Travel plans don’t always work out. You know this. I know this. But it always helps to see this in writing as you carefully plan a trip because if you’re anything like me, I tend to forget that the unexpected is always inevitable. Right now I’m typing this from a canvas tent-like lodge in the Daintree jungle in northern Australia where I’m a little stuck in my head because of the rustic accommodation I’ve booked for my family. I thought I could fully immerse myself in nature but right now it feels like I cannot and it is far too late to turn back. Tomorrow is a new day is the mantra I like to remind myself, but that’s always easier to see tomorrow than when you’re living the moment. So tonight I’m bundled up in my mosquito netting dreaming about the sunrise and imagining what dreaminess tomorrow might bring to make this sleepless night all worth it. And I’m sure it will be amazing. I’ve learned that sometimes adventures that you don’t plan on often end up being better than the ideas that you have spent hours perfecting.
The same could be said for an adventure I planned in Amsterdam. We were so close to Belgium that I thought we might visit for the day or for a night-I’ve never been to Brussels and I wanted to catch a glimpse of this city I’ve heard a lot about and I plotted the route, the restaurants we would eat at, and the sights we would see. Apparently Mother Nature decided that we would have a little storm in Amsterdam instead. When we went to get tickets for a train the next morning someone explained that there would be fewer trains because of a yellow wind warning and we might not be able to get back home. Yellow wind warning? Of course I had forgotten to factor weather in when I was planning-it was rainy but I really hadn’t thought much about the weather we were having or that it could be serious.
This might be a good reminder that when you travel anywhere it’s always good to check the weather and the politics and even the holidays that might happen when you’re there. If we had checked the weather ahead of time we would have realized that yellow is pretty blustery and orange is even more so and we might have been a little more aware.
With this new information we decided against Belgium and instead headed to Utrecht which was only about an hour’s train ride away where we would check out the Miffy museum, and an ancient Roman city under the city called Dom Under. When we arrived in Utrecht we booked our tickets for an afternoon tour for Dom under-apparently the storm was now an orange but the guides here looked up train info for us and assured us we would probably be able to get home.
Miffy in Utrecht
Miffy’s creator Dick Bruna had recently passed away so there was a lot of tribute to him in the city. I would have liked to check out the museum but it was full (you need to pre-book online ahead of time if you want to guarantee entry) and we peeked in and decided the kids were probably too old anyways. I had some Miffy books from Japan when I was little and I never realized that Miffy was Dutch and not Japanese-I love how travel not only helps us learn about new things but also gives us insights into pieces of our own histories.
To satisfy my need for a Miffy sighting, we found the Miffy Crosswalk and we crossed the rainbow crosswalk numerous times to get a good look. It is so cute that Utrecht has embraced this cute mascot. (If you are into Miffy, this guide might help too!) And this city was absolutely gorgeous. I loved the multi-layered shops along the canals and inviting cafes we probably would have loved to stay a night here if we had more time. We ate at a really delicious hot dog restaurant called Dogma Hotdogs– they had a great seating area and they could make any of their hot dogs veggie dogs or chicken too!
We also visited a nearby science museum that was really fascininating. Apparently the Universiteitsmuseum gets very busy but today we had it almost entirely to ourselves. The kids tried experiments and there was signage in English and in Dutch so we could easily understand. The gardens were pretty but blustery because of the wind. If your kids are interested in science this is the perfect museum for them.
Dom Under with Kids
The Dom Under tour was really interesting too. We were taken down some stairs into a stuffy room underground that reminded me a little of Seattle’s Underground tour. This is where were told a little of the history of the area we were standing in and we could see a few relics from long ago. Then we were taken above ground and across the street to another area where we headed underground again-this time we were given ear phones and interactive flashlights that we could point at things to turn on stories about what we were looking at.
Apparently a big part of a church in the city fell apart in a big storm so it was especially eerie to be underground looking at the relics of this disaster during another big storm. There was a teeny part of me that wondered if the rest of the city would fall down on top of us while we were there and the movie had a few scary stormy parts in it that were a little frightening for the kids. Thankfully we survived. The kids were allowed to touch pieces of Roman tiles from a roof made long long ago. I can’t imagine anywhere else they would ever be able to do that. I thought about our visit to Hadrian’s wall in England and the similarities in this structure and about how far away we were and for the first time I got a tiny sense of the enormous reach of the Roman Empire.
We left Utrecht satisfied with this alternate adventure to what I had originally imagined for the day. And when we arrived in Amsterdam the winds were so strong the kids felt like they would blow away. We ate dinner nearby and then watched the storm blow bikes and umbrellas outside our window while we tucked into our warm comfortable beds and dreamed about what we would do in the morning.