Muddy Goes Dutch
Holland? For a holiday? Well, yes. There’s obviously Amsterdam – with all the delights (cultural and, er, otherwise) it has to offer. But there are lots of other bits, too, that take you off the-straight-into-Schipol-and-straight-out-again track.
Amsterdam is sort of the obvious place to visit – and for good reason. It’s a beautiful city, with loads to see and do. The Rijkmuseum was closed for ages for restoration and so on, and consequently is looking at its absolute best right now. The building is a work of art in itself, with painted walls and stained glass windows – now set off against the clean, modern lines and glass covering the entrance.
And the Van Gogh museum, which is within easy walking distance of there, is a stunner. My eldest, even a few years ago, was entranced – although that probably had quite a lot to do with having watched that Dr Who episode where Matt Smith (my particular favourite) goes back and meets Vincent himself. Still, it was a winner.
And then there are the cafes, the bars, the canals, the bikes, the general feel of being somewhere busy and interesting. Which is all good. As city breaks go, I properly rate Amsterdam.
I do realize Holland maybe isn’t the first place you think of for beach holidays. But there are some fabulous beaches – if you can ignore the fact that it’s the North Sea and not the Med. Big, wide, flat expanses of sand, with such a shallow gradient that if you do venture into the sea you can walk out for what feels like miles before it’s even up to your waist. We spent a glorious day on the beach at Rockanje, which is tucked away behind acres of dunes but still has a couple of cafes and bars right there to top you up as needs be.
And we spent an equally glorious evening in one of the many restaurants right there on the beach at Scheveningen, down near The Hague – which sort of feels a bit like the Riviera, with the very impressive Kurhaus hotel, the endless stylish bars, the wide promenade, and the long pier.
If you’ve got small boys who are obsessed with ships and cranes and the like, the port in Rotterdam there – which you can see from a boat trip on the river – is probably something close to heaven.
I really rate Delft, too. It’s a university town, so there’s a bit of a student-y feel to the place, but it’s also full of properly stylish shops and restaurants, neat streets to explore, canals (of course), and two massive churches – the New Church, which was built in 1381, and the Old Church, which was even earlier than that.
It’s where Vermeer lived and worked – so his pictures, particularly ‘The Girl with the Pearl Earring,’ are everywhere. Bit like Shakespeare in Stratford. And there’s a really interesting centre telling you all about him, which is actually fascinating. Some seriously good places to eat, too, and a great town square for having an open-air drink and people — and bike — watching.
The other thing you can’t escape in Delft is the famous blue-and-white china. Antique shops there, of which there were loads, are bursting with 17th and 18th century tiles – which will cost you anywhere from 20 Euros up to about 65 or even more – and there are shops chock-full of newer versions, pots, plates, cups, saucers, you name it.
There’s also quite a lot of Miffy around, which I thought was odd until I realised that Dick Bruna was born in Utrecht – and there’s now a museum all about Miffy and collections at the Centraal Museum which cover way more than just that famous rabbit. Some of his early design work is absolutely stunning. Worth checking out.
And if you’re done with culture and cafe life (although why you would be…), there are some cracking theme parks. My two loved – like, properly loved – Efterling, which is an older park based around fairy tales and stories. Some of the stories are recognisable, some not so much. I mean, I don’t remember anything about a donkey poo-ing silver coins when I was growing up, but there’s one there and they shoot out like crazy – which led to much juvenile hilarity and squealing. Oh, and the kids thought it was pretty funny too.
There’s also Duinrell, which is smaller and not quite as pretty – but which is attached to a great big Eurocamp and had plenty to keep us all amused for a jolly family day out. And was only about 20 Euros each to get in.
There’s definitely loads more – I mean, there’s a whole flippin’ country to explore – but there’s a very comfortable, relaxed sort of vibe over there that the Family C can really recommend. It’s easy driving distance, it’s relatively reasonable – seriously, check out how little Center Parcs costs there in comparison to here! – and there are pancakes. Lots of pancakes. Like, *all* the time. And serious coffee. What’s not to like?