Today was considered a “rest day”, and also, coincidentally, Malachi’s 8th birthday. We would be staying in Heusden for another night and folks were encouraged to do whatever they’d like for fun. The Canadians decided to visit Eric’s dutch relatives (much to Thomas’s chagrin) but all other involved parties decided to make the trek to Efteling Amusement Park. Rita decided it would be a good idea to lead us out, since the route was a bit tricky, and we got ready. With help from Aine.

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We set off on a beautiful sunny day, for the 30k round trip – our longest yet! We sailed through Heusden, which was beautiful, and out into the countryside. I tried to remember each turn and look on signs for what number we were on, but soon got muddled. Geert seemed to be holding his own today and had the privilege of riding behind Rita (the kids had taken daily turns for this honor). We were riding down a narrow, but rural road when we approached a one lane tunnel through a dike. A car was coming on the other side. I called out to Rita (since G was right behind her) that the car was coming, thinking she would stop and yield to the car, but no, she goes right into the tunnel and G goes right through behind her. My heart seriously stopped. He was in a one lane tunnel going head-on towards a car traveling at least 40mph. He stayed the side, kept a straight line, and did not die. But i think i did. Seriously, just typing it makes me die all over again. Freakin’ Dutch!!

We all made it alive (with the exception of yours truly) to the park, which was situated in a rather busy section of town. It was MUCH larger than I expected. We parked in the impressively expansive bike parking lot (okay, another point back to the Dutch) and got in line for tickets. Right through the gate was the park lagoon with Aladdin’s castle and a watershow. Kinda boring, but kinda impressive.

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Despite the long ride, Geraldine suggested we hit the roller coasters first and eat snacks in line. She’s a wise amusement park veteran. The first was a racer-type coaster with some type of dragon motif. When we got there, it became obvious that the German boys were not fans of coasters and they begged off, so it was just G and I and the Irish.

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We snacked in line (more pan aux chocolat) and watched it go over our heads. No loops or tricks, so G was excited. He and Malachi were brave enough to ride together!

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This ride was fun. Big hills, a water vs fire thing where my coaster spiraled around a blast of flame and Geert’s around a spurt of fountain (that did a good job getting him wet), so the Irish kids got into high gear and were clamoring for “the big one”. G was nervous. “The big one” had a double loop. And a double spiral. Whoa. I talked him into waiting in line to at least kill time and told him if we got to the gate and he didn’t want to go, we’d wait for the Irish on the other side. He was still nervous.

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This line was a bit longer, so we ate sandwiches and had drinks from our packs. All the Irish kids, especially Malachi were excited about this one and kept talking it up to Geert. When the time came, he VERY nervously stepped in the car and decided to make a go of it. I was extremely pleased that they had shoulder harnesses with this rubber vest inside that actually held his tiny body into the seat (unlike the Phantom’s revenge in Kennywood where Brad had thought he might pop out). He squeezed the handbars with white knuckles and as the car started to ascend the first hill, he started to cry. A panicked weeping. Oh man. No backing out now. We climbed higher and higher and he cried louder and then WHIZZZZZ!!! we dropped down the first hill and through the first loop and I looked over to see him laughing. LAUGHING! hysterically! He laughed and whooped his way through the second loop and the spirals and the corkscrews and was beaming terrifically when we came to a stop. He demanded to go again. Phew. But no, let’s go check out another ride. It’s already after lunch and all we’ve done is two coasters.

We headed for the flying Dutchman ride, since the park seemed to be directing attention towards it and waited in an incredibly long line. Over an hour, I think. Fortunately, most of the waiting was inside in the airconditioning, but it was in dark spooky rooms with pirates and skeletons and fake treasure and weird music. The kids weren’t scared, but it was weird. And honestly, we didn’t even know what kind of ride it was. We finally got to the cars and they were hybrid coaster/boats. Hm.

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The ride wound around inside the building around other “ships in the night”, then went up this big hill in the night, then paused with us practically on our backs. Then we screamed down a hill, diving back into the sunlight where the ride kind of turned into a log jam thing. Totally weird and not worth the hour wait at all. Loops were better. So we got ice cream.

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We decided to check out the other side of the park and got to ride fun cars. At Kennywood, the cars rather drive themselves and you just push on the gas, but Geert actually got to steer this one, which he really liked.

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The Irish wanted to do the giant pirate boat swing, so G and I tried to shoot stuff.

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We got back together, and with the limited time left, went for one more run on the double loop coaster (atta boy, G!) and then headed to the fairytale forest, apparently the oldest part of the park. Stopped for jelly beans and fake youtube photo ops.

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The kids were really doing well, but starting to fade a bit. We got to the forest and couldn’t help but laugh. Talk about weird. Different scenes along winding paths, with a moving character or two and recorded mini-stories. Here’s Rapunzel:

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and Hansel and Gretel:

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You know the kids are losing interest when they start hanging from poles that are not part of the attraction:

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It was just about time to meet up anyway, so we headed towards the entrance and the conveniently placed giftshop, where we found the Germans. After the Irish picked out a few things, we headed to the bikes. We loaded up and got out of the lot and to the car parking lot when Aisling discovered she had a flat tire. And we didn’t have Rita with us (the lady with the equipment, of course). Aldo and she headed back to the bike lot to ask about patches and we sat. In the sun. For at least an hour. Hungry, and with a 15k ride ahead of us. Apparently, they tried three patches and glue didn’t hold or something. I thought the Dutch would know how to fix a tire, seriously. FINALLY, we felt ready. Somehow I took the lead and we truly magically managed to find our way back with the map. The bike routes seem similar to how the streets are labeled – you make your way to the next numbered marker, not along numbered or named routes. So rather than looking to see if we’d reached a landmark, we’d have to look for the next sign with an arrow, apparently meaning we were on our way. But some signs were missing. At least twice, we’d realized we’d missed a turn and would have to double back. In a park, I realized we were off track and found a bunch of cycling geriatrics who spoke no english. We figured it out by going towards the right town name and actually made it back on track! We so happily found ourselves back in Heusden and I was completely amazed by Geert’s stamina. The kid was fast today. He stayed right behind me and was FAST! Miracle! We pulled back into the dock and saw this:

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Glory of glories it was a cookout. The night was perfect and somehow completely bug-free. Chef and Rein and even Captain manned the grill and we ate like kings.

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The next surprise came out as we finished eating. For Malachi’s birthday. How unbelievably thoughtful and special!

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Malachi was congratulated by the captain and we ate a fantastic cream cake.

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Then time for some night swimming! Captain set up the ladder from the dock into the water for the kids. Here they are deciding who will be brave enough to go in first. It was Aisling.

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Then time for bed. The wifi signal here was great, so I sat out on the deck after putting Geert down and was able to call Brad. Somehow he was free and I got to tell him all about the trip. So nice to be able to be in touch even if just for a night.

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