Floriade, Den Bosch and The Houseboat

The worst part of a multi base holiday is the feeling that you are always packing and unpacking and today was a moving day. We packed up the car nice and early and we headed to Floriade.

Titchy had heard about Floriade earlier in the year, a once in every ten year horticultural event that was being held while we were due to be there.  We would be mad not to go so we booked up and today was the day.

The kids were a little dubious about the whole thing as you can imagine.  We teed it up us as so much more than a plant show, it was a festival for goodness sake, what’s not to love about a festival?  There would be rides, stunning displays of tulips and clogs, attractions and energy and it would be amazing.  We possibly built it up too much in our own minds, never mind the kids.

We drove past the festival site on the way in and parked up at a vast car park that was about one fifth occupied.  The warning signs were starting to flash, this would never happen at Disney World.

We made our way across to the bus transfer that would take us to the event site and when the bus arrived, about one hundred people that had gathered made a dash for the doors.  It was all very un-British and undignified.  I soon got into the swing of it though and with elbows out and not a small amount of shame, we forced our way into the cattle cart that proceeded to hurtle around the suburbs of Almere.

I would guess that the average age of the people there was around 75. We even got a few strange looks off the ticket checking pensioners that were volunteers at the front gate and I was getting worried about managing three older kids for a day.

The event’s focus was on Dutch horticulture;  presenting innovations and solutions for sustainable and liveable cities and across the 60-hectare site it featured the theme “Growing Green Cities”.  Yeah, it was exactly as exciting as it sounded.  

We trudged slowly between various different examples of easy to construct building made with cat hair, recycled washing up liquid bottles and held together with sticky backed plastic.  It was as if Blue Peter had been put in charge of all new builds.

The only redeeming feature was the cable car that carried you, very slowly and serenely, across the site to give you a birds eye view of all of the things that you couldn’t care less about.  We made our way over to the restaurant area and I knew it wasn’t going to be fun for me.

It was rammed with a mix of sandal wearing hippies and pensioners.  I think the best way to summarise it quickly would be to say that it was the sort of place that doesn’t sell Coke or Pepsi as they damage the planet too much so they charge you €10 for a glass of organic elderflower and nettle just warmed to the same temperature as a butterfly’s wing so that you can get a sense of the pain they feel as we are ruining their habitats.

We couldn’t pretend that it was the sort of place we wanted to be any more. The kids could see that it was a mistake and so we left earlier than we planned.  As way of an apology, we headed to McDonalds for an over compensating McFlurry to get the kids back onside……it was supposed to be a holiday after all.

We were heading off to our next location, ‘s-Hertogenbosch which is known more locally as Den Bosch.  This was one of the more exciting parts of the holiday as we had hired a house boat on the canal that looked like something from George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces.

We were heading off to our next location, ‘s-Hertogenbosch which is known more locally as Den Bosch.  This was one of the more exciting parts of the holiday as we had hired a house boat on the canal that looked like something from George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces.

It was called ‘The Coon’ and looked totally amazing; like a floating Airstream caravan.  It was just over an hour’s drive form Almere and the excitement levels were growing….the best rental we had ever taken?  We hoped so.

We pulled up at the side of the canal and couldn’t quite find the accommodation so had to be guided in by WhatsApp from the host.  We had to carry our bags for what felt just a bit too far and we were told that parking wasn’t possible.  I ended up moving the car to the other side of the canal and walking back around, a trip of about a mile.  If I wasn’t parked right next to a police station, I would have been a lot more worried. 

I believe that it was the daughter of the owner that showed us around the house boat and gave us the lowdown.  The water tank took water from the canal and filtered it to make it perfectly safe.  All the badness was filtered out, but not the smell of pond water. Thankfully you could use the bottled water that they provided instead.

We knew that it would be tight in there for the five of us, but it was exciting and it was all done to a very high standard.  The back of the boat had loungers on it and opened out to the canal for you to jump off.  It was a bit like being on a posh yacht moored off Cannes.

As we unpacked and made our new home a home, the boy child decided that he would take the chance to go swimming and ducked under the weeds and passing rowers to potter about. As a terrible swimmer I couldn’t have done anything to help if he got into difficulty so I prowled the decks watching him like a hawk, just imagining the headlines.  He milked it of course, and I think, the best part of my holiday was when he came back on deck.

We showered under the world’s smallest and weakest shower and headed to the bar we had passed when we parked up.  It was starting to get lively on the Friday night and seemed to be filling with cool start-up types that had the look of people that had spent the day coding.  We had a wonderful dinner and the place was vibrant; this was the life.

We noticed there was a room in the rear that was filled with arcade games and Karaoke booths.  We spent a good hour pottering around and having a good old laugh. The smiles on the kids’ faces made up for the ‘flower shit show’ earlier in the day that was now long forgotten.

A real highlight was a Japanese drumming game that required you to keep a beat on with two huge drum sticks.  We literally played on that one until we got blisters on our blisters.

Titchy and her boy left a little while before us as it was getting late and around 20 minutes later I got a call asking me to get back to the boat as quickly as I could. Titchy was incredibly apologetic for making us leave early, but I was needed for a life or death situation.  There must have been around 30 very slight but massive spiders in every nook and cranny of the boat.

We shooed them out and closed all the windows and doors to stop them coming back and the place suddenly began to warm up.  It had been a lovely day temperature wise, but this was 10pm and there was no let up.  Suddenly, the idea of being trapped in a hot metal box bobbing up and down on a river bank neighbouring a spider hotel didn’t seem like such a great idea.

The night couldn’t get any worse, could it?

Well actually, yes it could.

At around 11pm the music started, and when I say music, I mean LOUD music.  You know that part of Jurassic Park where the tremors can be seen on the glass of water?  Well that, but louder and it went on until about 2am.

I was going to say that it was impossible to sleep in there with the heat and the noise, but the two boys slept right through. Didn’t hear a thing all night!  I sent a message to the owner explaining that we couldn’t stay another night as the chances were we would be facing the same carnage on the Saturday night.

I wasn’t expecting a response, but we had recording of the sound and went to bed ready for a frank exchange of views the next day.

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