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Cake, castles and contractions on our Dutch family cycling holiday
For those of you you've read my previous blogs about my Dutch family cycling holiday, will know that 4 adults and 4 children under the age of 8 all successfully arrived in Holland. We enjoyed our first day of cycling and negotiated the Dutch railway system with 8 bikes and 2 trailers reasonably successfully, all whilst enduring the bitter weather than characterised Easter 2013. Now it was time to check into our accommodation.
Stayokays are really OK
The ‘Stayokays’ that we stayed in are part of a chain of Dutch hostels and were perfect for our needs. Each family had a room with bunk beds which was clean and comfortable and there was entertainment for the children both inside and out, although where the energy for running around and cartwheels came from after all the cycling I have no idea! We opted for the evening meal which were hot buffet style and went down well after our days in the fresh air. If you're planning your own trip, please note that unlike a British Youth Hostel, there is not the option to cook your own food at a Stayokay.
Happy Easter! Happy Birthday!
Easter Sunday was a double celebration because as well as Easter this was my 40th birthday and what a place to celebrate! We arrived by train to Middelburg on Zeeland, the westernmost province of the Netherlands, by lunchtime and the agenda for the day was to cycle to the castle at Domburg, 5 mins from the beach. The castle itself is now a Stayokay, and was to be our base for the next 2 nights.
We enjoyed a lovely lunch out which included birthday apple cake (complete with candles) and an Easter egg hunt for the children in the town afterwards. The cycle to the castle was a great experience - we travelled through the beautiful Dutch countryside away from busy roads, taking in the surroundings, including the snow piled up in the dykes! By the time we arrived at the castle the older girls, Alice and Emily, had tired legs having ridden 15 km, whilst the younger two had enjoyed 40 winks (again) in the bike trailers.
Yet again, the tiredness soon evaporated when there were new surroundings to explore, each others rooms to check out and another egg hunt that we set up, this time in the maze. The day was finished off in style with a bottle of champagne with dinner that Ian had hidden in the trailer and not to disappoint Kathryn produced her trademark sambuca for special occasions! I’m not sure who needed their beds more, the adults or children........
Transporting tired children on our Dutch family cycling holiday
It's probably worth mentioned that as well as two children's bike trailers, we'd also taken a trailgator bar and a FollowMe Tandem with us, with the intention of using them to pull the two 4 year olds on their bikes behind us when they got tired. However, we didn't actually use either of these during our trip as it would have been too cold for the little ones to ‘just sit’ on the back in the unseasonal weather we were having. When they got tired, we put them in the trailer, and attached their bikes to the trailer using one long strap with a jam cleat at the end. This was fiddly at first, but by the end of the trip we'd got it down to a fine art. We were using a Bumper Adventurer Duo Trailer (review coming soon!)
We couldn’t stay at Domburg without a trip to the beach which was 5 minutes walk from the castle and beautiful. About 20 degrees warmer would have been perfect for me but the children were absolutely loving it with roly poly’s and head first body slides down the sand dunes being one of the highlights of the holiday. The town of Domburg 2km away was not to be missed so on our ‘day-off’ cycling we just had to have a quick pedal up there and it did not disappoint with its quaint Dutch charm. It was, unsurprisingly, packed with tourists enjoying their sunny Easter Monday. Time for ice cream and more apple cake!
It was just a shame that we didn't end up seeing my pregnant Dutch friend, Renske, and her family who helped out with aspects of this trip. We had planned for them to come and meet us today but mother nature took over and the contractions began…
Homeward bound - the end of our Holland family cycling adventure
Our final day was going to be a big one as we were doing the trip back to the Europort in one day which meant 15km to the station, 2 hours on the train and then another 15km to the ferry. We made an early start and were off by 9am and were greeted with a cold but sunny day.
The first sector back to Middelburg was as cold as it had been with the headwind again. Despite some cold fingers and toes the girls did really well and we made it to the town and we all enjoyed warming up with hot drinks and snacks. We even sat outside in the cafe soaking up the morning sun in the town square...under the heater. Tom and Lucy started out on their bikes that morning but soon made a good decision to take to the trailers with their blankets and were very happy there!
The train journey was time to relax and catch up with diary writing for the girls before the grand finale. The last cycle back to the ferry from Maasslius was a fantastic experience for the beautiful sun was shining down upon us and the wind was behind us which we definitely deserved for the final stretch, especially the girls who had ridden all the way. Star of the day went to Tom who cycled the best part of 20km aged 4! The kids were all full of delicious Dutch toasties and there was no stopping them!!
The sight of the ferry in the distance was lovely, like coming home, and as before we enjoyed the ride up the ramp to get inside and strap our bikes up before finding our cabin.
Final thoughts on our Dutch family cycling holiday
There was a real sense of achievement that we had done what we set out to do, despite the cold weather, and luckily we had no punctures. The only mechanical mishap was Emily’s pedal falling off, which caused a lot of hilarity and was soon securely back on again! We only had a few minor spills with the children, either wiping each other out or going into the back of each other but nothing that even required a plaster and they were soon back on the bikes.
In summary, our adventure across the North Sea was a great success and the cycle routes that we used were perfect for family friendly cycling being flat, smooth and well signposted. There are even cycle lanes around the roundabouts! All of our experiences as we went along made it so much more than ‘just a bike ride’ and the children had so much fun just being together.
We arrived back home exhausted but full of it and have many fond memories of our trip and guess what…..we want to do it again! Hopefully next time we won’t need quite so many layers of clothes!
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