Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Why You Should Visit the Dutch Town of Medemblik

Ever been to Medemblik? It's in North Holland, nestled peacefully on the banks of the IJsselmeer, which is the largest lake in West Europe. My family spent a long weekend there last week at the start of the school spring break - and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised about just how lovely it is in that area.

Medemblik as a place name was not wholly unfamiliar to me before last week as it is the gementee we got married in back in 2007. We did paperwork there. We spent a fair bit of time coming and going to the region, but most of it around Hauwert where we actually tied the knot. So I already had a feeling that the area we would be staying in would be a far cry from my hometown of Zoetermeer. And how right I was.

We stayed in Bungalow park Zuiderzee in Medemblik, which literally offers a view right over the IJsselmeer - once you walked to the top of the dyke in front of the holiday park that is. There's something quite special driving along a dyke at the height of house rooftops.

The view over the IJsselmeer across the road from the Zuider Zee Holiday Park
At my eldest son's calculation 176 houses make up Bungalowpark Zuiderzee but it was incredibly quiet whilst we were there - I'm guessing summer is a whole other story. However, for us, quiet was perfect.

We unloaded the car, made up the beds, unpacked our stuff (dumping lots of stuff in the very unusually ample storage closets dotted around the house, which delighted me as I am usually cursing the lack of space to actually unpack your stuff in holiday homes!) and went exploring.

My children managed to get in a good play session in two well-equipped playgrounds in the holiday park before the bad weather set in for the weekend, making outdoor activities pretty miserable to attempt. Luckily there were great indoor solutions to combat the bad weather so there was no fear of twiddling our thumbs and get bored.

Our garden for the weekend at the Zuider Zee holiday park
For one, we used the tropical swimming pool daily in the park, and my three sons loved (I mean LOVED!) the pool slide.

The first evening we ate in the restaurant in the holiday park itself, the Brasserie 't Stolpje. It was, without a doubt, the most relaxed meal we have had out with our children since we became parents nine years ago. The staff were brilliant with our three sons and they made sure they were happy and occupied. There were games for them to play, books to read and ice creams they pulled out of the freezer themselves when they'd finished their dinner. It meant that we could relax and have a drink and eat our meal with the boys happily playing alongside our table. It was fabulous. It was a start to our weekend break that we never could have imagined.
The restaurant is new. It's decor is modern with the bonus feature of grill tables for groups, which looked like a lot of fun. It was reasonably priced. The food was delicious. Oh, and did I mention that we got to relax over a meal even with three young children with us? That's a big thing as far as this mother is concerned! Big thumbs up from us! In fact, the whole park was incredibly child friendly.

On the Saturday morning we ate a leisurely breakfast (having collected freshly baked rolls from the restaurant on site) and then headed into Medemblik town itself to the Bakkerijmuseum. It prides itself on having been voted best kids' museum for a few years and when my sons realised they got to make chocolate bonbons themselves it was obvious why kids love the place.......

The museum is full (and I mean FULL) of different baking items that have been used over the decades.

The kids could dress up in baker's clothes for a photo or two, and we watched Dutch traditional biscuits being rolled and made. Everyone was incredibly friendly in the museum, but it was fairly busy so I for one wasn't too upset to step outside once the bonbons had hardened a bit in the fridge. However, it was, all in all, an interesting and pleasant visit.

Bakkerijmuseum Medemblik
Before we headed to the car to drive back to the holiday park (we had an afternoon of swimming on the agenda) we walked towards the dyke behind the stadshuis and the old railway station. Standing on the dyke overlooking Medemblik station and the shopping street, it was easy to imagine times gone by - one with fewer cars, and fewer high street chain stores.

Our bungalow actually felt homely and spacious so we were happy to spend Saturday night in and so I cooked dinner (read: I threw some pizzas in the oven, spent more time figuring out how to get the oven working than it took to cook the pizzas and then opened a ready made salad whilst my husband cracked open a bottle of wine for us and a pack of milk for the kids - don't judge me, I was on holiday!)

On the Sunday we headed to the swimming pool, and then visited the Nederlands Stoommachine museum in Medemblik, which literally sat a stone's throw away from the house we were staying in on the park. The tall, dominant chimney of the museum (the height of which we were told as part of the speurtocht the children did at the museum but which number escapes me now) was visible from our holiday house.

Nederlands Stoom machine Museum Chimney from Zuider Zee Holiday Park
Now, to be honest, when it comes to steam museums and old things powered by steam, I can take them or leave them. However, this museum was quite something else. It had even me interested. My 9 year old declared half way through,

"This is one of the best museums I have ever been to."
And I didn't disagree. It was incredibly interactive, informative and educational. Everyone working there was friendly, helpful and knew their stuff - and could explain it to children brilliantly.  My favourite part was watching my sons in the Steam Lab, basically miniature steam models that they could operate. They were captivated!

After the steam museum we dived through the wind and rain into the car to take a drive along the Afsluitdijk. It's a 32 km long causeway that connects the North Holland province with Friesland. It's impressive and eerie all at the same time. Construction was completed in 1932 and the road is surrounded by sea on one side and the lake on the other. For many kilometres no land is visible wherever you look, particularly with the weather we had crossing the Afsluitdijk! It's well worth a drive over if you are in the area.

And then it was time for dinner. And wow did we find a gem of a place to satisfy the hunger we'd worked up sightseeing and swimming all day: De Twee Schouwtjes in Medemblik town. It was one of the places that had been recommended to us by one of the Zuiderzee bungalow park staff members. It was relatively small, cosy, friendly, served great food and the man who served us also got behind a piano to play and sing a couple of numbers, which my children loved. There was a bar area downstairs that had my husband and I reminiscing of a time before children..... wonderful place!

The next morning we packed up the car to head home (via the Pit Museum in Almere) but that is fodder for a blog post for another day). I see a return visit to Medemblik in our future because we hardly touched the surface of all the things there are to do in the area. Like this lot:

  1. You can hire bikes and boats at the Zuider Zee holiday park - in nicer weather it would have been lovely to meander around the park in a little boat (many houses have their own jetties, which I gather you can also fish from if you are into catching your own dinner...)
  2. There are tennis, football, basketball and beach volley ball courts in the holiday park, none of which we got to try out because of the weather
  3. The Zuiderzee museum is nearby and on still on my Dutch bucket list
  4. A wander around and about the IJsselmeer. We crossed over the road and had a potter around on the beach by the lake on the first evening but the weather prevented any further exploration
  5. A visit to Enkhuizen
  6. Sprookjeswonderland is close by. We have been there a couple of times over the years and if you have small children it's a wonderful amusement park to visit
  7. Bataviastad is 30 mins away if you fancy a little designer brands shopping
  8. Castle Radboud in Medemblik
In short, we had a fantastic weekend break. I would wholeheartedly recommend you putting Medemblik on your travel bucket list if you are looking for a family holiday in the Netherlands!

*This is a sponsored post. We were invited to stay at Bungalowpark Zuiderzee  at no cost for a weekend on the provision of writing about our experiences. All views are my own, all experiences are real, all the fun was really had. *

Ersatz Expat

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for linking to #TravelAtHome, I can't remember ever visiting Medemblik but it sounds like a rather fascinating spot.