4/06/2014

Day Trip with Kids: Gouda


When I arrived in Amsterdam on my own with two kids under five years old, I didn't think I would get a chance to explore any further than this eclectic canal city. Instead of signing on for a hop on hop off bus, I purchased a weekly tram ticket so I can take the kids on tram rides and some sightseeing. Four days went by and the kids and I became very familiar with the city and it's sights through our numerous tram rides. We have visited museums, parks, markets and even art galleries. Then I thought, maybe I can try going a little farther now that the kids are settled and has gotten over jet lag. My first attempt at a day trip on my own with the kids, Gouda.  


Gouda is a town in South Holland known for its cheese. The city center is compact and easy to navigate, which is great when visiting with kids. Taking a train from Amsterdam central, Gouda can be reached in a little under an hour. Once we arrived in Gouda's train station, it was an easy 10 minute stroll (under 10 minutes if walking without kids) to the market square. The market square was filled with stalls selling all kinds of fruits and vegetables, cheese and knick knacks. With the snacks we purchased from the market in hand, we headed to a quiet spot next to the canal to enjoy. After our tummies are full from our delicious yet budget friendly meal, we started exploring.

Market square

Gouda's Old Town Hall is the oldest Gothic town hall in The Netherlands, built between 1448-50. However, there was a wedding there that day and we didn't feel right to intrude. So we admired it from the outside.

Old Town Hall

Across from the Old Town Hall is The Weighing House where most of the cheese business was and are still conducted. The building consists of a souvenir shop on the first floor, a pipe making demonstration on the second and a cheese museum on the third. The cheese museum had cheese making equipments and scales on display. A video on the process of cheese making was shown. It wasn't the most interesting thing I've ever seen but the kids seem to enjoy it.

Cheese weighing equipment at The Weighing House

Pipe making demonstration

Following the tourist signs, we snaked in and out of small streets and peeked into the Museum of Gouda and Saint John's Church. This is the part we all enjoyed. Exploring what seems like a quiet, forgotten garden by the Museum of Gouda and Saint John's Church is thrilling yet paradoxically, relaxing. We sat on the benches for a while and made up stories of the bricks and ruins we stumbled upon. There was also a beautiful terrace outside of the Gouda Museum which looked like it was serving afternoon tea. It looked very classy and elegant.



Museum Cafe Gouda
In the late afternoon, I decided to do some cheese shopping. We popped in and out of dozens of cheese shops and sampled more varieties of Gouda cheeses than I've ever imagined existed. The kids enjoyed it immensely and was patient with the whole shopping experience; which was rare. What I thought would be a 10 minute grab and go turned into a full hour of cheese tasting.

Cheese Shops

To end our day trip with a bang...we walked back to the train station only to find it on lock down. There was a bomb threat in the train station. We were trapped! No trains or buses were allowed to leave Gouda until...god knows when! We waited around the station for an hour and still no news of when there will be running trains again. By this time the kids are tired and cranky. I can sense a melt down coming. So, we headed back into the town center and hung around a cafe for 2 hours. Luckily, the cafe had toys and games to keep the kids entertained. While the kids played, my brain was running in circles trying to find a way home. At last, I did!

La Place
We circled the main street a couple of times to see if there were any buses. I saw a tour bus with loads of people getting on and I asked to hop on. Since I was a single woman traveling with two kids, the driver deemed it safe for us to get on. We were dropped off at the nearest train station and from there we took the train back to Amsterdam. By this time the kids had fallen asleep and I was carrying the younger one on my hip and pushing the older one on the stroller. It seemed like a bleak moment until strangers on the street came to my aid. One woman went out of her way to take me to the train I was supposed to take, waited until the train came, and another helped me carry the stroller with my son on it on to the train. I've heard about the kindness of strangers but it's the first time I've ever had an encounter. Words cannot express the gratitude I felt for these strangers; these people whom I've never met and probably will never see again. Not only did they come to my aid in the time of need and weakness but they also made me see that there are people out there who are kind just to be kind. Sitting on the train on the way back to Amsterdam, the ending to The Diary of Anne Frank flashed through my mind, "In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart." It's been years since reading Anne's diary, but I believe what she believes to be true because I've seen it. And it's ironic that I just happened to be in Amsterdam at the time of this epiphany.

Statue of Anne Frank in Amsterdam

The kids were exhausted from the long day and I'm glad to be back safe in our apartment. I know the bomb threat is not an everyday occurrence and The Netherlands is generally a safe country, so it didn't deter me from taking another day trip with the kids after we all got a couple days of rest.   




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