The Netherlands was more than just gorgeous sand dunes. As I’d mentioned before, we also visited some old familial haunts before checking out The Efteling. Bam-Bam did so much exploring and playing during this trip, I think he temporarily forgot what reality was. He barely slept, ate all of the sweets, and was generally spoiled rotten…as is completely expected when visiting any family ever. Bam-Bam was in toddler heaven.
Some things to keep in mind about The Netherlands when visiting:
Everyone speaks English and they probably do so much better than you. Houses (especially in Amsterdam) are tall and narrow, so expect lots of stairs. Bicycles are everywhere and have the right-of-way. The water will be carbonated. Those aforementioned stairs are, in fact, trying to kill you; it isn’t your imagination.
This was Bam-Bam’s first trip to Holland and we worried it might be a bit intimidating since everything was so new. As soon as he woke up from a much needed nap, though, Bam-Bam dove right in and helped pick apples. One of his aunts had lovingly “forgotten” about them and he loved being able to help. It was a fantastic way to introduce him to a new environment as it was similar to things he’d done before (fruit picking is fun in both New England and Florida!)
The main purpose of this entire trip was to visit and reconnect with family. The Huzz found ways to do it so Bam-Bam enjoyed things to the absolute fullest. The Huzz taught Bam-Bam how certain white berries pop when they hit the ground, we took shortcuts through parks and alleyways as The Huzz told stories about past adventures in those very spots, and Bam-Bam even “flew” on some of the same playground equipment The Huzz had played on long ago.
One of The Huzz’s most nostalgic parts of the visit, though, was when he brought his son to The Efteling. Oma had brought The Huzz as a boy and now The Huzz had the chance to bring Bam-Bam. He was thrilled to have the chance to share this magical place and told me about it nearly nonstop in anticipation of our visit. He called it The Dutch Disney and told me how the moniker didn’t do it justice because it was better.
I grew up on Disney movies, Disney princesses, and Disney parks and so, of course, thought his proclamations were pure heresy. I mean, how could this possibly be true? It couldn’t…right?
After doing some digging, I learned that Walt Disney actually visited The Efteling before designing his own parks and used it as a source of inspiration. The sense of wonder and the tangible belief of the children was what he was after and what he sought to reproduce. Personally, I think his efforts were incredibly successful but step back from that familiar success story for a minute. Suddenly, The Huzz’s loving nickname of The Dutch Disney didn’t seem so far fetched.
Do you know what this means?!?
We weren’t going to the Dutch Disney at all! I’d actually grown up on the American Efteling.
As it turns out, what I’d dug up isn’t actually true. Efteling has even refuted this origination story but it remains popular anyway. It doesn’t matter, though, because this park succeeds brilliantly in what it sets out to do (especially in the faerie tale zone we visited); it suspends reality and creates something so utterly amazing you want to believe. I loved that the giant toadstools softly played Mozart as you walked from attraction to attraction and the trash cans were small woven baskets. Even the paper product receptacles were hilariously interactive and almost an attraction unto themselves. We actually had to work to make extra trash and collect fallen acorns just so Bam-Bam could enjoy them longer (which explains why there were no stray napkins, fallen leaves, or similar refuse anywhere as all the children were doing the same thing!)
Bam-Bam still talks about this day and some of the things he saw and did. Just the other day, he asked me if I remembered when he was watching “the bakers”. It took me what felt like eons to realize he meant the animatronic elves, whose cakes were bigger than they, that we visited at The Efteling. Sometimes Bam-Bam reminds me of De Sprookjesboom when I’m reading him a bedtime story from the book of the same stories the tree told (that’s right, we bought the book).
While Bam-Bam remembers these big events, though, I’m going to remember the little moments. I’m going to remember how his whole body was covered in powdered sugar from eating an early morning treat, the way he was singing along (yes, in Dutch) with the other children as they chanted the Vrouw Holle rhyme, the persistent cries of “Papier Hier!” from the Paper Gobblers (…but especially the one with the voice like a crow), his giggles as he ran in circles around a topiary and played tag with The Huzz, and the overwhelmingly decadent flavour when I tasted his newly purchased chocolate milk before giving it to him. I still laugh, too, every time he plays with his special golden coin because I recall how it hilariously shot from a robotic donkey’s butt after Bam-Bam begged to put money into the machine.
And you better believe I will never, ever forget his joy over his fancy ride that day. He was ecstatic with his little rented chariot. It came in really handy, too, when at the very end of the day I walked back and forth, in loops and circles, and singing songs from The Sound of Music as he finally began to doze. He loved that little chariot so much, though, that the cobblestones and singing weren’t enough. He pushed past all my efforts and sleepily, eagerly, waited for The Huzz to come out of the gift shop.
When we finally said goodbye to the adventure of the day, I cradled him in my arms and we walked back to the drop-off point. I never stopped singing to him, even though it must have been the thirtieth or three-hundredth time I’d sung the same song. And, of course, just as we reached the car and opened the door he finally caved and started to snore.
[All imagery links back to the source where I found it through Google Image Search with the exception of my own images.]
[Feature Image: Daddy introducing Bam-Bam to a new friend.]