Kings Day in the Netherlands

The last stop on our Easter 2020 Lockdown Adventure is one that is near and dear to our hearts. We lived in the Netherlands for several years before repatriating to Australia in 2018. Some of my sons’ first and best memories are from Amsterdam, and they have been asking to visit for some time now.

We haven’t yet been able to squeeze in a trip (and requisite 23 hour flight) to the Netherlands. So this week, we’ll do the next best thing: a trip by cardboard plane. Kids, you’re welcome.

Setting the scene

It’s springtime in the Netherlands and tulips are in bloom. In the absence of fresh flowers, brightly coloured homemade paper tulips are in order!

Our visit happens to fall on Kings Day — when the nation celebrates the birthday of King Willem-Alexander. It’s common for homes and businesses to fly the Dutch flag and to dress in honour of the King’s royal House of Orange, which is descended from William the Silent, the Netherlands’ first king. (Check out his tale here.)

We’ll be setting the scene by hanging up bunting string flags throughout the living room, and dressing in bright orange.

We’ve also printed boarding passes and packed a cabin bag for each boy, with their usual travel toys, snacks, water bottles and outfits for the day.

Itinerary

We’re flying into Schiphol Airport, and heading straight into the hustle and bustle of Kings Day in Amsterdam — or, at least, what it would have been like before this pandemic!

One of the best things about Kings Day is the citywide vrijmarkt (Free Market), in which residents set up shop on the streets to sell their craft and secondhand goods. The best kids markets were in our old stomping ground, the Vondelpark. So I’ve set up some familiar photos in the backyard, and two little stalls: my boys will be invited to sell their unwanted toys for $1 each at their stall. And they can purchase brand new, mummy-vetted toys from my neighbouring stall for a slightly higher price. Nostalgia, adventure, and spring cleaning all at once!

There will, of course, be mini Dutch pancakes (poffertjes) at the market for breakfast and morning tea. These and the new toys should keep the kids entertained for some time.

Then we’ll come inside for a couple of virtual tours. The famous Keukenhof tulip gardens are lovely at this time of year and have recently established a virtual tour to share the love during the Netherlands’ COVID-19 lockdown. Time willing, we’ll also hit Museumplein to take in the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum.

Lunch will be pannenkoeken met appel: these pancakes, with thinly sliced apple cooked in. I have no say in this matter.

Next, we’re off to our favourite little theme park: Sprokejeswonderland in Enkhuizen. Sprokejeswonderland was established in the early 70s and is devoted entirely to traditional fairy tales. It targets young children, with simple rides and cleverly engineered playground equipment. There’s also a beautiful, if sometimes creepy, fairytale forest full of mechanical puppet shows including Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White, Pinocchio, and Hansel and Gretel. We’ll be recreating the experience by putting on a puppet show of our own. The boys will colour in printouts of their chosen characters before cutting them out and gluing each character to the end of a stick, and performing at one end of the dining table. We’ve done this before: hilarity is bound to ensue.

I expect the puppet show to take up most of our afternoon; if not, we’ll round out the school holidays with a cartoon of their chosen fairytale before a schnitzel dinner. Gezellig!

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