We’ve just come back from our first ever family holiday with Little Dude.
As I am Dutch, for the first part of our holiday we headed to Groningen in the north of Holland to stay with my mum & stepdad. We spent 5 lovely days with family including one fun day on Schiermonnikoog; a Dutch island, 45 mins by ferry but it feels like a million miles away. We cycled around the island, stopping for a dip in the North Sea and some paddle boarding on the lake.
Of course no trip to Holland would be complete without a few Dutch specialties. Kroket is a Dutch fast food that my husband *has* to have the second we get off the plane. It’s like a giant potato croquette but with meat and a creamy sauce inside. You have it with some mustard, and a bun if you’re feeling extra peckish. It also comes as ‘bitterballen’ which are the same thing but ball-shaped.
We also had some massive gambas – tiger prawns grilled with garlic and local samphire; and delicious mussels, freshly caught in Zeeland in the South of Holland, cooked simply in wine and vegetables. Delicious. Other than that we of course had some ‘patat met’ literally ‘chips with’, the ‘with’ being mayonnaise. My husband took every opportunity to have fresh mint tea, which is so readily available in Holland and Germany (even on ferries and in train stations!) time for Newcastle to catch up methinks…!
After a few lovely days we hopped on a train to Dusseldorf. Easy and cheap to get to from Holland but also the UK (Budget flights direct from Newcastle airport) and with a lively vibe, good restaurants and interesting architecture – it sounded like the perfect holiday spot.
We rented a fabulous apartment near the ‘Medienhafen’ which turned out to be ideal, not least because we were right by the 240.5 metre high concrete telecommunications tower, the ‘Rheinturm,’ which made finding our way home very easy!
I had a few things on my foodie hit list, and managed to tick most of them off. We had to have the obligatory curry wurst, and we found a nice little cafe on our first day which was round the side of the Hyatt Regency hotel in the Medienhafen. This hotel also has a very cool silver spaceship-esque bar on the terrace, which has a DJ, BBQ and cocktails at night. We happened across Cafe D which was awash with suits on a Thursday lunchtime. We were the only tourists in there, and I took it upon myself to try out my very limited German, which nearly resulted in ordering 2 wursts on one plate rather than 2 portions, but we got there in the end..!
The cafe was self service which made it really quick and efficient (which is the thing I LOVE about Germany!), and the staff were very helpful and got us a highchair straight away. Curry wurst for 2, a lemonade and an ice tea came to about €18, slightly more than a fastfood place or market stall but we needed somewhere baby friendly for LD so this was perfect.
Dusseldorf is a cosmopolitan city that never sleeps, where you can get any cuisine you fancy. We discovered a fantastic Korean ‘soul food’ restaurant literally round the corner from our apartment called Papa Yong. The long days and missed afternoon naps made for a tired baby, so rather than eating out in the evening we ate on our balcony and this place was so good we had food from there on our first and last night in Dusseldorf. Think delicious crispy dumplings, tender duck, plenty of fresh vegetables, noodles and rice. The perfect antidote to the big unhealthy lunches we were having!
We got some nice bread from the local bakery in the entrance to the Kaiser supermarket, as well as the usual breakfast fayre and sat on our terrace every morning admiring the view.
We spent our days exploring the city by foot and by open top hop on hop off tourist bus, which is a great way to get about especially with a baby. The weather was great so we had lots of stops for drinks and ice cream, and being that Dusseldorf is known as a ‘green city’ due to its many parks, we had plenty of places to cool off in the shade and relax. We particularly liked the Nordpark, which the tourist bus stopped at due to its ‘Aquazoo’ – n.b. the zoo is currently closed(!)
We felt like the park was just for us on a Friday afternoon in July it was so quiet! We had a look round a little gallery on the grounds, the artist in residence telling us her motivations behind the paintings. We then walked round the Japanese garden which was a tranquil oasis in the middle of the bustling city.
We had lunch just outside the Nordpark in a Greek restaurant called Toxotis which served up some pretty tasty calamaris (not in batter), greek salad, pork souvlaki and fried aubergine with tsatziki, which the waiter recommended and turned out to be delicious. The bill, with some Dusseldorf-brewed Alt beer came to around €40.
On our last day in Dusseldorf we wanted to explore the Aldstadt (old town), and being that it was a Saturday in July and also ‘Frankreichfest,’ a French festival they were holding right before Bastille Day it turned out to be a little busy! We wandered round taking in the atmosphere and 33 degrees heat, looking for somewhere where we could have a traditional German meal. This turned out to be easier said than done! We ended up at Im Goldenen Ring in the old market square, which had available outdoor seating in the shade and highchairs (2 important factors!).
The Mr wanted Weiner Schnitzel and I ordered the house platter – basically a big plate of pork (3 types of sausage, some slow cooked pork and gammon) with mash, gravy and sauerkraut. LD was on the babyfood, which was reluctantly heated up by our waiter.
When the food arrived, I was a little confused as I was presented with a salad. “Is this the Goldenen Ring special..?” I asked the waiter. “Yes” he managed, then ran away. Quickly checking the menu we discovered it was in fact a turkey salad, which was slightly different! Once we’d managed to get hold of the waiter he admitted that he’d made a mistake and reluctantly changed it (he didn’t offer, we had to ask!)
It was pretty good when it eventually arrived, but the experience was a little spoiled by the grumpy waiter, and by now a hot and bothered baby.
After forgetting a couple of other things our waiter hovered then demanded a tip, which we were reluctant to give as we hadn’t been impressed with the service. The mix up with my dish also meant we missed the boat trip we were about to catch. All in all I wouldn’t recommend it, especially for the price (overinflated tourist prices, around €18-€20 a main course) head to Schwan next door instead where we had some great drinks and should’ve stayed for lunch. They had a delicious looking brunch buffet set up which would be a great option for those looking to soak up the Alt beer from the night before.
We thought it would be rude not to head up to the top of the iconic Rheinturm tower for a ‘tee und kuchen’ while we were there. A lift takes you 560ft to the cafe, with panoramic views across the city. LD was quite happy to press himself right up against the diagonal glass panes, smiling down on the city below. I was a little more cautious! The view was wonderful, as was the cake – another thing the Germans do very well. The Mr had apfel strudel which was almost as tasty as my mandarin cake.
We spent our last afternoon in Dusseldorf cooling off in the Rhine. The manmade beach is a little oasis (another one!) and we easily found a spot in the shade where we put down our towels. One thing I would recommend if you’re planning the same is jelly shoes as there are a lot of rocks when you first get in the water.
We had a fantastic holiday, and will definitely be back in the future!
N.B. The good (non instagram!) photos in this article were taken by Mr Toon Lunch Club. You can view the whole lot here.