocated.
The museum actually started before WWI, so the Dutch have been serious about preserving their architectural heritage for a long time! Since it is still winter / early spring, none of the buildings were open to visit, but we essentially had the park to ourselves. It was a bit chilly, but the sun was really nice and the kids liked running around. We also visited the indoor hands on museum and interactive displays which the kids played with.
When we made it back to Roelof’s house, we were treated to dinner with most of the extended family! Oma, Greet, Alie, and Janny all worked together to prepare tomato soup and fajitas. Keller and I were a bit nervous about being around so many people just as corona was starting to ramp up and with Granpops flying home the next day, but we fortunately came through unscathed.
We really did enjoy getting to see everyone and Granpops had a chance to meet most of the extended family. Plus cousin time is always a blast!
Friday & Saturday
Oma had picked up a train ticket for Granpops’ trip to the Amsterdam airport, so Keller dropped him off at the Deventer train station and he was off early Friday morning! We were glad he got home without too much trouble and before things really locked down due to corona.
Meanwhile, my mom had rescheduled her flight and was heading home the next day. There were serious concerns about cancelled flights, so she needed to get home before she *couldn’t* fly. I took her to the train station Saturday morning and she was on her way back to the US. Talk about a quick trip!
We essentially spent the next couple of days settling in and seeing what our new *normal* would look like for our trip. The Netherlands gradually increased the lock down regulations, but we were so very grateful to be where we were. Thanks to Roelof’s house, we had plenty of space, family nearby for support, bikes to get around with and get out of the house, the lake and beach just down the road for the kids to play at … Short of being at home, this was the best possible situation to be stuck. 😉