“Where’s that?” was the question I got most when I told my friends I was setting out for the Netherlands. “Is that in England?”, “oh, that’s near Sweden right?”, “it’s a city in Canada, duh.” How could such a gem of country that gave us more than we know be so hidden from the world? It was my goal to soak up everything I could and show my friends back home what the Netherlands were. After a stop in Ireland (it really is green!) my stomach began to churn with an excited nervousness as the plane finally landed at Schiphol Airport. As I step foot outside for the first time I truly felt like Alice in Wonderland, except I was Irvin in the Netherlands.
QUARTER FINALIST 2012 TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
Probably the best part about my trip to the NL was being able to stay with my grandparents at their house. Not that I would knock hotels or resorts; but staying in a real Dutch house, in a Dutch neighborhood with every day citizens gave me the full experience of Dutch life! The city was Haarlem (Harlem, New York is named after this city). Haarlem was my playground! The streets were brick, historic cathedrals and castles were only steps away from pastures of tulips and the bustling downtown. Plus being a 10 minute bike ride from Zandvoort beach made me feel more at home being a native Floridian.
Even though most of my friends didn’t even know where the Netherlands were, there were so many unique places to go to! My grandparents took us across the nation to see sites and soak up everything their country had to offer. From Alkmaar where men threw cheese wheels, to Zaanse Schans the literally green city with windmills, to Volendam where people still wear wooden clogs and live on boats, to the miniature city of Madurodam where the entire nation is at your feet. One of the coolest experiences was going to the Enkhuizen Historic Living Museum! It was a preserved Dutch village where people lived in old houses and retained the traditional lifestyle. And of course what would a trip to the Netherlands be without Amsterdam! From the tear jerking Anne Frank House, to the majesty that was the Royal Palace, the cultured art of the Van Gogh and the Rijksmuseum, and the sheer beauty of the architecture and the thousand plus canals. I’m telling you there’s no way to be bored in the Netherlands with so many different places to explore!
And now to my favorite subject…FOOD! Never did I expect to find a Mecca of such delicious foods! Fresh farm cheeses, friets and mayonnaise, and the famous mini pancakes called poffertjes. If you haven’t tried Dutch chocolate… you have not experienced true happiness! One of my favorite things in the Netherlands was a fast food chain called Febo. Febos are walls with little windows containing food; what you do is put a Euro coin in it and the window opens to give you the food! I really wish we had Febo in America…and one in my house.
My family trip to the Netherlands showed me many things. First, it enlightened me to a love of history and culture. And it showed me a nation of accepting people who taught me to appreciate life and what you have. The Dutch people live by a motto of living life for happiness. It seems so simple but if we just sit down and think about it, what else do we live for except to find happiness?
Dear Reader: This page may contain affiliate links which may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Our independent journalism is not influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative unless it is clearly marked as sponsored content. As travel products change, please be sure to reconfirm all details and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.