Verkeersexamen – School Cycling Training

The Netherlands has 17 million inhabitants and 23 million bicycles – 2 million are e-bikes. If you are interested in the safety cycling stats in the Netherlands you can see them here online.  In addition here are some addition outtakes found on the same PDF. 

  • Cycling leads to a longer and healthier life: – it helps counteract various illnesses, such as diabetes, some forms of cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and depression; – it is an efficient way to prevent obesity. 
  •  Cycling is relaxing, convenient, and economical: – cycling takes you from door to door and offers individuality, flexibility, and freedom; – it is a cheap mode of transport and yields substantial social benefit.
  • Cycling improves accessibility and, compared to cars, involves lower greenhouse gas emissions and less air pollution: – switching from a car to a bicycle saves an average of 150 g of CO2 per kilometre and 0.2 g of NOx per kilometre.
  • Bicycle traffic safety remains an important point for attention: – the traffic mortality rate among cyclists is not declining and the number of serious injuries is increasing. I am certain that one way to reduce the traffic mortality rate among cyclists and the number of serious head injuries is to require helmets, but I’m 100% sure that will NEVER happen.

No idea how many of those are kids bikes but Dutch kids learn to ride a bike VERY YOUNG! Most kids under two are zooming around on scoot bikes and by 3 many are riding without training wheels! It’s really cute and hard not to stare when you see a tiny kid riding a bike! Our kids both were seven when they learned to ride bikes without training wheels! So “late” but we were not living in the Netherlands so it was a bit different. They both had steps and used those to get around more.

A bit like the water safety and the swim diplomas, In an effort to keep the kids safe on their bikes, they created a special bicycle safety program.  Apart from parents teaching them how to ride safely, each year, most Dutch school children between Groep 7 & 8 take a “Verkeersexamen” (traffic test) sponsored by Veilig Verkeer Nederland . Depending on which region you are in and your specific school, of course.  The exam at our school is normally done in Groep 7 during the Spring, but with COVID the kids couldn’t take their exams, so that is why they are doing it today, September 18th in Groep 8. 

EXAMS – THEORETICAL & PRACTICAL 

The exam consists of two parts: an obligatory theoretical part, to test the children’s knowledge of road safety rules, and an optional practical part, to test if the children can apply what they’ve learnt when riding their bike in regular traffic. I only just today learned the second part was optional, as all but one child in my son’s class took the practical part.   I also learned that some schools do not currently participate. The main reasons are: not enough time to organise the exam, the exam route is unsafe (in larger cities) and some pupils don’t have sufficient cycling skills to take part.  The last part is due to a growing number of children with immigrant backgrounds who do not learn to cycle from their parents and they often don’t own bikes.  Surely, it is this group that would benefit most from compulsory cycling lessons and a cycling exam.      I’m part of this group, so I can relate. I never rode a bike around major cities like I do here and some rules are different than back in the US.   So when I first rode a bike around Rotterdam I was nervous but now I’m much better at it and do it often.   I still have a hard time getting used to foot breaks but my bike here in Den Bosch is easy and my main method of transport.    I am so acclimated to riding it around the city, I’d never consider walking to the grocery store when I can ride my bike.   

Most kids in primary school walk or are taken to school by car or by bike with an adult. But by the age of 12, they are expected to be able to cycle to school independently – whether it’s a short ride through the busy traffic of cities like Amsterdam or even in a 15-km ride along rural road if they live in the countryside. The cycling infrastructure is set up here and truly amazing. We don’t know yet where our son is attending middlebare school next year, but as of today his favorite school is 7.3 km from our current house which he’d absolutely ride himself daily. Unlike in the US where you take a school bus (and drive a car at 16 to high school) or and in Ireland/UK where kids take public transport alone due to the lack of cycling infrastructure, safety and overall a non-cycling culture. Here they go by bike in all weather conditions. Even in the cold, pouring rain – they wear waterproof outer clothing – that is miserable if you asked me! 🙂 Luckily we have *many* apps on our phones which we can see when we expect downpours and we can attempt to dodge the heaviest showers – though many times they all show different amounts of rain so it can be quiet comical.

The full route of the “Verkeersexamen” (traffic test) in our area was done for two city center schools. They kids were given a map and a route with a few weeks to practice. The nearly 5 km bike route provided different traffic situations that they would also encounter once they ride their bicycles to secondary school. The children had to cycle a set route with traffic situations that are typical for the area, such as a crossing with traffic lights, bridge crossing or even a railroad crossing. The route has to include certain basic traffic situations, such as turning left and crossings with and without priority. Parents and volunteers are posted along the route to score the children’s traffic skills and behaviour. Everything is taken into account, from sticking out the correct hand to indicate a left or right turn, to giving priority when necessary and stopping at a red traffic light.

My son practiced the route four times with different friends, and I even went along one time with him so he could show me the route and how he was to do certain movements. He was very experienced and confident and looked forward to the exam today! Coincidentally, when I was coming home from an appointment, I saw some of the children in his class coming around the corner near our house, so I knew if I waited a bit longer, I’d see him. Sure enough, he came around the corner and I was there with my phone waiting for him. Thankfully, it didn’t distract but I’m thinking he was thrilled to see me and his dad waiting for him on the corner.

You are allowed to make up to three mistakes. Truthfully I think it would be pretty hard to fail the exam unless of course, you ignored a red light, failed to apply the priority rules correctly and any other serious road safety offence. When he returned home from school, he reported all kids passed!

In March of this school year, it will be my daughter’s turn! While I’m confident she’ll also pass, she’s not trilled with cycling like her brother – who lives on his bike. She’ll certainly have a new, lighter bike before that, so that will of course, help her enjoy cycling more.

SS Rotterdam: Legendary steamship with a nostalgic atmosphere

I included a small section about our visit aboard the ss Rotterdam in my previous post A DAY OUT IN ROTTERDAM but after visiting a second time with the kids, I think this popular Rotterdam tourist attraction can justify its own blogpost.

The ss Rotterdam is a historical ocean liner from Holland America Line that sailed its first voyage from Rotterdam to New York in 1959.   On her maiden voyage she carried the then Crown Princess, Juliana of the Netherlands, to New York.  It was, at the time, one of the most elegant ships built in the Netherlands post WWII.  

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However, with the growing popularity of air travel, it was refitted to be used as a cruise ship for many years until it was finally retired in 2000.  In 2010 was brought back to Rotterdam harbor and used as a hotel ship.   [There was a bit of a scandal with a housing authority which bought the ship – you can read about it here in English]  

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HOTEL ROOMS

As we didn’t personally stay onboard the ss Rotterdam, I cannot give my opinion of the 254 modern rooms.   I’m sure they are pretty cool as they are all decorated in the 50’s style.  The rooms are divided into 3 different themes: Bahamas, Original, Manhattan. These styles are based on the various (exotic) destinations that ss Rotterdam enjoyed in her years as a luxury cruise ship.   You can look at the rooms online here.   I personally like aspects of all three – so no clear winner.  

 

TOURS ONBOARD

Today guests can stay, dine, and explore with a tour.  We didn’t do the tour – but there is a short movie about how traveling on ss Rotterdam really looked like back in the day.   With COVID-19 measures, a lot was closed off, but they offer several types of tours which you book at the gift shop.

Seabreeze Deluxe Tour
Steam & Chrome Tour
Rotterdam Complete Tour
Art Tours

Guided tours and even Kids tours – all of them highlight the ship, the facts and figures, some include visits to the steam room, and Captain’s Quarters. 

CHART & RADIO ROOM

During our first visit, we didn’t go exploring the ship too much.  However, when we brought the kids onboard during our Rotterdam – check out that blog post here: Euromast – Experience the Most Stunning Views of Rotterdam  we saw some guests standing up on a higher deck so we also went up to see what was there.  Turns out there was a whole area of the boat that we never saw – including a chart room, the radio room and the captain’s cabin – all of which you see during the self-guided.   I think that McElroy Chart of Codes and Signals would be very cool in Soren’s bedroom. 

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ESCAPE ROOM

If you are the adventurous type, and like to solve riddles, make the right connections, you might even find their onboard Escape Room fun.  I personally never did it before so I don’t know much about them but the record time of the Escape Room is 28 minutes and 17 seconds.  And the success rate is 40%.  I did a quick search as I thought was seemed pretty low, but the average success rate is 41% – guess it is normal after all. 

DINING OPTIONS

Clearly, the Lido Grill is a popular place to dine among the older folks – who were coming onboard for what looked like a special meal.    My guess is that if you want to have dinner in one of the restaurants at ss Rotterdam, you should book a table in advance. Again, we didn’t stay overnight but my guess is they’d have a great breakfast – as the hotel is a Westcord Hotel and from my experience with staying a week on Vlieland in the Westcord, they had a GREAT breakfast!

Once home to the largest red-light district in Europe, Katendrecht is now one of Rotterdam’s culinary hotspots. The Deliplein which is about a 10 minute walk from the ship is a small plaza that houses more than 20 restaurants and bars like Vislokaal KAAP – a fish restaurant whose menu looks great. This square is right behind the Fenix Food Factory (which we have on our list to visit) and very close to Hotel New York. Plus with the water taxi and water bus launches from behind the ship both taking you into the amazing city of Rotterdam.  I’d personally never dine onboard, if given the choice with all the option you have in Rotterdam! 

The fine dining option at the Club Room is temporarily closed as of March 2020 – which I suspect is due to COVID. 

GO OFF THE SHIP – VISIT THE CITY

If you are staying at the hotel for more than one night, you can rent a bicycle from reception.   Getting around the city is very easy – you can easily take it on the on the water bus and bike along to the windmills of Kinderdijk or in the Dutch Biesbosch – as it’s an e-bike so you can go even future!  Prices start at € 15, for the whole day!   They even offer scooters and rental cars if you prefer. 

LIDO DECK 

The kids found the pool cool – even though it was small, on a hot day, they’d definitely be interested in sitting it in too cool off. From what we can make out, no men can enter the pool without a shirt? Seems like an odd rule.

StarsStripesAndMayonnaise_Rotterdam_1406
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On our first trip, we had a couple beers in the Ocean Wine Bar because it was very quiet and only the two of us for the majority of time we were there. But with the kids, we didn’t have anything to to drink.

StarsStripesAndMayonnaise_Rotterdam_1329

WATER TAXI & WATER BUS

As I mentioned above both the Water Taxi (stop 56) and Katendrecht Waterbus (line 18)  both launch from behind (and next to) the ship and take you into the amazing city of Rotterdam.   Once you make your booking online for the Water Taxi, just go out the doors on the backside where you stand on the platform and wait.  Within minutes, your taxi will come and pick you up and speed you way – literally!  Hold on to your hat and your kids-  as they will fly!    The Waterbus is just down a bit from the boat but super easy to navigate your journey on their website (Dutch or English)

LOCATION 

ss Rotterdam
3e Katendrechtsehoofd 25
3072 AM Rotterdam

Apart from the Water Taxi & Waterbus (see above for specifics), you can park your car in the huge lot outside for a fee.  Our first time we came by bike and there is of course Metro station Rijnhaven.   With all the new construction going on in the area – check to be sure what is open and closed.  

Check out my blog posts relating to this fabulous city:

Top 8 Things For Families To Do in Rotterdam
A Day Out In Rotterdam
Maeslantkering: Visiting the Storm Surge Barrier
A Day at the Blijdorp Zoo
Cafe Dukok – Best Apple Pie in Rotterdam
Day & Day Hot & Hot – Hot Pot Restaurant Review

Have you been to the ss Rotterdam? Share your experiences in the comments!

 

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Royal Delft Experience: A Visit To the Museum & Factory

On Friday, we visited the TU Delft Botanic Gardens and while in Delft, we visited the Royal Delft Experience. The experience takes you through a history of the company – the last surviving ‘pottery’ of the 30+ that existed in the city of Delft in the 17th century. It was founded in 1653 as De Porceleyne Fles [translation: The Porcelain Jar].

Delft Blue started in Netherlands around the 17th century when the VOC (the Dutch East India Company) brought the blue painted porcelain back from China. This resulted in an inspiration for the Dutch ceramists, because this fragile porcelain was not created or seen before.

During your self-guided tour (available in various languages), we started with two short movies, presented in different rooms, with modern sound and other effects about the history and then the firing process. Their website explains the process in-depth and very well. Then you are free to wander through a museum, where we each had an audio guide to explain the 14 different stations. There is also a special audio tour for children and for the younger children (under 10) – for a €1 you can buy a picture hunt which the children learn all about the iconic blue and white earthenware on a picture hunt throughout the museum.

The tour allows visitors to watch one of the artisans, as he paints by hand, pieces of earthenware – very impressive. Notice the black ‘paint’ he’s using, it’s cobalt oxide, a substance that when fired gives Delft Blue its signature color.

The museum has a section dedicated to items made for the Dutch Royal family. You’ll see various commemorative plates, historic pieces, and a unique shaped tulip vases – which is for sale in the gift shop for €17,000!  

If that very large tulip vase looks familiar and you are in the Randstad area, you might have seen the giant version along the A13 going towards Rotterdam.  I never remember to have my phone ready to take photo so this shutterfly version will have to do for now.

Foto Credit: Robin Utrecht/Shutterstock

CREATION OF PROUD MARY

In 2019, Proud Mary was launched as a collector’s item as an attempt to create a contemporary look & feel to a very historical and traditional item.  She was named after Mary Stuart II, the wife of Lord Lieutenant William III.  She was a great admirer and collector of Delft Blue in the Dutch Golden Age and in large collections of Delft Blue were in all her palaces like Hampton Court and Paleis het Loo. 

The large ones are hand painted and that is why the cost €1299. and so much more than the smaller ones – which are €75.  These are decorated with a transfer.  See the entire collection here

BEHIND THE SCENES INSIDE THE FACTORY

Later in the tour, when you get into the factory, you’ll see workers spraying, molding, drying, painting and firing the pieces.

There is a very large replica of “The Night Watch” by Rembrant on the wall made up of 480 impressively painted tiles.

VISIT THE MUSEUM ONLINE

On their site, they have a nice kids tour which is even great for adults. No worries that it is Dutch, there are English subtitles underneath!  Alternatively, you can visit their VR online museum and navigate around the museum yourself. 

WORKSHOPS – PAINT YOUR OWN DELFT BLUE

PAINT A TILE AT HOME

You can paint your own Delft Blue tiles at home.  While true Royal Delft pieces are painted with black and fired (as explained above), but for this you will receive a blue paint.  The DIY home based, self-painting kits are €39.95 and are for two tiles! 

PAINT IN THE MUSEUM UNDER PROFESSIONAL GUIDANCE 

They also offer various workshops from plates, other pieces and tiles.  The tiles are done either in the DIY way above or in the traditional workshop – which means they are NOT ready to be taken home immediately as they must first be fired.  The products can be collected or shipped after approximately ten working days.   I would love to do one of these one day – just not sure what I’d paint on the tile or plate. 

BESPOKE ITEMS

You can also give a bespoke gift a tile or plate that is unique and personalized, which would be nice for a special occasion like births, anniversaries or weddings. You can add a name or date, etc

SCHIFFMACHER ROYAL BLUE TATTOO EXHIBITION

Delft Blue pottery and tattoos may not be the most obvious combination, but they have more in common than thought. Henk Schiffmacher is a renowned tattoo artist who has also curated exhibitions, written books and presented TV shows on tattoo art. The exhibition Schiffmacher Royal Blue Tattoo shows the link between tattooing and Delft Blue pottery, the Dutch traditional pottery that is made in Delft since the 17th century. Discover the history of tattooing and see the similarity between tattoos and Delft Blue. Henk Schiffmacher tells you the background stories of his drawings in the audio tour – which is only in Dutch regardless of which language your self-guided audio device is programmed.

Both craftsmanships, in fact, are rich with culture, tradition and symbolism. Henk Schiffmacher has made a number of unique objects with the master painters of Royal Delft, where the two worlds literally touch each other. The exhibition is visible until October 31st.

If you are visiting Delft and have an hour or two to spare it is a unique experience and I think worth it. The gift shop in the end is filled with some very amazing items from magnets to extremely expensive items.

I did, however, but a small little Christmas ornament to put on my tree. I already have a small blue and white porcelain windmill which I bought in the Netherlands many years ago on my tree – but I’m sure that is not “real”. You can always tell if your piece is genuine as it can be recognized by the hand painted signature on the bottom of the vase; the initials JT – Joost Thoof, the apothecary bottle and the word “Delft“with the code to indicate the year and the master painter’s initials.

ENTRANCE PRICES

Adults are €14 and kids (13-18) are €8.75 and kids under 12 with family are FREE!  Museumkaart holders receive a small discount. Check out their site for hours and more details about parking and other discounts offered.

Address:
Rotterdamseweg 196
2628 AR Delft
Netherlands

If you are interested in visiting Delft, check out my blog post Afternoon in Delft for ideas of what to do in the lovely city of Delft including a visit to the TU Delft Botanic Gardens.

TU Delft Botanic Gardens

TU Delft Flag

Today we decided to visit the Botanical Garden of the TU Delft. It is a public-oriented garden, as well as, a research garden and was created in 1917. Together with the university gardens of Leiden and Utrecht, the Delft Garden participates in the scientific botanical network of the Netherlands.

It has a very different feel than the Dublin Botanic Gardens which the kids and I loved to visit when we lived in Ireland.

After a brief stop in the gifts shop (which is also the exit), we were given a brochure with a map, then we were free to explore the gardens and the greenhouses at our leisure.

I particularly was fond of the cacti and the subtropical plants.

With COVID they implemented a one-way system in many areas but as it was a Friday afternoon and very quiet it was easy to follow. You can wander around looking at the various plants & trees – nearly all were marked.

If you were not sure of a plant, Funs has PlantSnap, a plant identification app on his phone which attempts to identify it. Essentially you can take a photo of the plant and instantly it comes back with what it suggests the plant is. Keep in mind it is not always accurate, as in this case. We are trying to identify these purple flowers – it keeps saying a type of lily. If you know, please share!

There is one particular section which I assume was dedicated to kids (currently closed with COVID restrictions) it is the Blotenvoetenpad – aka Barefoot path”, where kids are encouraged to take their shoes off and feel the different surfaces.

This website lists 24 of them in Netherlands and Belgium. It says on a barefoot path you walk a short walking route, a trail, over different types of surfaces: from soft grass and fine sand to shells, gravel and large boulders, from wood chips to wood stumps and thick branches. For children, the paths with the mud puddles are great fun, and the other adventurous elements such as the rope ladder, balance beam, dangling box and lookout tower. There are also barefoot paths that are mainly intended for a beneficial relaxation walk with natural foot massage. Other paths want to convey a message to the public. For example, the Hof van Twello https://www.hofvantwello.nl/ has turned it into an experience route, full of historical and culinary information. Many barefoot trails are free, sometimes you pay an entrance fee. An ideal activity for the summer, now that it is nice and warm. Do not forget to bring your children. Lots of fun! Humm, personally think I’d hate it as I have sensitive feet and would dislike stepping on the various textures, but I’d be open to try it once with the kids!

EVENTS & WORKSHOPS 

Listed online on their agenda of events are painting workshops, plant exchanges and guided tours for adults.  Then there are events for the kids (check out their site for prices and details). 

Expedition Corona

Saturday, September 12th –  Expedition Corona.  Especially for kids from 5 – 12.  At the entrance, each child receives instructions and then goes on expedition throughout the garden.  It is a fun day with lots of activities around health for humans. Due to the corona measures there are two time slots and full = full.  

Speurtochten

For children up to 12 years old who can read and write, they  have fun free ‘speurtochten’. They have to search the garden for letters to make up a plant or nature related word. They get to know a bit more about nature and receive a small appropriate gift when the solution is found. There is a new ‘speurtocht’ every quarter.  For smaller children who cannot yet read and write, they can do a special ‘speurtocht’ and search the garden for certain objects, animals and persons.

Halloween

In October our garden becomes a haunted Halloween venue. On Friday October 23rd kids from 5 – 12 years old can come and visit the spooky greenhouses, roast marshmallows and make some typical Halloween decorations. Dressing up is not a must, but much more fun.

Science Day

The last Sunday in October is Science Day in their garden and Science Centre Delft (which is next door).  Fun games and activities for kids and families, like examining water samples, seeing how glass is made and what plants look like from the inside. Kids can also discover crawly insects, unravel plant DNA and do the fruit quiz and maybe even see robots in the ponds.

Kerstival

On Saturday 19 December 2020 families with kids can do fun things in a decorated Christmas garden during the Kerstival. As you walk along the Christmas trees you can guess and sing Christmas songs. And once you are inside, you can make nice Christmas decorations and cards. Let’s hope the garden is covered with snow that day!

ENTRANCE PRICES

Adults are €4 and kids are €2.  Museumkaart holders are FREE.  You can also become a “Friends of the Botanic Gardens,  and receive an annual pass for the garden for a minimum of €12 which allows entry yourself plus one guest and a few other perks.   You can buy the card in the gift shop (which is manned by volunteers). 

Main Address:
Botanic Garden, Delft University of Technology
Poortlandplein 6
2628 BM Delft Netherlands

If you plan on visiting the TU Delft Botanic Gardens, check out my blog post Afternoon in Delft for ideas of what to do in the lovely city of Delft including a trip to the Royal Delft Experience

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Tips For Vacationing & Family Fun At Duinrell Amusement Park – Wassenaar, Netherlands

NOTE: This ORIGINAL post was published in 2018 and has since been updated in September 2020 after a recent day visit. With corona and our current situation, I thought one afternoon of fun would be amazing for the kids! Duinrell is the most economical park in the Netherlands and there are MABY day pass deals to ge had at Social Deals and Tripper.nl. Unlike Effteling, you can go for as low was €14 per person!

Here in the Netherlands, the kids have off two full weeks of school during Meivakantie and King’s Day. Having only lived in the Netherlands for a couple months and Nila had to go away AGAIN and for the ENTIRE time – the thought the three of us sitting around the house in the middle of the woods again bored is so dreadful.  Therefore, I looked around to find a place for the kids and I to have a mini-escape. I booked myself and the kids for a 4-night break staying in a Duingalow at the amusement park Duinrell in Wassenaar/ Den Haag.   We have been having GREAT weather last week (27 degrees!!) but it is now back to being chilly – too bad as we would have loved to make a visit to the beach during this trip as it’s right there!!

Duinrell is a family friendly holiday park, with a theme park and water park located in South Holland. It is surrounded by woodland, and just 4km from a sandy beach, Wassenaarse Slag, Duinrell is also a great base from which to explore Holland if you are coming from Ireland or UK for a week. If you are local, you’ll probably only spend a day or a few nights there as a getaway!

OUR ACCOMMODATION

There are several types of level of accommodations available – from camping, to safari tents to lodges with jacuzzis.  Depending on budget and need/desire, there are tons of options.  When we arrived, our Duingalow #9 was ready for us so we could go straight there.

I was actually pleasantly surprised! (Well, one issue – had trouble parking our big car with that terrible tree – but all in all – we had a fine spot. You can’t usually check into your accommodation until 3pm but are free to visit the theme park and check out the facilities from as soon as you arrive.

ENTER AND EXIT AS OFTEN AS YOU WISH

From our lodge, we could go immediately into the park. One great thing about this holiday is that entry to the theme park is included in the cost of your stay, so you don’t need to pay anything additional to get in when you are there – a great bargain, right? Also the theme park is about a 5 minute walk from most of the holiday homes and you don’t need to show a pass to get in – you just come and go as you please (during op. Except ours – we were the farthest duingalow but it was quiet so we didn’t mind. Each time we took a different route 🙂

It is also great for families with small kids so you can go visit the park for a few hours, nip back to your holiday home for a nap or lunch (or whatever) and then go back in the afternoon and enjoy a few more rides or even to the two giant playgrounds.

TWO GIANT PLAYGROUNDS

There are two really large playgrounds (with sandy floors) at the start of the park which feature slides, climbing frames, swings and roundabouts. These playgrounds are open all the time – even when the rides are closed. So at the crack of dawn, you can bring little ones there for a play or alternatively right before bed to burn off any spare energy they may still have.

TIKI BAD

There is a HUGE water park located inside the Duinrell theme park. It has over 1km of indoor water slides including a wave pool (with a gentle sloping entrance), a lazy river and a toddler swimming pool and waterslide inside a large covered complex – it really caters to EVERYONE! There is a large outdoor swimming area which is open from May to September – so it was closed when we were there.    Entry is discounted if you’re staying on the site to €5 per person (adult or child) for 2 hours and children under 12 years of age will only be allowed entry, if accompanied by an adult.

Lockers at the pool are free… just get one and remember the number we got two and then realised I still had a bag on my shoulder. Instead of opening our existing one, we got another.  But when we returned, we totally forgotten the number of the third. We were also convinced it was at a different set of lockers. Two workers, Denis and Zahid helped us tremendously. They are able to enter your security code to determine your locker number (but only if you are looking in the right area). In our case we were certain, it was in that area. They opened EVERY SINGLE LOCKER only to see we were WRONG!! We were in the original area where they found our two existing and third with the same code !! Grrrr we felt like idiots!!! We had a 2 hour limit included in our stay but didn’t go every day. With two kids in arm bands who can’t go on the large slides and being only one adult, it was not easy.  Getting the kids in, find unoccupied changing rooms, enjoy the wave pool a few times and the lazy river and kids poll area, we were out of time and with the locker mess up we were over by 45 minutes!!

AMUSEMENT PARK

The park itself has about 40 attractions – a combination for smaller kids and older kids/adults.  .  Adrenaline lovers and children aged 10 to 18 would get the most out of all the roller coasters and other rides. Of course some were way too scary for our youngest but not for our oldest. Some of the larger rides, which she would have gone on, she was just too short.   Also as I was here with just the two kids and I the one adult, it was admittedly harder than it would have been with two adults. That I would change in the future!!

Our kids really liked bombing people in the row boats. Especially ones who were unsuspecting ….

Soren liked the Dragonfly roller coaster, Rollerbaan and Wild Wings – all three Maebh couldn’t go on for height restrictions.

FOOD OPTIONS IN THE PARK

To me the food at the park was not the best and expensive.  The first night we had pizzas at La Place – not the brick oven pizza I was hoping to have. One time we got three french fries and two slushes for €17. I think that is expensive. Kids ate ice cream, churros, cotton candy and a chocolate covered banana with sprinkles as treats during our time here.  

MY TIPS FOR FIRST TIME VISITORS

  • You are going to need to take photos (passport-type photos) at one of the MANY booths all around the park – at €4, per person here is a money saving tip:  Take a photo copy of your passport, cut out the photo – DONE!  At check in, they’ll give you small paper cards and plastic clear stickers to put over the photo – you’ll need those to enter and exit the park and Tiki Bad.  No need to spend €4. per person on passport photos which you’ll never use again. Of course, if you have old ones laying around – bring them.  They are not fussy!!
  • Tips: bring towels (shower & some beach for pool) dish towels and a bath mat.
  • Travel size shampoo for Tiki bad – avoid having to re-shower at your duingalow.
  • Leave the park – go walk over to Wassensar (drive in pouring rain or if you are lazy).  Eat at the local restaurants and skip dessert – then enjoy the amazing ice cream parlor – Lucianos Ijssalon– you won’t regret it!   
  • Enjoy the Natural Market in Wassanaar each Saturday.
  • Pack a cooler with ice from home to pack loads if items you already have. Like for example – make a batch of bolognese and freeze it. Then when you arrive stick it in the fridge and have that the first night. The sauce is already made so all you have to do is boil some pasta! There is a grocery store onsite (not super expensive yet not Lidl prices) which has a lot but why do spend extra when unnecessary. You have to carry it!!! Of course, if you come from abroad and flying your hands are tied but if local and driving or even as many Brits do, pack up your car in the UK.
  • Bring zip lock bags or tin foil to make up sandwiches and bring to park. Food is expensive and not the best in my opinion! Portions are not the best either – skinny fries x 3 and two slushes = €16.95. Or you could easily take a break from the park – walk back your duingalow have lunch and return to park.
  • In our duingalow, we had a machine which used Senseo pads or coffee with filter (#4) if you need coffee. I brought a small container with a small sauce pan with frother only as I love a morning coffee with warm milk.
  • Bring extra trash bags if cooking, but they give you one to start. Also, dish soap a sponge, wipes and a few dish washing tablets – I don’t see the need to buy full boxes of these items. Salt and pepper from home or can take a few small packages from the restaurant in the park.
  • Shampoo & conditioner
  • Toilet paper & a roll of kitchen towels
  • Potato peeler if you use that cooking – didn’t see one in the drawer.
  • I read elsewhere their unit had UK plugs but ours didn’t – our plugs were local to The Netherlands only so I suggest a travel plug for your phone.
  • Change your pounds in advance – closest place to change is Leiden Station.
  • There was no blow dryer in the unit – and only two hand dryers in the pool area.  I can do without but for some might be a nice thing to have in their room.

BE SURE TO LEAVE THE PARK – VISIT WASSENAAR & SURROUNDS  

On Saturday, we left the park and visited Wassenaar. The town center was cute.  We of course made a mandatory visit to Kelly’s Expat shop was in order for some extra processed junk which we would not be able to find elsewhere – do no we really “need”.  

The village itself had all the typical shops, Intertoys, Zeeman, HEMA and Jumbo, etc and then lots of independent shops. We first had croissants in a local bakery and then walked around the Natural market. We ended up buying three pots of different sambal from an Indonesian man – Oma’s recipe, two others Madaam Jeanette and Indian. And then we had a stop at the French sausages where we bought blue cheese, congac pheasant and one more which I now forget.  One evening we wen back and ate sushi! 

I knew of a kids kringloop which truthfully was a bunch of junk – unless you wanted horse riding boots those were great. But Maebh’s recent horse riding lessons was a big flop, we didn’t need them.

LOUWMAN’S MUSEUM

As it was raining, we then decided to visit Louwman’s Museum. With our Museumkaart, it was free entry.  We did have a bite in their cafe before going through the collection.    I did a complete blog post on this – read it here:  Louwman’s Museum – home to Netherlands largest collection of private cars. 

ZWARTE PAD AT SCHEVENINGEN BEACH FOR OYSTERS 

We drove over to Scheveningen Beach and it started raining so we nipped into a restaurant where as I promised Soren at the seaside he can have oysters. The place we chose was the Patagonia Beach restaurant. The food was good, the decor was lovely being so close yo the pier but the service was awful!!!  Actually, I really think the worst I ever had in Europe. I think the only reason why the waiter got the job was that he was a gorgeous model-looking guy and could speak German to the bus load of old ladies who ordered decaf coffee and complained about their cakes being frozen inside.

RENT BIKES AND GO SEE NATURE

You can rent a bicycle, go-kart or a fun trailer during your holiday which allows you to go enjoy the surroundings on a beautiful day. The bicycles are rented through the Duinrell reception which is situated at the entrance of the holiday park.  All hired items are offered on a ‘seven for six’ basis: hire them for seven days and pay for just six!  There are also several sizes of gas cylinders available if you are interested in hiring for a BBQ.   For us we didn’t do this during this holiday, but will do it when we return and stay again.   There are suggested cycle routes listed on their site which bring you to Den Haag, up to Katwijk Aan Zee or to the Meijendel – kids will love the Monkey Bos. 

ARCADE FUN

Another fun thing for the kids was the arcade – the place where we spent a total of €50 over the course of 4 nights and got cheap, made in China plastic toys and a lollipop!!  But they had a great time!!!! I even got in on the action a few times and won a bunch of tickets for them. 

MINI BOWLING ALLEY & PUB

Below the Marketplace is a pub and mini bowling alley. While we didn’t spend too much time there we did have a drink once and played some air hockey in the game hall next door.  Next time we might consider bowling?!  

On the last night, Soren came in SECOND place in the FIFA 2018 tournament beating out 10 kids – only to loose to the oldest kid in the group!  Very proud!! 

IN SUMMARY

Overall it was a nice trip, but I’m glad to be home in my house, my kitchen, my food, my shower and my BED – but I’m like this at the end of all my trips. The bigger rides were a bit too restricting for our youngest who is a bit of a peanut for her age but it’s not the fault of Duinrell. The smaller rides were just that too small for our oldest. We did have a LOT of fun and I’d highly recommend Duinrell to families looking for a good value holiday with plenty to do. Staying here is a fantastic alternative to a traditional beach holiday. If you are coming from abroad, it is in an excellent location to explore other parts of Netherlands, so can easily be your base for a week.

We really want to check out the Efteling and then perhaps some parks in Germany in the future but will definitely be back to visit Duinrell for a day trip and a future stay – only I’m bringing another adult with me – doing this all as a single adult with two children can be very exhausting and not fun at times. A trip like this should be fun for Mom too!  

VISIT TO DUINRELL #2 – July 2020

My previous post was from 2018 – so hard to believe it’s been that long.   

We were looking at fun days out with the kids during the summer holidays and thought why not head over to Duinrell for a day of rides and fun.  With the kids being taller (well, Maebh not quiet tall enough for all the rides), it was still worth it.

First off it’s important to note that we are now visiting during COVID times.  If you are specifically interested in knowing what exactly they are doing at the park to ensure a safe holiday for guests read their measures on their website.  Only overnight guests were allowed to visit the Tiki Bad.  I get the reasoning but was a bit disappointing because it was HOT and the outdoor pool looked SOOOO inviting!   

We also made one mistake – we brought our lunch in a cooler bag and put it in the lockers near the entrance – which were €7.00 per day.  Not knowing there are two different sets of lockers inside the park – by the LePlace and by the candy store for .50 cents!!  So don’t be like us – choose the right lockers.  🙂

RIDES WHICH WERE A HUGE HIT

The kids continued to enjoy the rides…. both kids are a bit taller now and this time Maebh was brave enough to try out the Dragonfly roller coaster and more impressively she went on the Falcon.  Which I at 46 would NOT even go on… so for her it was her first time ever going on an upside down roller coaster.  A HUGE DEAL for her!

Soren and she waited in line for the Rollerban and Funs went on the other line so they could “race”.  Turned out Maebh was TOO short and had to come join me and unfortunately the boys didn’t quite line up perfectly, so one was a couple people behind and the race didn’t happen.   Would have been fun! 

Soren was thrilled to be able to go on Wild Wing again – and as he was the first person in the ride for his turn, he was told to go to the American flag – he was happy about that!  After he confirmed it was still hard to flip around – need to work on his strength! 

While both kids still enjoy bombing people (especially unsuspecting ones) in the Rowboats. 

They even went to together this time in a rowboat and allowed me to bomb them!

The kids together went on the Kikkerachtbaan, leaving me to not have to pedal Maebh the entire way like I did a couple years ago.  It was enjoyable to watch them go together… and not have to always go on the rides with them. 

SHOOTING GAME

As it was over two years ago, the shooting game is a HUGE hit especially with Soren.  If he can soak someone – even better!   We gave them a few Euros to play a couple times – and as they cannot do much with few coupons they received, they passed them along to a small kid inside the arcade before we left. 

WASSENAARSE SLAG FOR DINNER

As we are not living near the sea, I always take advantage of hanging out by the ocean.  As the park is so close to Wassenaarse Slag, we decided to head over there for dinner before heading out for the 1.5 hour drive home.  It’s only a matter of time before these gorgeous warm evenings are gone so it was nice to eat outside on the terrace by the sea at Beachclub BAIT Wassenaar.

An evening meal by the sea was a lovely way to end a nice day and we were all exhausted!  

VISIT TO DUINRELL #3 – Oct 2020

Now the kids are a bit taller, braver, have Dutch swim diplomas and I return with another adult – yippie! 🙂

Have any tips for when we return? Perhaps restaurants in Wassenaar or surrounds?  Or even tips relating to the TIki Bad – pm me or leave a comment below.  Our kids visited last time without swim diplomas, so we mostly spent the duration in the wave pool – they are so looking forward to returning in October and doing a bit more. I’m not a dare devil, so the most I’ll do is the wave pool and the lazy river – I certainly won’t go down any waterslides, but will certainly watch huge smiles on their faces as the splash down like they did at our vacation to Center Parcs.

Top 8 Things For Families To Do In Rotterdam, Netherlands

When I used to think of Rotterdam, I always associated it with a very modern American city along with the favorite football club of my son and Nils. But it was not until now doing my tourism research for our visit to the see family in the Netherlands which I see the city has a lot more to offer than Feyenoord games or the fan shop ;).  For example,  I knew they had a tram system but no idea an underground Metro.

Part of my attraction to Amsterdam and the Netherlands in general, is the style of most of houses / buildings. This is probably why I ignored Rotterdam for so long. It is also surprisingly a very family-friendly city with loads to do for children. I have complied a “top 8 things for families to do in Rotterdam” list.  But we need more than one day to get through the list.   

Note: I originally made this blogpost a few years ago when we were visiting the Netherlands and living in Ireland, but I just went back in and updated it with photos and republished. I figured now we’re living here in the Netherlands for two years and recently visited Rotterdam with [and often without] the kids, why not!

Tip: As with many other local attractions, when booking online, you can combine visits and save a few Euros!

#1 VISIT THE MARITIME MUSEUM

We absolutely LOVED this museum. Even if you are not a “water person”, I really think you’ll still find it interesting. I did a separate post on it which can be found here.   I went back a second alone with Funs and had a nice time – and a bonus, I wasn’t seasick on the platform.  We even went back a third time with the kids —  the four of us spent time on the platform doing the activities like landing the helicopter, repairing a leak in an oil pipe, etc.  This section of the museum is brilliant and a must do while there. 

As the museum closes early at 5, I took Maebh upstairs to Profession Plons, so she could have about 20 minutes of play up there as she enjoyed it when we were there the first time.  But now at 10, she is really way too old.  It is great for kids 3-8. 

#2 – TAKE A HARBOUR CRUISE 

There are a few options available for you to visit and sightsee by water including hop on and off boats and of course water taxis and aqua shuttle. 

First is Spido tours. Among the busy traffic of sea-going and inland ships, this trip is a special journey through one of the largest harbours in the world. You can see Rotterdam’s impressive skyline with its imposing buildings glide by, and then get a unique view of the harbours shipyards, docks and the hypermodern trans shipping of thousands of containers. Last but not least the tour will end with a view of the steamship ‘Rotterdam’, the former cruise flagship of shipping company Holland America Line. An exciting 75 minutes with clear descriptions of everything you see.

Second is Splashtours which is similar to the Ducktours in Boston but instead of a WW2 style vehicle it’s an amphibious​ bus!  You have the option of first taking a tour where you drive through the city before ‘splashing’ into the river Maas.

But unlike the funny Boston drivers who give live commentary, here your tour was TV footage and audio.

#3 – PANNENKOEKENBOAT

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If the idea of eating UNLIMITED Dutch pancakes with a variety of toppings while seeing Rotterdam by boat seems like your type of fun, you won’t want to miss this place.  They offers variety of sailings from 75-minute to 2.5 hours!   They even have a ball pit area to keep the younger kids entertained. While I’d find this a bit boring personally, I’d go along for the kids as I know they’d love it.   Book online here

#4 – PLASJWIJCK PARK

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This place is so unique and a place the kids loved to visit and were never bored!  It’s called an amusement park but it’s more of an indoor and outdoor play space with a petting zoo and water playground. The parks website is only in Dutch but this review is in English and is very thorough and shows how fun this place can be for kids. While we visited, I never got around to do a post on it.  We’ll have to re-visit.

#5 – BLIJDOORP ZOO – AKA – ROTTERDAM ZOO

Also known as Diergaard Blijdorp, it is recognized as one of the most beautiful zoos in Europe, it is home to giraffes, tigers, seals, gorillas, polar bears all having their own unique habits.  Other highlights include the award-winning butterfly garden area, Amazonica and an aquarium area Oceanium.  We ended up visiting this zoo without the children but will take them next time.  Visit my post – A Day at the Blijdoorp Zoo. 

#6 – EUROMAST

The Euromast is Rotterdam’s iconic observation tower. It was built in 1960 to mark the occasion Floriade, an international flower and garden exhibition. Its height at 101 meters was the tallest building back in the days. Unfortunately, Euromast quickly lost its title due to the ever changing Rotterdam’s skyline. In 1970, Euromast retaliated with additional 85 meters by adding a rotating elevator – ‘Space Tower’.

I just did a blogpost about our recent visit to the Euromast – read it here:  The Euromast – Experience the most stunning views of Rotterdam

#7 – SS ROTTERDAM CRUISE SHIP 

This former Trans-Atlantic liner has been transformed into a restaurant/bar and 254 room hotel. The ss Rotterdam is the largest passenger ship ever built in The Netherlands: 228 meters long, 28 meters wide and 61 meters in height. It was inaugurated by Dutch Queen Juliana in 1958. Until 1971 it ran scheduled services to New York City, but turned more towards cruises when air traffic became more popular. You can read more about the history and things onboard on their site.   We went here for a drink and I posted about it in my blog post – A Day Out in Rotterdam.  We ended up going back this time taking the kids on – but of course, it was drizzly that day too so no chance for a dip in the pool or a drink on the Lido Deck.  Read about my blog post here:  ss Rotterdam: Legendary steamship with a nostalgic atmosphere. 

#8 – VISIT A MUSEUM

There are several other museums to visit where the children will be entertained and at the same time learn something new. 

Natuurhistorisch Museum   Rotterdam features skeletons, stuffed animals, fossils, butterflies.

Museum Rotterdam ’40 – ’45  features all things pertaining to the War and the resistance. It’s a reminder of how people lived and what they did during the war. It is a treasure trove of information and stuff like cigar boxes, Jewish stars, etc 

Kunsthal  There is always something for families and children to do in the Kunsthal. Children between 6 and 12 years old can go on their own Look & Do tour of the main exhibition of that moment, while for teenagers between 12 and 18 years there are Viewer Guides. Get inspired by the exhibition ‘Masterly! Four centuries of drawing and painting’. Dive into the DrawingLAB and create your own work of art!

While I know there are so many MORE things to do in Rotterdam, these are some  of things to do with the kids.  When we do more things, I’ll add more details and photos.  Have any tips of fun things I can do with the kids?  

Check out my other blog posts relating to this fabulous city Rotterdam:

A Day Out In Rotterdam
Maeslantkering: Visiting the Storm Surge Barrier
A Day at the Blijdorp Zoo
Cafe Dukok – Best Apple Pie in Rotterdam
Day & Day Hot & Hot – Hot Pot Restaurant Review
ss Rotterdam: Legendary steamship with a nostalgic atmosphere.