Entries in Netherlands (8)

Monday
Apr072014

Dutch escape part 2 {Giethoorn, Urk and De Haar}

hi!
If you're just joining, you should check out the beginning of this little adventure here.
Or if it's too much of a bother, here's the cliff's notes :)


We had a couple of days off and decided to head North to a new area of the Netherlands for a little adventure. Day 1 was the pedestrian/boat only village of Giethoorn and the fishing village of Urk and now we're at day 2!

I took a big gamble and decided to stay in a Hostel with my friend and our kids. It's been a long time since we were 20-something hostel-stayers, and it's certainly a different story with kids in tow. Here's a couple of observations about taking the hostel plunge :)

1. The 2 times i've ventured to a hostel here in Europe with kids has been that it advertised something unique/special. In Ljubliana, it was a converted old prison that got RAVE reviews (i, on the other hand, gave it a 4 out of 10). On this one outside of Utrecht, it was the chateau like grounds with animals, a playground and a pancake house onsite that enticed me!
2. It's a LOT like camping (which kids think is a lot of fun), so if you're adventurous and treat it as such, it could be your lucky day!
3. Take off your glasses/take out your contacts and the cleanliness standards might not bug you as much now that you're middle aged :)
4. They have private rooms, so of course, make sure and book those!

We totally lucked out with Stayokay Utrecht/Bunnick. The grounds were amazing, the room was a lot like camping (the kids made their own beds and did great!) and all for the grand total of 99 euro for all 6 of us. Sweet! ( i ended up giving it an 7 out of 10 on booking.com.. not bad for a hostel I think!)

Here's a few pics to share..
It's along a canal and we saw tons of walkers/bikers taking advantage of the beautiful weather and landscape.
The old horse stables are now the reception area and extra bunks..
There was a GREAT pancake house just a few hundred yards from the house. (ok, so i've been to many Dutch pancake places by now and i think they're all great, but this one was charming, packed AND yummy!) :)

the grounds were really outstanding ..
We then drove about 30 minutes to De Haar castle on the other side of Utrecht. It's a REALLY neat Dutch castle that oozes red and white Flemish charm. Story goes that a family member of the original 13thc castle ruins had a vision of buliding a new version atop the ruins, but didn't have the funds. Luckily, he married a Rothschild and voila: unlimited funds in the late 1800's to make his dream a reality! See for yourself!

De Haar castle:
Tips for visiting De Haar:
1. you have to visit with a guided tour and it's NOT in English (you get a headset, but have to walk with the group). I wouldn't recommend for kids under 8 or 10 probably..
2. There's a CUTE village that was moved so the owner would have a better view (!?), so you should definiltey have lunch there if you have time. (we didn't, but drove thru)
3. I can imagine it would be crowded but even more beautiful in the summer when the gardens were at their peak, so I'd go early!

So that concludes our little Dutch adventure! I hope you enjoyed it as we did and it inspired you to get out and see something new wherever you are!

Many more spring adventures on the docket, so check back soon for more!

Wednesday
Apr022014

A quick Dutch escape {Giethoorn, Urk, & De Haar}


The kids had a 4 day weekend last week (you'll find me saying that A LOT over the next few months.. yay!) and we were looking for a quick driving trip
we could do on the Thurs/Friday. ( i know you expected more of me, but little sis had a theater performance on the weekend, so we had to be back to watch our favorite girl!)

There was a little loop in the northern Netherlands that I'd recently read about and decided it was perfect for our short getaway! Fortunately, we had some friends that were keen to join and off we went early Thursday morning. Destination: Giethoorn. It was the furthest spot on our agenda at 3+ hours, and we worked our way back over the course of the 2 days.

What's special about Giethoorn you say? :) Well, it's known as the "Venice of the north" with over 150 bridges and it's pedestrian/bike/boat only policy. We rented a little motor boat (my friend was an excellent captain so I could take photos (thanks again, Dani!!).. as were the kids at times!) and off we went on a gorgeous sunny day!

* a few of tips if you decide to embark on this adventure:
1. off season is great because I've read it can be quite crowded in the summer. However, looking at photos of the village in the summer, when it's lush and green and blooming made me think I'd like to see it then too! But if you go in the summer, make sure and go early before it's too crowded.  Here's where you rent your boat if you go: Whisper boats.
2. So, if you do go and it's a VERY windy day, DONT go out into the big white-capping lake!! :) (yes, I'm saying this from experience.. haha). The canals are like a fork and all go one way. There were hardly any boats out but we thought we had to stick to the one-way rule. After 2 failed attempts at going in the lake, we had to abort and go back the wrong way down the canals, which turned out to be ok a local told us!? It kind of added to the fun and stories we now have to share, but I'll save you a soaking :)
3. bring your sense of adventure if #2 happens! haha..

 Enough words.. let's get to the fun part. Giethoorn in photos:

the whitecapping lake (and little miss dramatic) :)
Next stop: the fishing village of Urk.

 

So that concludes day 1 of our adventure. Day 2 is up next! Thanks for looking!

Monday
Mar312014

Graffiti Ghost town of {Doel, Belgium}

There's a genre of urban photography that involves living quite dangerously.. photographing abandoned bulidings, castles, train graveyards, which often times involve tresspassing, guard dogs, even the threat of being shot!?  So since I don't live so dangerously (you've seen my cute kids, right?!) :) more my speed was visiting the urban ghost town of Doel, Belgium, near the Dutch border. I'd read about it online and it's been on my to-do list for quite some time. Enter a 1/2 day free a couple of weeks back with blue skies, and voila! Safe urban photography hunting we went!

Doel is just about 20 minutes north of Antwerp and 5 min from the Netherlands. After Antwerp, we weaved our way thru the HUGE Antwerp ship channel and finally, made it to Doel.

Here's the history in a nutshell:
Doel was first documented in 1267 and until the 18thc was an island, surrounded by purposefully flooded land. It still boasts the oldest stone windmill in Belgium (we had a tasty snack down below!) and in 2008, was set to be demolished in order for the port of Antwerp to swallow it. Enter 200 very fiesty residents and some riot police and 7 years later, the town is still hanging on by a thread (minus about 190 residents I think??). But what draws people these days to the dilapidated village are the scores of abandoned buildings that have been tagged by grafitti artists. It really is something to see! A great place for a photo shoot on a sunny day!

Here's some of my faves: 
can you spot my 3 family members below?? :)
The windmill with gorgeous blue skies!
oh and did I forget to mention the nuclear reactor nearby!?? Talk about juxtaposition!
Must be low tide??!
We had a snack/drink just below the windmill (It was PACKED on this sunny Saturday!), and then headed just 10 minutes across the Dutch border. The hubs and his iphone discovered a Dutch "Atlantis" of sorts just across the border! Story goes that there was a town called Saeftinghe in the 1300's that was flooded and lost forever in the All Saints flood of 1570. And for the real history geeks reading this, here's a nugget for you: "A legend of Saeftinghe attributes the All Saint's flood to capturing a mermaid and not setting her free. This caused the region to be cursed by the merman, and led to the flood that destroyed the towns of Sint-Laureins, Namen and Casuwele, killing all inhabitants. The legend holds that a tower bell calls for help from the sunken town."

How cool is that!? you had me at  "captured mermaid"!! haha.. So there's a vast nature perserve there now with miles of boardwalks that we read AFTERWARDS you should never go on alone bc of high tide. oops!
It's called Verdronnken land van Saeftinghe if you're ever in the area.

Turns out there's a CUTE Alice-in-Wonderland-esque restaurant just across the parking lot. We were full from our windmill snack, but I still snapped a few pics and hope someone gets to visit it one day and will report back!

ok! I hope you've enjoyed this way-too-lenghty tour of all things urban artsy and flooded mermaid-cursed :)
Check back for more adventures soon. Spring has sprung and it's time to explore!