CATCH UP POST NUMBER ONE – OUR HOLIDAY!
After scrolling through my previous posts and realising that a lot of them were very real and somewhat heavy topics, I decided it was time for a fun one: Our first family holiday! This post will be full of our first fabulous European adventure along with tips, tricks and hacks of how we survived and blooming’ loved our first family trip!
Our Holiday Home
Four months ago, we took our first holiday as a family. Both nervous and excited, we decided to drive into Europe and up to Holland. Although my hate of ferries is very real, we got an early crossing from Dover to Calais and we used a wonderful company called ‘Eurocamp‘ for our accommodation. ‘Eurocamp’ are a wonderful company that rent out camping grounds, safari tents and a series of mobile-home style caravans across Europe. Having used them in the past for holidays in France we decided to venture a little further-a-field and chose Duinrell, Wassenaar in Holland this time. (Eurocamp code ‘HL012‘) Whilst I had never been, K had once visited as a child and was eager to rediscover the country. We chose a campsite with plenty to do for all ages, made sure it had a pool and was near to plenty of sights to see whilst all being baby friendly. With Rotterdam 30 minutes away and Amsterdam just 60 minutes away, day trips were a comfortable car journey away.
Whilst the journey from Calais to Duinrell wasn’t more than 4 hours, we decided that en route to we would make a pit stop in Antwerp, a place we’ve never been but always wanted to. WOW. We absolutely loved it. Adding a little luxury to our holiday, my parents brought us a night’s stay at the ‘Hilton, Old Town’ for K’s birthday. It was blooming beautiful and breakfast was just… make your own waffles is all I’m going to say! There was so much to see with the Grote Markt, long walkways down the riverside and restaurants & bars everywhere, we more than enjoyed eating a ridiculous amount of ‘Frites et Fritessaus‘ and Nutella smothered waffles. Following on from our hotel adventure, we had a short 2 hour drive on to Duinrell.
The campsite was fantastic. With absolutely everything you would ever need onsite and about 10-minute walk offsite, it was perfect for families of all ages and sizes. On the campsite part of the site, they had a small supermarket shop in the same building as two restaurants, a pub and a bowling alley. Just by the entrance there was a huge pen full of bikes for hire. With a mixture of mountain bikes, kids bikes, trikes with baskets, baby seats, kids trailers and even go karts (for onsite use only) there was no excuse not to enjoy the many cycle paths in the countryside surrounding the site. In the amusement park part of the site there was much more to be enjoyed by older children and adults with several fast-paced rollercoasters along with mini-golf, token arcade and the ‘Tiki-Bad’ – an indoor and outdoor pool facility with many slides, a shallow baby play area, lazy river and wave machine. We delved into the pool twice in a week and only wished we’d had time to go again even though there was an extra cost of €5 per adult and free for under 2 year olds for 2 hours and €7 for 3 hours – Pretty cheap entertainment for a rainy afternoon!
Our caravan was just what we wanted. This particular time we opted for the ‘Esprit’: a slightly more upmarket version of the caravans available. Better than the budget ‘Classic’ but not quite as posh as the ‘Avant’. It was just right for us. It was the perfect size for the three of us, with two bedrooms, a toilet with separate shower room and a huge kitchen living area, there was plenty of space for us and all the baby kit too. One of our favourite things about Eurocamp (and one of the main reasons we will go back again and again) is that you can hire baby & toddler kit FOR FREE – yes you read that right! At absolutely no extra cost you can hire any of the following kit for your stay (proving they have it available course!): travel cot, bed rails, highchair, potty, baby bath and changing mat. This was a huge weight lifted off our shoulders as we only started introducing foods to little man the week before left! To add to these wonderful things, the beds were comfortable, the kitchen well stocked complete with 4 gas hobs and oven – we wanted for nothing.
In terms of location it was close enough to larger towns and cities for day trips but far enough away to enjoy the countryside. We were just a 10-minute drive from ‘Hundestrand Wassenaar’ (the local beach), half hour drive from Rotterdam and an hour away from Amsterdam. We took advantage of these! The beach was beautiful and had SO MANY SHELLS. It was incredibly long so we only walked a section of it with the dunes lined with bars and restaurants which I imagine are bustling during the summer. Unfortunately, most were closed due to it being off-season but it was September and rather chilly so we were more than happy to get back in the warm after a long windswept walk.
Our first day trip was to visit Rotterdam Zoo – what can I say! One of the best zoos I’ve ever been to. Impulse decisions can sometimes backfire but this one did not disappoint. An old fashioned inner-city zoo that’s evolved with the times, the zoo has hundreds of animals in spacious enclosures clearly designed to mimic that of their natural habitats. It was a perfect mixture of zoo and aquarium with just so much to see. We easily spent 5 hours there and could have easily spent much more time there too. ‘Any advice?’ Take your own lunch. We ate before we left and took snacks but main eateries seemed to be far apart and again, due to it being off-season a lot of the smaller food stands were shut up. I can imagine during peak-season this would be much less an issue of course. It might also save you a few pennies for the gift shop too! There were plenty of benches to rest and picnic spots too – the whole zoo is quite large and with a six-month-old in a pram, these were perfectly placed. A 10 out of 10 from us and given the chance to go again, we would say yes, every time!
Amsterdam. Another city we’ve wanted to visit but never got around to it. We were a little nervous about going with little man but to be honest, we had absolutely nothing to worry about. We paid ahead for underground parking right in the centre, we took his pram and a bag with everything he’d need – including his rain cover we absolutely needed – and we picked up a map when we got there and just started walking. We didn’t want to plan too much as doing anything with a baby can sometimes be unpredictable so we pin pointed a few of the main things we wanted to see and aimed for those. We decided to give the Anne Frank house a miss – with queues for days and no place to store a pram, this time just wasn’t right to visit this museum but definitely one for a future visit. We took an obligatory selfie by the ‘iamsterdam’ sign, walked over a million canal bridges, ate more waffles and found some cute vintage shops. It was such a lovely day and a good first city trip that I’m sure will go on to inspire many more.
Coffee Shop Stop, Amsterdam
We really didn’t want our first holiday to come to an end. Packing up was done begrudgingly and the drive back to Calais was quiet as we thought back on all the adventure we’d had that week BUT we were not ready to go home so we made a stop off at Bruges en route home. Another city we’ve always wanted to go to but never found the time. We didn’t stop for long but managed to squeeze in a walk around the town, seeing Belfry Tower, a tour around the chocolate museum ‘Choco-Story’ and time for coffee and ice cream! It was the perfect end to a perfect week.
A lot of people don’t see the point in taking a baby on holiday. I must say that now we’ve done it, I couldn’t disagree more! We know that our little man really won’t remember our first holiday, staying in a caravan, seeing Antwerp, Amsterdam, Rotterdam zoo or Bruges but for us it was a fantastic way to make first family memories for us parents. It isn’t all about your little one – you’re a family, a team and it’s now about you all – yay! We took thousands of photographs and we can’t wait to share them with our little man in the many years to come. What I will say though is that it was worth waiting until he was 6 months old. He was so much more aware of his surrounding, was awake for more of the day and was so happy to sleep just about anywhere and everywhere. Bottom line? Just book that holiday and enjoy every minute!
Not quite mastered a selfie yet!
It’s definitely one of our favourite memories and I can’t wait to see what adventures we have in store for next year!
Love to all,
One Curious Mother x
Another excellent read summed up with some excellent advice. X