Archives for the month of: April, 2013

We spent April Fool’s Day in Utrecht this year. I know… I can’t believe we didn’t go there sooner too.

We’d passed the famous city many times on the way to Amsterdam but never made it a destination. It is only about a 45 minute drive. This is one of the pluses of living in Europe and NL especially; everything is within reach making exploration easy and fun.

We knew it wasn’t going to be a super long day because of M’s knee (for those of you who don’t know, he had surgery last Fall and it’s been a long recovery). First we drove to Griftpark – I learned of it via another blog and I’m so glad that we stopped there first. It gave the kids a chance to blow off some steam at the playground and ‘boerderij‘ (farm). The Netherlands is very kid-friendly and there is no shortage of places for children to play and the ‘boerderij‘ is one of the coolest. You get to pet or see the animals up close  (e.g., goats, peacocks, rabbits, guinea pigs, chickens, sheep, cows, donkeys, pigs) and always for free. I’d say most cities and villages have one (at least in our region they do) and even though they’re more or less the same, I never tire of taking the kids there (no complaints yet either).

When we headed to the ‘centrum‘, it was early afternoon, just in time for the one-hour canal boat tour. I missed about half the narrative because the kids got restless about halfway into it. I think it was a bit of a pricey ride (34 euros) but now I can say we did it and it was a welcome break from all the walking.

Once we got off, we wandered around the city and enjoyed some ‘vlaamse frites‘ (Belgian fries) right away. Talking about fries, the Dutch absolutely love them and with a lot of ‘fritesaus‘ (mayo really). We found out earlier this year that the Dutch never say “fries with mayo” when they order, they say ‘frites met‘ (fries with); the “with” implies that you want mayo. Duh, right? So when we eat our fries with Heinz ketchup, I always feel so… American?

I didn’t get to see much of the city itself in the end so I vowed to return on my own soon. Until then Utrecht!

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We spent a Sunday afternoon in February walking through the biggetjesbos (pigs forest) in the town of Aarle-Rixtel. I saw the ad in our local newspaper and it seemed like the perfect activity to get the family out of the house.

The walk starts at the Brabantse Kluis (www.brabantsekluis.nl) – an old farmhouse converted into an inn and restaurant, and there is a small barn in the courtyard where you can pet the friendly cows. For six euros, you can purchase a small green backpack at the gift shop, it contains: a walking guide, a juice box, “pig” candy and a pig-shaped pen.

The walk took us 2.5 hours in total but we made a few stops including one for lunching. We passed the Klooster Huis (a convent), a man-made grotto and piggy statues but the sight that I personally enjoyed the most was the pig farm  as it gives you a glimpse of a real pig farm (www.varkensinzicht.nl). Since this is a self-guided walk, the farm has two areas open to visitors: in the first area, behind plexiglas, you see the adult pigs in the barn, most of them sleeping. The second viewing area is the nursery; we saw several sows nursing their piglets including some that were likely only a few hours old since their umbilical cords were hanging. They were very cute but sadly, we saw two dead ones that hadn’t been removed yet. At first, I didn’t want the kids to see this but then again, that is life so they did see it and of course they asked lots of “why” questions.

Even though the walk was a little longer than we had expected and the weather was on the chilly side, we all enjoyed this walk and plan to do it again in the spring or summer.

Tot ziens,

Christine

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