Back in early November, we had Melissa over for dinner and started listing some fun things to try/visit/do in the Netherlands. One of those things was staying in a windmill! Melissa had seen a listing on Airbnb and we went ahead and booked it for the spring.
This windmill house was located north of Maastricht in the town of Abcoude, in the province of Utrecht. It takes about 2 hours to get there, so we rented a car and piled all of us (Melissa, Flo, Josh, myself and the boys) and our things in, and headed out after school on Friday.
There are some differences in northern and southern Netherlands. I’m sure I don’t don’t know all of them, but it’s a little colder in the northern area, the Dutch is spoken a little sharper, and people can seem a little less friendlier; however, there is some incredible scenery, lots of small rural farming towns outside of the bigger cities, gorgeous flower fields (that attract all the tourists in April/May), and loads of canals. There are also of course some bigger cities in the north that are very popular for tourists. This windmill home is located just outside the little town of Abcoude. Sadly we did not get to explore a lot of the town’s center, but we did do a couple of long walks through the areas near our home, including walking to a cheese farm and an old fort. From what I read, Abcoude has probably around 8,000 residents. While the town and neighboring farmlands are part of a small community, it is clear that visitors come from all over to walk the paths, hike nearby trails, and ride bikes.
The Dutch love to be outdoors and you see people of all ages out hiking, cycling, walking and running on the roads by this windmill home. Many of the people would stop outside our home and take pictures because it is just so stinking cute. Fun note, the windmill is still functional and the owners come to operate it on certain days (guests can help!). Sadly they did not come while we were staying there – I think that would have been pretty cool to see.
One other nice thing about Abcoude is that you feel you are quite removed from big cities, but you are actually close enough that restaurants in Amsterdam would deliver dinner to us. That was precisely our plan on Friday since we arrived closed to dinner time.
We arrived, got settled in, opened some wine, ordered some food, and took in the beautiful scenery. Josh and I were pretty excited about the change to have both Flo and Melissa travel with us. Flo is a lover of games so came with several for us to play. The boys even learned many of them and it was a great time just sitting around the kitchen table laughing and playing with everyone.
I’d highly recommend this place if you’re touring the Netherlands and spending time in the central/northern part, like Amsterdam or Utrecht. You could spend some time in the city, and then take a couple of days in the windmill to appreciate the quieter side of Dutch life.
We took a long walk on Saturday to incorporate lunch at Anna Haen, then stopped by a cheese farm in the hopes of buying butter, but it was sold out. Melissa did splurge on a small mix of local cheese and fresh chocolate milk. The cheese farm had many cows you could see, but mostly hear, but my favorite photo of that day was of these Dutch clogs. I thought all Dutch clogs were purely touristy purchases and assumed no one ever wore them. And you’ll never see them worn in the cities. BUT you do see them on the farms!
Melissa and I also tried to visit the Fort bij Nigtevecht, but by the time we reached it, they had closed. Later, I looked up information that the fort was part of the dense line of defense Amsterdam built in the late 1800/early 1900s and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. I read on the website that this defense line incorporated nature, for instance rose bushes seeing as barbwire and trees as camouflage and lookouts. They were also able to use the small canals to quickly flood the area potential enemies were near. Now it is a super tranquil space where you can even host events or meetings.
As we left on Sunday, we took a route home by many flower fields. It was a bit too early for tulips, but there were many daffodils and hyacinth flower fields in bloom. In a few weeks these streets will be packed with tourists coming just for the flowers. Bumper to bumper traffic will ensue so that everyone can get their photos with the blooms. They have rules asking people not to park their cars to try to keep the traffic moving. I can’t imagine living with that sort of craziness, but I imagine it is like us living on the coast of SC and everyone coming to the beaches in summer. We were able to stop and snap a few photos in one of the most colorful fields. I’m hoping to sneak away again later on to see the tulips!
All in all, this weekend was a nice family bonding weekend. We spent some time exploring but we spent a lot of time just being together and we’ll be hanging on to those memories for a long while.