In true Monticelli fashion, we very haphazardly decided to take a little road trip over Spring break. As with most of our trips, we started scrolling through Airbnb’s, put in our dates with a very vague point of reference and ended up booking a ‘tiny-boat-house’ in Breukelen in the Netherlands.

Where we stay is important for us because of the way we vacation. We absolutely love going out sight-seeing and exploring busy cities but we also love living amongst the locals and experiencing life as though we are actually living there. Our home away from home needs to be cosy and charming, because we spend a lot of time there as a family and we need relatively easy access to go for long walks in the countryside because our fury little family member, Quila, always tags along.

Benito booked the Airbnb and I immediately knew exactly what the wild card had been that had drawn him in. The house was located on an island in the Loosdrecht Lakes and was only reachable by boat.

(Not my photo, just wanted to give you an idea of what the islands look like.)
Narrow elongated islands seen in an area called Scheendijk in the Lossdrecht Lakes, The Netherlands. Photo credit: George Steinmetz

Only a short drive away from Amsterdam, we decided to go and explore the city. Our initial Google searches told us that we could opt for a park-and-ride into the city but due to the King’s Day preparations, all of the park-and-rides were closed which meant that we had to drive ourselves into the city. What a nail-biting experience! The bicycles (So. Many. Bicycles) all have right of way and it felt nearly impossible to navigate the busy streets.

We walked a lot during the day and never got bored or tired. We wandered every street we could find, lingered outside quirky, crooked little houses, popped in to so many shops and still feel like we haven’t seen that much of the city.

We made a stop-over to see family, who we haven’t seen in years and spent time exploring the beautiful town of Arnhem with them.

The Arnhem Oosterbeek war cemetery (Airborne Cemetery) took my breath away and continued to do so as we walked around the vast grounds reading various headstones of fallen soldiers from World War II. I’ve never been one for reading up on history but since living in Europe, this has started to change. It’s impossible to ignore, the reminders are everywhere and memorial sights like these have been so beautifully created and preserved.

One of our main reasons for travelling to Holland this time of the year was to see the Tulips and just like the bicycles, they were everywhere! We booked tickets to go to the Keukenhoff Gardens, a beautiful display of over 7 million flowering bulbs which is only on display for two months of the year and whilst the exhibitions were exquisite, driving home past the farmers’ Tulip fields had me oohing and ahhing even more. The fields were beautiful – expansive and so full of colour.

Another favourite was venturing out to the Wassenaar beach, about an hour’s drive from where we were staying. It’s always been a dream of mine to take Quila to the beach and even the cold, windy weather wasn’t enough to deter us. The beach is beautiful and is one of the few beaches reserved especially for dogs. Being the water-loving pup that she is, she had an absolute ball.

On our last morning, we visited Kinderdijk. We opted out of a guided tour, preferring to walk alone along the riverbanks which guided us to each windmill.

Most loved in any city for me though are always the little gems we find along our way. Little finds, that usually start off with “Ben, stop the car!” and followed by Benito pulling over and letting me out to go and explore while he tries to make a u-turn or find a suitable parking spot, both of which are not always easy to do or find when travelling through Europe.

Like this pretty little stream which had turned pink from all the fallen blossoms.

Thank you Holland, it was magical! I not only fell in love with your enchanting houses but also your quirky culture. You have inspired me to ditch my car more for my beloved “velo” (bicycle), to learn to bake Poffertjes and you’ve made the wanderlust-flame inside of me flicker even brighter.