A Day Trip to the Oldest City in the Netherlands: Nijmegen

When you think about cities to visit in the Netherlands you probably think of the big tourist ones like Amsterdam, Rotterdam, perhaps Delft or even Leiden.  As we live towards the middle of the country, and wanted to explore someplace new, we headed over to Nijmegen – the oldest city in the Netherlands. It has been around since the Roman times which is over 2000 years!

The drive wasn’t so long and we parked in the lot under the Holland Casino – so it was a great location to explore the city.  We first walked through the gates and down along the River Waal watching the cargo ships pass and then up the hill to the shopping streets.

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Before we did though there was a mini festival going on – about plastics and no longer using plastics – especial single-use plastic – something we can all get behind as much as possible.

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Either visit the VVV or download the city guide here for more information on the city including a map, etc.

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The city is also home to the first Catholic university in the Netherlands, the Radboud University Nijmegen, which was inaugurated in 1923 as the Catholic University of Nijmegen. The university hosts some 19.000 students across seven faculties, all located on an attractive, green campus on the former Heyendael estate.  With so many students, the nightlife in Nijmegen is pretty good!

The city of Nijmegen hosts several museums, the most famous of which is the Valkhof Museum. Situated on the site of an old Roman encampment and, many centuries later, the residence of Charlemagne, the museum houses a major collection of Roman antiquities, old masters, and modern art.  Unfortunately, we didn’t go in this time, but on a future trip we certainly will visit! 

In the summer there is a beach down by the river where you can go to escape the heat as this part of the country is one of the warmest!

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Nijmegen is also famed for it’s annual Four Day Marches, the largest marching event in the world. Thousands of people flock to the city and the surrounding area to take part in walks of 30, 40 and 50 kilometres over a four day period. The accompanying festivities, know as the Four Days parties, draw some one million visitors each year.

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We had a little walk around, through some of the streets, by the beautiful Stevenkerk,

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We, along with the entire city, stopped at the beautiful Grote Markt area for a beer in the sunshine before heading home.

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It’s definitely a nice city and we’ll surely be back to visit some of the museums and other interesting things in the city, and maybe do a little shopping (M saw Primark – cheapest shop ever!) and perhaps a walking tour with our smartphone – only available in Dutch!

Also something historically important is that it was bombed by the Americans by mistake! You can learn more about it by clicking the link from the Liberation Route site.

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Maisdoolhof Udenhout

=Yesterday was nice fall weather and I wanted to find an outdoor farm-type place for the kids to run around outdoors.  While it is no Davis Farmland, I found a place about 20 minutes from Den Bosch so thought it would be perfect for the afternoon.   I read on their facebook page that it was the last day before the corn field maze would be cut down and the corn feed to the cows.  It opens in July so peak time to go is the mid-summer I guess.

So after Soren’s football game, we headed over to Maisdoolhof Udenhout which is just on the edge of the National Park Loonse en Drunense Duinen.  It’s the place where we’ve rented bikes for Maebh’s birthday two years in a row – year one, year two.

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As you can see the corn was very dry and you could see through so not the most ideal time for this type place, but still it was open and so we did it.     I thought it would be more like the North Norfolk Wizard Maze which was a lot of fun too.

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You first get a photo card (one of the photos listed was not present) and a clue sheet which you must read the questions (all in Dutch) and fill in the answers to spell out a phrase.  A few I didn’t have a clue, but once you fill in most questions, you can guess the phrase.  After you turn in the papers to the shop, you get a prize – popcorn – zuur or zout.

Inside the maze there was a few activities including a plank and some fake cheese wheels – based on their skills with these fake ones, they’d never be suited to work at a cheese market :). Speaking of which, I’m really interested in visiting Alkmaar or Gouda one of these times to see the real cheese markets in action.

We knew it’s not the same New England farm, Fall Foliage experience you’d get back home, but it was still fun.  I’m hoping that next year we can spend our Herfstvakantie in New Hampshire in 2019 – fingers cross next year.   We’ll never be there for Halloween due to school vacation, but we could be there for 10 days during the leaf peeping season!!

This place also has kids birthday parties and other themed parties so might be fun to return next season. You can find more information on their facebook page or their website here

 

 

 

Speelland @ Beekse Bergen

As we have season pass for the Beekse Bergen Safari Park and the play park, we set out to check out what Speelland park was all about. The weather was a but nippy but dry and as the park just opened for the season we thought we would visit. The kids enjoyed it and will be back on a warmer day!

When you walk in the first thing you get is this water pistol thing – which on the way out our kids soaked each other so making the drive home a wet one!

They had some giant balls filled with air which were covered by a rope. Fun for about 5 minutes – I thought it would hold them longer.

A few rides on areas.

A big playground on sand with lots of water.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a water area without a floating bridge which requires the kids to pull themselves across.

A bar of course.  If Nils was with us, we’d surely be there.

A set of ride on go carts for smaller kids – €1 a ride.

A smaller kids ride for little kids.

And proper go carts at €2 a turn. These petrol fueled carts are for older kids of a certain height (1.40-1.70 I think) which our 10 year old LOVED.

 

The kids also liked a ride over the water.

 

 

Trampoline park which one minute it’s packed then next minute it’s empty.

 

 

There was also a larger water slide which was closed – but same deal without the diploma no going on it.

We did have lunch at the cafe – sandwich, smoothies and fries but you can bring your own stuff.

Overall it was nice day out but definitely a place where it is better in warmer weather where the kids can cool off in the water.  Our kids at 8 and 10 are a bit too old for a lot of this park. I’d say 4-6 is the ideal age.

We have a season pass this year so we will visit for the water area but not sure we’ll renew next year.

Openluchtzwembad Staalbergven – Oisterwijk, Netherlands

Yesterday was April 22 and nearly 30 degrees! Being one of the last hot days in the forecast and N’s last day here for two + weeks, we wanted to find a place where we could swim and take advantage of the great weather.

I found Staalbergven on the internet which showed an outdoor pool and a lake. Of course being April it wasn’t going to be warm very water but figured a place to splash around is good enough. Turned out the big pool with diving boards was still closed – and as our kids don’t have their swim diplomas yet, they couldn’t go in without us and arm bands – so fine by us.

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The place was great – really looked like a kids summer camp you’d find in the US. There were canoes, a lake with a dock island, playgrounds, blow up soccer pitch, a baby pool, medium pool with water slide, cafe, etc.

When we arrived it was very quiet but as the day went on more came yet not too crowded.

Nils took the kids down the waterslide into the freezing cold water!

The lake area was great too. I only went in up to my knees to cool off.

A zipline which went over water (1.5 feet max) so they did that a bunch of times.

On the edge of the dock is an area with loads of frogs which were making cool sounds.

Before we left we had a popsicle to cool down but did not get anything from the restaurant. It’s a great place and we surely will be back again to use the pool – €4 for kids and €6 for adults. There is a seasonal pass but I don’t think we’re going to visit enough to justify the spend.  Living in Den Bosch city centre, we’ll probably visit the Zuiderplas more but I do love the pool and lake option.

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.

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There was some sort of honking truck rally where over 100 (yes!) Tucks drove by honking their horns.  Some loved it – to me it was sooo over the top!

 


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 return 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 and enjoy Zuid Limburg, both cities.

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 Het Genieten after.