Amsterdam, Centerparcs, Floriade

Just had a great weekend getaway to the Netherlands.  Decided to do a mixture of being tourists and “going native.”  Still trying to decide which was more fun.

Got a late start on Friday.  Didn’t want to start the school year off too badly by pulling my son out all day for a trip during the first week of school.  Got to Centerparc Het Heijderbos about 7:00pm and checked into our cottage.  Kelly and I had stayed in some Centerparcs the last time we lived over here and always had a great experience.  If you aren’t familiar with them, they are vacation parks.  You stay in self-catering cottages that have kitchens so you can cook if you want, but the parks also have several restaurants if you don’t want to bother.  The cottages have separate bedrooms and living rooms with fireplaces and patios with patio furniture.  They are all set in the woods for peace and relaxation.  You can drive in on check-in day to unload your car, but then cars are all taken out to a parking lot, so the park is mostly car free during the weekend.  Het Heijderbos has an Aqua Mundo, a Jungle Dome, a lake, playgrounds, mini-golf, bowling, children’s farm, boat rentals, cycle rentals, game arcade, paths galore and much more.  After a busy week and a long drive we were also very pleased to find much of the t.v. in the Netherlands is also in English with just Dutch subtitles, instead of being dubbed.  So we made some Spaghetti with “you’re welcome” sauce and watched a movie.  Woke up Saturday morning to a whole bunch of ducks enjoying the patio.

Ducks enjoying the patio.

Saturday was our day to be tourists.  Got an early start and headed into Amsterdam.  Was really happy to find how easy it was to use the Park and Ride at the Ajax Arena stadium.  For only 8 Euro you get all day parking, plus free transfers to and from the city via metro.  One important note though is that you have to use the metro tickets into and back from the city in order to qualify for the 8 Euro parking rate.  Mike’s number one priority was the Van Gogh Museum so we went there first.  Normally you can buy advance tickets online, but since they are getting ready to close for renovations, that wasn’t possible.  The next best alternative to avoid the really long line to get in, was to buy the i Amsterdam card.  It probably cost us a little more than we would have spent, if we’d paid for everything separately, but the convenience was so worth it since we had a such a short time in the city.  Sam had a blast doing the Van Gogh scavenger hunt that we got from the info desk.  He was really excited that they had something for him in English.  At the end of the scavenger hunt he turned in his answers and was rewarded with a free post card of his favorite painting.

Post card of Sam’s favorite Van Gogh painting

Also included in the i amsterdam card was a canal boat cruise on Blue Boat Company.  The cruise lasts about 75 minutes and is narrated through headsets in a wide variety of languages.  It was great and even Sam stayed amused throughout.

Waiting for the cruise to start.

One of the few drawbridges.

in the harbor

We spent the rest of the day just wandering the streets, going to markets and checking out some of the shops.  Of course, I just couldn’t leave without buying some fantastic cheese from the farmers market.  There is so much of Amsterdam left to see, but we had a great day, just scratching the surface.  I’ve decided that Amsterdam is another one of those cities I would love to live in for a year, just to take it all in.

Sam learning to drive a Mini at the Mini Cooper store.

Swans on the canal

Chinatown in the Netherlands

Bikes and canals everywhere!

Found a fun local artist and bought a print for Sam’s bathroom. Wanted to get a picture of her stand, but Sam’s reaction was “Not another picture!” 🙂

Sunday was our day to vacation like the natives do.  First priority in the Netherlands… have bikes!  So we rented bikes from the cycle center at Het Heijderbos and we were set.  Luckily we brought Sam’s helmet with us for his scooter, because the natives don’t do helmets.  Mike and I had to take our chances and hope for the best.

First stop on the bikes, the BMX track.

The need for speed.

One happy boy!

Next up for the bike adventure… head off into the Dutch countryside for destinations unknown.

Het Heijderbos is near the Netherlands/German border, but we didn’t realize how close until we rode into Germany without even realizing it.  I’m glad we did, because we had the best apple cake (Apfelkuchen) ever in the town of Hommersum.

Stopping for a drink and since it’s live like a local day we had to have our cake too. I was too busy eating the best Apfelkuchen ever to take a picture of it.

Some people just out for a ride.

St. Peters Church in Hommersum

Front of St. Peters

Vicarage of St. Peters in Hommersum

After our cake it was time to start back for Het Heijderbos for some fun in the park.  Jungle dome, playground, water park (no cameras allowed in the water park), more bike riding, dinner and even more bike riding.

Walking the plank

Can we keep our feet dry? Well 3 out of 4 feet stayed dry. Sam had one very wet foot. 🙂

Oh no, it’s a bird! Yes, that is me, standing by a real, live bird and I’m even smiling.

zip line fun

Flamingos!

A real, live monkey!

Last thing before heading home was a trip to Floriade.  Floriade is a world horticultural show in the Netherlands that is held only every 10 years.  Last time we were stationed over here we went, and I thought at the time that is was a once in a lifetime opportunity.  I’m so glad I was wrong.  To call Floriade a flower show is such an understatement.  It is so much more.  There are amazing displays of all the newest green technologies that are being developed throughout the world.  We saw fabric for clothing made out of stinging nettles and it was so very soft.  There were living walls for homes covered entirely in plants.  Plants growing without soil allowing for 10 crops per year in the same space, instead of the traditional one or two.  Dyes being made without chemicals and a process for dying textiles that uses only 1/10 the water of traditional methods.  Unfortunately one day was not nearly enough to see it all, but what we did see was amazing.  There were world pavilions with garden displays from various countries around the world.  An earth walk with a movie display in the floor that took you on a virtual journey around the world.  A area devoted entirely to relaxation in nature.  Lots and lots of fun kids activities and of course flowers and more flowers.  One of my favorite displays was a Celtic Tree Horoscope.  I would love to plant a tree for each of our horoscopes.  You can click on the link to find out what tree you are.

My pictures do not do Floriade justice at all.

Earth walk

Fun wood faces for the garden

Tree face

What would the Netherlands be without a fun cow?

And you have to have a giant wooden shoe!

Life could not exist for Sam if there wasn’t something to jump off!

New meaning to relaxing in the grass!

You have to have bikes in the Netherlands and ones made out of plants are really cool even if someone is getting tired of having his picture taken.

“My Green World” display building

exotic plants display

Barefoot path with misting in the relax display.

Giants!

South Korea garden display

Indonesia garden display

Sam’s tree from the Celtic tree horoscope. It’s a Hornbeam. Mine is a Cedar, Mike’s is a Spruce and Kelly’s is a Rowan.

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