Saturday, May 12, 2012

Eernewoude, Holland

So my plan of getting caught up on this blog isn't going too well.  Lately it's been derailed by my obsessive planning of our next getaway, a road trip from Luxembourg through France to Normandy and Brittany.  And when I say "obsessive," sadly, I am not exaggerating.  The planning may or may not have involved multiple Excel spread sheets, several potential Google map itineraries, hours (days?) spent reading hotel reviews on and scouring travel forums for the very best places to visit.  (No one has ever accused me of being spontaneous.  Or underprepared.)  But it's all planned and booked now, which means I once again have time to write about our past adventures!

During the kids' spring break, we spent a few days in the north of Holland, an area we'd never visited before.  It was the wrong time and location for seeing tulips, but we'd already done that so we didn't mind.  Even better, we went with some Dutch friends who knew the area well and did an excellent job of playing tour guide for us.

That, I have decided, is the best way to travel.

The tiny town we stayed in, Eernewoude, is in the province of Friesland way up in the north of Holland.  I knew nothing about it before we went but it is a beautiful place that seems very proud of its identity.  They have their own language (Frisian) and their own flag too:

We rented a bungalow in a lovely national park that was crisscrossed with canals (some bungalows even come with a boat!) and beautiful nature trails to explore.  It was gorgeous.

The view behind our bungalow
The bungalows

Lots of houses in the area were topped by these decorative....things (I've forgotten what they're called), many in the form of swans.

One of the highlights of the trip for me was a visit to a farm that produces cheese.   First we watched cheese being made in the factory. The curds/whey start in a giant vat and then are separated by machine and scooped--by hand--into round molds.

They make many different kinds of cheese.  On the day we visited, the cheese had cloves mixed in!
The molds are then stacked three-high and pressed down by machine so that all the whey drains away.
Kate found the whole procedure fascinating.
Then the cheese moves into the next room to be coated, aged and sealed in wax. 
Will didn't really like this part of the tour.  It did smell pretty bad.

After touring the factory, we got to visit the farm and see the cows that provide the milk for the cheese. 

Will skipped most of this part too.  According to him, it didn't smell much better than the factory.
Naturally, we bought a ton of cheese in the gift shop, and Kate and I made a pretty good dent in it before we even left Holland.

I also really enjoyed driving around the cute little villages in the area.  Unfortunately, I didn't get many pictures but did manage to snap a few photos of the thatched houses that seemed to be everywhere!

Interestingly, many of them were only half-thatch, half-tile.  
When I asked about the half-thatched roof, my friend told me that the back part of the house used to be the barn and was tacked on to the originally very small farmer's house much later.  More info on Frisian farmhouses here:

It was a very relaxed vacation.  We spent time just wandering around the park, chatting, letting the kids play together, drinking coffee.  Though our friends kept worrying that we would be bored (one of them referred to the area as "the Oklahoma of Holland") we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.  It was so nice to discover an area of Holland we may never have thought to visit, to enjoy the picturesque villages and countryside (the kids were particularly delighted by the adorable lambs that were everywhere) and for me, just this once, to leave the planning to someone else.

No obsessing necessary...

More tourist info on Friesland

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