Like most travelers, our plans for this year have been totally rewritten due to corona virus. We were incredibly lucky that we were able to do our big Florida theme park trip at the end of January, just before the scale and scope of Covid 19 increased.
Our plans for the spring trip revolved around returning to The Netherlands. We really loved our time in both Wilp and Amsterdam on our trip in 2018, so we wanted to return and spend more time with family. Since Disney wasn’t exactly a “cheap” trip either, this would allow us to reduce the overall cost of our spring trip while still getting to explore the country and a lot of theme parks in the area.
Fortunately, we arranged to stay at Roelof’s home in Wilp for the duration of our trip. He expressed an interest in taking a sabbatical from work to spend a couple of months in Spain, so he offered to let us rent his home while he was gone. This worked out amazingly well — we were so appreciative! Our goals for accommodations were (1) good internet, (2) close to family, and (3) three bedrooms so our parents could visit too. Roelof’s house met all these and more, so it was a no-brainer for us!
We flew to Amsterdam at the end of February — directly from Houston. We had an afternoon flight, so we left early Saturday morning to head to Houston. We were already a little concerned about spreading any potential pathogens to Payton and Corinne, so we arranged to leave our truck in the Parking Spot lot at Houston IAH airport and they would come get it later that day. The drive down went smoothly and we arrived with plenty of time to spare. The best kind of drive! Both kids are great travelers at this point, so they made this part of the trip easy.
Our flight was quick and uneventful. The plane was pretty full and the airport was busy. Despite Keller planning on staying awake during the flight, he was able to sleep for much of the duration. The kids and I both managed to doze for a bit, though I wouldn’t call any of us well-rested. We had a major tailwind for a portion of the flight and were nearly flying at the speed of sound … 710 mph!
Barbara and her family all came to Schiphol airport to meet us! Our flight landed about 8am and after waiting a bit for the kids’ booster seats, we were officially in The Netherlands! Barbara had offered to pick us up and drive us to Wilp, but as her kids all wanted to come too, Pierre and the kids took the train back home while Barbara took us in her van. We wouldn’t all fit otherwise! Kamy and Caden were very excited to see Gijs, Britt, and Loes again and were definitely looking forward to playing together in the coming months.
We happened to arrive on the Sunday before Mardi Gras, so there was a Carnival route planned nearby. Unfortunately, this was cancelled at the last minute due to poor weather, though corona would have been a valid reason too. Cities that didn’t cancel Carnival spiked with corona much sooner. Regardless, most of the family came by throughout the afternoon to visit and say hi!
We powered through most of the day before all crashing in the late afternoon. Poor Caden fell asleep at dinner and Kamy wasn’t far behind him either. We spent the first week with Roelof before he left for Spain, so that gave us a chance to learn what we needed to about the house and answer any questions we had. He also treated us to dinner each night, which was quite a treat and gave me a break from cooking. Little did I know I’d be making every meal for two and a half months straight …
Barbara arranged for us to rent used bicycles from the local shop for the duration of our trip. So on Monday Barbara picked us up from the house and drove us to the shop. There we picked out our designated bicycles and the owners said they’d get the bikes all fixed up and ready for us. Keller’s bike was already good to go, so he biked back home (about 20 minutes) and the rest of us returned via car. He was a bit chilled and damp when he made it back, but he thawed out pretty quickly. 😉 Then Tuesday afternoon Barbara once-more ran us up to Twello and we biked home and the weather was more agreeable.
Another pre-planned activity for our trip was gymnastics for the kids! The local recreation center in Twello has both a boys gymnastics team and a girls rhythmic gymnastics class during the week. The coaches happily offered the kids a spot in the class, so I was excited that Caden would be able to continue training while we are here and Kamy could try something new. Caden was able to go to the first class just two days after we arrived and had a good time. The assistant coach speaks good enough English and Caden does a good job mimicking what the other boys were doing, so they worked it out! Caden was invited to work out with the other boys twice per week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Kamy dropped into a rhythmic gymnastics class later in the week as an intro and thought it was a lot of fun. Dancing and twirling around, ribbons … she had a blast!
The rest of our first two weeks was spent getting settled — unpacking, getting used to the area, testing out the bikes, and going grocery shopping. Greet and Alie both offered to take me to the grocery store when they went via car, but mostly I relied on my own two wheels and legs for my grocery runs. I discovered I can haul a lot more groceries on a bike than I can on my shoulders (like on our other trips without a car), but not nearly as much as we need to last a week! Once I hit a critical mass it was better, but for the first few weeks I was going nearly every day. Keller particularly enjoyed cheese and sausage as a snack at night. Plus I grabbed some tulips from the market on occasion too. 😉
The weather was quite pleasant for the first week or so too. It was chilly and drizzly a few days, but nothing super cold or inconvenient.
Kamy and Caden quickly got the hang of their bikes and spent at least a portion of each day biking around the nearby lake. Initially they had permission to bike down to the beach area, but they worked up the confidence to cycle the small section of the lake on their own (as long as they had their phones with them). It only takes them about 15 minutes to make the loop, so they weren’t gone too far. Both kids really really loved this degree of independence — they’ve never been in a situation where that was culturally acceptable and safe enough to do so.
Caden especially liked going next door to visit with Greet and Ap, and occasionally Linda or Viktor if they were around. He definitely likes the independence!
Also to everyone’s delight, the cousins were able to come over to play several times the first two weeks! The kids played outside with the soccer ball and tag, and hurried inside to play games on the Switch or hide and seek upstairs. They found quite a few creative hiding places!
One of the most popular games on the Switch was Duck Game! Gijs, Britt, and Loes picked it up almost immediately and four kids would switch on and off playing for as long as we would let them. Loes in particular had a charming, maniacal laugh when she won. It was so unexpected coming from such a little person! 😉
Another planned activity was the local swimming pool! We bought a booklet of passes for the pool, intending to use it heavily throughout the spring. The water is heated and there is a fun slide and other kid-friendly areas to play in. We managed to go twice. The pool is only about a 10 minute bike from the house, so our hope was the kids could go solo after a few weeks. Britt and Loes swim regularly too, so the only way to make swimming better is to include cousins!
All that to say, our first two weeks in The Netherlands were pretty close to what we were expecting — getting settled in, finding our groove, and figuring out what “living in The Netherlands” would be like. We had one more week with Granpops where things were already starting to flare up before all the fun stopped. But we’ll save those stories for another post!