Aug 2, 2012

Cheekiemonkies in Netherlands: Day 3

The touristy stuff

(Daddy recounts)

With the Friso farm all done and dusted, it was time to move on to the sightseeing stuff proper. And as part of the Friso tour itinerary, we still had a half-day tour on the cards with Chan Brothers. So away we went to the scenic Zaanse Schans.

Zaanse Schans is actually considered to be an open air conservation area and museum as it houses a collection of well-preserved historic windmills and houses. It displays the traditional architecture of the area and has several functioning windmills and craftsman's workshops, of which one of them is the clog-making workshop.

The oldest surviving wooden footwear in Europe is found in Amsterdam, and dates from 1230 and 1280. Pretty ancient stuff! So it was quite the eye-opener to see the history of clogs and how the designs have varied over the years.

There was even a live demonstration where we saw how a clog was fashioned from a block of wood right before our very eyes.

And then there was the inevitable souvenir-shopping.

The wifey bought the largest clog available - no, not as a present for my birthday - so that she can use it as a 'pot' for her plants back home.

Luckily, she had already bought her clogs before she stumbled onto this ultra big ones.

Having humongous clogs scattered around also served as a good distraction for the kiddos, as they kept themselves busy by scampering in and out of them while the adults soak in the magnificent backdrop of old buildings and windmills.

All the wandering around had made us a bit hungry so it was apt that the Cheese Factory was next on our list.

We were supposed to attend the cheese-making demonstration  but it got too crowded. So we did the next best thing - we proceeded to the cheese shop for samples!

Not that we complained, because there was a mind-boggling array of cheese to be sampled. The goat cheese took a bit of getting used to, but the best of the lot - and it was unanimous - has got to be the smoked cheese. It tasted just like ham, and together with the Dutch honey mustard, they make a heavenly pair! So yes, it would be criminal if we didn't lug some back to Singapore.

There was still some time left for us to explore the grounds of Zaanse Schans. And we came across some goats, much to the delight of Ale.

There are quite a number of functioning windmills scattered around the area, but one would have to pay about 3-5 euros to enter. So we were just contented to pose in front of them.

Besides windmills, there were craftman's workshops that are open to visitors, as well as shops selling Miffy merchandise!

No prizes for guessing who was the happiest gal. And no, it wasn't Ale.

The town of Volendam was next and if you ask me, I would say it is a must-see destination if you are in Amsterdam.

Volendam is a charming fishermen's village, with a bustling harbour area with the many boats which are still a major attraction today.  Indeed, this quaint town is a feast for the senses, from its picturesque houses and waterfront to its residents, noted for their musicality.

And speaking of feast, one must-try food while in Amsterdam is herring - Netherlands' national snack. It is fish eaten raw, and is eaten by grabbing it by the tail, and then gulping it down. Washing it down with vodka completes the experience. I like the sound of it already.

Well, that is the traditional way. The touristy way is to have the herring served cut in bite-sized piece on a piece of silver-backed paper, along with finely diced onions and some sliced pickles. Either way, it was GOOD! In fact, it was so good that Ash had THREE pieces.

Ayd didn't get a chance to try it though, all because he was feeling a bit cranky due to tiredness. So I decided to perk him up by passing him my DSLR and commissioning him to do a few shots.

The above shot was taken by him. And after I let him loose to do his own shooting, these are some of the shots that I particularly liked.

Not too shabby an effort huh? You can see more photos which he took HERE.

We then got a bit hungry (AGAIN!) after all the walking and took the chance to try out another of Amsterdam's fave snacks - poffertjes or little panckakes.

But the choices of toppings sure didn't make our life easier. Check out the whole array of toppings available!

I felt like ordering one each. But common sense prevailed, and we settled on the bananas and strawberries one in the end.

The strawberries was diabetes-inducing to say the least, so it wasn't any surprise that I only got the chance to have one miserable piece before the rest were walloped by the kiddos.

The wifey & I ranks this town as one of our highlights of our holiday - we simply loved the rustic charm of the entire town. Because as our tour guide put it, this is a place with a lot of character, and it seemed untouched by time.

Our time in Volendam was soon up and it was time to head back to our hotel. And as that was the end of our sponsored itinerary, we checked out of the hotel and checked into another one which was a 3-minute walk away.

The main reason for our change of hotels was because regulations in Netherlands dictate that normal hotel rooms can only accommodate 3 persons. So in our previous hotel, Friso Singapore had kindly provided 2 rooms for my family.

And when we extended our stay in Amsterdam, I had to look for a cheaper alternative where the entire family could be housed in a single room. Which came in the form of Hotel de Gerstekorrel. The hotel room was larger, and came with 4 beds. No more legs jabbing my face in the middle of the night then.

After checking in, the monkies were still bouncing of the walls of our hotel room. So we decided to pay the Van Gogh museum a visit.

Initially, the wifey and I were fearful that the boys would not be interested in the exhibits within Van Gogh museum. Thank goodness we were wrong.

The 2 boys were provided with a treasure-hunt worksheet which they had to go around looking for specific paintings and fill in the information. Upon completion, they could exchange it for a small present at the front desk.

Obviously that worked as both of them spent most of the time scrutinizing the paintings even harder than me!

And yes, photography is forbidden in the gallery area so I risked my life to sneak the above shot with my iPhone.

The wifey had always wanted to include Van Gogh museum as one of our visits the moment we learned that we would be going to Amsterdam. And I was glad we did. We thoroughly enjoyed the artworks, and I'm glad the boys did too.

In fact, the boys enjoyed the museum so much that Ayd even wanted to purchase a replica of the iconic Sunflowers artwork in the Museum Shop!

For the record, we didn't. And that was because I reckoned the boys might find more interesting buys at the medieval castle we would be visiting the following day.

See MORE photos of our Day 3 Adventures in our Awesome Amsterdam album on our Cheekiemonkies' Facebook page here:

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