Visiting the Netherlands was a wonderful surprise in our life. We could only afford to go because we had been invited to visit some very dear friends in Rotterdam. I never imagined that I would ever get to explore this interesting part of the world that is soooooooo far away from Australia. But life is full of the unexpected, so we accepted the invite and made our way up to Rotterdam with a completely open mind. We had no real idea of what to expect. As we drove into the country and read the signs with cool and weird Dutch words, such as 'Nederweert' and 'Geldrop', I began to form all sorts of iconic Dutch dreams containing clogs, croquettes, windmills and tulips. Rotterdam turned out to be a fantastic place for our family to visit, The Netherlands did not disappoint!
Here are 8 ways to rock a visit to Rotterdam with kids;
1. Take your life into your own hands and go for a bike ride.
Rotterdam is a lively and interesting city. What is the first thing to do with a whole bunch of kids in the Netherlands? Why, a bike ride of course! You can hire bikes in the city, but we were lucky that our friends had lots of bikes for us to borrow. Apparently everyone has a bike, or two, and the more old and beat-up it is, the more authentic you are. True Netherlandians don't waste their time with fancy bells and whistles. They just hop on any old thing....and try to run you over.
I'm not kidding.
Watch out, because the bike traffic is NUTS!!! It was fast!
The bike lanes have their own traffic lights, lanes, hoons...crazy ladies on motorized scooters....you name it! I had a few of my kids safely tucked away in a Dutch bike-box called a bakfiets. They absolutely loved taking a ride around town in a pull-along cart, but wow, I admire my friends strength, because peddaling that lot around town was no small achievement. Obviously living in the Netherlands comes with a few perks - such as superman level strength in your legs!
2. Eat fresh Stroopwafels at the Rotterdam Market Hall.
We have a favourite movie called 'The Best Two Years'. It's a funny and heartwarming movie about young Mormon Missionaries who go to teach the gospel in The Netherlands. Ever since we first saw it, we have wanted to eat stroopwafels. Also, eating is pretty much our favourite thing to do, so the Rotterdam Market Hall is the place to be! It is an amazing and colourful building with food from all over the world. We were so lucky to watch the sugary and caramelly goodness being prepared fresh before our eyes, it was definitely a hit!
3. Visit the Cube Houses.
I loved the cube houses!! They are totally weird and totally cool! They have each been built to represent a tree, and then collectively, a forest.
People live in these, but there are a few that you can pay to see inside. I was so curious to see if all the floors and furniture were flat that I just couldn't resist, so Ross watched the ratbags while I took a little tour.
And yes, it all lays flat, but there are definitely some funky angles going on in there, plus some cool modern design.
4. Find a hidden park
Rotterdam's streets are full of beautiful, tall, classic Dutch buildings. However, we are a family that doesn't fare well in cities. It may be beautiful, but my little wild free-spirits need green places to run around. We discovered that there are hidden parks and playgrounds tucked away in the streets! Our friends took us to a gate that I never would have known contained a large and kind-of-wild playground behind it. Again, one of the perks of being a local. You can ride your kids with your super strength thighs to secret hidden parks that only locals know about!
5. Cool off at the beach.
On one particularly hot day, we piled into the car and set off for a day of sun and sand at Hoek Van Holland. The parking....was a nightmare. It took us a full 40 minutes to find a car park. Obviously, when it's hot, the Dutch flock to the beach, it felt like half the city was there! I have to admit, that as an Australian, I'm a bit of a beach snob. Unless it's clear water, perfect waves and golden sand...I'm not all that interested. So by Australian standards...it was kinda crap. But it was definitely still fun to see the coast again, and my kids loved getting covered in sand and being loud and wild and 'digging--to-China' as they always do at the beach!
6. Learn about the Delta Works at Het Keringhus.
This place is fantastic! Total worldschooling heaven. Our kids got a hands-on learning experience about how the Dutch protect themselves from flooding using the Delta Works - one of the largest built flood protection and water management projects in the world.
THIS is why we travelled!! I never even knew this type of world education was possible until one day in Australia when I came across a blog post by 'World Travel Family' about homeschooling and traveling. I was so inspired by the idea of using the world as a hand-on classroom for learning, and since then, we have continued to grow in our love of this concept. Sure, we've had plenty of days when things were outright awful, but traveling has also brought the satisfying reward and joy of seeing our kids freely learn about the world around them in a way that is interesting and inspiring, and hopefully, will spark their curiosity and passion for life.
7. Sneak out for a girls day of art and food.
I was lucky enough to get away for a day and enjoy some girl time. This proved to be an essential-for-my-sanity activity, but was an all too rare event. I did go a little bonkers being around my kids all the time. I find it draining to always have to be switched into Mum mode, this is one of the challenges that emerged from our new life. But it did help me to appreciate the precious times that I got to escape and hang out with friends and just be me.
During our time in The Netherlands I was gifted with a girls day out to The Hague where we went to a beautiful art Museum called the Mauritshuis. I highly recommend this art gallery! It is a perfect size, not too big, not too small. Sometimes I find myself very lost in huge art galleries, haha. This one is full of many of the beautiful works of the Dutch masters, Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Frans Hals. We thoroughly enjoyed listening to the audio guide and wandering around. For lunch we went to Vapianos, which is a fantastic Italian chain restaurant that I had never eaten at before, we got to watch our Italian food being prepared fresh before our eyes, yum!!
Art + food = happy Skyler.
8. Admire the iconic Canals and the amazing architecture.
Rotterdam really is a great city, there are beautiful and interesting parts to both the new and older sections of town. I particularly loved the traditional Dutch row houses with the striped awnings and white window trim all nestled along canals. Wow! But the modern part of the city was also pretty cool with some really unique buildings and lots to do. We went to the movies, did our shopping on bikes, and ate weird croquettes from a vending machine.
My Dutch dreams were starting to come true. Next up - clogs and windmills....