If you have read my About Us page, you'll know that we have a Dutch background. Although I've moved on, a big part of my family still lives there, and you know how life goes, there is always something to stop you from planning things. So we didn't visit as often as we'd like to. Finally after so many years, me, my brothers and a cousin that's also working in the UK decided to invade during the Spring half term! Invasion is definitely the right word because they weren't having a holiday there, but they have kindly accommodated all of us (13 of us!) for a whole week!
Anyway, our priority wasn't really touristy things, but to see our grandparents, family and relive our childhood, mainly food! Ah yes! I made sure I ticked all my craving boxes there before coming back to the UK! And we also went to one of Europe's biggest theme park - Efteling, which is based on fairy tales (sounds familiar?!), and Volendam, a seaside tourism area to see windmills, enjoy seafood and we even visited a cheese factory museum too. Keep reading and you'll find out more about our trip!
Living in the North of England means that the closest port to ours is Hull, but we wanted to join my brothers on the same ferry (we had to take our car to bring back all the goodies from Holland of course!) so we left from Harwich port via Stena Line. The trip on the ferry was much longer than in the past, and although there was a children play room, there really isn't much to do on the ferry (unless you are into casino and cinema of course). Everything is more expensive on the ferry so if you do go by ferry do bring your own food, snacks, plenty of drinks (they charge 99 cents for a cup of hot water), and of course entertainments including books, tablets and MP3 players, etc.
Other than that the ride was stable and comfortable. We arrived at Hoek Van Holland after approximately 7-8 hours.
|Domtoren (The Dom Tower) in Utrecht is the |
tallest church tower in the Netherlands
Having lived in Holland when I was still a child, most of my memories was made up of snacks, toys and Efteling. Dutch food is very much influenced by Indonesian food, just like how Indian food has become part of English food culture. You can see satay sauce used widely, and Tokos (Indonesian shops instead of Chinese shops) everywhere.
The most common snacks in Holland is their plain Dutch chips with Dutch mayonaise (creamier and eggier), or the special ones that comes with curry or satay sauce, krokets (a bit like fried potato cakes but with different fillings in the middle instead of mixed up with the mash) and Frikandel (a kind of Dutch hot dog but not frankfurters). We of course had to had our fill of krokets! My childhood favourite was the cheese one, while my SiL loves the original (some sort of pureed meat, tasty of course!). Abby's favourite is the one filled with noodles (Bamie Kroket), and there are curry, satay and lamb versions too.
If you have visited a Christmas market in the UK, you'd have heard of Dutch famous pancakes Poffertjes. They are mini pancakes eaten with a good amount of icing sugar and butter. There are other varieties of course. And if we visit a fishmonger or seaside, we always have freshly fried fish fillets with their special mayonaise, and raw Herring with onions and pickled gherkins. Yummy!!!
And the rest of the Dutch goodies! Now you know why we needed a car to go there hehe. My favourite soup and canned food brand is Unox! And Smiths (which is the same as Walkers in the UK and Lays anywhere else) for crisps! You just can't get the same flavour here! Ham and Cheese (Ham Kaas) is my favourite, then there is Mama Mias and Bugles, which I think we have seen in the UK once before.
Anyway, I recommend all the above, so if you do visit, don't forget to try them out!
We were lucky that we had a fantastic weather on the day we went to Efteling Theme Park (actually everyday was lovely apart from Wednesday when it was raining). As mentioned before, it's one of Europe's largest theme park, and it's fairy tales themed. It was opened 3 years before the first Disneyland California (I'm not implying anything at all! *cough*) Their slogan is (excuse my cruel translation) As long as the pen continues to write stories, Efteling remains open.
Efteling theme park is divided into 4 areas, rides for older children, Aquanura (musical laser fountain, largest in Europe) and some special indoor rides, children rides and Fairytale Forest. If you have older children, you'd probably want to visit the first 2 sections first, but the Fairytale Forest is a must to visit, even if just for a quick walk.
|The Red Dancing Shoes. They really dance to the music!|
We thought that they looked a bit old.
Hubby said: "What do u expect? They've been
here for over 70 years!" lol
|Little Red Riding Hood.|
|The Six Servants. Seek the story out very interesting!|
|The Gnome Village|
|Sleeping Beauty. Love how they show that the whole castle is asleep!|
|The Donkey, The Table and The Stick|
50 cents and you get a "gold" coin flying out
from under its tail!
|Snow White. |
The Queen scared the life out of me and Abby!
The fairy tale forest has a large amount of trees and plants that really gives you the feeling that you are in a fairy tale. It's a lovely "nature" walk, and every so often you'll come by familiar and unfamiliar stories such as Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, The Little Mermaid, The Six Servants, Mother Holle, etc etc. If you like you can also buy the Efteling story book that contains all the fairy tales Efteling has. We bought the English version (I don't know Dutch anymore, what a shame!) although it cost 24.50 euros for each part (part I and part II)! or you can do the cheaper way and read the stories on Efteling's website (which I only just noticed).
|Enchanted Forest Ride|
We didn't manage to go to the bigger rides area, but we did go on a few in the younger children rides. This Enchanted Forest and a similar It's a Small World ride (we missed it this time) are both worth going. It's absolutely beautiful in there (my pictures didn't work out tho!) and the speedy ride downwards was a surprise but really fun!
|Villa Volta Ride|
Villa Volta ride is a bit like Pirate Ship, but it's mostly done by illusion, making you think that you are swinging really high! It was really confusing because your eyes are telling you that you are going round and round in the room, but your body only felt half of the gravity effect. Even if you aren't a ride person (I don't do adult rides at all!) you should at least give this a try. You get the same amount of thrill but half the amount of sickness!
|View of Efteling park from Floating Temple Ride|
It took us some time to find the Floating Temple, and although the view was quite nice, it was a bit disappointing as the ride finished pretty quickly.
|Raveleijn (Ravelin) Show|
Raveleijn is a recent addition to Efteling, with the story written specifically for them. It's a bit like Power Rangers, where 5 siblings found themselves carry special powers in the magical land near their house. Although the fighting moves are a bit slow (probably for the sake of the children), the effects are really cool! Trained ravens, owl, falcon and horses were used, the bad guy appeared from under the water, there was acrobatic skills and a robot dragon roaring fire! My nephew who's a Power Rangers and fantasy fan was gobsmacked, even the adults enjoyed the show! It shows 5 times each day, and free tickets are required to print out before the show starts, which are collectable as well. You can also buy the book from the gift shop although I'm not sure whether they have an English version selling as well.
Inside Raveleijn you can also dine the medieval way, but its a really expensive experience! We decided to spend the same amount for a sushi buffet outside Efteling instead.
Efteling claimed that this is the largest music and laser fountain show in Europe. It's certainly impressive, but it was a shame that because of the long daylights the laser effect couldn't be used. The fire was a surprise though and you can really feel the heat!
Our trip to Efteling was certainly memorable! The park was bigger than I remembered, and they are continuously expanding as well! We'll certainly visit again!
On our last day in Holland we visited Volendam, which is a tourist area but quite worth going as well. There are traditional windmills nearby, plenty of souvenir shops, a popular snack chain shop Febo (It's everywhere and you must pop by if you see one! Their heated vending machine is an experience you don't want to miss out on), fish snacks stand (preferably those that has extractor fan, meaning they will be re-frying your choices for freshness), seaside restaurants, poffertjes stand, studios that takes pictures of adults and children in traditional Dutch costumes (half an hour wait after picture is taken) and the above Cheese Factory Museum. I bet there are more things to see but we were in a rush so we didn't manage to finish our visit.
Although we went to Holland for 5 days, we spent most of our time visiting family and shopping, but the above touristy things were fun too and we'll most likely do it again on our next visit!