Updated: 15:07 EDT, 26 August 2011>
We are Jack Sprat and his wife when it comes to holidays. David is a sun-worshipper, while I erupt in a rash in heat and am allergic to enforced inactivity.
‘Go north!’ I bellow; ‘Head south!’ he replies. The only place we can agree on is Holland. We love it - Amsterdam and The Hague for art, food and walking.
But those aren’t quite summer holiday material. We have to entertain two youngsters, our seven-year-old granddaughter Grace and her friend Greta, and that requires a beach. So we choose Friesland, at the very top of the Netherlands.
Mills and thrills: A windmill in the Netherlands' idyllic Friesland region
We all share a love of water. Here, it’s everywhere, and for the first two days it falls from the sky in copious amounts, too.
Our holiday destination - Landal Esonstad, a purpose-built village with a variety of homes all styled on the local Old Frisian style - is ten minutes from the Wadden Sea, a Unesco World Heritage Site that stretches for 310 miles from the Skallingen peninsula in Denmark to the mainland port of Den Helder in Holland and is separated from the North Sea by a string of sand dunes.
No other sea in the world has been the subject of so much research, and it is the only place where bird migration to Africa can be studied on a massive scale.
The Wadden Sea is trilaterally managed by the German, Danish and Dutch governments. It’s interrupted by grassy marshland, and plays host to ducks, geese, gulls, terns and a profusion of sea life.
Tourism is based on the natural environment. As the entire region has 14 million tourists every year, it is remarkable that it remains so unspoiled. Activities include ‘mud-flat walking’ (the word ‘wad’ is Dutch for mud-flat), in which visitors walk across the extensive tidal flats from the mainland to the islands.
This whole area is a waterway modified by a system of dykes and is a brilliant platform from which to fly kites, cycle, walk or just watch the majestic boats sailing by.
Making tracks: Friesland is the perfect place to get on two wheels and explore the outdoors
By dusk, a fading golden glow seeps over the site. We stand in silence watching a ship glide beyond the marshes. ‘That’s like the boat in Peter Pan,’ shouts Grace - and she’s right, although I prefer to imagine we’re part of a Dutch landscape painting.
Friesland offers a glimpse of life lived by people who don’t wallow in nostalgia but use the past to create a vibrant present. The wind farms - pure drama with their massive turning cartwheel legs — are as potent as the original old windmills still functioning with their knotty sails.
Each street in Landal is built overlooking a mini-lake teeming with wildlife. The girls fish, feed the birds, float boats and sit dangling their feet in the water. The complex isn’t regimented, but feels safe and offers all sorts of activities for youngsters.
A day-trip cycling across one of the islands, Ameland, is a hit. We ride on cycle paths through the dunes right across the island to the village of Hollum to climb to the top of the lighthouse.
Resting for lunch at a beach cafe in another village, Ballum, the girls shoot off and collect crabs, darting in and out of the waves.
After a couple of hours we’re back on track, cycling through the dunes to see a lifeguard museum. The sun shines just enough to make the cycling seem easy.
Atmospheric: The Wadden Sea is a Unesco World Heritage Site that stretches for more than 300 miles from Denmark to Holland
Back on the mainland, the towns of Dokkum (easily accessed by any number of cycle paths) and Leeuwarden are glamorous, rather like quiet mini-Amsterdams.
The museum guides cater for the most tireless of youngsters and we are amazed when Grace is hooked by the ‘10.000 x Happiness’ exhibition at the Keramiekmuseum Princessehof in Leeuwarden - a show dedicated to the importance of dragons, lotus blossoms and peonies as seen on Chinese ceramics.
Hubert, our canal trip guide in Leeuwarden, chuckles away in Dutch, but it doesn’t matter. It’s bliss. We gently drift through its streets before lunching on board a pirate ship, ‘t Pannekoeschip, where we have our own Captain Hook serving us.
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We navigate our way on foot to the Museum De Grutterswinkel, a teeny old grocer’s shop in a house dating back to 1596. We see an old sheep pen where salt, beans and peas were sold.
The bedrooms and living areas are much as they were at the turn of the century, when the shop was managed by three sisters. In one of the upper rooms, there’s a false ceiling used by Jews as a hiding place in World War II .
We are all fascinated and humbled by this slice of Dutch history and really impressed by our volunteer guide, one of many retired men and women who show tourists around the city they are so proud of.
In the early evening, with the girls in the swimming pool, we prepare a simple dinner and muse on how lucky we are to have found a holiday that suits us all so perfectly.
A week at Landal Esonstad in a standard four-person cottage costs from £354, www.landal.com.
Stena Line crossings between Harwich and the Hook of Holland start at £118 return for a driver and car.
Additional adults from £24, children from £12 and cabins from £29pp, 08447 70 70 70, www.stenaline.co.uk. More information at holland.com or visitfryslan.nl, 020
Source : http://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/article-2030592/Holland-holidays-Finding-perfect-peace-fantastic-Friesland.html