Schipol Airport Adventure

While our original plans of ending our two week trip to The Netherlands over Easter in Amsterdam for two nights changed 😦 we still are flying out from Amsterdam on the 9:45 pm flight to Dublin.  Therefore we will have some time to kill at the airport. Thankfully Schipol is a very child-friendly place.

They happily got to take their train ride on the top deck while Nils sat down with the bags.  It was only an hour so he probably enjoyed the quiet time with his book.  The kids liked spotting good graffiti, bardges on the waterways and by the Ajax stadium where Soren gave a thumbs down.  I hoped to see tulip fields but no such luck!

Once we put Nils in the bar area, we set off to find The Planes @Plaza where the kids can design and print a 3D paper airplane for FREE! And sit inside an old cockpit and press all the buttons he/she wants. 

After we checked our bags, we set out for Nils’ spot, Murphy’s Irish Pub for more beer, bitterballen and nachos (this was dinner!). After a bit I had to leave the bar – absolutely boring and the kids and I walked into the shops.   They got Pringles for the plane and wyer but I could have bought so much stuff. I want a nice cheese assortment and Maebh wants soft wooden shoe slippers.

They do some plane watching – it’s a very big airport, so watching some huge planes could be a possibility but turned out we,’d have to go down a different area to see the really big ones.  Panorama Terrace is a cool spot.  All the planes in our section we’re for UK and Ireland.

We were going to look for the Kids Forest play area on Level 1 in the Holland Boulevard between Piers E & F.  It’s says it’s for kids 3-9 so our 9 year old might be a bit but we never made it there.

While we didn’t do it there is a Schipol Scavenger Hunt.

Think you know all of Schiphol’s secrets? Think again! If you’re a budding detective, visit the information desk in Schiphol Plaza to ask for a scavenger kit. It will help you learn all about Schiphol with thrilling tasks, trivia and more.

But I felt like most of the searching was before sending security, I thought it would be ‘safer’ to do it after, so steered the kids away from it.  At times I am paranoid about a possible attack in a crowded place and just a bit extra vigilant as an airport this big and crowded could be just that place.  I did see a few security guards but nothing like Antwerp Christmas market.  

They do Behind The Scenes Tours which looks great but the last tour is at 2:30 pm so it won’t work out this time.

Overall it is a very large, family friendly airport including baby areas to let them rest, and a yotel to rent a room for  both few hours, but do prepared for longer lines in security and passport control.  Oh there is a casino with blackjack and roulette tables but I kept far away! 

I am going to do searching for our next trip to Amsterdam and will hopefully update with photos from the Behind The Scenes Tour.

Top 8 things for families to do in Rotterdam, The Netherlands

When I thought of Rotterdam, I associated it with a very modern American city along with Nils and Soren’s favorites soccer team Feyernoord, which we have visited before.

It was not until now doing my tourism research, I see the city has a lot more to offer than Feyernoord fan shops ;). I knew they had a tram system but no idea an underground Metro.

World War 2, left a terrible scar on the city of Rotterdam. Being severely bombed by the Germans, the war left the city in total devastation that is why it has so many new buildings. A couple of buildings like city hall and a few small spots were not hit and they show how Rotterdam used to be. Delftshaven, Oudehaven or Veerhaven. 

Part of my attraction to Amsterdam and Netherlanda in general, is the 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 to do with children when visiting Rotterdam” list.  But we need more than one day to get through the list.

#1 – MARITIEM MUSEUM

We absolutely loved this museum. Even if you are not a water person, you’ll still find it interesting. I did a separate post on it here.  

#2 – SIGHTSEE THE CITY BY WATER 

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

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 transshipping 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 anphibious​ 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 humourous Boston drivers who give live commentary, here your tour was TV footage and audio.

#3 – PANNENKOEKEN BOAT

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.

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

#4 – PLASJWIJCK PARK

This place is so unique and a place the kids would love to visit and never get bored!  It’s called an amusement park but it’s more of a indoor and outdoor playspace 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.

#5 – ROTTERDAM ZOO 

Also known as Dierengaard 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.  

Tips: Buy tickets online and save €2.00 each and pack a picnic, food and drinks can be expensive.

 #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’.

Once you buy your entrance tickets, you embark on the super fast elevator ride to go up almost 100 meters in just 30 seconds. First stop, a restaurant Brasserie at 92 meters high which serves high-tea, luxurious menu and the view of Rotterdam on the side. The panorama platform is one level up at 96 meters. It has spectacular views of the ports, the city skyline, famous structures and of course the nearby Erasmus Bridge. 

On the same level, there are two hotel suites available for a premium price. 

From the panorama platform, it is another flight of stairs up to reach the Euroscope. It is basically a giant rotating panoramic elevator with sit down capacity of approximately 25 people. Euroscope starts at 112 meters and rises slowly in a circle to 185 meters for a spectacular 360° view of Rotterdam. The duration of the ride is about 7-8 minutes.

There are other things that you can do at Euromast. You can join the challenge of climbing 589 steps and try to break the record of 1 minute 47 seconds or zipline (yuck!). There is a kids club and a trail for the kids- even birthday party options. I we have not yet done this but I can see for some kids it might not be so exciting.

It is a gorgeous view on a clear day at Rotterdam’s tallest tower. But there is always a queue throughout this attraction whether it isfor ticketing, elevator ride, at the restaurant and certainly for Euroscope.

Tip: the city of Rotterdam practices no cash policy, so get this ONLY credit and debit cards accepted. Euromast adopts this policy and the nearby parking facilities too. Note for the tourists – cash is not acceptable! What!?

#7 – SS ROTTERDAM CRUISE SHIP

This 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.  

#8 – MORE MUSEUMS

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

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

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

While I know there are more things to do, these are some top choices of things to do with kids in Rotterdam.  When we do them all, I will add more details and photos.


Maritiem Museum in Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Today Nils has to be in Rotterdam for two meetings, so the kids and I are taking the ride with a him (no train costs!) And going off to explore the city for those four hours.

After looking around a bit online, I think the best thing to do is the Maritiem Museum and go from there.

The museum is was so awesome for both kids and adults!   As we entered the museum, we immediately found the lockers for our coats (we learned from our previous museum trips!)  

Then we headed up to the permanent exhibition, “The Offshore Experience” 

When we first arrived a worker told me we had to ‘enter at our own risk‘ and the kids area was on the 2nd floor and this is for ages 8+. But with a 7 & 9 year old, I said we’d give it a try and went inside. 

First you have a quick video introducing you to the process and safety of being on an oil rigging platform, activate your enterance card and you then actually get to stand on a simulated platform.   I had to really not look at the water as I got dizzy and seasick.  There are 9 ‘games’or better yet challenges you have to complete. Clearly geared towards adults but very cool stuff.  Soren loved it and think he’s got a future career mapped out. Maebh while didn’t hate it,  was more cautious and we walked down the stairsand Soren took the pitch black elevator which puts you on the ocean floor (again simulated).  Overall it was AWESOME section of the museum.
After about 1/2 day Maebh comes up and says, “I think this whole place is like about a boat!” Lol she had no idea what maritime meant!! 

This section of the museum was about cruising history and on-board ships.

The second floor was Professor Splash area (in & outside) which the kids LOVED!  They worked together and with other kids as they pretended they were working on the shipping docks moving containers with cranes, etc

I have to go in and add some more photos and more details later but great place and we need to return here!

Would be free with the Museum Kaart (Dutch residents only) but we paid €26 for the three of us so not bad at all.  A quick magnet at the gift shop and then headed home.  

Canal Boat trip on the Binnendieze and Market Day in ‘s-Hertogenbosch

Today we drove into ‘s-Hertogenbosch for their market day which is great and fills up the entire market square.  Unlike Boxtel where it is one fish guy, one cheese guy, etc here is multiple of each. 

Soren tried Eend (duck) sausages but we didn’t go back to buy it, as we still have the three from yesterday’s market including Soren’s kangaroo sausage.  We did eat Turkish pizza and lompeias – both were great!

And when given the opportunity to try things Soren took it! :).  My boy!!  I wish we had such a market in Howth each week!!
Tomorrow we are going on the canal tour throughout the town – it was sold out today!   It’s a very cute city and in the 1400’s was the second largest city in The Netherlands​.

Boat trips on the the Binnendieze are a unique experience.  You enjoy the many historical buildings, ancient walls and bridge archways which alternate with contemporary buildings.  The waterways have an average depth of about 1.25 metre and in some places so narrow that it is advisable to keep your hands and arms well within the boats.

The area was populated by the year 1150.  It was part of a stretch of highway sand bars in the swampy and wooded Delta Ara between the rivers Dommel and As.  In the 1500’s, ‘s-Hertogenbosch was an important and thriving commercial city with about 25,000 citizens.  Alsmost everything travelled by waterways because there were not that may paved roads and the few were very busy.  The Binnendieze is the only river flowing behind instead of in front because the river was there before the houses built.  Then when built the workshops were put in at the back to allow easy access to the water. 

The trip was great and very educational.   While mostly in Dutch he did do it in English as well for us and another group onboard.  Soren enjoyed it at 9.  Maebh at 7 was a tiny but bored at times but didn’t complain.

Market Day in Boxtel

Yesterday we walked around the market stalls in Boxtel.

The food is so fresh and looks so yummy. Without a list or plan you could go overboard buying fish and cheese and flowers.

Kids first got a warm stroopwaffle!  Hard to believe we didn’t get a lompeia but we’re hoping to get that today at the market in Den Bosch where if running, we are taking a canal ride.

And when Nils and Soren saw the various French sausages, we were destined to buy 3. Soren chose KANGAROO, CHORIZO and 5 PEPPER.  

Love all the markets so when we find them we visit.

Bike riding at National Park de Loonse en Drunense Duinen

For Maebh’s 7th birthday, our family spent a few hours at the National Park de Loonse en Drunense Duinen which is essentially is a giant desert of sand surrounded by a forest.  It’s nicknamed the Sahara of Europe.  

We really stuck with the trails and bike riding but you could easily walk in the dunes all day.

Maebh doesn’t like sand in her shoes so asked for a piggyback ride.  Lol the entire place is sand, so hard to avoid even with piggy back rides.

We came across an Irish horse called Sally. The rider said the horse is Irish so she can understand you jokingly. I am not sure if is that we spoke English, or is it the Irish accents we’ve definitely developed after living in Ireland for 2.5 years!?

We rented bikes at De Rustende Jager (The Resting Hunter #36 on the map.  

At first I suggested a tandem for Maebh but she really wanted to do it herself.
Don’t we look like Nils and his three kids?!

As Maebh only learned to ride a bike in the past week and has only been on her bike about four times, we were thinking we’d have to turn around in 10 minutes BUT surprisingly after a few stops and complaining, she got on with it and she rode for over TWO HOURS!

We had a little map with the route around the park and it was recommended that we visit Het Genieten #22 – a recreational place with a great playground inside and out and a water park play area.  So with that as our destination we set off and each time we stopped we kept saying  I just a bit further. 

When we arrived, The kids had to visit the indoor one so we paid €3.50 each but truthfully it was a waste for the whopping 10 minutes spent inside!  Outside was way better and as it was not raining or very cold, we should have said no to the indoor option.
Overall, the kids loved it and so did we… I think we’ll visit again during this trip!  It’s supposed to be warmer on Sunday, so perhaps we go then.

It was a lvely way to spend the day with the family and it was our first time that we went on a biking adventure.  Surprisingly my legs were not in pain the next day as I suspected they would be.   When back in Dublin, we’ll rent bikes in Malahide Castle or Phoenix Park.

Easter In The Netherlands

Nils’ sister is coming from Los Angeles to The Netherlands for two weeks in April over the Easter break so we’re doing everything we can to get over from Dublin for a visit with them. We all agree, to have all the nine cousins together would be terrific.  Oldest is 9 and youngest is 17 months if you don’t count to the current “bun in the oven” in sister #3.

Over Christmas we spent 19 days there, so I know there is a lot to do like a day trip to Eindhoven and visit the Philips Museum. Or we can do something new like the DAF Museum or Van Abbemuseum – both which look fun for the kids.  Of course, we’ll all have to return to the Steen Uil and this time Maebh should be proficient enough to ride a bike by herself.   And probably even the Oertijdmuseum. Speaking of farm, there is a goat farm in Veldoven called Geitenboerke which is not far away which we could look at visiting on the Sunday, their “look day”.  At 7 & 9, perhaps they are too old and not interested in feeding baby goats by bottle.

Perhaps if we want to head a bit of a distance we can visit the Maritime Museum in Rotterdam or even Splashtours in Rotterdam harbor looks super cool.  Discover Continium Limburg looks amazing and not far from Maastricht (1 hour & 20 minute car ride) in case we want to visit it the same day.

Amsterdam is at the absolute very top of my wish list with a visit to the NEMO Science Centre.  The Science Center NEMO was established in 1923 and its current building was designed by Renzo Piano. During its early days, the museum was known as Museum van den Arbeid, which translates to “Museum of Labor.” In the 1950’s, the name was changed to Dutch Institute of Labor and Technology and again in 1997 to new Metropolis. In 2000, the name Science Center NEMO was introduced.

Science Center NEMO Exhibits

With five floors to explore and discover, Science Center NEMO is chuck full of exhibit and hands-on learning experiences that will surprise and fascinate visitors of all ages. Exhibits include:

  • Space shower – Learn what cosmic radiation is and its origins through this unique exhibit where visitors can actually see these mysterious space rays.
  • The Search for Life – An interactive exhibit where visitors can discover the secret to life.
  • Smart Technology – A new exhibit that focuses on light innovations and how light affects both plant and human development.
  • Chain Reactions – Learn everything you need to know about potential and kinetic energy in this fun exhibit.
  • Soap Bubbles – A fun exhibit where visitors blow giant soap bubbles.
  • Phenomena – Discover the secret to gravity, light and sound.
  • Codename: DNA – Journey through your body to learn all about DNA, its past and its future.
  • Amazing Constructions – Find out why bridges and buildings are so strong and what the difference is between push and pull power.
  • Machine Park – A ball factory where guests can sort balls, check the results, dispatch orders and send packages on their way.
  • Journey Through the Mind – Learn all about the mysterious brain in this fascinating exhibit, which also features a collection of real animal and human brains.
  • You, Me, Electricity – Explore the exciting world of electricity with the help of Elektra, Europe’s largest humanoid robot.
  • Roof Panorama – View a spectacular panorama photo of Amsterdam and learn which architects built each building and how tall the city’s most famous buildings are.
  • Water World – At Water World, visitors can learn all about the water purification process.
  • Splashing Water Wonder – A water playground where kids can splash, play and paddle around in the warm summer months.
  • Teen Facts – Learn the science behind puberty and why teens behave the way they do.

Admission is 16.50 for anyone above 4 so I would make sure I got the entire day there.   Grrr… if we ever live in The Netherlands or plan on spending a good deal of time there, the first thing I’ll do is buy a Museum Kaart. They have the best museums scattered throughout the country we’d go on a museum tour and with that card, most of them a FREE entry.  It’s walking distance from Centraal Station so might do this with the kids alone but how great would it be to have a hotel stay for two nights in or within a short distance of Amsterdam at the end of our trip and then take a flight home from there.   Too bad hotels are a bloody fortune!

While we have been to The Netherlands many times we have never visited during peak Spring season and actually visited the Keukenhof!

I know the idea of walking around a million colorful flowers is not the most fun day spent for the kids nor my husband but for me would be terrific.  Perhaps I can go on my own – nah, I don’t think that would be fun at all.  Perhaps the playground & birds of prey could talk them into joining me. Something tells me that this is not going t be the year for me to visit the Keukenhof.   I know there are Dutch tulips cover the fields in the west of the Netherlands so perhaps I get a peak if not the real deal.  And if I can’t visit the Keukenhof, I hope to at least visit the Amsterdam Flower market on the Singel canal between the Koningsplein and the Muntplein. Update:  Hubby suggested that we go to the Keukenhof – ROTFLMAO – He’d kill me if we actually went together – unless they serve beer then he might just belly up to the bar while I walk around. 

I also think the kids would enjoy De Zaanse Schanse too.

I believe the plan is that we all visit the Efiling, a theme park which looks absolutely amazing for the kids!  I think we could go from open to close and still want to return.

I’ll come back and update this post when I find time as we travel around.  I’m taking my “good camera” with me on this trip.