PRODUCT REVIEW: Stainless Insulated Bottles – Chilly Bottle & Dopper Insulated Blazing Black

PRODUCT REVIEW:  Stainless Insulated Bottles – Chilly Bottle & Dopper Insulated Blazing Black

Thankfully there has been a huge shift away from single-use plastic but we still need help.    Today San Francisco airport banned single-use water bottles!  The city of San Francisco banned the sale of plastic water bottles on city-owned property back in 2014, but allowed delays and granted certain exemptions.  The new rule comes into effect on 20 August, and is part of a five-year plan to lower landfill waste, net carbon emissions and net energy use to zero.  Filtered water is provided for free at 100 “hydration stations,” where flyers can top up reusable bottles.

The bottled water market globally is rapidly growing with approximate 600 million households consuming bottled water in 2018. That’s more than 100 billion gallons (391 Billion litres) of water per year or 1 million bottles per minute

This statistic displays the annual consumption of plastic bottles in the Netherlands as of 2017, by type of bottle. Combined, around 1.4 billion plastic bottles per year are consumed in the Netherlands, with 53 percent being small bottles. On average, 80 plastic bottles are consumed per person per year in the Netherlands.

 In the Netherlands and in our community, there are about six pubic water refill stations right here in the city centre.  There is also a larger push for some shops and restaurants to allow the public to use their taps to refill their water bottles if they have this openbare drinkwatertappunten sticker on their window.

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FREE DRINKING WATER TAPS IN DEN BOSCH

In Den Bosch Center I know of six main free public tabs at the Train station, Stads Park, Arena, Markt, Parade and Hinthamereinde and then at these private locations:

  • SwapFiets
  • The Green Bar
  • Art Den Bosch
  • Proeflokaal ‘T Paultje
  • Ricky’s Barber & Shop
  • Bossche Brouwers

FREE DRINKING WATER TAPS IN THE NETHERLANDS

I just found another website which shows even more FREE WATER TAPS all over the Netherlands.   So as long as you bring your bottle in your bag, you have no reason to need to buy a plastic bottle of water.

On the flip side it’s often difficult to get a restaurant to give you kranwater (water from the tap) in a pitcher or by the glass at the table.  In my recent experience, I learned that many American’s living here in the Netherlands find this absurd and complain about it, but the restaurants don’t want to give up the revenue they are making on you buying the expensive bottled water.    I will add that we hardly ever ask for tap water – only if it’s the end of our meal and the kids are thirsty and we ask for a single glass of water for the kids – the waitresses tend to offer it.

GLASS BOTTLE – MY PAST EXPERIENCE

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I personally prefer to drink of out a glass – so when I was back in the US last year I bought myself a Lifefactory Glass Bottle with the plastic outside.   It was heavy, it had loads of condensation on the outside, but I liked the glass part. Glass doesn’t keep water quite as cool for quite as long as stainless steel either.  Sadly, I dropped it on the sidewalk and the entire bottle SHATTERED!!   Gutted as I spent $25 on it and loved it.  And here I was warning the kids about being careful with my bottle – and the adult dropped the bottle.

OUR KIDS USE WATER BOTTLES DAILY AT SCHOOL

Last year, our kids had the BPA free, plastic Dopper water bottles for school – but by the time lunch rolled around their previously cold drinks were lukewarm and condensation was all over the outside of their bottles so that meant their papers and anything in their school bags became damp too.   So over the summer, we talked about getting them both new bottles for back to school.  But most importantly – not just stainless bottles – but insulated bottles.

I had done some research online so I knew I wanted to see the Chilly Bottles and the new insulated Dopper – in a larger size.  Both are just around the €30 mark and both are BPA free and insulated.  We wanted to see them in person vs just buy them from the internet and hope for the best.    There are few stores in our area which sell different bottles – Waar and WO! Concept Store.   Both stores are lovely and are my go-to stores for gifts.  In fact, yesterday I bought my SIL a Kletspot for her birthday at WO!  I have to get in and out quickly as I love to buy everything for myself 🙂 

WHAT WE BOUGHT

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Our 11 year old son was eyeing a Bamboo bottle which had a tea infuser inside, which to me was more suitable for a middle aged office worker,  but I know that would not work so well over time for my boy as it would most likely crack.  So he ended up getting the large, 580 ml (20 oz) Dopper Insulated Blazing Black – perfect for him.

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Our 9 year old daughter picked the Chilly’s Bottle 500 ml with AVOCADO’s on the outside – perfect for her.   All things avocado print are all the rage for 9 & 10 year old girls.  We didn’t buy a brush to clean it out but we might do so eventually but for now as we only use water, we’ll be fine.

Nationaal Monument Kamp Vught

Nationaal Monument Kamp Vught

Nationaal Monument Kamp Vught

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Vught was chosen because it was close to Den Bosch, where various German head offices were. There was also a railway line, making it easier to transport prisoners.

SS CONCENTRATION CAMP IN THE NETHERLANDS

Kamp Vught is officially called: Konzentrationslager Herzogenbusch (January 1943 – September 1944). It was not a “death camp” where Jews were massively killed.  Rather it was the main SS concentration camp in the Netherlands (other concentration camps are Schoorl, Amersfoort and Ommen). For many Jewish people, this was an intermediate station, as they were later transported to an extermination camps.   But it’s important to note that there were not only Jews in this camp, but also gypsies, gays, resistance fighters, political prisoners, Jehovah Witnesses, etc.

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Approximately 12,000 of these people were Jews, sent here before being sent to the death camps in Eastern Europe. The rest of Kamp Vught’s inmates were resistance fighters, political prisoners, Jehovah Witnesses, Roma, criminals, and a variety of others whom the Nazis deemed “unacceptable”. As with other camps, prisoners were forced to wear coloured triangles on their prison clothes to identify their category of ‘crime’.

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FREE AUDIO TOUR

When I visited, there were still doing some renovations to the site, which were not too bad as it is nearly done, but in exchange, they offered a FREE audio tour with a small device – I plugged in my headphones but you can hold the box to your head too – English, Dutch, French & German options.  [The tour is normally €2.50 per person]

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As you walk around, you see small boxes which you just tap with your device and it plays.  There are additional buttons (a) or (b) which give you more bonus information.    Personally, I loved the informative audio tour and the additional information.  

MUSEUM SET UP

The area is currently a museum is spread out over several buildings and outdoor areas. A model of the camp, made of natural stone, shows the extensive size of the camp and the many buildings it included.

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The watchtowers, which were built a hundred meters apart, have been reconstructed.

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The prisoners lived in barracks, over 400 prisoners per barrack. There was a bedroom here, a toilet room, laundry room and a dining room and washroom where they could wash once every 10 days!   The display barrack, rebuilt at half the original size, shows how the prisoners lived.

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There is also a crematorium, where the bodies of prisoners who died or were executed at the camp were burned.   Again, while it was not an extermination camp, around 750 people died due to hunger, sickness, and abuse.  Of these, 329 were murdered at the execution site just outside the camp.

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BUNKER DRAMA

The “bunker drama” is an example of the atrocities in the camp. When one of the women from barrack 23B was imprisoned in camp prison (the “bunker”), a number of women protested. Camp commander Grünewald ordered retaliation as many women as possible in one cell. In cell 115, 74 women were eventually squeezed together on an area of ​​nine m², with hardly any ventilation. On Sunday morning, January 16, 1944, the cell door opens after 2 p.m. Ten women did not survive the night. This drama soon became known outside the camp and was described in various resistance papers. The occupier finds it extremely annoying that the news has leaked out. Grünewald is sentenced to three and a half years by an SS judge. Himmler repeats this verdict and degrades Grünewald as a regular soldier. He joins his division again and is killed in 1945 in Hungary.

CHILDREN’S TRANSPORT

In June 1943, the Nazis decided there were too many Jewish children in Camp Vught. So they rounded up all the children under the age of 17 and sent them, along with those of their parents who chose to accompany them (most did), to Sobibor, where they were gassed. The names of these 1269 Jewish children are inscribed on the Children’s Monument. The youngest of these victims was only 6 days old when he was deported from Vught. When the train carrying him arrived for a stopover at Westerbork, he was so ill that he had to be taken to the hospital there, where he was placed on an incubator and assigned two private nurses. Two weeks later, when he had fully recovered, he was sent directly to the gas chambers at Sobibor.  Of all the Dutch Jews sent to Sobibor, only 18 adults survived and came back to tell their stories.

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EXECUTION AREA

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Located in the Vughtse Heide woods, at about a 15 minute walk from the museum.   Since I have small legs, it was more like 25 minutes!  

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Simply follow the path in the woods of the logo and you’ll come to a memorial erected that displays the names of the 329 prisoners who were executed at this site.  The walk back was more tricky and a few times I questioned which path to take – as I was literally alone in the woods – and only one time did I pass ONE other person.  It was a bit creepy to be honest, I hated this part!   My mind starts racing like a horror film and before you know it, I work myself up in my mind.

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The monument was installed in 1947 and unveiled by Princess Juliana.  Behind the monument is a large wooden cross, this cross was already posted as a tribute to the victims.

The original memorial wall bearing the names of these victims was vandalized with tar in the 1990s on the 50th anniversary of the Dutch liberation – never caught!  The defaced tablets are on display in the camp museum. Written on a wall above them is a poem in Dutch addressing those responsible for the act of desecration.

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The daubed plates are on display in boxes in the museum.

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At the gate to the monument someone pasted a poem in response to the defacing of the monument, this poem is placed in bronze on the gate too.

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A translation appears in the guidebook and spoken in the audio tour.

Could you paint tar
across stone, names, the past?
Pitiable fool, such names
can never be erased.
They are ingrained in countless
human souls, untouchable
by your foul hatred.
They are written in fire
in the skies, and their light
is insupportable to you.
You have accomplished nothing
Tarnisher
Above all you have only smudged
your own name.
Not theirs
They are smiling at your anger
bathing in light,
gently rocking on God’s breath.
And singing very softly and still
for those who want to hear:
Peace!

After my long walk in the woods, I returned, picked up my car and drove up the road to the Barrack 1B parking lot (tiny but as most people walk there was plenty of room).  I had to get the kids right after in MiniGestel camp, so didn’t want to have to go back again.

Barrack 1B

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Barrack 1B (Barak 1B) was opened after restoration in 2013; all information is bilingual: in English and Dutch. Barrack 1B is the last remaining barrack from Konzentrationslager Herzogenbusch: a unique war heritage site and remembrance site. The exhibition covers four periods: the concentration camp (1943-1944), the evacuation camp for German citizens from the border area (1944-1945) and the internment camp for NSB members, Dutch citizens suspected of collaboration, and imperial Germans (1944-1949).

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Watch a film which is part of this exhibition with English subtitles [22 minutes – can take some time to load].

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From 1951, part of the former camp was used as the Lunetten compound and it housed former troops from the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army (KNIL in Dutch) and their families from the Moluccas. The stories of tens of thousands of people who were obliged to live here in past seventy years converge here at the Barracks 1B site. Stories that tell of doubts and hope, dreams and ideals. About conscious choices and chance, about traumas and taboos.

 

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PRESSURE OF THE ALLIED ADVANCE.

The camp was hastily evacuated by the occupying forces at the beginning of September 1944. Some 3,500 prisoners were quickly put on a transport to Germany, while the camp command sought a safe refuge. The Canadians entered the camp on 26 October 1944.

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Overall I found it very informative and am glad I had a chance to visit to learn more about the history on my doorstep.    Such awful events must never be repeated!

 

5263 NT is the location on Google Maps – but more details about location, price & time can be found on their website.  I used my Museumkaart . Not 100% sure if it is still the case but it used to be free to the public on the 1st Wednesday of each month.

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NEMO Science Museum Amsterdam – Revisited.

NEMO Science Museum Amsterdam – Revisited.

We visited the museum one time before, but decided since our museumkaarts were renewed and we have one more week left of summer vacation we decided to head to a museum.   While I wanted to visit a new one, the kids really liked NEMO so we agreed and we were off on the 11:38 train bound for Amsterdam.   I am going to make sure our next museum visit is one that we have not already visited before. 

If you have ever been to Amsterdam, you’ve most likely seen the giant, green, odd boat-shaped building just east of Central Station. Those familiar with it might recognize it as NEMO Science Museum.

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NEMO is known country-wide as being THE science museum to visit.  We’d like to check out the Science Center in Delft too.  The 5-story building hosts a wide variety of interactive exhibits that will entertain young and old, all while teaching valuable lessons about science, technology, and their importance in everyday life.

We decided last minute to attend but it was packed – having only been there one other time, it was not as enjoyable this time due to how many people were here.  No matter how long you waited for your turn, the minute you started a child would come in and interfere – it was truly incredible and frustrating.   For example the bubbles, you wait and you start to pull up the bubble mix and immediately a kid starts blowing and it pops – or a hand goes in…  Our kids ask them nicely in Dutch and then in English in case they don’t understand – they continue…   or they leave a new one comes along.

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The line cutting, the overall lack of patience and respect for others – it was mind blowing.   This is just one example it – it happened ALL DAY LONG!   We agreed, it’s best to come on days when there is a school studiedag as there would not be as many people.  I cannot imagine what it would be like on a Saturday or Sunday – and we visited on a Friday.

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FENOMENA

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This area is full with sensational science we encounter every day like sound and movement.  Here you have the chance to create these phenomena for yourself and to see how they work. In doing so, you will discover the true nature of ordinary yet surprising natural phenomena like light, sound and static electricity.  This is also the floor that is most suitable for smaller children but at 9 & 11 our kids loved it as well.

They love the lightening globe – reminder DON’T TOUCH each other and the globe at the same time or you’ll get a small shock!

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This photo is 1/2 Soren & 1/2 Maebh

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Several times a day they show a 15 minutes show called  Chain Reaction which is moderated in Dutch and English.

TECHNIUM

There is the Water Power area here which Soren LOVEDoves – and when we were leaving he was pretty wet from building a dam and was pretty soaked!

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There is a very big machine with coloured balls that show you how a logistic process can work.  You can set off an order and see how the balls move around the machine and in the end reach their intended destination. In this area you can also visit the world of shapes, huge or tiny chairs to sit on, a big wheel that slowly turns and in which you can create beautiful patterns and a room where you can trick your brain, because small kids turn into giants and the other way around.   It took me a lot of patients to get photo of just my kids in the room – but it was worth it – funny photo to see Soren so small and Maebh big.

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ELEMENTA

You can find the exhibition: Life in the Universe. They have this huge screen where you can play a video game and protect the earth from dangers from outta space such as comets, meteorites and solar wind.   As you’ll see in the photos, the kids take a shield and hold them above their heads and their movement are shown on the screen as they run back and forth trying to block the earth and not hit each other.

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Kids of all ages loved this exhibition.  On the same floor is the LAB, but where it is always packed. But it does look like very cool experimentation are going on inside with everyone wearing a white lab coat and eye protection – I promised the kids next time we will get in line and wait.  I looked online later and doesn’t appear you have to book in for this – just wait in line.   There are other exhibitions which happen like Exciting Electricity which we didn’t go to – next time.

HUMANIA

This area was closed and a new exhibition would be opening in November 2019.

BRILLIANT BICYCLES

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This was a special exhibition until September 1st in the lowest level and we found it quite cool.  There were tables with equipment to make something yourself using inner tubes of bicycles.  I made a little bag – not an 100% original idea as I saw a previous person made one and left it hanging on the display, but mine had more details and was a bit nicer 🙂   Other people made people, key rings, bracelets and just a whole lot of nothing – just scissors and hole punching.    Maebh and I found it fun – Soren did it a bit but found more fun in exploring the exhibition.

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FOOD & DRINK

By the time 2 pm rolled around we were starving so went up to the top floor and ate the in main restaurant.   I had a veggie hummus sandwich, Maebh had a hotdog and fries and Soren had a carpaccio sandwich and fries – I even got a Hoegaarden on tap at the bar.   The total was €30 so not that bad.  All were delicious!  They do a good job with recycling bins asking guest to separate their items to waste, paper and plastic, but there is too much plastic – knives, forks, spoons & straws – they should use wooden utensils and get rid of the straws completely.  There are also 2 smaller cafés inside the museum where you can get drinks or enjoy a Dutch tostis, etc.  I did see a few people eating their sandwiches which they packed near the lockers.  On their site, they do say there are some areas set up with tables for you to bring your own lunch but not in the restaurants.  I would suggest you eat it outside on the roof and enjoy the views of the boats coming and going.

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BE SURE TO VISIT THE ROOFTOP

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Make sure you go up to the 5th floor and go out onto the sloped top roof. There you’ll have  lovely views of the city and outdoor exhibition called “energetica“ with wind- and water-sculptures.  Keep your ticket as you’ll need it to re-enter the building.    Also, this area is open to the public by steps along the edge so if ever in Asmterdam and don’t have time to visit the museum, you can still pop up for a drink at the bar or just a few minutes to take a few photos and check out the view.

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HELPFUL INFO

  • Check out their website before you go for opening times & what’s going on.  They are closed some Mondays!!
  • According to their calendar on their site, during summer holidays, weekdays are their busiest days.   Outside of school summer holidays, I’d say weekends are probably the busiest times.  Rush hour is between 12 and 2 pm because the early birds and the people that arrive later, overlap.   I’d say most people stay around 3 to 4 hours in the museum, so manage your time carefully.  It closes at 5:30 pm so if you have a museumkaart, go later in the day when the early birds are are already leaving and it will be less busy.
  • There are tons of lockers which are under video surveillance.  So no need to lug around your coats, bags, etc.  Some which fit foldable strollers, but you can leave bigger ones under the stairs.
  • There are different smaller lockers – ones with combinations which you set and they are free.  We found many struggling to figure out how they work.  So for those folks there are others where you put in €1 coin and take a key.  The coin is refunded when you are finished.  If you don’t happen to have a €1 coin – find a worker where you enter – they have some tokens in their pockets which they’ll ask you to return when done.
  • Ticket Prices: kids up to 3 years old are free!  3+ years, €17,50   If you live in the Netherlands and are going to visit museums – get yourself a Museumkaart!

 

 

REVIEW: TumTum IJs Den Bosch

REVIEW: TumTum IJs Den Bosch

While Nils and Soren are at the season opener of their football club – Maebh and I had some alone time and decided that after picking up a few pairs of pants for back to school, we’d pop in and check out TumTum IJs Den Bosch on Minderbroederstraat 23.

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The concept is the same as Pinkberry, which the kids visited when they were living in Boston but were way too young to remember.   We only just saw this place a few days ago and decided to pop in.  There are quite a few ice cream options around Den Bosch and we have our favorites, but figure we’d give this place a try!

How it works – very simple!

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1.) Take a cup – several different sizes
2.) Fill it with ice cream (choose from 8 different flavors  – which were Vanilla, Strawberry, Banana, Chocolate, Hanzelnut, Mango Yogurt & Vegan and of course, mixing is an option!)
3.) Choose from more than 200 toppings
4.) Go the scale where you pay €1.95 per 100 grams.   In my 9 year old’s case – mama “aka her banker” will pay for her delicious, unique ice cream covered with various toppings.  Seriously it was not that expensive –  I paid just over €5.75 for the both of us.   I’ve paid far more at places but what I love is that here you are supporting a local business!!
5.) Sit inside or out and enjoy!  The terraces belong to the restaurants opposite and next door but there is a big bench which is public so you can sit there without an issue!

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My 9 year old LOVED every minute of this experience and cannot wait to come back with her 11 year old brother soon!  While she does love an ice cold slush at times, she’ll skip a McFlurry and do this instead!

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WHAT DID WE GET?

I got a small cup, with chocolate ice cream and some chocolate sprinkles and a twist of white and dark chocolate.    Personally, I’m not a huge fan of colored candy.

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My 9 year old choose a larger bucket (of course kids always naturally want a bigger portion), with vanilla ice cream and tons of stuff on top — I couldn’t keep up with all the items she put on to list them.   She loved it and was thrilled to dig in, but in the end, she couldn’t finish it – was too much and had to toss it out!  She agreed next time – smaller portion!  You know the saying – Mama knows best !

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I also love the recycling efforts at the end… plastic spoons in one bin and cups and tubs in the other.

I DO HAVE ONE SUGGESTION

I know not everyone smiles all time time nor is happy all the time, but it’s an ice cream store with tons of kids coming in & out and it really is a happy place.  I think a greeting coming and going would be great but I’d take just one direction too! A smile from the staff, however, to me is a requirement – don’t know about you? Happy to report our second time in, two young guys, Max & Noud, were working and they were SUPER friendly, greeted us, asked if we were there before – offered an explanation to those who have not as to how it worked – EXACTLY what I would expect in an ice cream shop – LOVED IT!! 

WILL WE BACK?

Absolutely 100%! With my 11 year old and with some friends for sure!!  In fact when my nieces and nephews visit us, I’ll be sure to bring them here for a special treat!  It’s a special place that I know all kids would LOVE!   They even have Vegan 100% plantaardig ijs so that is a plus for our Vegan friends & family!! 

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There are quite a few ice cream shops in the area to choose from but I think this is one you must try.  Have you been here yet?   What do you think?

UPDATE:  Came back with my 11 year old and his friend – they both LOVED IT!

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Of the three kid portions – can you tell which ones belong to two 11 year old boys ?  They didn’t leave much room for items to go inside.  This time I tried the vegan – plant based ijs – very yummy with a few twix cut up and some chocolate sprinkles, shaved coconut and some chopped nuts – so good!    Total for 4 of us €13.  The cost of a McFlurry is €2.75 and this is MUCH better! 

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Center Parcs Port Zélande: Money Saving Tips & A Review – Our Family’s Perspective

Center Parcs Port Zélande:  Money Saving Tips & A Review – Our Family’s Perspective

 

Main sign at Center Parcs at Port Zélande

Well, after living abroad for over seven years, I heard from both British and Irish friends and colleagues rave on about their experiences here, our family has finally taken a trip to Center Parcs – this time Port Zélande, here in the Netherlands.   There are nine Center Parcs in the Netherlands to choose from but with a family member in from the US staying for a week there, another joining for a weekend, I thought it would be great if the kid & I joined in for the week too.  Plus their mom lives in Zeeland, so she’ll come to visit the grand kids, etc.   While we were first going for just the weekend, we changed our mind and made it a 6 night stay instead and took advantage of a last minute deal!

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TOP TIPS FOR SAVING MONEY

  • BOOK OUTSIDE SCHOOL VACATION WEEKS

My first tip is to book a weekend when your school has a study day (or teacher training day) on the Friday and/or Monday.  This avoids needed to take the kids out of school AND avoids the expensive school holidays.  Of course, in some countries they don’t mind you taking the kids out for a few days here or there or even a week but in the Netherlands it is not allowed.  Also here in the Netherlands, they try to break up vacations into regions (Noord, Midden en Zuid Nederland) so the entire country doesn’t have off the same times off with the exception of Easter and Xmas.   So if you visiting NL from abroad, you might score a deal since breaks aren’t always the same – see below for the 2019 -2020 year.    Dates for the next two years can be found here – but they are not 100% set in stone yet!! Also, keep in mind, while you cannot access your units until 3 pm, you can start using the facilities at Center Parcs early so I would recommend packing a swimming bag separately in the car so you can get on site, have lunch and use the pool!

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  • CHECK PRICING OFTEN & COMPARE THE VARIOUS COUNTRY SITES – NOT JUST YOUR OWN!!

While booking last minute can sometimes go in your favor, sometimes the prices sky rocket!  After working in travel for 8 years, there is no strict rule to this.   Two weeks ago, I watched the prices fall from €699 to €499 over the course of two days… so we waited to see what our weekend (27 July to 2 Aug) would do.   Unfortunately, our dates haven’t done the same.   Right now on Tuesday for a Friday arrival the rates are €679 – so they dropped a tiny amount.

PRICE UPDATE:  TWO days to go before arrival and only 2 units left – price is now back up to €879 – so you don’t always win with last minute!  And then five hours later, back down to €679!  ha ha – what the heck!    Will check again tomorrow and update!  Back up again!!

We however, decided to come in on Saturday and stay for a six nights instead of paying €1,499 for the week, I’m paying €1,149.  Booking very early can sometimes save you money – but this is not always the case.   For example, if I were to book the same apartment, same week next year – it’s €1,952!  But you get free bonus’ like 3 free activities and the ability to pick your location – which normally costs €33.  Not worth it to me!

I personally think the reason our particular week has not dropped so much is two things.  1.] we are in the middle of a heatwave in the Netherlands and as this is Zeeland and by an amazing beach – the location is top! 2.]   UK schools are just now out.  Our old school just got out on Friday.  Many UK families come over via Stena Line or Eurotunnel and drive up as they are looking to take advantage of the various Center Parcs on the mainland and enjoy their summer holidays!

Don’t always book using your own country site.  Be sure you look at the country of the park at which you are staying.  I checked Port Zélande prices on the France site, Dutch site, UK site and German site and I often found different rates for the same dates.   German was the most expensive – often by €300 – €500 per stay!!  Don’t worry if you don’t read the language, turn on google translate and your website will change.

When you are shopping for your trip, be sure to check the pricing on Wednesdays – they have a special called “Waanzinnige Woensdag” where they offer special pricing when you book on Wednesday (most times €50 off)

Right now, you can play a memory match game on the Dutch Center Parcs site and you win a prize.  I don’t know if you can win more, but I keep winning a code to take €150 off an upcoming trip between September ad March – tempting!

  • DECIDE WHAT YOU WANT & NEED FROM YOUR ACCOMMODATION

Depending on which country of course, all Center Parcs resorts offer various ranges of accommodations.   Some offer camping but most offer various accommodations from safari tents, cabins, apartments, 2-10 person cottages from comfort to Premium to VIP and some even offer tree houses or kinder cottages with private playhouses in your own garden.  But they all have beds, bathrooms and cooking facilities – but you do have the option of booking your accommodation with meals included, so you don’t need to worry at all if you don’t want to cook.   You do pay a premium for things such as having beds made in advance and bath towels brought in, en-suite bathrooms, bread delivered daily, views over water, so you have to decide how much you really need these things and whether it’s worth the additional costsWe saved €8 per person x4 by bringing our own bath towels.  Of course I forget a bathmat (remember it if you are brining your own towels)! Also keep in mind that you’ll spend a large amount of time away from your accommodation, so you may not need all the bells and whistles for the extra premium upgrades.  Of course, if you have small kids who need to return for naps daily, you might want the extra room and bedrooms, need a bathrub vs a shower, etc.  We do not and for that reason we took a two-bedroom apartment at Port  Zélande.   Again:  Check-in starts at 3pm and check-out is 10 am, but you are welcome to use the park for a full day on both your check-in and check-out days.  You cannot bring your car onto the property until after 3pm on your arrival day and then only to unload and you must go bring it back to the main parking lot (5-10 minute walk back at our particular property).

  • BRING YOUR OWN BIKES

If you own bikes and it’s an option, bring them.  You can rent bikes (min 2 days) but the cost of a bike trailer can often cost less than bike hire but offers much better value for money as it can be used time and time again.    This particular park is not that big so it’s manageable but other parks are very large.   But it would be handy to have bikes to pop over to the beach, and go off site and explore.  But part of the reason we are here is for our kids to be with their cousins who live in New York and are here for vacation so we will stay put. If it were just us, we’d have rented bikes and set off on an exploration of the nearby towns for sure!

On Wednesday evening, as the weather was nice, we walked over to Natural High Brouwersdam and it was a 15 minute walk and it was fine without bikes.  In addition to bikes they have skelters, family bikes like this one which Maebh sat on for this photo so this could be an option for others!

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For those who are not 100% mobile or those not wanting to walk, you can rent a golf cart for the ENTIRE week and use that to get around.  Not 100% sure of the price but they were all sold out when we enquired if it was possible to get one for a day when Oma & Opa were visiting.

Family photo Center Parcs at Port Zélande

As they are not fully mobile, we were able to rent the last two wheelchairs for a day at €5 each – which was worth it to get them around the park.  The kids helped us return them in exchange for a bit of a wheel themselves.

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  • DOWNLOAD THE CENTER PARCS APP

It’s very handy and makes check-in super easy by pre-filling in all the guest details, etc.  There is a map of the park, contact numbers, but what I like the best is that all the park activities for each day are listed and bookable online there.   Each day you can see what is happening, what time and how much it costs.

Prepare your stay

You can organize everything up front.

  • Check your booking information
  • Choose the location of your cottage by booking ‘Preferred location’
  • Check all the opening hours and the park map
  • Check restaurant menus and book a table
  • Book extra Cottage Services or restaurant arrangements
  • Order groceries to be delivered to your cottage
  • Book Activities as far as 6 weeks in advance so you are certain of availability

Here you’ll have to manage your kids’ expectations – or at least I will with mine or you’ll be broke.   My kids know that we will NOT be booking tons of expensive activities daily.  At 11 and 9, they get it and are very easy-going kids.

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  • SAVE ON GROCERIES & OTHER ITEMS

I’m not too keen on making a meal plan each week and tend to make meals based on what is on sale at the store that week and what my family likes, but here I suggest you make a meal plan before you go. Bring your own food & cook meals there but don’t do your ‘main shop’ at the ParcMarket as it could be expensive.   Use the shop as a place to top of your milk, bread, etc.   While not a money-saving tip – more of an fyi – you can have groceries delivered to your unit.  There was a small shopping trolly in our unit so that was super helpful.  By having breakfast & lunch at your unit, it will save you.  Sure an occasional meal out is fine but not every day!  The cooking facilities are there – use them!   A tip on how to save some money at ParcMarket – go in around 6 pm before the store closes – you can often find yellow sticker items with a reduced shelf life and reduced price – cakes & sandwiches tend to be the items you’ll find most.

Keep in mind you are holiday so your “meals” shouldn’t be too time consuming and elaborate as you’d make at home.   Also until you are in the unit, you are not 100% your equipment and cooking arrangement you have.  You might not have an oven like you have at home but will have a magnatron – personally we skipped using it all together and cooked on the stove top – but others find it perfectly fine and use it often.    If you are fine using it, then you might be okay having a pizza at at home one night too.   Here are some easy meal ideas which we used for our trip.  Where you can make some stuff at home and bring it with you, so you can just heat it up on the stove top and make the sides.   Less time in the kitchen and more time with your family on vacation!!  

Of course winter vacations, you can make more hearty meals, but this is what our family is eating during our summer vacation.

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Funny story,  I once met a man who brought his potato peeler with him on holidays to Portugal – as he loved to cook and it was his favorite utensil.  At the time, I thought he was crazy.  But it wasn’t until we were in our unit and I was looking at what utensils were supplied and guess what – NO peeler.   If you are like me, you own every kitchen gadget and have a well-stocked house.  In fact, I have a really nice Oxo peeler I bought about 15 years ago and I love it.  So I’m questioning myself why didn’t I bring it?  I did bring my cheese microplane, my favorite, sharpest knife and my milk frother – but I didn’t bring my peeler – but I should have just like that man!!   Also, as I was making dinner, I could have used one very large pot to boil my pasta – instead I had to use two small ones.  So I’ll now always remember to bring a larger pot too – it won’t take up as items can be stored inside.   Oh yeah and pot holders – thankfully I brought some tea towels for drying so I used them, but with out it, moving this bolognese and boiling pots would have been pretty hard without potholders so bring a pair!!!   Oh and there was one frying pan – so for me that was fine with my meals but that could be an issue too…. see simple meals are best!!

I did check in the ParcMarket for these items and you can buy both for cheap – peeler is €2 and pot holders are cheap too – if you really needed them.  I ended up buy pre-grated carrots so we’re fine and used my tea towels for potholders.   When we back the next day the last peeler was gone – ha ha! 


I’m sure it goes without saying, but if you are coming from a place where you are driving – SAVE € by bringing stuff from HOME.

Here is small list of items you’ll use and you can bring from home and doesn’t require cooling – as you can’t get into your room until 3 pm.

  • Seasonings like Salt, Pepper & favorite spices – all small and can easily be brought back home.   No need to bring every jar you own – just pour a few tablespoons into small baggies if you think you’ll only use a bit here & there.  
  • Sugar
  • Tea Bags
  • Olive Oil & Vinegar (think salad dressing)
  • Tin Foil, Cling Film & a zip lock few baggies (if you use them)
  • Cleaning Wipes
  • Toilet paper
  • Napkins or Kitchen Roll
  • Dishwashing Tables  (no need to bring an entire box – just grab one for each day (plus two extra) drop in a ziplock bag)
  • Dish Soap
  • Liquid Hand Soap for the bathroom.
  • Garbage Bags – I bought a roll of small ones for €2 so not expensive at all 
  • You could buy bagged ice at the shop or bring empty plastic ice trays (if you are like us and really like ice in your drinks)
  • Some people bring bird seed to leave around your deck to encourage birds to visit.  But we stayed at the marina at Port  Zélande – there were enough squawking seagulls start at 4:30 am – – they were SOOOO LOUD!   One morning around 7 am  there as this awful squawking through the house is awful – thankfully the hubby and kids slept in the other room.  Most people would not want any more birds visiting.  I’d say save this for if you visit parks in the woods and you want to attract nice small birds.  Click here to watch the video – well it is more of sound and a photo of a baby chair. 

Whenever we stay at hotels and there are toiletries or tea bags & sugar, etc. which we don’t use – we take them home.  So we have a big basket for the guest bathroom and a place in the cabinet in the kitchen for tea bags, so when we go on trips I take a baggie with a dozen individual sugars and a variety of tea bags.   The small bar soaps are very handy to take with us when traveling to use in the shower.

If you were to purchase all this stuff, it will add up and can easily be brought from home and what you don’t use bring home.   Also bringing stuff like your own swim goggles, sunscreen, towels for room & beach towels, buckets & spades. Swim jackets and water arm bands are available free of charge at the pool, so no need to buy or bring your own, if you need them for small kids.

  • DON’T FORGET IN ROOM ENTERTAINMENT

While you have loads to do on-site and in the the summer won’t send too much time in your room with older kids, smaller kids will need some things to do in the the unit for downtime.

  • Wifi was VERY slow – in the day and age of free, fast wifi not sure what was going on.  On the UK site it says all parks in the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium include Wi-Fi as standard.  I put on my iPhone hotspot all week for the kids.
  • Coloring books, paper, pencils & crayons.  Of course, ParcMarket has this stuff to buy in case you forget it.  They had a coloring contest too which could be fun for the little ones.  My 9 year old took a page but never got around to doing it. To win the prize which this week was a small Orry backpack, you had to have your entry in before Friday or Monday morning by hanging them on the display board near the cash registers. 
  • Books to read before bed.
  • Board games or card games – we brought our favorites =  Stap Op,  Kwartet & Pesten
  • While our Premium apartment here at Port Zélande didn’t have it a DVD player, some parks/units have DVD players – (check your booking).  If you want to create a home from home environment before bedtime. It can also help if you want to cook a meal in the kitchen or recover from your morning’s activities. We did have two TVs, just no DVD players!
  • BOOK AGAIN IF YOU LOVED YOUR TIME AT CENTER PARCS

If you have a great stay and know you want to visit again, then make sure you take advantage of Center Parcs’ ‘Come Back Soon’ offer.  They will send you an email with all the details following your stay making booking easy. You get vouchers to use on site for each lodge booked and a low price guarantee, meaning that if you see the price lower between booking and your arrival, you can contact them and they’ll amend your price to reflect that. It does mean you’re responsible for keeping an eye on the price but if you’re going to book anyway it’s a nice way to get some extra benefits and a bit of a deal. Center Parcs don’t often offer deals so make the most of this one!    Based on my price checking above, you know I’d be all over that checking it far too often!

OUR REVIEW OF THE PARK

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CHECK-IN

Since I downloaded the app, I had already pre-filled in our names, birthdates, car registration, emergency contact information so that helped expedite the check-in process.  All of the Center Parcs locations are traffic free sites, however, at check in time you are able to retrieve your car from the car park and temporarily take it up to your lodge so you can unpack. It does tend to get pretty busy at 3 as everyone goes at the same time.  However, if you wait till around 3.30/4 to go and get your car, you will get straight out and avoid sitting in a car park for a while!

CHECK-OUT

Key drop at check out at Center Parcs at Port Zélande

There is no official check out process where you have to see a person.   You simply  drop your key into the box above on the way out near the reception according to your zone to make it easier for them.   You are asked to just strip your beds of their sheets and duvet covers and put them into the red large plastic bags left on your bed on arrival.  You can drive your car onsite early, load it up and re-park it in the main parking lot and continue to use the property or leave.  We went swimming, used our bowling voucher and then ate lunch at the beach before driving back home!

OUR ACCOMMODATION

We chose to book a 4 person, Premium Apartment near the marina for our 6-night stay.  We paid extra to have beds made for us when we arrived and there was a small box of supplies in the kitchen like one sponge, a few dishwasher tablets, etc.  It’s not much but having the bed already made to me was worth it.  When you leave you are to just take off the sheets and put them into the big red plastic bags left for you.. simple enough.   As we were booking the accommodations last minute to join family members already visiting, we figured we didn’t need too much space and wanted to save money, so we took the least expensive option (well, camping might be but that is NOT our thing!) .  Plus after 3 nights, I think it will be just the three budgies as the 6’8″ person who needs the most space is home working.  We knew our until was #970 as it was the last unit left free for the week, but you can pre-book your location for a fee of €33 –  if it’s important to you to know which unit you are staying in.  Perhaps you want to be next to your family member (like my two sister-in-laws) or closer to the pool or perhaps far away from water as your little kids – for us we didn’t really care, but you do have an option [again for a fee].  Looking back now, if I were to pick an ideal apartment in the marina area, I’d say #900 is great – west facing so you get sun, an end unit and you are on the ground floor – so you can sit outside at your table while your kids crabbed on the small pier.

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Overall our accommodation #970 was fine for us.   We had two bedrooms, a good size bathroom with a rainforest shower (no tub), a kids stool and potty seat.  Dining table with four chairs and a baby stool [which we used for storage].   The kitchen could have used some extra storage space – like a small shelf long the wall where you can put your stuff – as I have to use up 1/3 of the counter space storing my items.   We had a couch which was only just big enough for us all.  Two televisions – one in our room and one in the living room and a small patio – but it was tiny so we didn’t use it all – only to store our crab equipment actually!  While there are no washer/dryers in the units, there is a laundromat near the main entrance open every day so you can wash your clothes.  You buy a token at the main desk – and soap is included in the machine so no need to bring or buy anything!!!

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Our balcony is the one with the bright yellow trim.  The balcony up top (#973 I think) would be much better and much larger.

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Two of my SILs chose to be next to each other at #197 & 198.  But one of my sister-in-laws accommodation #198, upon arrival, was pretty bad and not “cleaned”.  She found cigarette stubs everywhere at the entrance and a used razor outside.   Also found the place incredibly small for herself and 4 kids – then when she walked up the spiral staircase, she encountered the most dirty carpet in the world. She was afraid to take her shoes off. And you know how kids roll around – yuk!   She paid €1,600 just for the accommodation for a week vacation, she would like to be comfortable  – not hate where she was and I totally agree!  They went over and took a look, agreed it was dirty and thankfully they were able to move her to a different lodge and she’s happy but no longer next to her sister.   If the guests do not dispose of their butts in the ashtrays provided under the sink, you’re going to see them all over the ground until Center Parcs picks them up – they will not go away on their own for a long time!  Most cigarettes have filters are made of cellulose acetate, a form of plastic that is very slow to degrade in the environment. A typical cigarette butt can take anywhere from 18 months to 10 years to decompose, depending on conditions!   We have been on site for 6 nights and they are still there along with the dirty old discarded razor – seems no one wants to touch the gross butts!  I only know this because my other SIL stay at #197 for the duration of her stay… otherwise I wouldn’t have gone over to look but we visited her and saw the butts/razor were still there.

Also look at this mix match half plastic, half wicker table set up in the garden – yuck!

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RESTAURANTS

We ate at ONE restaurant on site at Center Parc Port Zélande – Nonna’s on our last night.  The food was quite good – the majority of us had pizza and they were very accommodating for the five vegans among our group of nine!    The waitstaff even broke out into a dance and all the kids in our group joined in.   So funny… here is a video of the action.


TIP:  If you are looking for a table right NOW, always check with the restaurant directly. 
Even if the main booking desk says they are full and there are no reservations available until hours from now, and the app says there are no reservations available – go to the restaurant and ask.  We were told no by the general reservation desk but then when we walked up – NINE of us sat at two round tables next to each other!  So often people book tables in advance and no show.  Perhaps they forget – for whatever reason they do not come to their reservations.  And as they are not accountable for a fee – they don’t call or care.  So tables are sitting empty and the restaurant doesn’t communicate it back to general reservations as they are busy to don’t think  about doing so – so people miss out!  If we didn’t ask we’d assume they were full and they were not. 

We did eat at the Brouwersdam Beach a few times – which I really like as I LOVE Dutch Strandpaviljoens!    

  • STRANDPAVILJEON BROW

On Sunday, my SIL brought us to Strandpaviljoen Brow which was a simple 10 minute walk from Center Parcs for lunch to celebrate the birthday of her oldest daughter V who was turning 10 the next day.  The other set of grandparents came for lunch so it was extras special for the grand kids.

This place has a nice vibe – I loved the decor.   There was a kids area with a tv playing Finding NEMO and some coloring pages – which I thought was nice and in view of the parents area.  Outside was a small play area and just by the deck was the giant Water slide where you could watch people be dare devils.   It was too windy for to sit outside this particular day but on a nice warm day it would be beautiful!  I wanted to go back for dinner one night, but they close at 7:30 pm so it was not an option.

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I didn’t get to go into the beach shop to have a look around and never got back to have another look.  Probably for the best as I’d end up with another pair of reef flip flops.   For my meal, I had the Vegan Poke Bowl and didn’t opt for the Salmon on top but you can.  It was also delicious and something I’d make for dinner at home.

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  • NATURAL HIGH BEACH CLUB

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We ended up at Natural High Beach Club here THREE times – one with our family for dinner and one with my SIL and her kids and one for lunch on our last day.  First time I had a Poke Bowl Natural High which and then the second time a Poke Bowl Beef Teriyaki – both very good and both I will make a  version of such at home for our family.  For lunch I had the Falafel burger – also yummy!

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  • Outside seating is first come first serve so when you see table finishing you have to pounce to take their spot.   If you want to sit inside, I recommend you call for to reserve a table.
  • While it’s only my opinion, but it’s a pity they close their beach shop each night at 6 pm.   I think they should stay open til 8 pm or 9 pm, so those having dinner can go browse and purchase stuff.   Maybe they did a CBA on this and it was not worth it??
  • Vegan menu doesn’t exists.  Your only option is a poke bowl without fish on top and french fries!   They will not adjust the menu for you what so ever  – it even says it on the first page.

NEARBY BEACH

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One of the greatest things about this property is the ability to walk to the nearby beach.  It is called BEWARE BEACH.  Not sure if that is a made up name or what but during the day, the beach area near Natural High is a really busy active beach for wind and kite surfing and not one for sunbathing and you really have to BEWARE!  Sure there are areas for you to do that but the area where the Natural High Beach Club is – that is for the sports – check out all the kites.   Near the restaurant and in the late afternoon early evening when the kite stuff is done, the kids played so it does calm down but today was super cool with all the activity.

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One day we were having our dinner at Natural High and the kids saw a big mound.  When the kids were finished and asked if they could play at the mound – sure… no problem.  Then when we got over to them, we noticed it was a giant hole purposely dug out by Perry’s Beach Club – so you can swim in it.  We didn’t have our swimsuits and it was evening so a bit nippy and we never got back, but we’ll remember this place and for our next trip to Zeeland, perhaps we can visit it.

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STAFF SERVICE

All the staff were very friendly and nice – especially the various EHBO staff who wrapped S’s toe each day at the pool.  Job at the outdoor terrace near the Adventure Factory was very friendly and talkative too!    We did hear a few British families but the vast majority of the guests were either Belgian or German followed by Dutch.  So all the workers speak Dutch, German and English so no issues whatsoever!

GAMETOWN

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Our kids love an arcade where you can win tickets and cash them in for what we call “cheap Chinese made plastic junk“.   Our first night, the kids and I heard there was live music at the Dome, so we went out to see and when we saw the arcade we went in for a about 45 minutes – it was fun!   I gave them both €20 credit on cards and they went to town.   We agreed that they’ll save their points up and at the end of their vacation, we’ll pool them together and see what we can win.  So it’s no surprise, they’ll spend a fair bit of time here.   During our trip to De Haan last year, I hit the 1,000 ticket jackpot!  On our first night, I didn’t hit the 1,000 yet only 500.  Maebh hit a 300 jackpot. She had about 700 ticket credit, I had 2300 ticket credit and Soren considerably less, around 200 or so, but he plays action games –  while we play gambling games.   We went back a second night and played more… same thing – us gambling games and Soren on sporty games.  Then Soren spent about 20 minutes playing racing and throwing games and air hockey with his new friend too – so that used up the last of my credits.  Finally in the end, we had a total of 5,600 tickets to pick a prize.  We selected a 4,500 large, inflatable unicorn pool floatie and then some unicorn poop and some jumping putty.   They promised not to beg me to return to the games room but it was fun!

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ENTERTAINMENT

There was free live music and shows – including kids shows in the late afternoon featuring Orry and characters.   Our kids are 9 & 11 so they didn’t care about seeing the show – but my SIL took her 3 year old who enjoyed it.     We did enjoy the man singing at the piano outside the bowling.

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  • CRAZY BINGO

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On Saturday night, the kids and I participated in Crazy Bingo.  It was not cheap at €12 per person – but we thought it was a fun night out and did it anyway.   Sadly, we didn’t win anything but came close a few times  and had fun!  The best part was the music card…. the hosts would hum tunes using a kazoo – then you’d have to shout out the song and then mark the card. … our 11 year old knew so many songs – I was impressed!

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  • FAMILY TRIVIA NIGHT

On Monday night, the last night N was with us, we went together for Family Trivia night and we were given lucky #21 pointer.  The questions are all in Dutch and German – so for those who do not read or understand either, they would struggle.  The first round we came in second by ONE POINT – we were a bit bummed ha ha.  Soren was responsible for the buzzer the first question, but when we learned you get points for being the fastest to answer Nils took the buzzer in his hand.  Second round we won – our prize a platter of fried food [ha ha but considering we just ate dinner no one wanted this fried platter].

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Then we tied second with a few others – that round winner received voucher for mini-golf.  Then we won the final so took home the grand prize by ONE POINT as well – a voucher for family bowling!  With a hubby who knows a lot about everything – I’m somewhat not surprised we won!  I’ve been trying to get him to go with me to the English speaking trivia at a bar near our house for months!  

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ACTIVITIES – SO MANY TO CHOOSE

There are so many activity options at Center Parcs it is hard to decide what to do. We hardly scratched the surface in terms of taking advantage of what was offered.  This is just a sample of the activities = but I know there are even more and something for everyone.

PAID ACTIVITIES

Paddle Boats & Electric Boat Hire
PADi Diving Course
Glow in the Dark Bowling
Beach Games – Volleyball
Beach Carts
Body Boarding
Laser Gun Battles
Windsurfing Lessons
SUP Lessons
Mini Golf
Kite Surfing
Segways
Pottery workshops
Pony Rides
Table Tennis
Bike Rentals
Water Jump
Aquapark – Inflatable waterpark
Kids Paintball

FREE ONES

AquaMundo – including slides, wild water, lazy river and turbo tunnel
Live shows & music
Playgrounds
Beach
Nature walks
Play soccer
Use the volleyball net in the main courtyard

WHAT ACTIVITIES WE DID

  • AQUA SPLASH

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When the second set of grandparents were visiting, my SIL put her oldest kids on the inflatable water zone – Aqua Splash.  As the youngest didn’t want to do it after a half hour, my daughter took his spot and did it for a bit.  It was quite difficult for her being small and not that strong.  From the pier, my husband called to anther dad to help assist my pushing her up over this one area to get to her other two cousins – thankfully or she’d be stuck.

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It’s €10 per child for 1 hour and you must have a swim diploma to do it – which they have so we’re good!  My kids love the show ‘Wipe Out” and this is along that idea.   In the end, Soren never did this activity – and to my surprised, he wasn’t too bummed out.  Had his new friend suggested they do it together, I’m sure that would be a different story.   This type of activity is more fun when you are together with someone your own age and strength.

  • KIDS PAINTBALL

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Soren did this 1 hour session at 1 pm during the hottest day we were at the park.  Not ideal but we booked it the day before and as the session was only held 2x when we were there, we didn’t want to him to miss out.  They say wear long sleeve shirts and long pants but they do provide padded vests and over suits to protect clothing but other kids were wearing shorts.   He could have worn shorts and would have been cooler.  As it’s kids paint ball the FSP (feet per second) is not as high as adults but if you were to get shot at close range it would pinch.  He did get a shot in his neck which stung but his helmet and suit should have covered him… perhaps he was unzipped a bit??  They told them not to shoot closer than 3 meters or 1 obstacle minimum.  This was the only activity he really really wanted to do and often talked about.  He wanted to do this for his birthday so this was so great he could do it.  And as expected, he LOVED it.

He made it into the final so it was he and one kid from Germany. But the kid was being told by his brother, who was already out of the game and safely behind the fence, where S hiding was so he was able to sneak up behind Soren (who unfortunately didn’t see him coming) and was shot behind at close range (less than 1 and a half meters).  So he lost – but to him it was unfair!  So he was a bit bummed to have not won and made it a point to tell the kid at the end his win was not really fair…  Overall,  he had a lot of fun out there and the only way it would be more fun would be if he was with a friend.  I have a feeling we just opened the paintball can 🙂

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  • MERMAID SWIMMING

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The activity that Maebh wanted to the most was Mermaid Swimming and it was fantastic for her and her cousin V.  Ever since she saw a girl with a tail and fin a few years ago on Ibiza she has wanted to try one.  In fact, as added motivation to get through her swim diplomas, I promised her one after completion but have not yet got it for her.   I don’t see them in the store and the ones online look terribly cheap.  My SIL says they pulled them from the shops in the US due to safety.

As expected, it looks easier that it was.  She said it was not – she struggled a bit not being the tallest and strongest swimmer – she didn’t quite slide through the pool like Daryl Hannah but loved it anyway! Afterwards kept saying how amazing it was – very sweet! It was €10 for 1 hour and was well-worth it.  I highly recommend booking it for any mermaid fans.  I also loved that they took the 6 girls to the pool in the spa area where it was quiet and the instructor would teach them.  The main pool area was sooo busy – she could never have done it there.   Like paintball, this won’t be the end of the mermaid tail.

  • BOWLING x2

 

One day to celebrate cousin V’s 10th birthday, 11 of us bowled.  As we won passes for 55 minutes of bowling at the Grand Prize of the Family Trivia, we went back and bowled again on Friday at 10:30 am before swimming and heading home.  TIP:  Lane 5 & 6 are the best lanes for bowling with kids as they have the gutters which can go up and down so kids and adults can both bowl together.  A simple push of a white button puts them up for down.  But they are hidden so don’t expect big medal rails to come up … they are there.   I was also told you have to book this at the desk as you cannot book these lanes on the app – but when I checked the app I have an option for both  KIDS BOWL and normal bowl options so I think you can – but the person didn’t select the correct one.   As you see – I am TERRIBLE and my hand turns left when I bowl so I often end up with ZERO points.    

  • HIGH ADVENTURE EXPERIENCE

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All five kids (except the 3 year old did this 50-minute glow-in-the-dark session.  It was not so easy for them and Maebh wanted to quit twice as she is afraid of heights but pushed on with encouragement from her cousin V.   It was impossible to take a photo inside so me and my SIL enjoyed a tea and some peace and quiet for a few minutes while the kids played and the youngest bounced and roamed nearby for a bit inside the Adventure area (safely of course).

  • PONY EXPERIENCE

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Bad weather cancelled the original session but they were able to make it up again on Thursday.  Maebh did this 45-minute session with 3 of her cousins – 2 kids to 1 pony.  They make the pony even more beautiful by brushing the mane and tail and braid the hair and decorate it with colorful rubber bands.  Then the kids saddle up the pony and take turns in a small circe in the park.

  • GREVELINGENMEER BOAT TRIP WITH OMA & OPA

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As Nils’ mother and husband came to visit the six grand children,  him and his sister before their family returned to NYC, we all decided to go out on the 90-minute boat trip. around the Grevelingenmeer which is the lake that was created behind the Brouwersdam as part of the Delta Works project in the 70’s and 80’s.   It was a lovely trip around the area…. very pretty scenery out on the Grevelingenmeer.  They did narration in German, English, Dutch and French.  The kids were a bit bored after a while and all went inside to the toy area but I enjoyed the scenery and fresh air with full sunshine and silence!

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Photo credit:  Center Parcs
  • CRABBING AT THE MARINA PIER

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We spent several afternoons crabbing at the marina.  It was here where Soren met some friends too.  While not 100% free as you have to buy some stuff to start off – it can provide hours of fun!    You might already have a bucket or you can buy a crab one for €6.  A net is another €5 euros.  Unlike the UK set up where you put your bacon in a pouch inside the net, drop it to the bottom, a crabs walk in and you pull up the basket, here it’s a bit different.   They have this little fishing line with a clothes pin on a string and a reel – which was €7.  Often times the crab falls off the line if he is not really holding on or you pull too hard/fast.  Part of the skill is to get him up.   Essentially you can make this yourself, but we bought two – one for each kid.  And sure enough one broke – so we had to get another – so I carefully used the broken one and joined in.  You can just use the net and forget the line, but you’d have to lurk in the shallow area and just grab them so it’s best to do both – like we did.  At one point, both kids left to use the bathroom and Nils and I were there – just two adults crabbing and having fun alone.   So many times we had our large crab bucket fill to the top with crabs.  One time Soren brought them all to the other side of the pier where there were other families crabbing and not catching much so to give them a chance. Then Maebh dumped the second batch of crabs half way giving the crabs a choice to go left or right… within seconds a boy ran over and scooped up tons.   

The main character, Orry, even stopped by for a photo opportunity with the crabs 🙂

Soren crabbing with Orry at Center Parcs at Port Zélande

After our second time crabbing, I got creative and tapped some 5p coins to the clothes pin to make it heavier as they took a while to sink….  and then after a few hours of crabbing, two one of our clothes pins fell off the line into the deep water.  Another broke in two pieces – but as I had three heavy-duty clothes pins at our unit I cut the string, re-wrapped the new heavy-duty clothes pins on and tied coins on again for added weight …these were much better than the original!   I’m telling you S & I could enter a crabbing competition here at Center Parcs Port Zélande.  He thinks we’d win with the number of crabs we pull up in a half hour.  This does exist off Cromer Pier each year.   

As we were packing to leave, we agreed that we would not take our souped up crabbing stuff with us as we live no where near the beach and if we did return, we’d re-purchase the equipment.  It’s going to break again and not good quality.  But instead of tossing it or having the room cleaners toss it, let’s first see if we could find a family to donate it to.  At 10 am on a Friday the most busy change over day – no one was crabbing.  As it was windy, we took the stuff inside and left a note – FREE TO TAKE / GRATIS!  Within a few minutes – a family with three boys came by and took the stuff!  Great it will be put to good use this week!!

PARK FACILITIES

  • SWIMMING AT AQUA MUNDO

We spent time every day at the water park!  It’s free (well included) and the kids loved it.  Though it is not as large and exciting as the Center Parcs pools you see online …. but as it is our first time, they were not totally disappointed.  But they did say it’s not Duinrail’s Tiki Bad – and I totally agree.   But we still had fun daily!     I didn’t bring my camera in but my SIL took these for us.   

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There is a smaller kids slide which Nils some how creates a tsunami at the bottom each time.  A larger one with double or single tubes, a small outdoor pool, a wave pool, indoor section with a current section and then a wildwaterbaan which is our favorite – and we go on it over and over again!  I hear other Center Parcs have faster ones – we’d love a faster one.  

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You can bring food into the pool area, but we didn’t.  We didn’t even bring our towels into the pool area and set up at a table all day like others.  We just left everything in our lockers – which you need a €1 coin to lock.   A tip – if you are thinking about doing this – go early (10 am) or go late (6 pm)  – don’t try and find a table mid-day or on rainy days – you won’t!

There is a drinks / ice cream section at the pool but we didn’t go anywhere near near it.

Also by son’s large toe nail had an infection last year so was nearly falling off so each day we had to have it taped by the EHBO staff.  Their first-aiders did an amazing job with him – taping it up.

WOULD WE RETURN TO PORT ZELANDE PARK?

Yes, absolutely but before we’d return to Port Zélande again, we’d like to first try a some different Center Parcs.  Not sure yet which one as each one I’ve look at has something appealing to each of us!  I think  De Vempervennen due to location and closer proximity to North Brabant but Het Heijderbos in Limburg looks great too with the fastest wildwaterbaan and all the activities they offer.

  • I’d  bring extra pillows on my next trip!  I’ll put them in my extra large, vacuum seal storage bags (as we have a vacuum here) to make them fit – as each bed has a single flimsy pillow and I do like to have more than one pillow when I sleep.
  • If I was to return to this particular park and choose to stay in the same category, Premium Apartment, I’d select, an apartment on the end of left side of the marina facing the boats (944-942) – so you see the sunsets.  Or one of the first units at the start but on the left side beginning with #901 – so I could sit outside on my chair and have a view of the kids crabbing from your deck, the boats and the sky.   Here is a legend of the pier so you see the rooms and here are the views!   Though the more I think about it – if we were to return to this property, I think would probably select a different category – something more spacious.  Mainly because when my 6’8″ hubby stretches out on the couch, it doesn’t leave much room for the rest of us three!!IMG_3336IMG_3381

WHAT WOULD I CHANGE?

  • CREATE A SECTION OF NON-SMOKING TERRACES IN CERTAIN GROUP OF UNITS.

I really wish there would be no smoking blocks/units.  Of course you cannot smoke inside the units, but I would prefer ones that you couldn’t even smoke on the terraces or balcony.   So that I can open my doors and windows and not smell and endless cigarette smoke at 6:30 am from the neighbour below AND both sides while I enjoy my coffee in the morning – or any time of the day for that matter.  Each morning when I woke,  early and alone for my ME TIME, I made a nice frothy cappuccino, opened the door and windows sit on the couch.  Moments later, the person below opens her door, sits down hacks up her lungs and clicked her lighter and started puffing away . Smoke rises right into our window.  So lucky me, I enjoyed my coffee with her second-hand smoke.  What a drag!    Sadly even in the afternoon when we come home for lunch, it happens – for some reason, we have neighbour who don’t like to leave their house – but sit on their terrace looking out over the water and smoke all day.  Last night was a later night for us so it was about 10:00 pm, two kids & I in our living room, window and door open getting some fresh air and watching tv – kapciht cans of beer and cigarettes on the terrace to the right one after another – – we cannot win! 🙂  I am going to really suggest this … I am sure it’s not so difficult to just take a block of apartments and make them all smoke free –  including their terraces.  In fact, I think it would be be welcomed by many!!   

I think I’ve covered it all but maybe I missed something?  Let me know!!  Is there a Center Parcs in the Netherlands which we should try next?

*NOTE:  This is not a sponsored post – simply me sharing my experience in the hope it will help others who are planning a visit!  I would, of course, come back and visit any Center Parcs with my family now that we got to experience first-hand how awesome they are.

 

We 🖤 Vlieland

We 🖤 Vlieland

We just returned back from 6 night stay on Vlieland.  Well, it’s been a week, but it took me a few days to write this with the kids out of school, kids sleeping over, the time slipped by – anyway, it is a long post with a brief summery of our time on the island.   

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Rederij Doeksen Ferry 

After our night in Harlingen, on Saturday morning, our kids made it a point to be the FIRST person onboard the 9 am ferry to Vlieland to secure great seat.  To them this means a booth in the rear of the boat with excellent views!    Funny that on the way back, we were nearly the last onboard (two stragglers came after us who nearly missed the boat) but we didn’t care where we sat!

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Our hotel – the Westcord Strandhotel Seeyduyn

After doing some thinking and searching, we decided that it was best for our family to stay in a hotel.  During Sinterklaas weekend, we stayed at Vlierijk, so we wanted something different but didn’t need a house like other families wanted.  Instead, we got a really great deal at the Westcord Strandhotel Seeyduyn on Expedia.nl.  We booked a two-bedroom family suite including a full, amazing hot buffet breakfast for €1,200. I think €200 a night in a beach-side hotel on Vlieland is a very good deal – especially summer time. 

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The hotel has a spa & wellness centre (which we didn’t use),  a small gym, outdoor tennis courts [which need to be resurfaced] indoor pool [with a retractable roof] and the horse stables just next door. 

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OUR ROOM – #556 

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We had room #556 – the last room on the right – so we looked out over the tennis courts and horse stables.  (I am sure you are thinking that same thing I did when I first got our keys but there was NOT a horrible smell of horse poop, thankfully!)   We did have some nice sunrises (peeking through between the clouds and over the bunkers and some mornings you could see the lighthouse beacon of Terschelling .  Sadly, I must point out that not once did we see the sunset!   I had such high hopes growing up and living on the East Coast my ENTIRE life – I never get to see the sunset.  

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The kids had a separate room with two twin beds – which was great – but no window.  In an ideal room, they would have had a window to get some air in that room but I left the door open and it was fine.  We didn’t have a full kitchen with a cooking surface with pots & pans but we knew that going in.  It did, however, have a fridge so I could keep cold milk for my coffee in the morning (and any additional foods I wanted to put in there).  A Nespresso coffee maker (which they supplied coffee but I also brought some from home) and a hot water kettle.   There was free wifi and a tv  – but we didn’t use it at all.   The bathroom had hair dryer, stand up shower cabin, a bathtub and the separate toilet.

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From the balcony you could see glimpses of the sea over the dunes – but we didn’t use the balcony at all only to dry our towels and swimsuits after our time in the indoor pool.

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The hotel offers family apartments (medium or large) both with full kitchens but we chose not to get that on purpose – we didn’t want to cook each day/night.  We wanted to be able to have a big breakfast and be able to do something for our lunch and/or dinner out.   We felt we were on vacation and didn’t want to cook ourselves each night.  Plus we don’t have small kids who need to go home to nap nor dietary restrictions, etc.  

The kids used the pool quite a bit too.  Part of choosing this hotel was the indoor pool – as I said before, we find it a key booking requirement to book hotels with pools.  At 9 & 11, they love pools on our vacations!     They did use the pool at Flidunen too.  Once for the afternoon as we drove by the went in for a couple hours and one night for the disco swim with two cousins. 

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We saw an old photo of the hotel with an open pool in the hallway as you cross over to the other building.  A worker in the bar told us that they put the retractable roof on not that long ago which is great in the Winter and rain, but then it broke and so now it’s stuck in the closed position.  When they inquired to get it repaired apparently the company who made it, went out of business and now they are stuck.  It will €1 million to fix – so it remains stuck.  I’d personally LOVE to see it repaired so you can have the sunlight in there. … or even add a second seasonal pool but I know that is a lot of money for the little warm season you have in such a place so not realistic. 

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The staff were all so friendly and helpful!  I highly recommend this hotel & would definitely stay again.    Oh and one more thing before I forget – when you get off the ferry there are some vans waiting – one is specifically for the Westcord.  Complimentary luggage service is included so no need to lug your suitcase to your hotel – they will bring it for you and same on the return to the boat.   Just go pick up your bikes and your suitcases will be at the baggage area in a bit.   

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From our living room, you could see Nils’ sister’s holiday rental house – it’s a dark brown with orange roof Dutch gambrel style  (looks like a barn) – immediately right of the white triangle house.  It’s called Paddenstoel – lovely home which suited their family’s needs.  

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His other sister, rented Kwikstaart – which is behind it, but you cannot see it from our room.   And with us so close at Westcord it was so easy to get back and forth to see each other.   

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Other family members, who came last minute, stayed at Stortemelk camping, so we spent some time there.  We ate dinner at the Bolder one night and drinks one night.  We only had pizza but others got the Wok dinner and it tasted yummy – HUGE portions.    Look at this pizza  and the amount of toppings!!

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While I personally didn’t find myself longing to stay on the camping – some of the tents were cozy.   But of all tents there, I like the tenthuijs the best, which were sent up for the entire season – so they bring in more sturdy furniture like real beds, have electricty, proper chairs and tables.   I might be talked into stay here for two weeks – but I’d have to bring a portable (pee only) toilet for the middle of the night 🙂 

As you can see in these photos –  some are very shabby chic – I love the Leeuwerik the best, but no matter how you wrap it up and put pretty paint in it,  you are still walking to the toilet in the middle of the night with you paper roll 🙂   But at €400 – €500 a week it’s a bargain!  

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But they do have 6 duinhuisjes available which I could also do. 

Screenshot 2019-07-19 at 10.41.49.pngOne day the kids played in a football match in the field organized by the camping – so you can still go hang out there if you want.   Many families who stay in the houses of the dunes will go over and visit the camping.    Soren brought his ball and played with other kids (and some dads) in the court and Maebh in the sandy playground.  

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Our hotel had organized kids club where our kids played bingo one evening and Soren won THREE times.  He won one prize, gave one to Maebh and one to the youngest boy playing.   Once they went to cake decorating, one event Maebh did was baking cookies which she brought Bobbi her 4 year old cousin to join.   It was still early in the season so kids in northern parts of the country were still in school so the kids that were there were only from the South.  We met kids from Tilburg and Drunen…. But kids from the South don’t typically go to Vlieland, they head to France so I’ve been told. 

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Netherlands vs USA Women’s World Cup Game

As we had a pub in our hotel, the family came together and watched the match in our hotel.   With 2 America adults, six kids being 1/2 Dutch & 1/2 American and a bunch of full Dutch, we were not sure where the loyalty was going to go but it was clear, we were all rooting for the Netherlands.  Sadly, they were out played but the US deserved to win.   

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Dining Out

Part of the atmosphere I love about Dutch beaches are the beach cafes.  While there are not many on this small island.   You can choose from Badhuys which is next to our hotel and we love it and went there a lot!  But I loved Oost which is fairly new – and our first time was during this trip.   Oh and there is de Dining marina – so not on the beach but the harbor.  I didn’t eat there, but had a drink.   

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The day we went it was starting to drizzle, so we sat indoors.   We played Pesten, my 11 year old & I split oysters and the vis plank – both were very yummy!     

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You do have other choices like the Bolder at the camping, Posthuys, various places in the Dorp.  And two places which have both in & outside seeing near the water and by the ferry terminal are Zeezicht and Gestrand.  Though I have to say that I prefer Gestrand as they have a nicer beachy vibe and I prefer their menu.  

STRANDPAVILJOEN ‘T BADHUYS

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We ate here a few times during our stay.  The oysters, salad, sashimi, fish soup and dim sum all were delicious, but clearly they put way too many black seasame seeds on this salad – I was afraid to smile.   The boys both ordered the schnitzel one day for dinner and it was like Moses’ slipper – terrible idea! 

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Sea Glass & Shell Collecting 

Like the sunshine, the tides were not in my favor for most of the week, but I did get two days when I was able to collect a bit of shells and sea glass for crafts.    Two is better than zero!    

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ONE BEACH DAY

Earlier I used the term “summer time” loosely though as it’s a Wadden Island in early July – the weather didn’t exactly cooperate as we had hoped.  We had one day of really good beach weather – so we rented two beach beds and a windscreen but the other days – let’s just say not the best.   I spent every day wearing jeans and apart from the one day with beach weather providing you were protected by the windscreen, I didn’t touch my shorts.   Nils has had some summers on the island with high 20 degree weather and other summers where it was very cold and wet – so you never know.  As I type this – we are about to begin a heatwave in our area – so next week would be a great time to be at the seaside.

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The kids and I headed to the beach with their newly purchased schepnet and bucket – but the water was freezing and the tides were off so he was not catching anything.  We ended up donating it to the kids club on the day we left with the hopes that some kids will get some use of out it.   The bucket I packed in my suitcase. 

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MINATURE GOLF

Three families spent a morning playing miniature golf at Midgetgolfbaan De Oude Vuurtoren.   It was a lot of fun to see the kids play, loads of different levels of competition between the parents in each group – will say our family had fun – the adults some how “tied” at 51 each.  We didn’t take ourselves too serious!  

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HORSEBACK RIDING

Maebh’s two oldest cousins were booked to take a horse riding lesson/trek on the trails so we booked her in with them next door at Manege de Seeruyter   She was psyched!  It was also great as it was just three of them.  At first I was very nervous as they were on these three huge horses (yes there are bigger ones) but they explained that the bigger horses are the friendlier and more easy-going ones.  Apparently,  the smaller ones are nippy and fresh.   Also these guys do not go down the beach – in fact, they are not allowed on the beach.  The horses that go down the beach are fast and are for experienced riders only – which these kids are not.   So once they set off, the instructor did it in English.  I was certain all three fully understand ever word and nothing was lost in translation. 

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Bicycle Rentals

We ended up renting our bikes at the same place as we did last summer, Fietsverhuur Vlieland Zeeland.  They have a deal online 7 days for the price of 5!  I had been toying with the idea of getting Nils (and maybe me) and e-bike but didn’t.   I honestly did’t think there would be so much wind on the island in the summer – but guess what – there was!  Next time, e-bikes!!   Soren got a mountain bike with 27 gears and Maebh a 3 gear bike with both hand and peddle breaks so both kids were happy!

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BEST PHOTO OF THE TRIP

and the best photo of the trip is one of the photo of the group photo at the end when our family was leaving on the boat.  Our 11 year old, out of the blue, decides to break out into a Fortnite dance in the middle.  It’s so funny and so him!  Of course there are “serious” photos of the group too where he was “normal” but this photo takes the cake!

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One of the grandkids only!

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and that was it – our trip was over.  The rest had one extra night left over but saw us off at the ferry!

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We had a great time but I think I’d enjoy staying longer next time!  I think a two-week trip would be better!   I would even entertain a house – I would still eat out a fair share and cook a bit.   I think of all the houses I saw online, I would prefer Notenkracker or Klaproos based on interior and location. While we won’t go that long in the fall or winter, but I’m already thinking about a return trip for a long-weekend!   Though I would like to visit the other Wadden Islands too.  

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Our Maebh was sad to leave her favorite cousin behind.. she was crying as we sailed away!   She’s looking forward to seeing her again soon!      Then again when we left Vlieland at Sinterklaas she also shed a tear – I think she LOVES Vlieland!   We love the island so much, we are already planning our return trips! 

A day in Harlingen, Netherlands

A day in Harlingen, Netherlands

Back in early December, we spent a long weekend in Vlieland and now we were returning, but this time for a week.   When my post about our time there is done, I’ll link it back here and this post will be all about Harlingen.  To make our trip up easier, we decided to take the 9 am boat on Saturday and to say overnight in Harlingen on Friday.   So Friday, the last day of school, we took the train from Den Bosch to Harlingen via Utrecht & Leeuwarden.

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Harlingen is a city that is mainly seen as a boarding place to take the ferry boats to one of the Wadden islands – specifically Vlieland or Terschelling.   Someone told me there is a ferry to Texel too but I don’t think this is the case now.  I think that ferry is only from Den Helder now – might have been some years ago?    I could be wrong, but no point in arguing when you only seen two boats going in and out – Vlieland and Terschelling and never Texel…wink wink!

We booked two rooms at the Hotel Zeezight which is in an ideal location on harbor. With a perfect location – just opposite the ferry terminal, we knew it would be easy to get there from the train with our bags and in the morning, super easy to get to the terminal. Plus depending on what time we would arrive in the afternoon, I hoped we could walk around and explore the place a bit before dinner, etc.

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View from my room was very nice – I took a few shots to see the light changes.

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Both of the rooms were super clean, great showers, the staff were very friendly.  We did have dinner there – but I found it just okay. For the price, I don’t think it was truly worth it.  My 11 year old & I did enjoy the oysters, however.

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When we sat down for dinner, it was immediately clear that there was a wedding going on in the main dining area.  Yes they were loud, kids going in and out.  Truthfully, we were not bothered by them, but I think the hotel should have told us before they took our reservation.  Some older folks, clearly they were not thrilled.   We didn’t opt for the breakfast at €15 per person  [€60 = wasn’t worth it] as we wanted something easy on the boat, but I did get two take away coffees from the lobby and brought them back to the room.

We walked around the town for a bit and I took photos with my iPhone 8+ .  The buildings, typically Dutch are very cute and each one varies from the other – which I love!  Here are some of my favorites along my walk.

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We had only about 1 hour and 20 minutes before our dinner reservation at our hotel, so I didn’t do this.  But if you want to discover everything about this place and listen to the many stories and anecdotes, you should book a guided city tour that starts at the Grote Bredeplaats near the tourist information.

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It was only as we walked away did I notice you could go the top – next time we head to Vlieland – we’re walking up.

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Always fun for kids to have the bridge open immediately in front of you and watch a boat sail past.

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As you can see from the photos above – Harlingen is echt een heerlijk stadje!

If you have an early morning boat to catch to one of the islands, I highly recommend you do what we did – take a hotel, visit this lovely town and then head out on the first boat the next day.

There are festivals in Harlingen  which are outline here and and historical things to see which I didn’t mention – both can be found here on the vvv site.