A roadtrip to Europe had been on the bucket list for a long time. As with many of our shorter trips, we planned this one at very short notice. Our aim for the trip was to visit some new places. We decided on Bruges and Amsterdam as the main destinations. To keep driving times to a minimum, we planned a few stops along the way to break up the journey.
Day 1 – We’re on our way
After the usual rush to get everyone out of the house and in the car with all the essentials, we were on or way. We had a thankfully quick and uneventful trip to the Eurotunnel and arrived in Calais late morning. Our first stop was Dunkirk, a coastal town in Northern France. The weather was great and we enjoyed a couple of hours on the beach and some tasty baguettes at the seafront.
Leaving Dunkirk, we had an hours drive to reach our final destination of Bruges. We had decided on the centrally located Crown Plaza hotel as we would only be staying in the city for 24 hours. The hotel has onsite parking, which was important as we wanted the car easily accessible.
Day 2 – Discovering Bruges
We enjoyed breakfast at the hotel then headed out to explore the city. Bruges doesn’t seem to get going until 10am so we spent a while in nearby Kon Astridpark, to let the kids enjoy the playground and stretch their legs. A little later, we took a boat tour of the city. The boats depart behind The Burg, one of the city’s main square’s. The tour gave a different perspective to the city and the kids enjoyed the boat ride.
After our boat tour the children were inevitably hungry so we headed to the central area of The Markt. There are many restaurants and shops in this area. It’s a great area to discover some traditional Belgian exports, especially the chocolate and waffles! Looking for another family activity, we found the Historium Bruges, situated on The Markt. It is an interactive museum telling the history of Bruges.
To complete the day we walked to the Eastern edge of the City to see The Windmills and the beautiful church, Sint-Annakerk.
Our day In bruges was at an end. It is a small and interesting city, perhaps more suited to adult visitors. There are many museums of art and cultural interest, which we did not choose to explore on this trip. We would definately recommend it as a stop off. After a quick snack, we left Bruges and were moving to our next hotel, a Novotel in Breda, Netherlands. This was close to our next days activity.
Day 3 – Eftling Theme Park
We woke early, which seems to be standard practice when sharing a room with children! The hotel was basic but all we needed for a mid-way stopover. We had a short drive to Eftling, which is a theme park in the Netherlands. The traffic was very busy getting into the park, despite arrriving early. Entry was 44Euros per person, so a relatively expensive day out.
Some of the rides in the park are a bit outdated but there is certainly lots to do. The children enjoyed playing in the various play parks and going on the smaller rides. We ate some good food at the park, especially the ‘poffertjes’ (mini pancakes). We enjoyed our day on the whole, but would probably not visit again.
After a full day at Eftling we had a slightly longer drive for the evening to get to Amsterdam. We arrived at out hotel around 9pm, The ‘Van der Valk Hotel Oostzaan- Amsterdam’. The hotel is on the outskirts of the city, which suited us well as we were driving.
The hotel is very modern and we found it very good value for money in comparison to other options in the city.
Day 4 – Amsterdam
We woke around 8, all still a bit tired from the previous day. We had a pre-booked hotel shuttle bus to take us to the nearest ferry port. The public ferry services are free and run several routes from the outskirts to Amsterdam Centraal, the main transport hub of the city. We were heading for the Nemo Science museum first, a short walk from the the central station.
We spent nearly four hours in the museum. There are so many interactive and interesting things to discover.
The museum has a lab where older children can try some basic science experiments. This is included in the admission price. We chose to do the rocket fuel experiment, which was great fun.
We had a quick lunch in the museums rooftop restaurant, which has nice views of the local area.
After Lunch, it was time to see some of the city. With limited time, we decided to take a canal cruise to see some of the main sights. The tour was very informative and gave our legs a well earned rest. Emily took advantage of a comfy seat and took a power nap.
We walked down to Dam Square to look for somewhere to eat dinner. The area is very busy and touristy, which didnt have the right kind of place that we wanted to eat. We decided to carry on a bit further into the city and found a restaurant near Spui square, called Eetcafe T Pakhuis. It was a quiet, relaxed location with a more traditional Dutch menu.
When we arrived in Amsterdam, we wern’t sure what to expect as the city has a reputation for more adult themes. With a some prior research, we found we could enjoy the city as a family quite comfortably. There is definately more to explore in this busy city.
Day 5 – Heading Home
We had a long day of travel ahead with about 300 miles to cover. After a big breakfast at the hotel, we left Amsterdam. To break up the journey and make the most of the last day we were heading for the Belgian city of Ghent. We stopped for some lunch and had a few hours to walk around the city and enjoy a bit of shopping.
It was then onto Calais for our evening Eurotunnel and onwards Home. It was a brilliant experience for our first roadtrip. Its given us the bug for this style of holiday, perhaps to travel for longer, and further in the future.
‘It’s a dangerous business going out your front door. You step onto the road and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to’.
Bilbo Baggins, LOTR