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Thursday, June 4, 2015

Utrecht, Dover and the Like

Well, well, well. It has certainly been a while. Meh, just life and the business of getting on with day to day stuff. Mostly I have fallen off the face of the Earth because, not one, but three four plagues have darken our doorstep since December of last year. It's hard to have a sense of humor when going to the loo requires an hour nap to recover some strength.

But enough whining. This post is overdue, waaaay overdue, but better late than never.

However, illness aside, we have managed to get ourselves out there and have some fun! We decided to take a trip for Bean's term break. Bean wanted to go back to Center Parcs. He was adamant about it for two reasons: 1. The last time we went to De Eemhof we did not go 'bawling'. (The English accent is slipping in, but true, we didn't go bowling last time as promised.) and 2. He needed to go down the white slide with Dad again. 

This is where Bean and the Hubs have a difference in experience. At De Eemhof there is a fantastical water park called Aqua Mundo. Being Dutch, these folks have pretty much mastered how to manipulate water. But I am getting ahead of myself.

Let me set the scene. Picture it. February. Term Break. 2015.

We left on a Saturday morning and headed to Felixstowe where we would catch the Eurotunnel on Sunday afternoon. We prefer to drive. Just for pictures like this:

I mean, what is this? I have no idea what to call it, so I cannot provide reference.

Just type: 'red beer bong passed out figure art statue' into Google and see what you get. If you know what this is please enlighten me. Honestly, I don't' know exactly where this statue is, because you're cruising along the motorway and BAM! Here is this exceptional piece of art. Perhaps when it rains water fills the bong/funnel apparatus the water shoots out his jolly or other orifice. I am at a loss here.

Then there's this:
Conjunction junction what's your function?

And these:

Besides the scenery, Center Parcs are self-catering, so we pack everything we need in the car or in the rocket box. We would board the "car train" in Felixstowe. Dover is a rough 20 minutes to the terminal. It was an excellent excuse to stop at  Dover Castle. We became English Heritage  members last summer when we went to Stonehenge. Dover Castle was in the book. But who needs an excuse to see the white cliffs of Dover anyway? The Hubs knows I am a rock hound, so he picked up a few chunks of chalk for my collection.

Fantastic. Could it be anything else? Here are some pix to prove it:

My life is generally punctuated with random song lyrics busted out when the opportunity arises. Every time I see these pictures I automatically sing "I can see for miles, and miles and miles and miles and miles..."

I also sing "Take the Freeway" in a Micheal McDonald-esk voice when my SatNav barks out directions, so please be advised of this when riding in the car with me.
These few pictures can not do justice to the beautiful experience of Dover Castle. I will be giving a slideshow presentation in the summer of 2015 for all of you who would like to be bored to tears or are obligated because of familial bonds. It will be open to the public, but you bring your own booze. 

Then off to the Eurotunnel.

We landed in Calis, France. From here it's a three-ish hour drive to Utrecht. We stop over here because Center Parcs only does weird weekday rentals and we couldn't check in until Monday.  The Euro train tix were cheaper and had hotel points to use, so it was a pretty economical choice that didn't involve us spending hours and hours driving in the car. 

Utrecht is a pretty neat city, too. Definitely not at touristy and definitely not as 'educational' (when you have a 6 year old already fascinated with ta-tas) as Amsterdam. It is also the birthplace of Miffy the Bunny, who turns 60 years old this year. Miffy is promoting the Grant Depart of the Tour de France.  The Dom Cathedral and Dom Tower are pretty neat-o, too.

I happen to really like this kooky statue. It just screams 'Donnie Darko'.

Then the french fry stands.

They have canals, Bitterballen, bicycles, Heineken, trippy architecture and statues. 

Bitter-whatten? Oh my friends. I cannot believe these wondrous creations have not made it mainstream in the States. Especially the Southern United States, where if it involves breading, deep frying, gravy and dipping sauce - we serve it up with a smile. Bitterballen is just that. When it comes to yummy Bitterballen, you might draw back a nub if you try to take the last one from the basket. These little gems are so fantastic they have their own page on the Holland Tourism Page. Now you know my shame and the true reason we keep returning to Holland.

We finally make it to Center Parcs De Eemoof. We unload the Clampett wagon and get settled in our cottage.

I'll take a moment to talk about the cottage. The first visit we stayed at #281. It was fantastic. The view was incredible, the ducks were friendly and the way the buildings are angled, you feel like you must be the only one with such a fantastical view of Hulkesteinse Forest. We had such a wonderful time, we re-booked the same cottage for this trip.

Unfortunately, this was not to be.

Apparently, the Centre had hosted a convention and some of the conventioneers got a little too excited and trashed #281 to the extent they were having to make extensive repairs. Wow.  

Meh, #387 was ok. There was only one toilet and the yard had been obliterated by moles or other ground dwelling critters. The ducks were fun to watch, but not as jovial as the ducks near #281.

I love watching ducks. Actually, between my love of animals and bugs, I really should have headed down a more biology centered collegiate plan, but hindsight is always 20/20. Or criminal profiling. I would have been happy either way. Hum...perhaps its not too late....bugs and forensic sciences. 

Back to the Aqua Mondo....

The water park is enclosed, but some parts of slides shoot you into the crisp (???) February air. Zesty is one word to describe the feeling. One slide in particular is entirely outside except for the last 15 feet. This is the famed "White Slide" that Bean loves. 

*It is at this juncture I would like to point out that I hate being cold. I wear fleece in July, but I especially do not like freezing cold water. Once you get in and get acclimated and moving, not so bad, but I am not one of those jump in and get it over with people. Apparently the fear of my child drowning is changing that nugget of my personality.*

So, the first step into the entrance pool is deceiving. I had one of those "Dear God there is no bottom" gasping moments until the 'keep child alive' kicked in and we all merged together under the strips of plastic meat packing plant curtain to the outside elements. There is a pool adjacent to the slide where there are S- body-shaped cement benches lining the outsides of the pool. Sometimes the bench magically turns into a huge air stone and Jacuzzi-like jets beat you fantastically. Hot water shoots from the sculptured lion's mouths mounted in several places along the pool parameter.

The entrance to the white slide is a waterfall-esk entrance. I've been in class four rapids that were easier to escape. 

The current is incredible. It's like swimming into a fire hose while in a rip tide. I have never worked so hard to have fun in my life.  It's half the battle. (*remember - I said half*) As a result, my upper body strength is amazing, and, quite frankly, the legs didn't make out too badly either. I'm gonna credit it to passive exercise or better known as the 'swim or drown' motivation'. 

Once you reach the precipice, you must vault yourself, arse in the air, over a hump to enter the slide. If you can, and there is enough room, you can also try the side-saddle approach, but it takes way more energy. You're gonna need all the energy you can get. 

The slide has two speeds: rocket fast or butt-scraping agony. Your child will fall into the first category, naturally. The first trip down the slide is the most brutal. My pelvic bones were black and blue from hitting the unforeseen (speed?) humps. I can only assume these horribly placed cement barriers were to slow bodies down so they could merge towards side resting pools peppered along the slide.  I also assume these resting areas are provided so you can check for internal bleeding or tend to a busted nose. My sinuses were filled with water from going into rapids face first. My knees were peppered with bruises. Weeeeeee? 

I still made out better than the Hubs.

He followed Bean in the fast current and caught up with him. I soon caught up with them. The view from where I was drowning was hysterical. There was the Hubs, belly down, with Bean on his back/shoulders riding him like a dolphin down the slide. There were several moments I can imagine that Hubs probably saw his life flash before his eyes. Yet again, overwhelming instinct kicked in - the "if Crog let boy drown wife not happy" male parenting instinct, and we all made it safely down the maiden voyage of the white slide.

Then we did that about 1,734 times in a row. I felt refreshed and invigorated. Sparkly clean and shiny as a new penny. Why shouldn't I? Every nook and cranny, every orifice and fold had been repeatedly blasted with highly chlorinated water. My hair felt like hay and my skin looked reptilian, but we all had fun. Satisfied with out first day at the water park, we ambled back to the cottage and ate. Then we slept. Slept like the dead.

Crisis was narrowly averted on the second day when we suffered a floatie blow out half way through a run on the white slide. This was a dire moment. Those floties were procured in a Wal-Mart. In Lincolnton, North Carolina. They were awesome. They had inflatable pug dogs inside the inner wall of the floatie itself, so they were pretty darn cool. They were also, at this moment in time, irreplaceable.  I was standing on the precipice of  an epic meltdown. While Hubs went to get some Euros (read: scuttled away quickly), I calmed down a quite agitated Bean. The floaties were a safety, he was well on his way to becoming a good swimmer. I knew we could buy another pair, but if they would be acceptable to a Bean is another matter entirely.

One shiny new pair of floaties and one PB and J later, we were back in the water. It was amazing. Buy the kid a new pair of florescent orange arm floats, slap on a pair of water goggles and BAM! I now have a child who does not come out of his frame when I pour water over his head to wash his hair! That, and he started swimming with his head under water, stroking and kicking. By the end of the day, he was begging Hubs to throw him and working on perfecting his underwater back flip. Yep, I'm still in the running for that 'above average mom of the year' award.

The final day at the Aqua Mundo was less than stellar. As we were leaving the water park the afternoon before, I noticed an influx of teen and pre-teen bodies. Hoping beyond all hope that they were just there for the afternoon, but, in my heart, I knew better. I probably don't have to explain what it was like (our last day) to be in a water park with 100 or so teens with little or no supervision. Um, yea. It was miserable. Even as excited as the Bean was to go back with his goggles and perfect his flip skills, he was amenable to leaving early. We hit the arcade on our way back to the cottage and all was right in the world. There is not much a little air hockey can't fix.

We thought about a side trip to Amersfoort, but we needed to keep on schedule so we would make the EuroTrain on time. The funny thing is, both places are pretty equidistant to where we wanted to be, so we literally flipped a coin to see if we went to Amersfoort or Utrecht. Then I saw a friend's post on Facebook with the above article. Yea, Yea. I know that's why everyone thinks we go to the Netherlands all the time. But the reason is: We just really like it there. The people are super nice, the Euro is much friendlier than the Pound, and it is the home of industrial farm equipment. The horizon is filled with trucks and cranes and combines. (But mostly for the Bitterballen...)

Here's the tractor feller buncher ( I stand corrected) that we followed out of the village past the windmill. Just in the middle of town. Unsightly? No. Cool and functional? Yes. If you do not know what at 'feller buncher' is then make an appointment with the Bean and he will be more than happy to pontificate on the merits of the humble feller buncher.

I am planning on uploading some videos of our travels, but in the interest of actually hitting the 'publish' tab, I will save that for next time with a link to the videos.

There are stories yet to be told...

Stories of a young mom (shut up) against all odds...taking her child on a week long trip to Edinburgh, Scotland. Apparently, my special need is alcohol.

Stories of a young family in the wilds of Wales... (that reminds me of a joke...)

....but most of all...stories.... stories of Plants vs Zombies, Minecraft, and Mario Kart 8....

Now, I've got to scoot and work on that 4 hour PowerPoint presentation for this Summer. Get your tickets sooner than later - or have your excuse ready.

Cause..."WE'RE COMING TO AMERICA...." Not today, but in the very near future....Sorry Mr. Diamond. See? I told you I was all about the random song lyrics.

Until then, safe travels and good thoughts!



  1. I'm so glad you're blogging again !

  2. Thank you!!! I forgot how much fun we're having!! I need to share!!