We packed up Ali's van and headed out. Me, Ali, Jane, Lyla, Genevieve, and Vivian. It was supposed to be about an 8 hour drive. It took us 12 hours. But in consideration of small bladders and large amounts of energy, we tried to have little breaks. Our first stop was a tri-point where 3 different countries meet. How COOL is that? We drove to the spot where the netherlands, germany, and belgium meet so I can officially say I've been in 3 countries at once. Funny that before I moved here, I hadn't even been in 3 countries period!
Well we stood in the spot and let the girls run around but were kinda bummed that all the attractions there were closed.
We consoled ourselves by going to the nearest dutch grocery store and hoarding as many sweets and desserts that the cart would carry. The only thing I regret is not buying 10 more of each thing because DANG the dutch know how to do dessert. And candy. And chocolate. And cheese...and...everything basically that makes you fat.
We left the grocery store and chowed down on its contents for the rest of the drive to our airbnb. We didn't get there until 10:30 pm. It was an apartment we were staying in, on the third floor. So this is the portion of our trip where I have mild panic attacks when looking back because it was stressful. All the kids were asleep and we somehow needed to get them all up to the third floor, along with all of our stuff, but we had no parking spot so we just had to leave our car near the doors while we carried everything (and everyone) up. One of those times when a husband would REALLY come in handy, ya know? But we did it, we made it, our car wasn't stolen, and the trauma of it all produced a good 10 minute session of crying from all 4 girls. They were also partly tears and cries of exhaustion though, so we all crashed very soon after we got settled into our beds.
The next morning we woke up and drove to the Tulip Festival in Keukenhof. The sun was out on our drive over so we were optimistic. The optimism faded as the sun slowly snuck behind some dark, thick and depressing clouds. It was freezing and raining for most of our time there. This picture is the most realistic portrayal of how the experience was for Jane: getting rained on while simultaneously spewing wet stuff out of nearly all possible orifices. (rain, snot, and tears. what joy!)
A rainbow-y feast for the eyes if I've ever seen one!
Lyla was a happy camper. She was delighted as long as the stroller was in motion. And jane's highlight was probably the petting zoo. I love how Jane is sporting the cheesy smile. Part of me wishes she could just give her real smile, but that cheesy smile properly represents how she is at this very age and stage and therefore, I love it!
Ali and her blue eyed beauties!! Their eyes have got nothin' on that peacock.
A good picture with my girls was apparently NOT in order. So instead of some cute smiling faces, here are some pictures of me trying to talk Jane out of her hysteria.
Ok so did you know that rainbow tulips exist? Because they do.
Jane: "Goodbye chickens! I loved playing with you!"
We left the tulip festival after we ate lunch around 2, only after fighting through lines in the little souvenir shop. Our next stop was THE cutest town of Zaanse Schans. (seriously, my vote for cutest town I've ever seen- and I've seen my fair share here in Europe!) Of course all of the girls promptly fell asleep on the 20 minute drive there so it was wake up and pack up time once we arrived. The weather was still freezing but luckily in this place there were a ton of tiny little shops that we could go inside when we needed a break from turning into icicles. (ok i'm being a little dramatic) As much as Jane claims to be Elsa, the cold actually does bother her anyway. ;)
Note to self: buy Jane rain boots ASAP. I was basically the world's worst mom for not letting her jump in puddles the whole time because it would've soaked through her shoes. But Genevieve jumped to her heart's content while Jane gazed longingly.
Zaanse schans is home to a handful of those famous Holland windmills. They used these to help with the production of goods, such as chocolate. And there was a chocolate and biscuit factory right there too where we got to go watch chocolate and cookies go through these willy wonks-like machines.
I told jane it was Willy Wonka's chocolate factory and she loved seeing the "chocolate river" which was just a huge barrel of chocolate being stirred around. (in the picture above)
We finished strolling through the world's cutest town and the chocolate museum, and I resisted buying souvenirs in every store. (except for a magnet) We left and headed for our hotel which was right on the coast! So we saw a tulip festival, a windmill town, and the ocean in one day! Holland is a cool country and it is so small so it doesn't take a long time to see most of it. I loved it when our GPS had us drive through little towns and we could see all the cute houses and all the people just living their life, and riding bikes everywhere! Bikes are the primary mode of transportation in this country and it was fascinating to me! Talking on the phone and biking, riding their bikes side by side with a few inches (maybe) apart, and not even being phased by it! In america, we pretty much only ride bikes when we want to exercise. I figure their excessive amounts of biking balances out all the wonderful desserts and yummy food this country has to offer. They mostly bike, but they also have this hilarious sense of humor where they think that THESE little guys can pass as a car. Those silly dutchmen.
Anyways, we got to our next hotel which was so very literally across the street from the ocean! We got there in time to watch the sunset and freeze our faces off until each and every kid was crying to go inside. It was beautiful anyway. And jane's first time seeing the ocean! I had taken a lot of awesome pictures with my camera, only to later discover that it didn't have my memory card in it. UGH! So here is a picture I took with my iPhone.
We woke up the next morning and drove to a train station and hopping on a train to the central station in Amsterdam. Sounds easy enough right? Well using public transportation in another country with a handful of children is not all sunshine and rainbows. But we did it; and afterwards we turned to each other and decided that our husbands would be so proud of us for figuring it out ourselves. Ali is better at me at staying calm and collected in situations like this, so I'm glad we were there together!
We got to Amsterdam and set out to find a pancakes and waffles restaurant my friend had recommended. As our GPS was getting us there, my phone decides to die. (even though it had 60% battery.) Luckily I had memorized the address so we finally found it after weaving in and out of these little alleyways which were primarily made up of little shops that sold either baked goods or weed. We only stopped at the baked goods stores, believe it or not. ;)
"I want a pink one!" said Jane and Genevieve, at every chance they got.
Those were good but I've heard they are better in France and Italy.
We then decided to do a boat tour through the canals. If you ask Jane her favorite part of this trip, she will say: "riding on the orange boat!" It's funny though, because as I recall, she was out cold almost the whole time.
Jane and Genevieve getting their last look at Amsterdam before we left to drive home. The drive home went pretty well. There was a lot of traffic all throughout holland, but once we got into Germany it was smooth sailing! I am so, SO grateful that everything went smoothly on this trip. We didn't have any real emergencies or injuries and I'm glad because I'm a wimp when it comes to that stuff. It was actually quite nice to drive and talk with Ali, while the kids were pretty much great as long as their snack quota (about one every 20 minutes) was being met. We fist bumped each other for accomplishing a 3 day trip to a foreign country with 4 kids and no husbands when we got home at midnight and then departed to our respective homes, which are not too far from each other- did I mention we are neighbors? :) I was too tired to even unpack, which is saying a lot for my sometimes OCD self. Jane slept in until 9:30 the next morning. And that's a wrap! Until next time, Holland! (also, why does this country have 2 names? I prefer Holland to The Netherlands but really- why couldn't you agree on just one name?)