So, even my dodgy maths makes it less than 10 weeks until the end of the year. I will have managed to take- and post regular updates as evidence- a picture every single day. And I thought I had no willpower.
Sunday: we woke in North Holland to a lot of fog. The house we were staying in was tucked away surrounded by trees and wildlife and it was enough for us all just to be. So that’s all we did, save for a trip in to Schagen for hot chocolates that were so delicious we managed to find our way back repeatedly during the week.
Monday: an unexpected hour on Skype with my Godfather in New Zealand altered our plans slightly and we headed to nearby Bergen to have lunch in the market square and go swimming in the pool there. LBG attempted swimming without her ‘vestie’ for the first time and succeeded in swimming independently for a few metres. We are all beside ourselves with pride. Of course I have no photographic evidence, as water and cameras do not mix, especially when you are in the water too.
Tuesday: Amsterdam. The one thing we were determined to do was visit the Van Gogh Museum, being housed over the winter in the Hermitage Museum whilst work is carried out. The work is utterly breathtaking and we all thoroughly enjoyed getting close enough to see all the brushstrokes. After lunch on a nearby terrace we sought out pancakes before wending our way home to feed the horse.
Wednesday: DH unfortunately had to deal with work so I left him in the peace and quiet and took The Girls back to Schagen for lunch and those fabulous hot chocolates. We visited a local museum which had lots of special half-term activities for children on: the girls made their own bracelets. Then we chose cakes from the bakery to take home to Daddy. As we got near to the house, we passed somewhere selling dozens of pumpkins and gourds of all sizes so I made the split-second to stop and buy some for our upcoming Pumpkin Party next week. I got more than I bargained for though: there was a pumpkin carving workshop going on, as the warehouse is one of the largest suppliers of pumpkins in the area. We had such a great afternoon scooping and carving and chatting and eating: DH cycled down to join us and we finally headed home as twilight descended with a boot filled with pumpkins.
Thursday: not far from the pumpkin warehouse, I had seen a Windmill and discovered online that it is the central feature of a nearby zoo, so that was our agenda. Amazingly the zoo was at the back of another fruit-and-veg-warehouse, but was awesome. Aside from the amazing selection of animals- with an emphasis on African animals- there was a little road train, a great play park, and a cafe where we stopped for lunch. Dimples and I rode the train whilst LBG stroked the baby goats, and everyone came home happy.
Friday: we took a trip to the coast, which is only 15 minutes away. DH had the foresight to bring some of our camping things from home so we set up a table on the beach and were treated to freshly cooked burgers and hot chocolate as we watched families wander up and down the wide sands. We tried very hard to spot England (I think we’re opposite East Anglia) but only found an ice-cream vendor. Then we headed back to the house for tea and to start the packing process.
Saturday: now that we are used to Home Exchanges we are fairly efficient at the departure routine, so were on the road in good time, heading two hours south to De Efteling, one of the oldest theme parks in the world- that I vaguely remember from childhood when we lived in Belgium. We had a 7pm Eurotunnel crossing back to Britain which allowed us a good length of time to spend at the park and make the most of the sunny autumn weather. It was a really good day.