The Netherlands

The Netherlands

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Day 1: Harwich Harbour

This is our first roadtrip as a family of 4 and the first one with the new layout on our Ford Transit. We booked the ferry for the mainland using Harwich as starting point instead of the well known to us Dover. We needed to be at the passport check at around 7.30am so we decided to leave home the day before and spend the night close to Harwich, ready for the morning crossing which would have brought us to Hook of Holland, the starting point of this 2 weeks roadtrip.

We chose Vera’s Stopover, a really nice and quite motorhome aire 40mins away from Harwich

Our spot for the night

Vera's Stopover Motorhome Aire

Day 2: Hook Of Holland

The day started really early with a brief breakfast and 40mins drive to the harbour. After tickets and passports check we left our van at the lower deck of the ferry to see it again after a 7hrs journey to reach the dutch coast.

As you can imagine the journey has been boring but not as stressful as it would have been if we had cross to Dunkirk and drive all the way to the Netherlands. Unfortunately Mia (who is just 5 month old) doesn’t really copy well with long journeys in the car/van so we decided to go down this route and we have to admit has been the right call.

We arrived at Hook of Holland in the late afternoon and we drive straight to the spot we planned to stay for the night, a free motorhome car park just 10mins away.
Unfortunately the parking lots reserved to motorhomes were all occupied (the first of many times during this trip) so we decided to park as close as possible to them making sure to not bother anyone. There was just one last thing to do: going to the beach!

After having a bit of relax on the seaside and a dinner we set things up for the night, getting ready to explore this new beautiful country!

Our spot for the night

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Day 3-4: The Hague

For our first full day in the Netherlands we decided to aim to The Hague but not before having a look to Hook of Holland, which we found really nice and worth a visit if you’re in the area.

After a quick visit to the local Lidl, to buy all we needed for at least a couple of days, we headed back to the van and we drove the few miles that separated us from The Hague.

Now, this has probably been the first time that we actually realised we were in the most bike-friendly country in Europe. Bike paths in every single road we drove, huge bike parkings…welcome to the Netherlands!

The city centre was very busy but still enjoyable but what is really characteristic is the Binnenhof, the complex of buildings who is the Dutch parliament and one of the oldest in the world still in use.

After quite a long walk around the city centre was time to come back to our house on wheels and looking for a place to spend the night.

We found one of our favourite spot of the whole trip, right on the canal leading to the harbour. Up on the roof tent, in fact, we spent well part of the night watching huge ships and ferry slowly passing by, wondering where they came from or where they were heading…a really beautiful moment that we all will remember for a long time.

Our spot for the night

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After the long walk we had yesterday and considering the really nice and warm weather we had we put our swimming suits on and we headed to Strand Wassenaarseslag, a beach not far from The Hague.

The big car park was almost full but the the beach was wide and long enough to accommodate the crowd of tourists (and not) arrived there to take the most out of that hot summer Sunday.

Time flew fast and after a big and well deserved ice cream it was already time to look for our next spot for the night, this time it had to be a campsite because we definitely needed a shower and our leisure battery a good charge.

We ended up to a campsite close to Haarlem with a bus stop perfect for visiting the city the next day! 

Our spot for the night

Camper Park Vijfhuizen

Day 5: Haarlem

After an early wake we jumped on the bus towards Haarlem and 15 mins later we were right in the city centre.

Haarlem is a beautiful city full of life and is main square welcomed us with lots of people cleaning up after a Jazz Festival. We missed it for just one day!

As a typical dutch town, there’s a lot of canals and inevitably we saw for the first time a bascule bridge opening right in front of us to allow a tall boat to continue in his journey.
During this roadtrip we’re gonna see countless of these bridges as every town we visited had many of them.

Following a side road we bumped into another thing that from now on would be our companion everywhere: a windmill!
In fact, we found the beautiful De Adriaan windmill: a “must see” if your visiting Haarlem.
Windmills are absolutely fascinating and many of them are still in working order.

Just the time to stop in a grocery store to buy something for the next couple of days and we’re back on the bus heading to our campsite for dinner. 

It was time for us to plan our next stop and since the beautiful De Adriaan windmill was still very impressed in our memory we decided to go “full in” and visit Zaanse Schans!

Our spot for the night

Camper Park Vijfhuizen

Day 6: Zaanse Schans

We’re not exactly fans of crowded touristic places but I think Zaanse Schans is worth the sacrifice, especially if you don’t have many days to spend in the area.

A piece of advice though, if your van is small enough try to avoid the big car park next to Zaanse Schans because is really expensive and you can find plenty of other parking spaces easily enough just on the other side of the canal.

Here we go then, we’re finally surrounded by windmills in a stunning location. I hope the pictures we’ve taken do it justice but I honestly doubt that.
It’s not just about windmills here, in fact there are small workshops/museums all around. One of our favourites was the Wooden Shoe Workshop, where you can see and learn all about the typical Dutch clogs (even watch how were they made).

We finished our visit in a cheese farm (who figured!) where they also offers cheese-making demonstrations. Yummy!

For the night we went to a beautiful little marina 45mins away. That wasn’t our first choice but as per usual during this roadtrip all the free motorhome aire were already occupied so we had to move on.

Anyway, it was time to decide what to do the next day and it was time for us to go to the capital: Amsterdam!

Our spot for the night

CamperPlace Schagen

Day 7-8: Amsterdam

As we said at the beginning it’s Mia’s first time travelling and as you can imagine all her daily routine has dramatically changed over the past 6 days.
We walked a lot since we arrived here in the Netherlands and Amsterdam was definitely worth a good couple of days just to visit the city, which is huge by the way.
At this point we realised that we were probably taking the wrong approach to this trip and we decided to spend more time doing something more fun for our little ones.

With this thought in our minds we booked the tickets for the Nemo Science Museum and…it was amazing!
There were 5 different floors full of experiments and interactive things to do for both children and grown-up.
Speaking of parents we have to say that was very disappointing how some of them allowed their children to roam free, skipping queue and ruining other kids’ experience.

We parked on the other side of the canal from the museum and to get there we used a ferry completely free which cross the canal every 10 minutes. Goes without saying that you can bring your bike with you on the ferry.

After spending the whole day at the museum we went back to the campsite we used to visit Haarlem.

Our spot for the night

Camper Park Vijfhuizen

We definitely should have check the weather forecast!
That’s the first thing we thought as soon as we woke up. Grey/black clouds were, in fact, waiting for us outside the van, not exactly what we had in mind for the day.

After a quick brainstorming we decided to be brave and try to go to Amstelpark, a really “must to go” places if you’re a family visiting Amsterdam.

This is a free huge park that has a lots of fun things to do for the little ones (remember the park is free but most of the things to do aren’t).
It’s only 20mins by car from the city centre and inside you can go for a walk, a train ride, enjoy some time at the big playground or buy some tokens and play around with different things: ride-on cars, ride-on boats, radio controlled trucks etc.

There is also a completely free petting zoo with goats, llamas, donkeys, cows, chicken and emus.

Everything was nice until (as easily guessing) it started to pour down and we had to call it a day and go find a place to stay for the night. For today we found ourselves a nice spot in a farm with some super cute cows not far from Utrecht, the city we were to visit the next day.

Our spot for the night

Camperplaats Biezenhoeve

Day 9: Utrecht

I have to admit that the day didn’t start in the best possible way.
It seems that the bad weather is going to stay with us so, after parking our van a good 30mis from the city centre, we grabbed our raincoats and we started to walk.

A peculiar thing about Utrecht is its medieval city centre, sorrounded by a canal and dominated by the huge Cathedral of Saint Martin, with its famous Dom Tower, the tallest church tower in the Netherlands.

Walking along Utrecht’s narrow streets and following its beautiful canals was a really lovely experience, even with the poor weather we had.
As soon as we got to the cathedral though, the rain really kicked in forcing us to find shelter in a nice cafe waiting to carry on with our sightseeing.

We ended up spending the whole afternoon walking in the city centre and we can totally recommend to visit Utrecht if you’d happen to be in the area, surely you won’t be disappointed.

Wet and tired we came back to the van and we headed back to the campsite for a nice shower and a well deserved cup of tea while planning our next move!

Our spot for the night

Camperplaats Biezenhoeve

Day 10-11: Gouda

As cheese lovers we simply couldn’t miss Gouda.

So here we are, driving straight to the city centre, where you can find a big car park with a motorhome aire that allows you to stay up to 2 days. At a walking distance from the city centre, this car park is perfect for every size of motorhome/van and it has electricity as well (not enough for the whole aire so you need a bit of luck).

We managed to find a place for us (we shared one slot with another van as short as we are) and we quickly headed towards the centre and all its cheese shops!

Goes without saying that we ended up visiting almost every shop we could find.

Gouda has a lot more than just cheese to offer though, for example we really loved the central square (called The Markt) and its gorgeous town hall. The city is lovely and if you like to just walk around and do some sightseeing as much as we do you won’t be disappointed.

Another place we couldn’t miss was the Lego store, especially because it just started to rain when we got there so we gladly spent some time in the playing room inside.

Heading back to the van under the storm we took the decision to skip Rotterdam (which was our next stop) and find a camping with some indoor playing area so that we could all get a break from the rain and enjoy some time playing together.

After a quick dinner we took the opportunity to have an evening stroll in the market square and along the canals, a magical scenery that repaid us for all the rain we had to endure in the afternoon.

Our spot for the night

Camperplaats Klein Amerika

This roadtrip is almost at his end, from this day on we just tried to relax and spend time together as a family, away from the busy daily routine that was waiting to start again as soon as we came home.

So, where to go now?

We found a camping/holiday park with all the facilities we were looking for in Chaam, not far from Breda.
We left Gouda with some drizzling rain which soon stopped and let us have some sunshine too!

We got to the camping around lunchtime but the shy sun we had before was soon a distant memory as the rain hit again in the very moment we parked the van at our pitch.
The big camping wasn’t full and was offering an indoor play area and a very beautiful water park unfortunately out of our reach due to the weather.

I think this is one of the things I like most about traveling with an “open agenda” as we usually do. You’ll never know what’s going to be, you live every day at his full and make plans as you go. Yes we had a rough idea of what we wanted to see and where to go but it’s important to keep an open mind because you’ll never know what’s gonna happen and it’s important to always have a plan B (sometimes a plan C as well).

We didn’t really know what to expect from the Netherlands but looking at the kid’s happy faces during the trip (and the sad ones when it was finished) we are sure has been a success and that’s what gives us the motivation to keep doing it.

Our spot for the night

De Flaasbloem - RCN Holiday Resort

Day 12-13: Back Home

That’s it guys, this roadtrip is at his end. We had really a great time here in the Netherlands. It was time for us to start heading back to Hook of Holland where, the next day, our ferry was waiting to bring us back to England with all these new great memories with us.

Before to leave though, we still had one day and we found a really nice motorhome aire just right next to a wide canal perfect to enjoy the fairly decent weather and relax with the kids watching some huge ships passing by, wondering where they’re from and where they’re going.

We stayed there for our last night and has been a really cherry on top of this beautiful journey, the first one as a family of 4!

As usual we are already planning our next trip so stay tuned because we have very exciting news coming!

Our spot for the night

Caamperplats Veerpont

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