Valkenburg, The Netherlands

Yesterday was the start of the two weeks Meivakancie and wanted to take a day trip somewhere. We set out for a visit of Monschau, Germany, but after some traffic, we agreed to got off in Valkenburg in South Limburg. the A2 was a bit backed up with traffic entering the town but we found paid parking area quite quickly with a maximum daily rate of €8 (not bad!)

I personally had never been there and didn’t know what to expect. The town didn’t feel typically Dutch but rather German or Belgian. It has a different ambiance and the area of Limburg actually has ‘hills’ something you don’t have in flat Netherlands.

There was a very picturesque touristy inner historical city with shopping area, loads of cafes and bars. The typical ones for people watching and having a drink in the sun.

here was some sort of honking truck rally where over 100 (yes!) Tracks drove by honking their horns.

 

After a simple lunch, we walked to A Gogo Activity park. You can drive up the back but we took the gondola up and down for €14 family ticket (pin is an option).

Now, I am sure it’s very safe and no one falls off, but my fear of heights didn’t help on the gondola both up and down. When over grass I was fine, but I hated the big hole.

Here is a video with Soren going down and Maebh going up.

 

 

At the bottom, we got sucked into buying these two tourist photos at €3.50 each but it was the kids who wanted them. I get that so why not!

At the top there is restaurant/bar, kids tubing area, an alpine slide and zip line. It seems like loads of lads and stag parties spend the day here doing the activities, have drinks then walk through the town doing silly things. Like one guy dressed in a banana suit with a GoPro on his head.

The kids and Nils did the alpine slide – of course, I would NEVER do it!! You can control the speed with the break but we saw a few guys hit the walls as they didn’t bother breaking – I am thinking they go some friction burns as a result.

 

 

 

I have some still photos from my other camera which I will upload here today. Overall they really enjoyed it.

Kids under a certain age need to ride with an adult – someone said 12 but I changed to under 10, as our son who is 10 could ride alone but our 8 year old needed an adult.

Each turn goes two loops – first outer than inner tubes and a viewing area for those of us not going on.

Maebh did the small kids tubing area for a €3. bracelet you can have unlimited turns.

 

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We’d like to back to visit the famous caves. The two caves which are the most interesting to visit are Velvet Cave (Fluwelengrot) and Town Cave (Gemeentegrot). Two old limestone caves, they both offer different experiences to guests. While Town Cave features art dating back 2000 years, Velvet Cave was used during Second World War as a hiding place and even houses a underground chapel. The extensive labyrinth of tunnel system in Valkenburg is over 200km (124miles) in length and would be great yo visit. Nils told the kids about mountain biking through them when he was a teenager on a family visit.

I might be tempted to returm to visit during the Christmas holidays as the town has nice Christmas Markets. I really love European Christmas Markets!

Also I would book a hotel in advance to be able to spend ample time doing the caves. Might even consider staying in Maastricht to take in both cities but we went home.

Second annual birthday bike ride at Loon

After a long action-packed weekend, we wanted to do something fun as the four of us. The kids have been suggesting a long bike ride again so we decided to do the trip back to the Loonse Duins.

Here is a funny photo of Nils and the three kids. This time I did really have a kids bike – 26″ wheels.

Like before, when we started out Maebh was very wobbly but in not too much time, her confidence and balance we’re better. Just sometimes you want to tell a few other cyclists where to go when they fly by or those who ride three wide and see a little girl coming towards them.

We stopped at Her Genita afain

Trim Castle

When my parents visited, we went to Trim Castle in Meath.

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Trim Castle is the largest Anglo-Norman castle in Ireland, it was built by Hugh de Lacy when he was granted the Liberty of Meath by King Henry II in 1172. Construction of the massive three storied Keep, the central stronghold of the castle, was begun in 1176 on the site of an earlier wooden fortress. This massive twenty-sided tower, which is cruciform in shape, was protected by a ditch, curtain wall and moat.

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Trim Castle was the location for King John’s Castle in the film ‘Braveheart’ the 1995 historical drama directed by and starring Mel Gibson.

Here is a video from Youtube.

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Den Bosch Free City Tour

Yesterday was a nice, sunny Spring day about 13 degrees – which was the warmest of 2018 so the terraces were full and everyone was out enjoying the sun in the cafes. In the sun it was warm, in the shade it was cold – but dry so I took advantage of a day out in city of S’Hertogenbosh and took park in the free tour offered Den Bosch Free Tours.

Of course, we’ve been to the city a lot, did the Binnendize Boat Tour last year, our kids attend school there and we hope (fingers crossed) we’re living there in July, I never did a tour before.  I’ve been following the Facebook page of the group and this was perfect timing.

Couldn’t quite spell our names, but could do Maebh 🙂

Our guide Cora was brilliant! A full time History teacher – she knew her stuff and you could tell shad passion about the city.  She took us to touristic yet quite places & streets of Den Bosch. She shared very useful information about the history of the city (and The Netherlands) and showed us some important historical and modern spots of Den Bosch.  Oh and it was in 100% English which is absolutely brilliant for expats & non-Dutch speaking people to experience! I totally recommend this tour to people who would like to know more about Den Bosch & it’s history!

 

Beekse Bergen – Safari Park in North Brabant, Netherlands

Yesterday the kids were off school (it was a planned day so not sure if they were striking as I read on the internet but they had the day off and we needed to do something outside of the home). The weather was nice (about 14 degrees and sunny – celsius – we’re not mad). After doing a bit of searching for something fun to do outside, I remembered the Beekse Bergen Safari Park which is about 11 miles from our house (but driving it’s about 30 minutes. I know you can go the back roads, but I find the highway much easier.

When we arrived the main gate looked a bit like Disney World – and I actually thought it was closed at first, but then decided to follow a few people who drive into the main gate area and glad we did – we had a fantastic day out!

There are various ticketing options available including tickets only to the Safari park or only to Speelland (which was still closed for the season) or a combi which is entry to both! As we now live nearby, it hard to justify spending €24,00 p.p. for me and the two kids to visit the park once when we could get a YEAR LONG pass (called jaarkaarten for both parks for €62.50 each. Just attending three times in the course of a year, pays for itself. We do still have to pay for parking but instead of €9. it’s €3 and in mid-March they are running an offer buy 10 tokens, receive 2 free – so we’ll do that. I also received three booklets with coupons for 50% off entry tickets to other attractions like Blijdorp in Rotterdam, Apenheul, Zoopark Overloon, Aquazoo, Dierenrijk, Klimrijk and Aquafun at Sportium and Icefun at Sportium in Den Bosch and a lot more discounts including food in the park.

There are four ways to see the Safari park. 1) Self-driving in the car through the free-roaming animals. 2) On a bus which stops at various spots allowing you to see the animals. 3) By boat, which is seasonal so closed yesterday. And finally 4) by walking in the park (safely on paths of course. So with our new cards printed, we set out to visit the park. We agreed to first drive through the animal park.

As we started to drive into the park, I was telling the kids about the only one other time I was in a self-drive safari park in France where lions and bears were able to come up to the car. Here there were cheetahs free roaming but in the grass resting. Inside the park behind a cage, there were jaguars – but they all look alike to me 🙂

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Of course, there were zebras and giraffes and camels and deer – the gentle animals all roaming around and able to come near the cars.

Happily the lions were not able to walk up to our car but within distance to see them.

At 3:00 pm, we watched the Birds of Prey show on the far end of the park – which was cool. Unfortunately it was 100% in Dutch, so we didn’t quite get the whole thing but we’ve been to a few of these shows, we get the idea. Plus we were there to see the beautiful birds, right. My favorite was the owl – he was cheeky.

There is not a bad seat either, as there are two bird handlers so one guy walks at the top of the viewing area so the birds fly over each section.

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Throughout the park are playground areas for kids with slides, large jumping pillow and these wooden obstacle courses with ropes, which is prefect with kids full of energy. Our kids LOVED them…

There were other animals which we saw like rhinos, hippos, monkeys, goats. I personally found it comical there were black bears and otters sharing an area. The place is really big so I’m sure we missed some animals. Now that we have our annual pass, we can return again soon.

Apart from a snickers bar we bought at the vending machine, we didn’t eat anything but there are some places for meals and snacks in the park. Next time we’ll have an ice cream oh and claim our free churros from our discount booklet which we discovered when we got home. 🙂

Overall it was an awesome day out and we look forward to future trips and visiting Speelland when warmer. Two afternoons a week they get out of school early at 12:30 pm, so will surprise them by going straight from school as we’re already half way there.

Here are some tips:

  • Dress in comfortable shoes and in layers.
  • Drive into the safari and then you can easily park at the top of the park in the Congo.
  • Bring your own food (you can bring your own lunch/drinks/etc).
  • Parking is €9 but they run deals where you buy 10 tokens you get 2 free!
  • There is a holiday party and new resort being built so consider staying in the park – camping, safari lodges, and something really cool called a JUNGALOW are available.
  • Try your best in Dutch, but everyone speaks English and their website translates into English too.
  • If you plan on visiting more than 3 times in one year, buy the jaarkart.