Day 4: Cheese Farm and Amsterdam
I don’t know about you, but when I think of Holland I think of wooden clogs. And cheese. Well, I pretty much always think of cheese. Mmmmm… cheese… Naturally, we had to go to a cheese farm/clog making factory that was right outside the city the day we were scheduled to visit Amsterdam. Enter Clara Maria dairy farm. This was a cute place where they do demonstrations on how to make wooden clogs and cheese. There is a shop where you can taste and buy the cheese they make there (as well as many other souvenirs), a barn where you can look at the cows, and a little restaurant. It takes less than an hour to look around the whole place and if you go in the spring you can see cute little newborn calves. However, if your kids are like mine they will find the barn too stinky and the cows terrifying and will not really appreciate the rustic nature of the whole thing. I liked it though. And we got some pretty good cheese. If you can resist buying stuff in the shop (who are we kidding, we all know you’re going to buy at least one block of cheese) this is a completely free activity. If you’re going to be near Amsterdam it’s worth the trip.
Once we were full of cheese we headed toward Amsterdam’s city center. Did you know there are companies that give FREE tours of most major European cities in English? Well there are! The tour guides work off of tips so you don’t have to pay anything (although you should if you like your tour guide. C’mon, don’t be a jerk). I reserved us spots on one of these free tours of Amsterdam through Sandeman’s tour company. After the farm we drove to the link-up point in the city center and found some parking. Make sure you leave an extra hour for traffic and finding a parking spot, which is always challenging in European cities. We brought the double-stroller for our two little ones since the tour was scheduled to last about 3 hours, plus I brought the baby wrap ( Boba Baby Wrap, Grey )in case the baby got tired of the stroller. If you only have one day to spend in a city that you don’t know a whole lot about, I would definitely recommend one of these tours. We were able to see all the major highlights of the city without having to worry about getting lost, looking up what the major highlights were ahead of time, researching why these highlights were historically or culturally important, etc. It’s the lazy woman’s way to learn. The tour guide was great and explained lots of interesting facts about all the places we saw. We took a 20 minute snack/potty break about half way through and she was helpful in pointing out places that people might want to check out after the tour on their own. The only potential down side was it was a lot of walking. We did okay with the stroller and our 5-year old has boundless energy so it worked out for us. Oh yeah, and they do take you through the red-light district so you may have to cover your kids’ eyes for about 5 minutes if you don’t want them seeing nakie ladies. Our 2-year old and baby were too young to notice or care and I pretended the cobblestones were suuuper interesting and kept pointing them out to my 5-year old. Between him trying to look at the cool pathway and being in between my husband and me so our bodies mostly blocked his view when he did look up, he seriously did not even notice the girls in the windows. Or you could just not be as prudish as us and not worry about it… whatever floats your boat.
This was a fun, educational, and cheap day. Ain’t that the best?! The only thing we had to pay for was parking in the city. We did tip the tour guide and buy cheese at the farm, but that was our choice. Plus we saved money by packing PB&J sandwiches for lunch and going back to our trailer to cook dinner. Winning!
Day 5: Madurodam and the drive home
Our last morning in the Netherlands we packed up and headed out for a stop at Madurodam before we drove home. Madurodam is an amusement park that has miniature versions of all the major cities and sites in the Netherlands. There are little activities throughout the park that teach you about the history of the Netherlands, architecture, windmills, canals, etc. There are also two huge playground areas and an indoor sports area where you can kick around a soccer ball. We spent a few hours here and our boys enjoyed it. They especially liked the playground. We ate lunch at the café on site and then headed out for our long drive home.
This place is neat, but I think it would be better for older kids. It is pretty expensive for little ones who pretty much just want to play on the playground. The
food in the café was good, and fairly priced (we paid about 40 Euro for our family of 5) but when you are used to bringing your own sandwiches for lunch, that can add up. I would say if you have school-age kids this place is totally worth it because there really is a lot for them to see and learn, but if you have little ones like us just go find a free playground instead.
After lunch we drove all the way home. Originally I had planned to stop overnight in Frankfurt, but traffic was flowing pretty smoothly by the time we reached Frankfurt so we decided to tough it out and keep on driving all the way home. We had officially reached the point at which one is just completely over vacationing and just wants to sleep in one’s own bed. Of course once we passed Frankfurt we were in one continuous traffic jam the rest of the way home (AAARRRGGHHH!). We drove and drove and sat in hours of traffic and drove about 11 hours and a bazzilion potty breaks later, we were home.
Must do’s: The windmills! Also, take a tour of Amsterdam for sure. What to skip: If you are short on time don’t bother with the cheese farm. Unless it is April-June don’t worry about seeing tulips.
Where we saved $: Booking lodging at campsites; using Esso stations and our gas rations program and fueling up in Germany before crossing the border to the Netherlands; packing sandwiches and taking advantage of the kitchen in our trailer to cook dinner most nights. Where we overspent $: We ended up grabbing KFC after we saw the windmills, which was too expensive for food that was not special; I could have researched better places to park in Amsterdam so we wouldn’t have spent so much on a parking garage; I bought a few too many souvenirs; the tickets at Madurodam.
Overall, we really enjoyed this trip. We didn’t completely break the bank and we were able to see a lot of cool sites in just a few days. The car ride was torturous, but you really can get out and see the world even with three little kids! Go!