Local Heart, Global Soul

May 4, 2013

A Nice Day Out, But in The End Not Best Suited to Both of Our Kids…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

I’m rounding up the last photographic items of our visit to Plaswijkpark … we didn’t get around all of  the park by any means, partly because of the weather and because I still can’t walk longer distances easily without a really decent rest in between.

There’s a building  just  down the path from the monkey enclosure where you enter by a “crazy door” with offset out-sized hinges that’s a bit of a mind bender at first glance.

There is a long hallway down the inside of the building and off  it are several areas which are mostly for very young kids: giant  duplo style-blocks, a massive ball bath, and another area with click-it-together style bricks. Kiwi Daughter I have the place to ourselves and are rather pleased to take a rest from walking and the rain and decide on a whim to try and divide the balls in the ball bath back into their separate colours.

We throw balls all over the place like mad things until we are joined by Himself and Little Mr. who laugh at our endeavours and tell us to expect the semi neatness to last only until the next visiting kid jumps in and destroys our handiwork. We say we know this and don’t  mind, and sure enough, five minutes later a group of small children arrive and immediately throw themselves headlong into the balls, wildly mixing them again.

It’s still raining so we are then issued with a summons by Little Mr. who wants to enlist the whole family to use all of the out-sized duplo blocks to make one building.

My contribution is to sit on the long seat/wall that keep the blocks contained and to shove the blocks closer to Himself and the kids who are gathering and building with my walking stick. We manage to complete the task and some other children join in at the last minute to help.

Little Mr. strikes some over the top I’m-a-superstar style poses with the work of art we’ve just created (those photos are not included here for reasons of internet privacy) and I manage some photos before the other kids rush back to swarm all over it.

The drizzle had abated a little and everyone is hungry so we head off to the one restaurant near the entrance that’s open (the other restaurants aren’t open so early in the season) and  warm up with fries and coffee/ hot chocolate etc.   Whilst we did all have fun here, it’s very  clear that this playpark is far  more suited to Little Mr’s age range rather than Kiwi Daughters. She liked a few things like the trampolines, the bathtub air propelled balls and the monkey’s but was a bit bored with the rest.

I think this would be an excellent place to come back to in the summer,  but maybe when Kiwi Daughter is spending a day doing something else more suited to her own age and then Little Mr. could brings a few friends his own age and really enjoy a full day out. In summary:  if your kids are eight years of age and under, they will probably find this place totally to their liking… if they are eleven or twelve years of age and over they will probably have outgrown the vast majority of the attractions here and would be happier somewhere different.

It’s been a nice family time out… “different”  with the less than great weather, but well worth the experience.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

May 3, 2013

Even Rain Clouds Have Silver Linings….

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

One good thing about going on an early morning visit to a family attraction Park on cold, grey and wet day in early April  is that sometimes the crowds appear to have woken up, looked out the window at the bad weather and decided they would rather stay in bed.

Their loss is our gain: we now have a boat ride with a friendly and chatty boat driver who’s delighted to have a few passengers, even if it is only the four of us.

What first looks like a large lake is in fact a series of connected waterways and islands, there are expensive permanent homes dotting the shoreline and some equally expensive holiday houses (although not all of them at in the best of states).

Land is scarce in the Netherlands and a little semi secluded bolt-hole with water access so close to the centre of a major city is a luxury item and a hot ticket if you can find it. Experience with property here tells me that even the more run down places will be worth decent six figure sums so the prices of the larger permanent homes will definitely come into the “if you have to ask, you can’t afford it”  category.

Many of the holiday homes are in little islands so boat docks are the transportation parking areas, no doubt very busy in summer.

Yes, ok it’s raining and the view would be better with sunshine and blue skies, but there’s also something very relaxing about the novelty of having a boat ride like this all to yourself,  we can ask all the questions we like of the friendly skipper, who’s a fund of local knowledge.

The kids of course want to know about the iron tower close to the dock,  some local residents who thought it would be better scrapped but it’s now protected because it’s an old fire department watch tower and getting on for 100 years old.  Sadly for the kids the metal work is no longer safe enough to allow the tourist hordes to climb it, basic repairs keep it in shape but  it would simply cost too much to bring it up to standard for opening to the public.

Once we get back to shore and disembark, I notice an older couple waiting to board… like us they will have the boat entirely to themselves…  even rain clouds have a silver lining.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

May 2, 2013

Monkey Business For Both Ape and Kid…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

With the Royal Party done and dusted, the public holiday over, a decent percentage of the nation nursing a hangover and orange clothes in laundry hampers all over the Netherlands, it’s time to get back to “life as usual”.

Therefore I’m returning you to my Plaswijkpark series of posts and one of Kiwi Daughter’s favourite subjects at the moment: monkeys.

There are a small amount of exotic animals here, it’s not primarily a zoo per see, they are more an addition to their main attractions rather than the main attraction itself.

We start by going in and finding that there’s also a “monkey style” entrance for kids who might like to make a monkey-like entrance… Kiwi Daughter was a bit old and far too tall for it to be honest but since she’s an ultra skinny wrench she still got around the obstacle course ok. In warm weather the apes can use the exit chutes and go play on the artificial island out the front if they wish, but the day we went was cold and drizzly so it was hardly a surprise to find them all preferring the heat inside behind panes of thick plexiglass.

It was harder than I thought to get photographs, but I did my best and Kiwi Daughter also managed a few from  top viewing “bubbles” arranged in the wall for kids to look through as they negotiate the monkey walkway.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwi Daughter)

(photograph © Kiwi Daughter)

(photograph © Kiwi Daughter)

(photograph © Kiwi Daughter)

(photograph © Kiwi Daughter)

(photograph © Kiwi Daughter)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

I usually think of thin tails on monkeys but these dudes have tails to rival any feather duster…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

April 28, 2013

Often I Edit People Out of My Photos, This Time I Try Not to… And Fail…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Our adventures in Rotterdam’s Plaswijkpark continue. Now the rain has eased off and the kids, having explored as much as they could inside are bursting to discover the outside.

There are climbing frames, slides and the like aplenty, and on a warm summers day I can well imagine that this area will be teeming with children, but today the ground is squelching boggy from the rain and the slides are a bit wet and cold.

We walk around to check out the equipment anyway and the kids make bee-lines for things that meet with their approval and zoom past things that don’t.

Usually a merry-go-round is popular but today there was no enticing them to be the sole riders so far. The young man looking after the ride was curious as to why I was taking photographs, so I explained about the blog and he immediately asked to be included in the photo. I asked if he wanted to be on my internet blog and he was most enthusiastic and very friendly, even asking the name of the blog and how to find it, so I snapped a closer shot of him standing in front of the merry-go-round. Usually I take several shots and pick the best when I sort the photos but for some unknown reason this time I only took one and when I put it onto the computer it was horribly out of focus.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

I was horrified at this small disaster because this friendly staff member had also approached me again later in the day to ask if I could please remind him of my blog’s name.

I really don’t want him to think I’d forgotten my promise to include his photo on my blog,  so I  enlarged a section of a less close up photo of the merry-go-round  so that you can see his face.  Apologies Sir. I’m making myself a promise that next time we visit here, I will not only take a better photograph of him but also get his first name (if he wishes) to go with it.

He was very helpful and friendly, and like all the staff we encountered here today: a credit to the place.  So often in The Netherlands “service with a smile” is a totally foreign concept in shops and businesses, and you are met with everything between indifference and rudeness, but here we were very pleasantly surprised and delighted to find every staff member  friendly, smiling and helpful and even on this cold grey day, this went a long way to making our visit a fun family day out.

Kiwi Daughter and I got separated from the “boys” when they raced off to go on the go-carts. Later we met back up with them and I asked Himself how Little Mr’s driving skills were progressing. “Completely hopeless” he said, to which Little Mr. make grand noises of indignation and protested loudly.

Then Himself explained: Little Mr was constantly causing near miss accidents and traffic jams by totally ignoring every red traffic light on the (very realistic)  road circuit without remorse. When challenged as to why he was clearly running red lights and causing grief to other go-cart users, he replied “I don’t have to stop at these red lights because it’s not a real  road anyway“.

We tied to explain that it’s been make to look as realistic as possible so that you can drive like you would if you were on a real road, and yes, stopping at red traffic lights was part of the  real road rules so he should do it here too.  He wasn’t having bar of  it.  Fake roads had fake traffic lights that shouldn’t  be obeyed as far as he was concerned. Himself therefore removed him before he caused himself or anyone else an injury, which didn’t go down too well at first from Little Mr by all accounts.

There’s  a large swimming pool area being cleaned up for the summer, unfilled now, it’s looks rather sad under leaden skied and intermittent drizzle but I bet on a decently hot day in summer it’s a busy spot indeed. Similarly the peddle-boat swans were also off limits, Spring is late arriving this year and it’s still seriously too cold for boating on the chilly water.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

There’s so much to see and had the weather been nicer a ton more photos to take as there’s a fabulous ornamental garden here too, but it’s drizzing again so Kiwi Daughter and I head once again for shelter from the rain…

April 27, 2013

Jumping Into a Bath Fitted With Cannons!

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

As per yesterday’s post we are in Rotterdam, at Plaswijkpark.

By sheer chance (because after we had paid and left the front entrance building the heavens opened and we were getting severely rained on)  we looked for the first indoor place we could find.

The first place was a restaurant but none of us wanted food yet, and the second inside building was one under construction: but the construction was mostly on the outside of the building and the inside was open.

This is the indoor play area and to be honest,  if you are a local thinking of coming here with your kids,  head to Plaswijkpark as soon as it opens and then to this building  immediately because I’m certain that once it gets busy the place will rather literally be crawling with kids.

For instance there are two large trampolines, ingeniously made to look like four-poster beds (the  bed side “canopy” being safety nets) but there’s a maximum  of two kids per trampoline so I can imagine big queues here on busy days, or littler kids being overwhelmed by boisterous bigger kids. By coming early and coming straight here our kids got to play on everything before the masses arrived and once it got busier they were happy to escape outside.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

There is a network of raised tunnels with nets, slides etc with many surprise exits, for instance the bottom drawers of the oversized blue wardrobe.

There are massive “pillows” which I think were probably filled with polystyrene balls and covered with  firm vinyl fabric, they weren’t really “soft”  but they would certainly break a fall.

The soft play area for babies and toddlers had blocks shaped like Liquorice Allsorts… even the stairs up also had an additional slide  on the “down” side and a climbing wall up with shoes for footholds!

A close second favourite to the trampoline with our kids was the “bathroom” complete with two oversized “bathtubs” (of a sort) at end of the room that each contain  four “cannons” that fire the balls using compressed air.

These blue coloured balls are far softer and lighter than the usual ones you find in kids play areas and I can vouch for the fact the even a close range hit doesn’t hurt at all.  Kids in the “baths”at each end can fire the balls at each other.

In the middle of the room are red and blue drums  attached to chutes:   balls can be loaded into these from the floor and at a certain moment a light goes on and compressed air pushes them up and back to the “bath” nearest to them: they arrive by falling out of the giant shower-heads above each of the baths and fall onto the cannon firing kids. Every new kid who doesn’t know this yet gets a surprise the first time the balls fly down on them… naturally our kids too …ingenious!

The building work was going on at a frantic pace outside, there are a lot of national public holidays in the Netherlands in May and some schools have mid term holidays so they were working  hard  to be ready for a grand opening that will take place in early May 2013.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

…A  new indoor picnic area being finished…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

April 26, 2013

I Know It’s Raining and Cold, But Family Day Out Means Reluctant Kids Don’t Get to Choose…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

We are having a family day out. As usual this means kicking our protesting children out of bed early so that we can beat the crowds. Granted, the day was rather cold, grey, rainy and miserable, so the kids hinted strongly at them rather wanting to play on the Wii all day and veg out with DVD’s.

But Himself and I know from experience that after the first hour they will start fighting about who’s charging ahead on Mario Brothers  (Kiwi Daughter) and who’s game character has been left to die because they can’t keep up (Little Mr.)

Predictably this ends in tears… and if intervention is not swift,  some sort of physical altercation  involving a sharp kick or poke that requires stern words and separation of the two.

The Wii is turned off and there’s no chance of a DVD because they can never agree which one to watch and one will throw a strop if the other gets their choice.  Kiwidutch’s answer to this is ” you have two minutes to agree or no DVD’s at all for either of you” .Experience shows that one hundred percent of  the time in the Kiwidutch household this means no DVD’s because they never agree. The next phase is that without physical exercise Little Mr. starts to go stir crazy and whine and whinge a lot. This starts to severely get on everybody’s nerves.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Little wonder that Himself and I prefer to drag our offspring outside to an activity whether they think they will like it or not (Parental response to this moaning is standard “you are coming anyway, open your mind to enjoy it and then decide afterwards if you liked it or not“.

Publicly I should call this “tough love”  and tell you in a high minded way that it’s all in the interests of  “widening my children’s cultural horizons and giving them new experiences” but if  I’m brutally honest it’s all about keeping parental sanity intact and avoiding wanting to give them away after breaking up sibling fight number 179 in the space of three hours.

(When they are out with other people they are TOTAL angels… well mannered and helpful to the point that people tell us about them in wonder.  So we hear that it is possible, but sadly their halo’s fall to the floor with a thud as they cross the threshold at home and their little devilish selves resume transmission as usual. So this is why we find ourselves at the Plaswijkpark in Rotterdam as the doors open on a cold miserable April weekend. Amazingly although this place has been around for 90 years, Himself had never heard of it, we discovered it  existed only because of a recommendation by expat family friends.

There is what looks like a lake outside but it turns out to be part of an extensive waterway here… the swan paddle boats are all out of service for the moment as it’s way too cold to be out on the water. The park is undergoing frantic renovations in time for an expected surge of visitors during the May school holidays and the bad weather means half of the attractions are still closed, but we are determined to make a good day out of it anyway.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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