3 Amsterdam-like cities to avoid the masses

When people think about the Netherlands, they think of Amsterdam. And it is a truly beautiful city. Most Dutch people I know, never visit the city much, because of how touristic it is. There are loads and loads of visitors every year, smoking weed, visiting the sex museum and cycling on the wrong side of the road. It’s a very popular city. But did you know there are actually a couple of cities that look a lot like Amsterdam, but are a whole lot less crowded? Here’s three Amsterdam-like cities in the Netherlands to avoid the masses!

Delft

Delft is a famous Dutch city that, just like the other cities in this blogpost, has the same canals and quaint little houses that Amsterdam does. It’s cute and pictoresque and easy to photograph without hundreds of other tourists! Make sure to check out the market square and the library.

Alkmaar

A city famous for it’s cheese and cheese markets, Alkmaar is really lovely. It’s not too crowded, except in the summer and it’s close to Amsterdam. Don’t miss the cheese museum and markets.

Utrecht

My favourite city has to make the list: Utrecht. It’s what we Dutch would call gezellig, great for shopping, gaming in the arcade and it has the best pancakes in the country. Check out my city guide for all the highlights!

Feathery Postcards: a trip to Avifauna

When our trip to Nice was cut short, we decided to plan some other activities in what was left of our vacation. As a child, I had visited the bird-zoo Avifauna a couple of times and I wanted to visit once more. What better time than during our vacation?

Avifauna is a bird-zoo with big cages and enclosures you can walk around in. The birds have lots and lots of space and can fly around inside their enclosures. The park is in Alphen-aan-de-rijn in The Netherlands, some 40 minutes from Amsterdam.

There was a birdshow where loads of birds would fly around in the open air. When it was time for them to come out, the zookeepers opened their cages and the birds could choose if they wanted to fly around or not. It was lovely to see.

The zookeepers had a hard time getting one particular bird out of a tree, (which was almost as fun to watch as the show). But all of the birds stayed close and eventually they went back into their homes.

There isn’t that much to say about the park, except for that it’s lovely if you like birds. It’s a great way to see and learn a little more of them. This blogpost will be more of a postcard showcase with the pictures I took.

Besides loads of bird species, such as penguins, parrots, storks and ostriches, there were a couple of other animals we found in the park. One of them my favourite: a red panda! Aren’t these adorable? There were also lemurs that were in this enclosure you could walk around in, and some of them got really close.

One of my favourite parts is the Lori Landing, which is another enclosure visitors can walk around in. Inside there are many, many lorikeets flying around. If you want, you can buy a cup of nectar at the entrace, as it’s the favourite food of the lorikeets. They’re not shy at all when they come at you to get some nectar!

It was super adorable and we couldn’t stop taking pictures. The birds are so gentle, though they will bite if they feel the need to defend themselves – or if your cup of nectar is empty…

This really is one of the zoos in the Netherlands that I like best. If you like birds, this is definitely one you should visit!

Beleefboerderij Heijerhof, Netherlands, girl takes alpaca for a walk in the forest

Taking the Alpaca’s for a walk

Getting stir-crazy yet again, I was looking for something to do. Something besides sitting in my own house. With restaurants, museums, stores and practically everything else still closed, there wasn’t a lot we could do. So we checked out Social Deal, which is a website that has deals on different kinds of entertainment. It’s also a great place to start looking if you want to do something a little different. There I found Beleefboerderij Heijerhoeve that offered ostrich-feeding, taking a walk with donkeys and a walk with alpaca’s.

As I’ve fed donkeys earlier on a trip to Germany and ostriches are scary, and alpacas are cute, the choice was easily made. We booked the tickets, and waited for the right moment to go: when the weather would be nice. It took a while, but finally, last weekend, we met with the alpacas!

Beleefboerderij Heijerhof, Netherlands, girl tries to move two stubborn alpacas

When we arrived, we were assigned two alpaca’s, and they gave us some instructions and what to look out for (alpaca spit, for instance!) and the route we should walk. One of us should walk in front of them, holding the gear, and the other one behind them, to further them along, off the property and into the woods. They weren’t allowed to eat the grass on the farm itself, but it was really difficult keeping them from doing it! They were really stubborn!

On the left you see Joep and the right picture is Hein. Hein was the one walking with me when we got to the forest. We couldn’t keep them too close to each other, otherwise they would feel the need to establish which alpaca was the dominant one. By spitting… We had been told that alpacas do spit (I though it were only llamas who did this) and that it would be green, smelly and sticky and that we should look out for it. Luckily, they only spat at each other and we didn’t get caught in the crossfire. It did smell really bad, though!

Beleefboerderij Heijerhof, Netherlands, girl poses with alpaca in the forest

It was fun! Definitely something I hadn’t done before. The alpacas were really cute, Hein kept making adorable sounds like he wanted to tell his life’s story. He also got really curious when we ran into another group of people that were walking with their own alpacas. Especially female ones… Sometimes he didn’t want to walk, other times he was hopping.

Beleefboerderij Heijerhof, Netherlands, brown Alpaca in a puddle, stubborn, won't move, stuck in mud

At one point we ran into another group who had some alpacas that were even more stubborn than ours! This female one was feeling hot and wanted to cool off in this puddle of mud! This gave me lots of Neverending Story vibes, but luckily, Joep came to the rescue, pushing her out of the water and we could all go further.

Of course, when doing any kind of animal activity while traveling, make sure the animals are not harmed in any way, especially if the owners make a profit out of such activities. We checked out the farm beforehand and it all looked legit. Most animal encounters you can do in the Netherlands, are okay, as there are a lot of rules the business has to follow.

If you want to book an animal activity, always do your research and trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. See how the animals are doing, do they look happy and healthy and if you’re dealing with wild animals, is the activity within the line of normal behavior for them? If you wanna know more, read this guestpost a friend of mine wrote.

Beleefboerderij Heijerhof, Netherlands, girl takes two alpacas for a walk in the forest

The art of Bob Ross in Museum More

I always love visiting museums. I like art, especially paintings that I can stare at for hours and seeing new things everytime I look. When I stumbled upon a Bob Ross exhibition in a museum not far from where I live, the tickets were quickly bought. But of course it got postponed again and again because of covid, until earlier this month when the museum finally (finally!) opened up again.

The exhibition was held at Museum MORE, which stands for Modern Realism. The museum is located in Gorssel, a small town in the eastern part of the Netherlands, close to Deventer and Apeldoorn. I had never heard of it, and usually I’m not a big fan of modern realism, but I do like Bob Ross so we went, even though we hadn’t even checked out what the rest of the museum was about.

I think everyone knows the iconic painter Bob Ross, for his big hair, his happy painting or his tv-show The Joy of Painting where the artist completed a beautiful painting in just 30 minutes. It’s astonishing, really. I must admit I’ve only heard about him in recent years. Even though his show was airing from 1983 and Ross died in 1995, I only heard about him a couple of years ago. He was such a happy man and he truly believed everyone could be a painter. People call him The king of chill.

The museum showed 40 of his paintings, among them the first and last he did for the television show. They were all really beautiful. It’s crazy that he could do this in 30 minutes. They’re not just painting of mountains and trees, there is so much detail in each painting, and all the details tell stories.

“Ever make mistakes in life? Let’s make them birds. Yeah, they’re birds now”

Bob ross

The exhibition was inspiring. Not only because the paintings were beautiful, but also because of Ross’ character. He didn’t believe in mistakes, but he did believe in happy clouds and happy trees. His quotes and his life are an inspiration too. The exhibition was very informative, and I liked that. It wasn’t just looking at paintings, but we were given a leaflet with more information about his life and the paintings, each one with a QR code to hear the story behind it. I’m looking forward to watching these videos, and of course his tv-show, which I haven’t seen yet. There as also a documentary projected on the wall that taught us even more about his life, his paintings and his pet: Peapod the pocket squirrel.

You can visit this exhibition in Museum More till september 5th!

Only one room of the museum focused on Bob Ross, there were three others that held the semi-permanent collection. These interested me less. There were artworks from Jan Mankes, Raoul Hynckes, Dick Ket, Pyck Koch and some other names I do not recognize. These were more traditional realism, and though it’s impressive to see how one painter can capture something so brilliantly that it looks more like a photograph than a painting, it doesn’t really speak to me.

One artwork that I thought was interesting, however, is the one you see on this picture. His unexpected return by Tobias Schalken. A girl sleeping on a table. It looked so realistic and it really scared me, somehow. I had to wait and see what happened if other people came close before I could convince myself to take a closer look. I was absolutely convinced this was not an artpiece, but a real girl sleeping. But it wasn’t. It was just really, really lifelike.

My apologies if this photo offends anyone, I must admit I’m not 100% comfortable posting this, but it’s the only picture of this exhibition I took….

The other rooms in the museum focused on an artist named Konrad Klapheck and his show Venus In Machina. The paintings were intriguing but quite vulgar if you ask me. It’s post-war German, one-of-a-kind, machines-like-human-beings art. I don’t really like it though I must admit that the paintings do tell stories. I’m just not sure if I want to know these stories. It’s just not my thing.

This exhibition can be seen till september 26th.

The Bob Ross exhibition was really good and informative and I would definitely recommend seeing it before the exhibition is over, if you have the opportunity. The rest of the museum wasn’t all that interesting to me (except the girl on the table) but that’s okay, because I only really came for the happy paintings and they truly did not disappoint!

The Botanical Gardens of Delft

Last week, summer finally made its entrance and I am so happy to go outside again! I’ve made plans and filled up my planner for the summer! So far, I’ve visited Delft and Utrecht. Other plans I made, are seeing a Bob Ross exhibition, taking a walk with Alpaca’s and of course our roadtrip to Nice. I’m excited, I love it when the sun is shining again and we can do fun things!

Anyways, I’ve talked a little bit about Delft already. A beautiful city centered between Rotterdam and The Hague, that looks a lot like Amsterdam, minus the tourists. Besides wandering the city, having lunch and visiting the library (check out my earlier post), we also visited the botanical gardens.

In the Netherlands, botanical gardens are usually part of a university. Last year, I visited the gardens in Utrecht, which were part of Utrecht University. The ones in Delft were part of the TU Delft (Technical University). It was hard to find the entrance as Google Maps had the wrong entry point, and we walked around the gardens before finding the entrance, which of course, was on the other side from where we started walking. We didn’t mind, though, because it was sunny and we had time.

I always love visiting gardens like these. They’re so peaceful and quiet and usually beautiful, with birds flying around, butterflies and bumblebees everywhere. Unfortunately, the gardens in Delft were a lot smaller than I’d hoped, and also a lot less elaborate than others I’ve seen before.

But we did find pretty flowers! There was a section on almost-extinct plants that were really pretty, and also there were flowers and bulbs in the entire area.

I must say these were not the best botanical gardens I’ve visited because they were really small and there wasn’t that much to see. The gardens in Utrecht had ponds, fountains, a small bamboo forest and glasshouses filled with butterflies. There was mention of glasshouses in this garden too, but they were closed because of covid. I don’t think I even saw them. We did see a lot of ‘restricted area, only for employees’ signs, which was no fun.

I think we only spent about an hour inside. There was one restricted area that seemed to be rented out and when we were there, the people there seemed to have brought in a marching band! I’m not even kidding. We were enjoying the peace and quiet when we suddenly heard a trombone playing! Soon the other instruments followed. It was not like they were horrible, it’s just that you don’t except to hear that in gardens like these. We quickly left.

I would definitely recommend paying a visit to Delft, but I’d skip these gardens. They are pretty, but there’s another park nearby that’s free and I think I wouldn’t pay the €6,- entrance fee again. It was okay for one time, we did enjoy the sun and the pretty flowers and I’m glad we went, I just don’t feel the need to visit them again, whereas I’m pretty sure the botanical gardens in Utrecht could become a regular spot for me.

A sunny Day in Delft

Last weekend it was time to visit yet another Dutch city I’ve been wanting to visit, namely: Delft! Delft is located on the west side of the Netherlands, just between Rotterdam and The Hague. It’s a historical city, because it’s the place where Willem van Oranje was murdered. The city is also famous for the color blue. Delfts Blue is typically Dutch, though I must say I found little blue in the city itself.

Delft is yet another city that looks a lot like Amsterdam. There are lots of canals and small houses, but the city is way smaller than the capital and way less crowded. It also doesn’t smell like weed as much as Amsterdam does.

Bicycles, canals and bridges. It’s a really beautiful city to walk around in, especially when the sun starts shining. We spent our morning in the botanical gardens (more on that later) and then set out to explore.

The city is known for its iconic blue pottery and tilework. I suspected, and hoped, to find lots of it in the city itself. There are several Delfts Blue museums and potteries, but the are all closed now because of covid. I did find this gigantic heart in the city center. It’s not Delfts Blue, but if you squint hard enough and use a little bit of imagination, you can think it maybe represents the color in the city. There are some Delfts Blue pottery shops for tourists to be found in the city, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Besides canals, there are really a lot of beautiful buildings in the city. I’m not sure what building this is, but as it’s close to the TU (Technical University), I’m guessing it has something to do with it, though I can’t be sure as I can’t find the building on google maps and there weren’t any signs (and also, we weren’t supposed to be here, oops!)

I really wanted to visit the library. As you may know, I work in the library of Nijmegen myself, buying books for a living. Before covid started, we had a congress where someone from the library of Delft came to talk about theirs, and told us how the books were categorized, using a system designed by children who loved to visit the library. I won’t bore you with the details, but of course I wanted to see for myself. And it truly looked good. The library was innovative and playful and one area was even called the WegisWeg which is the Dutch translation for Diagon Alley.

After the botanical gardens and the library, we decided to get something to eat, so we walked towards the great marketsquare, which was packed with terraces and people. I’m thinking this is something I will have to get used to again, because crowds like this scare me. This time though, we were starving so when we finally saw a free table, we sat down and ordered lunch.

We sat down at ‘t Konings Huys. It was the only place available, but we had seen that someone had ordered nachos so we weren’t picky. I had tomato soup and boyfriend ‘shared’ his plate of nachos. The food was alright (you can’t go wrong with nachos!) but the drinks were absolutely yummy! I had a virgin strawberry mojito and boyfriend had a straight lemon. It was really good!

After lunch we walked back to our car, taking another route as to see even more of the city. It was funny because the city center was really crowded but the streets around it were quiet. We saw some people doing some kind of treasure hunt and the bigger canals were filled with the students’ rowing club but most tourists and locals seemed to be having a good time in the city square.

We had a great time. A beautiful city, the sun was shining and I was wearing a skirt for the first time in forever, there were nachos, botanical gardens, flowers and a great library. What more could a girl want?

On the lookout for deer in Zuid Kennemerland

On our two day trip to the beach, we had seen the flower fields, picnicked on the beach and seen a bit of Zandvoort, or Amsterdam Beach. Before driving home, we wanted to have one last stop. Earlier this year we had visited the Amsterdamse waterleidingduinen and seen tons of deer and now we found ourselves in the same area. Instead of visiting the same place, however, we opted for another national park, namely: Zuid Kennemerland.

The national park lies 40 minutes from Amsterdam and according to the website, houses deer and foxes, just like the other park we went to, but also Scottish Highlanders and European bisons. We were excited to see them.

Unfortunately, we didn’t find any. Nor deer, for that matter. In the Amsterdamse waterleidingduinen, only hikers were allowed, and of course there were too many people who talked too loudly and scared the deer, but it was easy enough to walk further into the park and away from them. But in this park, Zuid Kennemerland, cyclists were allowed. And of course, I get that it’s a beautiful area to cycle in, but you won’t see any deer or other animals that way. And we didn’t.

There was supposed to be a lookout for the bisons but we couldn’t find any sign of it, so instead we followed the path that was marked with a little fox icon, hoping it would guide us into the direction of foxes. We just kept walking in circles, but frustratingly enough, the paved road seemed to always be around the corner. Even when we abandoned the fox-route, and went through a gate that said ‘playtime over’, meaning that we had to keep quiet, we eventually came across a bicycle lane again. We walked around for a couple of hours but after seeing this tree for the fourth time, we decided to call it a day. That’s also when it started raining.

The park really has some beautiful scenery, with dunes and a lake and if you just want to hike in nature, it’s a good enough spot to visit. If you want to see deer, however, I’d definitely recommend the other park, the Amsterdamse waterleidingduinen. There were so many deer there that you can’t miss them.

Amsterdam Beach

Happy Kingsday! Time for another post about the Netherlands! When you think of Amsterdam, you don’t immediately think of beach, but there is there is an official Amsterdam beach! I must admit that I, along with most of the other Dutch people, think it a ridiculous habit to put ‘Amsterdam’ before anything that’s vaguely in the area. But it’s good for the tourists.

Amsterdam Beach, better known as Zandvoort-aan-Zee, or just Zandvoort, is a city on the westcoast of the Netherlands, some 30 kilometers from Amsterdam. It will take you about 40 minutes to reach by car, half an hour by public transport and and hour and 45 minutes by bicycle. Zandvoort is most famous for it’s formula 1 racing track and also the beach.

Sea Cottage Zandvoort

I got an offer to enjoy a romantic getaway at Sea Cottage Zandvoort, complete with a nicely filled picknick basket, romantic films and a bottle of champagne. As we’re still in quarantine and the borders are closed, there are not a lot of places we could go, and spending some days on the beach sounded like a lovely getaway.

We started our first day by seeing the flower fields in bloom, close to Zandvoort, in Noordwijkerhout. It was too early for tulips, but we saw daffodils, other flowers and lambs! We had an amazing time and then drove to Zandvoort to the Sea Cottage we booked. It was lovely, and the beach was only 300 meters away.

Amsterdam Beach

The package we booked included a picknick basket, with cheese, bread, donuts, a bottle of wine, some nuts and other things to snack on. When we had dropped our stuff off, we quickly grabbed the basket and walked to the beach, where we sat down in the sand and had a lovely picknick. It was wonderful.

We watched the sunset, read a bit back in the cottage, and came out at night for some kibbeling, which is something you have to eat when you’re on a Dutch beach and one of my favourite dishes. It’s fried fish with garlic sauce and absolutely delicious.

The next morning, we headed out to get ourselves some breakfast. We decided to go to a place called Hippie Fish because the photo’s of their dishes on their instagram looked absolutely delicious. It’s too bad that we couldn’t have breakfast inside because of the covid rules, because the place looked super cosy, but luckily, they were open and had takeaway.

We ordered the breakfast box for both of us and I got some coffee while we waited, whilst taking pictures of the beach and the beach bar.

When we got our boxes, we drove back to the cottage, which wasn’t all that far away, but we were lazy and didn’t wanna walk a kilometer back and forth, so we decided to drive. The breakfast box contained a strawberry waffle, a detox juice that sounded delicious but unfortunately, they were out of, so we got orange juice instead, and chia-mango pudding. It all smelled so good and we couldn’t drive fast enough to the cottage to have our breakfast!

And it was absolutely delicious! Especially the waffle. I don’t really care for citrus fruits, so boyfriend got my pudding and juice (maybe I should have just ordered the waffle?) but he was all the more happy for it.

After breakfast we checked out and decided to wander through Zandvoort some more, before our next stop. I hadn’t been here before, usually when we go to the beach we go to Zeeland, especially since my inlaws live there. But it was nice to have a change of scenery and some days off, enjoying ourselves and not having to do anything.