The next morning we all awoke fresh and replenished after a wonderful night’s sleep. Excitement buzzed in the air as kids and single moms got ready and dressed. We tripped off downstairs for a copious breakfast. And that must be said of the DoubleTree by Hilton hotels : they do a wicked breakfast !

Being guests having booked into a suite, we were entitled to privileged access to the executive lounge. Breakfast is no laughing matter in our family. We love to indulge in a copious serving after a night’s fasting to make sure our sugar levels are balanced for the day.

“Holidays are made for eating sugar and cake.” Dorothy remarked as she popped her third cupcake into her mouth. The big kids followed her example.

“How many times have I told you that you should not eat any more sugar ?” I was about to exclaim, but then found myself digging into the next cupcake and candy bar in sight. I am apt to experience sugar cravings. And sometimes I feel like I have no “willpower” when it comes to sweets. Occasionally I’ll even feel guilty after eating something sweet. Well, guess I’m not alone.

“Has everyone had enough sleep ?” Dorothy throws a motherly grin over the tribe of littles looking for our guidance.  “Where are we off to today ?”

“Aha, I wonder…” And I pause to intently look at each child. “I think today is a great day to visit the zoo. Artis is a renowned animal park. An oasis of nature right in the city centre.”

“Are we going there by bike taxi again ?” My eldest son looks at me expectantly.

“You liked that, didn’t you ?” My son nods at me. “No sweetheart, today we’re going to travel like the locals. We’re going to take the tram. Now be good little darlings, and grab a soya drink out of the refrigerator before we hit the town !”

And with that, all kiddos jumped up and scooted off to fill up their rations for the morning ride.

The tram to Artis zoo

We casually walked over to the central station where we were faced with several tram lines. I thought I’d buy our tickets first and maybe then find out which platform we needed to be on. The ticket kiosk was in dire need of some UX make-over, so after a few unsuccessful attempts, I asked for the aid of a kind looking Chinese lady.

The woman was very friendly, yet spoke to us in a broken language which was hard to discern at times. She got us to buy adult tickets but kept telling us to get the kids’ pass from the “so four”.

“What does she mean, the ‘so four’ ?” Dorothy whispered to me.

“I don’t know what she means.” I whispered back. “Can you see any signs looking like ‘so 4’ or anything like that ?”

Dorothy and I kept scanning the surroundings for a sign indicating ‘so 4’ whilst the Chinese lady kept talking to us pleasantly. “You’re off to Artis ? I take you to platform. You leave from platform 3. You need tram 9.”

“That makes sense.” Dorothy whispers from behind me. “Would never have found that : tram 9 leaving from platform 3.”

“Here you go.” Said the Chinese lady arriving at platform 3. “If you get on at the back of the tram, you can ask ‘so four’ or the conductor for kids ticket.”

At that she gave us a warm smile and went off on her bike. We stared after her.

“So four… She means the chauffeur !!” Dorothy exclaimed and we both burst out laughing.

“See that, children, what a wonderfully kind lady. We’ll remember her in our meditation tonight when we give gratitude for all the wonderful things in our life.” I say with warm feelings in my heart. Kindness is such an amazing gift.

Exploring Artis zoo

What can I tell you about the zoo other than it truly lived up to its legend. It is huge, extremely clean, loads of green open space where families can sit in the shade and enjoy a picknick. There are little restaurant places, but not too many, so it’s not too commercial and in your face. The animals looked happy and well looked after.

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We saw a herd of elephants in their domain, with an artificial lake where the elephants bathed at ease. A baby elephant trotted around too and was pleased to join in all the splashing in the water.

We saw sea lions swim around in the water. They were magnificent. We had the opportunity to see them swim from above. The same place where the penguins got fed fish from the caretaker. And then when moving back down to the ground floor, we could see the sea lions swimming around deeper down in the aquarium through a glass wall. Magically entrancing to watch.

We visited the butterfly garden where the atmosphere was warm and humid. Big wonderful butterflies flew all around us in the most bright amazing colours. We saw several big blue butterflies which has flown straight out of Alice in Wonderland. It was Absolem. The butterflies even landed on us to rest and to check us out.

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I’ll never forget these dinosaur statues. To start, the kids were all over them. I have to admit that even seeing a play statue was enough to trigger my curiosity about the creatures that walked the earth millions of years ago. Seeing your kids climb the scales of this statue is amazing. It gives a more complex picture and context of how this type of dinosaur once looked and lived.

Huge snakes and crocodiles in the reptile house. Gigantic spiders and scorpions in the insectarium. Wherever we went, wherever we looked, our gaze was rewarded with spectacular views and beautiful creatures.

I probably forgot to mention the giraffes and the monkeys, the lions and the tigers, and the enormous gorillas, the birds of paradise, and many many more animals who live in this magical kingdom. A delightful visit, not to mention the extraordinary food. Fresh smoothies and artisanal pizza’s made right in front of your eyes with bio-products.

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Making our way back.

“I think we’ve deserved an ice cream now.” Sighed Dorothy as we left the park in the early afternoon. The littlest one was getting tired, and our feet were heavy too after touring the park for hours. So we grabbed ourselves a delicious ice cream before heading back to the tram.

“That will be seven and thirty.” Said the lady behind the counter when each child had received his ice cream and gone to sit nicely outside on the bench in the shade of the warm sun.

“I beg your pardon ?” I stuttered. How could a couple of ice creams amount to thirty seven euros ?!

“That’s seven euros and thirty cents.” The lady repeated louder and clearly articulating with her plump lips. The misunderstanding had immediately been cleared. Thank goodness.

We took our happy bunch back to our luxurious hotel, where the baby slept and the children watched TV and played quietly on the electronic entertainment we had packed. I myself was in need of a nice cooling shower. I was already looking forward to some more snacks in the executive lounge and planning what else we could do to entertain our offspring for the remainder of this enticing day spent together as a close and loving family tribe.

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