Jul 30, 2012

Cheekiemonkies in Netherlands: Day 1

The Friso Farm Experience

(Daddy recounts)

As you would be probably know by now, our entire family was packed off to Amsterdam by the kind people at Friso Singapore about one and a half weeks ago. And as much as I embraced the idea of holidaying in Europe, I was far more apprehensive of the journey there for there can only be a fine line separating bliss and insanity during the 13-hour flight.

And if I may be brutally honest, the plane journey to Amsterdam was rather uneventful. The 2 boys were easy enough - as long as there was a suitable in-flight entertainment system. Ale, though, was a different story altogether.

I was half-expecting Ale to perpetuate the entire aircraft with her loud wails, while I readied myself to pull the barf bag over my head (if it fits) in shame. But prayers do get answered, and she slept for close to 9 hours! As an added bonus, she nodded off again in my arms just before landing. I have never felt so delighted to be cuddling a XL-sized sack of rice for close to 1.5 hours.

So everything turned out well in the end. We arrived bright and early at Schiphol Airport at 7.30am, with all of us having adequate rest. Phew!

We hopped onto the tour bus, which brought us to NH Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky, a hotel at the heart of Dam Square - a very convenient location (read: shopping for the wifey).

Our travelling entourage has a total of 3 other toddlers, excluding our monkies. So while Ash & Ayd were the biggest kor-kors around, you can just about predict the amount of mayhem that all will inevitably unleash when put together.

And once the decibels caused by the kids began to exceed the bearable threshold, I decided to bring the boys out for some quick snaps of Dam Square. This is where it all began - the Dam derives its name from its original function which was a dam on the Amstel River, hence also the name of the city.

Once checked in, we had about 2 hours of recharge time before venturing out to the Friso farm. But not before pacifying our rumbling tummies!

We had lunch at a small restaurant opposite Sloten Windmill, which is Amsterdam's only windmill that is open to the public.

And then, we arrived at the farm soon after that.

I didn't know it before, but FrieslandCampina (Friso is one of the many brands it owns) is one of the world’s largest dairy co-operatives and has 15,300 member farmers in the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium.

What this essentially means is that these member farmers own and supervise the company. Because when the farmers work hard to supply the best quality milk, the company benefits. And when FrieslandCampina performs well, the farmers benefit too.

So Friso had arranged for us to visit one such farm in Amsterdam, where the Farmer and his wife, together with their 3 kids, work and live on the farm.

And my word, it was such a gorgeous place. Besides an actual working cow farm and the dwelling home, there are tons of stuff that make it such a wholesome place to raise kids. And it is these stuff that my monkies  targeted immediately the moment they set their eyes on them.

Besides an awesome old-fashioned kind of playground, which came complete with a kick-ass tyre swing, there were many miniature farm vehicles like a tractor scattered around the farm premises. Oh, and not forgetting the trampoline which had all kids literally jumping for joy!

Ale, though had other plans. She was very taken in by the pets around the farm - and between the dog, rabbits and cats, I believe she found the house cat to be most endearing. So she showed her affection in the manner she knew best: by pursuing it relentlessly.

Then, our fun was cut shot. It was time to start work proper.

Yes, work. It wasn't all play and fun for us you know. The other purpose of the trip was because Friso Singapore will be filming an infomercial during our trip. And Cavin Soh, a Mediacorp artiste, together with his wife and 16-month-old cute son, joined us for the trip as well.

And we finally had the chance to come face to face with the stars of the farm.

The cattle herd, or moo-moo-cows as Ale puts it.

The 2 boys definitely had much fun interacting with the cows at such a close proximity. Even more so for Ale I reckoned, especially since she spent most of the time squatting down in front of the cows.

I do wonder what was going though her mind.

We were next invited indoors for a briefing by the Farmer, who would guide us through the daily functioning of the farm.

The first time I entered the barn, the smell of poop hit me like a ton of bricks. But amazingly, it wasn't as pungent as I had braced myself for. Even more amazing, I got pretty much used to the smell after spending 10 minutes inside. I think it was because the smell wasn't entirely that of dung. Rather, the stench was balanced by the smell of hay, grass and cow feed.

That's the handsome Farmer (that's what the wifey calls him) and his family. Can you believe that the Farmer's wife is 41 years old? There must be something about the air in the farms of Holland then. Heh.

Anyway, there was still the tour of the other parts of the farm yet to done and even though I half-expected the kiddos to be tired by now, they were still pumped up and raring to go.

It was cloudy and chilly when we we paying the cows a visit moments earlier, but the skies have cleared up as we exited the barn. Which was just perfect!

Mr. Handsome Farmer then showed us the ingredients that make up the cows' daily feed.

While the Farmer's twin boys and my 2 boys played together ever so wildly. And it's rather incredulous really, considering the fact that they could only speak Dutch while my 2 boys couldn't!

So when the language barrier isn't an issue, I guess there wasn't any stopping Ale then. Who was bent on shadowing her 2 brothers around.

Then came the highlight of the day - cow milking time!

It's an entirely automated process, so there was no need for any tiring hands to milk the cows.

It was here that Ayd made the startling discover of the century - that a cow doesn't give strawberry or chocolate milk!

Yup, all along he had the notion that since a cow has 4 udders, one udder gives strawberry milk, one gives chocolate milk while another gives vanilla milk. I then asked what about the last udder and he replied, 'Uhm, banana?'

All I can say is that I am eternally grateful for this farm trip!

And once the milking process was done, we couldn't leave the farm without tasting the freshest of the freshest milk could we?

And our verdict? I had never tasted milk this fresh, creamy and sweet! I think the wifey even had a second helping. Haha.

Our final errand of the day was a chance to feed the baby cows, or calves. And the Farmer's twin boys showed us all a sure-fire way to get our hands icky and filled with saliva - by sticking our entire hand into the calf's mouth!

EEW... but we all tried it! And it was undeniably fun AND ticklish!

And with that, it marked the end of our first day in Amsterdam. Though fun-packed, it was an extremely tiring day too as we still had to overcome the effects of jet lag. We would find ourselves back again at the farm the next morning to complete the filming.

Til then, it was a wrap for Day 1!

See MORE photos of our Day 1 Adventures in our Awesome Amsterdam album on our Cheekiemonkies' Facebook page here: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.342800939133515.78313.110845722329039&type=1

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