Fulfilling our holiday goals

Dear Dorothy,

I’m sure you’ll agree that what makes life delicious is having dreams and desires. You can never have too many travel goals on your bucket list. But would you call a mini-break to our northern neighbours a real travel destination? Maybe not. Still I am so much enjoying this quality time away with my kids. The fresh sea air is doing me worlds of good.

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Our hotel is a truly amazing destination for the kids. So many fun activities to engage in and new friends to make. Besides, each day I get to complete a physical and mental challenge: climb the stairs on the high dunes to reach the beach on the other side. Each time I take my time and tell myself “I can do it”, and I can, even with the extra weight of 12 kilo baby to carry in his sling. My thighs are burning. And when I look up and see my goal and destination where I’m heading, I compare it to the challenges I face everyday in life, as a single mother, as a woman entrepreneur. Darling, we can do stuff!

Also the Netherlands are ideal if you’re traveling on a budget. I am yet to discover a real inexpensive destination when traveling. But Holland really hits the mark. We are eating like royals, yet my purse is not feeling strained. I find we can enjoy the best the Dutch have to offer without going over budget. And at the same time, I know back home that my AirBnB is bringing in extra cash without much effort on my behalf. What a wonderful life!

But the sea, darling, the sea. I love spending time by the beach, listening to the sound of the waves and the smell of the salt sea air. Looking out on the vast horizon, gives me a chance to become aware of the power of my thoughts. It’s in these moments of inner musings that I manage to fill the emptiness with loving, peaceful affirmations. The seaside always manages to initiate a healing process that infuses me with positive, empowering thoughts.

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Ultimately, my romantic soul rolls with the waves and awakens an awareness within myself that enables me to create a foundation of positivity from which I can build a more authentic existence. For myself and for my loving children. They’re such wonderful little souls. I must be doing something right to be surrounded by so much love and joy.

There are several things I am missing from home, which will make our return so much sweeter. Whilst of course I miss you, and my Wim man, and my friends and home… most of all I am missing my yoga practise. August was such a divine blessing to return back to my weekly practises. And now a week off. No more studying, no more yoga. Just pure rest and bliss. Gorgeous, promise me you’ll attend several yoga classes with me when I get back. We need to keep this abundance wave rolling.

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Also I have an inkling to watch the Lion King on a quiet girls night in!

That’s it for today, Dorothy dear. I’m a happy camper out here. Loving it, living it!

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PS: the BeachClub Zuiderduin down on the beach is fantastic. Love their champagne. And little baby Willem is drinking his own glass of water like a big boy! Some news huh *smile*.

 

What do you think? How does a vacation bring out the best in you? Let me know in the comments below.

 

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I deserve a mini-break

Dear Dorothy,

How are you, dear? You might be surprised to hear that I have packed my bags and taken my kiddos off on a mini-break to the Dutch coast. You know I love the seaside. It always does me good to get my head out into the fresh air and soak in some vitamin D.

I have been working a lot lately, both for my clients in Digital Analytics, as well as for myself, upskilling my certificates and learning new stuff. Now I’m dead beat. I think I’ve overdone it a little. You know what a perfectionist I am. So I decided to take it a little bit easier this week. Of course I’ve packed all my electronic entertainment: two laptops, iPhone, iPads and the works. I will continue working on all things digital for BNP Paribas Fortis, but all other clients are going to have to take a back seat this week. Also, I’m feeling very brave when I tell you that I will not look at one single online course whilst I am out here. No sir, not this girl.

You see, if I continue working at the pace I was keeping before heading out here to the seaside, I am sure I will end up in a burnout sooner than you can say pop. I also need this time to spend qualitatively with my kids. Reconnect to the joy and love of life.

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So what have I been doing so far? I have spread my feet in the sand and gotten my feet wet in the waves of the cold sea water. I have walked and chatted with my kids. I have enjoyed a a world-class meal at the hotel’s restaurant. We’re staying in the Zuiderduin Beach Hotel again in Westkapelle. You’ll remember how much we loved it last time I came out here with the baby and my boyfriend. I got a great mini-break deal which includes a daily three-course meal and bike rentals. I wouldn’t ever dream of passing up an excellent deal like this. I’ll share daily updates on our latest adventures this week. I’m sure this will leave you itching to click “book now” too!

Anyway, of course I miss you lots, but that is nice. I just needed to get away for a bit. Don’t you think it’s deliciously fun to get away and miss people. This makes it all the sweeter to see you all back when we return back home. I love it!

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This past weekend, I went to the cinema with a girlfriend who was telling me all about her dating life. And then she asked me how I was doing and what was new in my world. She wanted to know all my juicy gossip, but having spent my entire time working and learning, I then realised that I am worn down by life’s challenges, frustrated as fudge, and on my last fraying shred of hope. I had nothing new to report.

Finally, I decided it was time for a mini-break. I only have five days to make this work and I am asking myself “Okay, sounds amazing, but honestly – can one week really change my life?”

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I am continuously thinking about the mountain of to-do’s and obligations I am juggling as a single mom and entrepreneurial business woman. About how many online webinars I’ve attended recently. How I just feel like maybe it might already be too late for me… My abundance wave rolled right from under my feet.

And it got me thinking about just how seriously hard it is for us women to invest in ourselves. Especially when there’s no immediate ROI in euros. Just a bunch of credentials waiting to be noticed.

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You know it can be hard to find your clear and solid yes to join in the fun of life. I tend to get too caught up in being a perfectionist.

Why? As women, most of us swim in a sea of indecision, where our “logic” seems at odds with our intuition, and where we struggle to hear our truth – never mind follow it. Women have been taught to shut down our feelings and instincts, and listen intently to the expectations of others.

Getting my butt into my car and driving my three kiddies down to the beach actually took some ovaries. For once I might call it a leap of faith. Instead of listening to my head, I’ve listened to a feeling, an inner whispering of my body and my soul.

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Like, maybe I can’t even put my finger on why I am going to go for it – but something here just calls to me. There is some intuitive knock at the door. There’s a pull.

But then the other part of me has a zillion and one logical reasons and explanations on why not to come.

Here’s the thing: there is immense power in dedicating an entire week to exploring myself, my life, and my world from a different paradigm, a different perspective, inside a feminine lens.

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I’m hoping this week will show me how to reconnect with that extraordinary intuition that I possess.  I want to remember my joy, radiance, and passion. I want to master a brand new paradigm for getting what I want, with less force and struggle. Tap into the game-changing power of my emotional truth, and how to leverage it. Experience real motherhood. And a whole lot more.

Know this: if you can get myself out to the beach every day, it will be worth it.

I’m committed to enjoying an incredibly rich, deeply valuable, and transformative holiday experience. One I’ll look back on as a game-changer, where I’m glad I listened to that inner voice that pulled me forward. The me-who-compromises steps aside and allows the real me to take the reins.

Now more than ever, it’s time to rise up and actually live the legend I am born to be. It’s time to stop playing small and harness my truth, my power, and my innate feminine brilliance.

In order to do that, I’ve got to take a bold step. I’ve got to machete my way through the jungle of to-do’s and obligations, and take a leap.

Can one week really change my life?
Yes. I promise it will.

PS: Dorothy dear, would you drop by my house tomorrow and check on my AirBnB guests? Thanks darling!

 

What do you think? How do you gift yourself? Let me know in the comments below.

When Amsterdam gets strange and magical

That Monday morning we awoke to a sunny day in Amsterdam. Our last day out of a long weekend to this beautiful city, also known as the Little Venice of the North. Being a good patriot however, I must say that Belgium’s Bruges also competes for this title. I’ll leave it up to debate.

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Anyhow, copious breakfast again in the Executive Lounge, at which Dorothy asked me : “So what’s the plan for today?”

“There isn’t much plan. I have pre-ordered tickets to visit Anne Frank’s house at eleven o’clock. And other than that I suggest we walk around and visit whatever catches our eye. Whatever makes the kids happy.” I answer to truth. A friend of mine had told me to pre-order the tickets online, else it’s rather impossible to get in. People from all over the world are queuing to see the famous hideout that sheltered eight people for two years in the second World War.

“Oh goodie, I do agree that’s a part of history not to be forgotten. How touching to take the kids there.” Dorothy is delighted.

That morning, we stored our luggage with the concierge of the Doubletree by Hilton hotel, and took to the streets of Amsterdam. We were following the plan on how to get to Anne Frank’s house. A twenty minute walk, the concierge had assured us. And it was, even at a leisurely tempo.

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We arrived slightly early at the site of Anne Frank, so we decided to go for a serving of ‘poffertjes’ which are mini-pancakes, a Dutch speciality. They serve it with white icing sugar and a portion of butter, which melts nicely on the mini-pancakes. Delicious.

Next we were in line waiting to enter the legendary house. Needless to say we were tremendously excited. I had read Anne Frank’s diary as a teenager, and had adored the movie. The house turned out to be so true to what had been shown in the film. Only the reality showed us that the house was really tiny. It was baffling to imagine that eight people had actually lived here for eight years. Out of courtesy and respect for history, no pictures were taken inside. The place is sacred, almost like a monumental tomb.

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“Oh look at that, street art!” Dorothy exclaimed. “Let’s buy a painting. That man is old. When he dies in ten years’ time, that painting might be worth a fortune.”

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After our tour, we casually walked back the way we had come. At Dam Square the kids had noticed tours given in old horse ‘n carts. So we decided to give that a spin too. It was wonderful, seeing the city yet again from another perspective. Our guide pointed out the little quaint houses and other noteworthy sightings along the way.

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Again back on our way towards our hotel, an exhibition caught my eye. It was well passed mid-day and the sun was high. Which made it a very good occasion to get inside and admire something. This exhibition was the “science of happiness” and given this is a subject I am very interested in, I was adamant on seeing it. To make things more interesting, they used actual bodies donated to science to showcase the working of the human body. How our bodies influence our sense of happiness, and how in turn we can take better care of ourselves and find happiness along the way.

Finally, we made it back to the hotel where we collected our luggage and made our way to the train station, which in fact was just five minutes next to the hotel where we’d stayed. Upon arrival, I had noticed a lovely little sushi bar there. The kids absolutely love sushi so this was a nice treat to end our tour.

Our train ride back home was comfortable. Traveling first class is no excessive luxury when accompanied by three (small) children. And what an adventure Amsterdam had been! I had mapped out the perfect trip, yet allowed enough space for spontaneous ideas and unexpected thrills. Thinking ahead and building in every safeguard I could imagine: the right suitcase, the right buggy, traveling in comfortable first class, booking a spacious suite in a hotel near the station and central to Amsterdam. Yet sometimes you need a little help to save you from human error. That’s where travel blogs and online research come to the rescue. And the best part? I get to tell you all about our great time out and about.

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The baby also attracted another butterfly. We’re all so truly blessed.

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What do you think ? Did you enjoy our adventures in Amsterdam ? And my biggest question still : where to next ? Let me know your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.

Amsterdam’s still got it

I had just put the baby to rest a bit in his cot, whilst my two bigger kids rested after our morning visit to the Artis zoo in Amsterdam. I intended to take a nice cooling shower and wash off all the heat and sweat of our day so far out and about. Feeling rather proud to be touring the stunning capital of the Netherlands with my littles and exceptionally exhilarated thinking about what to do this evening.

Suddenly there was a loud knock at the door and I found Dorothy there wearing nothing but a bath robe and looking disgruntled. I quickly bustled her into our room and motioned her to be quiet for the baby.

“What’s up ?” I ask her rather alarmed.

“My toiletries have gone.” She answers quietly.

“What do you mean, they’re gone ?” I ask her again.

“Gone. As in ‘not there anymore’.” Dorothy’s tone is slightly sarcastic. “I had left them in the paper bag I put all my toiletries in. Didn’t unpack everything, you see.”

“No I don’t see. Why didn’t you unpack everything ?” I am starting to sound annoyed too now, but not for the same reasons. “The housekeeper probably thought it was rubbish and threw it away.”

“Oh no !” Dorothy wailed. “There is stuff in there I really need. Like my deodorant and my nicotine stickers. All my vitamins, my probiotics… The lot. Gone!”

“Just call housekeeping and inform them that they took it by mistake and demand they return your stuff.” I offer as logical solution.

“Oh but I can’t do that !” Dorothy looks at me bewildered. “The anti-lice shampoo is in there too, remember. Whoever finds it is going to think I’ve got bugs.”

“Sweetheart look, you’re going to have to put your pride aside for a moment and just ask for it back. Nobody will mention the anti-lice shampoo.” I promise her.

“You’re right, of course. I’ll just have to keep my head held high whenever they return it. I’ll never see that person again in my life anyway.” Dorothy reluctantly agrees. “What time are we meeting up later on ?”

“Six o’clock downstairs. We can grab some nice little snacks from the executive lounge before heading out.” I suggest.

“Oh goodie. I just love getting free stuff. What are we going to do tonight ?” Dorothy inquires.

“I’d really love to go on one of those canal tours around Amsterdam. Been here so many times and never done that.” I give her a warm smile and see her out. Off to my shower, then some well-deserved feet-up.

100 highlights canal tour

As agreed, we met downstairs for our evening snacks in the executive lounge. Then we headed out towards Amsterdam central station where we booked our tickets for a tour on the canals of Amsterdam by boat. We were too late by then for an open boat tour, but still managed to get a seat on a closed boat. It was near seven o’clock by the time we got down by the water, so the heat had cooled down greatly and a closed boat was welcome.

The boat was comfortable with tables surrounded by comfortable seats, each hosting four or six visitors per table. We also were handed headphones so that the tour was guided in the language of your choice. My children plugged in, and the baby was adamant on following suite here too. So inevitably I had to donate my headphones to the smallest child, leaving me without any explanation. Just the glory of the quaint houses and marvellous buildings I experienced along the ride.

I cannot tell you what we saw since I had no headphones. Though I do know we sailed past Anne Frank’s house and saw hundreds of people queuing up even at this hour. At one point a smaller open boat kind of crashed into our boat. Apparently it had ignored the fact that we had priority. Our captain didn’t seem phased about it and the other boat continued it’s route, though the occupants had been startled by the crash. Nothing happened really.

The Netherlands in general

Till this day I remain a great fan of Holland. It’s more than the land of syrup and pancakes, friendliness and cleanliness, the Netherlands has something for everyone. Whether you would like to pass time on your travels on a stunning road trip or surrounded by water, let the Netherlands blow you away.

If you’re the kind of person who loves to have flannel on your back and s’more in hand, camping is a perfect way to explore the Netherlands. Camping is not really my cup of tea personally, but if you want to experience the best, Holland has a few campsites with unrivalled views, facilities and more.

Back to Amsterdam

By the time our boat trip was over, the kids were simply knockout. Yet they didn’t quite yet want to give into their fatigue. I had promised to take them to the hotel’s Sky Lounge where drinks and snacks are served with a beautiful view on the city.

“Oh yes, cocktails !” Dorothy had said with certain rapture.

The rest, dear peeps, is a tranquil scene of adults sipping margaritas, children playing quietly and baby dozing of snug in mama’s arms.

“Did you get your stuff back ?” I finally ask Dorothy.

“Yes, like you said. The lady just handed me over the bag and apologised explaining that they thought it was to be thrown out with the garbage.” Dorothy goes on. “I think she’d seen the shampoo though, because she couldn’t get away from me fast enough.”

“Oh well, no big deal.” As I finish my drink and feel completely sparked in my energy. Walking around in the open air all day exploring new places has that effect on me. I intend on performing a meditation ritual before bed with my children, to express thanks and gratitude to be living this wonderful life together.

 

 

Touring Amsterdam with kids

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.

How to make Amsterdam with kids easy

“I want to go to Vondelpark.” I clearly told Dorothy. She snorted as we set off on foot, starting at our hotel, DoubleTree by Hilton right next to the Amsterdam Central train station.

“How far is it ?” Dorothy inquired, already looking tired.

“Oh let me check.” I said as I got out my phone and checked on Google Maps how long it would take to get there. “Oh no, it’s just under 5 kilometers from here. With all the kids, that will take us at least an hour and a half !”

“Like there’s no way I’m doing that.” Dorothy looked alarmed. “You can’t seriously be thinking of going there on foot. Can’t we get a taxi?”

“No Dorothy, we’re in Amsterdam and we’re not taking a taxi.” I retort.

“Why not ? We do it all the time in Brussels. What about an Uber then ?” Dorothy suddenly gets creative.

“Dorothy dear, we’re in Amsterdam. The Dutch are very green-minded and eco-friendly. It’s just not done.” I explain. “Oh okay then, maybe Amsterdam is a bit like Barcelona and we’ll find some quaint little parks dotted around the city with play areas for the kids.”

“You’d be lucky. But okay, if we’re just going to be leisurely walking around the town, then I’m up for it.” All of a sudden, Dorothy is energised again.

So we set off walking down the little streets in a general south looking direction. Vondelpark seemed to be south to central station, so anything near where I originally wanted to be will do. We’re casually walking down the little streets which are filled with tourists. All youngsters out to have fun. They’re a noisy crowd. Laughing and jeering, running around thinking they’re funny. There’s also the youngsters sitting out smoking their joints. They look grey and pale and not like there having much fun.

“Oh my, I didn’t realise that’s what it looks like from the outside.” Dorothy looks alarmed.

“Well what did you think you looked like when you’re smoking a joint ?” I put the question to her.

“I don’t know. I think I looked kind of cool.” Dorothy answers defensively.

“Well there you go, that’s what cool looks like. Fun huh?” I’m being little miss goodie-pants now and I know Dorothy can’t stand it. I feel I need to make up for hurt feelings so I offer : “Oh look at that ! Bike taxis. That looks fun and it’s very green. I’m sure the Dutch would approve.”

“Oh goodie, no more walking.” Dorothy sounds relieved.

We approach the bike taxis and ask them to take us and the kids down to Vondelpark. The perfectly foldable Mountain Buggy fits perfectly between our legs. We’re on our way to check one item off my wish-list. Or so I thought.

The ride in the bike taxi was exciting, to say the least. Amsterdam is chock-a-block with bikes, pedestrians and cars. All of them making their way criss-cross through the city. The bike had a little electric motor and reached a relatively exciting speed at times too. Despite the fact that I did almost wet myself, and Dorothy looked all cross-eyed, we arrived safe and sound at Vondelpark. The bike taxi driver was super friendly too. He offered to come pick us up again when we were finished with our walk. A quick phone number exchange arranged that.

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We fully enjoyed strolling around Vondelpark. It’s a huge park right on the outskirts of Amsterdam center. It’s filled with both locals and tourists, all enjoying some quality time in the grass, pick-nicking with the kids, talking with friends. There were plenty of little stands offering light refreshments, ice creams and hotdogs. And all that for cheap !

We found the little Melkhuis where we stopped for some coffee and cake. The kids played. We stopped by the open-air theatre where a band was playing live music. We curiously eyed the various statues throughout the park. It was a great way to stretch our tired legs from the train ride, to get in some fresh air and to spend quality time together.

When we found we had finished our tour of the park, we called our bike taxi and he faithfully came to pick us up. The ride back home to our hotel was just as adventerous as the one getting to the park. Yet we arrived safely and the driver couldn’t help himself laughing at our worried discomfort.

“Well that sure got my adrenaline going.” Dorothy beamed. “What on the planning for tomorrow ?”

“Hmmm let me see…” I pondered for a moment. “I’d like to go to the Artis zoo. Apparently it’s very good. And I’d like to go for a boat ride. And maybe do a few museums too.”

“I think you’re being too ambitious there.” Dorothy yawned. “We’ll see tomorrow morning.”

And with that, we took our tired babes to bed and all slept soundly.

 

 

Oh it’s a wonderful world in Amsterdam

“What are you packing in your suitcase for our city trip to Amsterdam?” Dorothy peers over the few items I have placed in the new Delsey suitcase I had ordered from CoolBlue. I had heard their ad on the radio and remembered I did indeed need a new big suitcase. Our previous trip to Sicily had painfully shown the need for a suitcase on wheels that move in all directions and a handle that actually works. When you’re traveling alone with 3 kids, you have to think of ease and comfort. This is one of those times. The ad was really good, I remarked as an online marketeer. Not only was it perfect timing with the summer holidays, but the ad clearly stated that if you order it today, you have it in your home by tomorrow. Now that’s service. I needed a new suitcase and needed it by Friday. Perfectly fit the bill.

“Oh, not much. We’re only going for 3 days. So two sets of clean clothes for everyone. A change of shoes. And toiletries. If we forget anything, it’s not that bad. It’s not like we’re going to a third world country. Whatever we forget that’s really needed, we can always purchase when we get there.” I wisely point out. Remaining calm while packing a suitcase is essential.

“Hmmm, yes but you remember my kids had head lice last week ? I think I’ll take that shampoo along just in case. Would be embarrassing if I had to run out to find some on a Sunday in Amsterdam.” Dorothy starts filling an immensely huge toiletry bag. In fact, she’s just putting every item from her bathroom shelf into the bag.

“Seriously ? And what are you taking that backpack for ? It’s not like we’re going hiking or anything wild like that.” I’m seriously starting to question what she’s filling two suitcases with.

“Come on, we might decide we don’t want to use a handbag and put things in this cool leather rucksack. It makes us look more tourist like.” Dorothy strokes the leather bag lovingly.

“Are those condoms ?” I look at her accusingly. We’ve already had this discussion. It’s to be a long weekend discovering Amsterdam with our kids. It’s a totally different kind of holiday.

“A girl should always be prepared.” Dorothy replies smugly and hastens to close her cases.

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Travelling solo

The next morning we arrive crisp and very excited at Brussels South train station, ready to board our Thalys train. Being a great planner, we are of course early, which gives us the leisure to eat an ice cream of our favourite flavours before boarding our train.

We still have a sea of time in front of us as we casually make our way to the public toilets. These things occur frequently to mothers with 3 kids.

And then all of a sudden we only have 7 more minutes before our train leaves. I urge everyone to step up and hasten their speed. We arrive at platform 6 only to find ourselves staring at two flights of stairs. We just stand there and stare blankly for a moment. Because here we are with pushchair and baby and kids and suitcases… and no man to even attempt the climb.

“An elevator. Quickly find one.” It flashes through my head. And yes, sure enough we do find an elevator neatly hidden without clear notice down the corridor behind the stairs. Thank goodness for intuition.

Our next issue when arriving out of breath in front of our train is how to get kids and baby and pushchair and suitcase on the train, all by my lonesome. Of course it worked, and afterwards I give myself several pats on the back for accomplishing such deeds of great bravery. The buggy was a smart buy. It folds down neatly into a small square which is light and easy to carry. It stored well in the luggage space above our seats. The suitcase however was a complete different story. It’s beautiful blue and huge to fit everything in, so no need for hauling several suitcases. Yet it appears my feminine strength is put to the test when forcefully lifting the damn things and half pulling and sliding, half lifting the heavy weight onto the train. I was grateful to think that there would be so many diapers less and no baby milk cartons left in the suitcase on our way back.

A truly enjoyable train ride of just less than 2 hours from Brussels to Amsterdam. Classy ladies with 3 kids opting for ease and comfort, we had checked into first class. This offered us the luxury of comfort seats, free wifi, free food and drinks.

“Humpf, only wine ? No champagne bubbles ?” Dorothy was not impressed.

Later that day, we checked into the suites we had booked at the DoubleTree Hilton, conveniently located right next to the train station. And a Starbucks cafe at ground floor. What more can a woman ask for ? That spelled for delicious coffees and yummy chocolate cake at all times of the day. It’s vacation time after all.

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What’s the plan ?

“Shall we go for a walk around the town ?” Dorothy inquired after we had made ourselves comfortable in our new lodgings.

“Sounds good. I’d like to take the kids down to Vondelpark.” I reply.

“Vondelpark ? Can’t you think of anything more exciting ?” Dorothy wails.

“Darling, we’ve already gone over this. This is a classic city trip with kids. This is going to be a vacation that will seem to capture the very essence of adventure. Part scholastic, part active, part leisure. The kind of iconic getaway our kids will always remember. I want to take them to see places that highlight the history without compromising on fun, food or comfort.”

It will be fun, I promise. All of the activities I have put down on my list are things I have never done before in Amsterdam. I have travelled to this wonderful city so many times before. Yet I have never taken the time to visit Vondelpark. And other beautiful places and things to do on my bucket list. Trust me.

 

What do you think ? Will Dorothy come around and see the true adventure of discovering Amsterdam through the eyes of her children ? Let me know in the comments below.