Monday 18 May 2015


Our trip. Mum, Dad, Molly (5), Neve (1)

Our eldest daughter had a week break from her Kita here in Berlin. The usual thoughts ran through my head as to what would be fun to do with the time (we are blessed with a Kita that stays open even through the summer holiday) As ideas of golden sand beaches for five days disappeared with the price I remembered the fairy tale place a friend of my mother-in-law had mentioned last summer, ‘Efteling’ somewhere in The Netherlands. A dutch friend of mine was coincidently working on a cookbook for that place, and had been recently. The lightbulb went on, and I set to work doing what I do best. Plan. 

We booked a three day car hire, a two night stay on a campsite and tickets for Efteling, the most magical theme park in Europe.  All for around €500

Traveling by car with a car sick daughter is never so much fun, but we were prepared for what turned out to be an eight hour journey (with stops) from Berlin to Kaatsheuvel in The Netherlands. The journey, whilst long and tedious, was actually fairly straight forward, the only argument happening after the only mistake was made, about half an hour from our destination.

But we arrived, on an out of season April evening to Oostappen Vakantieparken Droomgaard. The campsite was like a ghost town, but fortunately they were expecting us, and a pleasant Dutch man speaking (of course) perfect English met us and simply handed over an envelope, and a parking pass and the key to the caravan number 23, our home ! We cooked a quick dinner and put the kids to bed, enjoyed a couple of glasses of wine and slept ourselves. As novices, we had forgotten a few of the essentials (toilet roll, washing up liquid, cloths etc) but managed to find it all in the reasonably priced campsite shop.  

The campsite itself was beautifully empty, but this also meant none of the attractions (swimming pool, entertainment etc) were open. I can imagine it is really fun in the summer. The playground was sandy and big, and the caravan park felt spacious. We even had a view of some horses in the next field (and the b-road in the distance). The caravan was clean, and perfect for a family of four. There were other sofa beds we didn’t need should you have more guests. It felt safe and secure. The girls shared a bedroom with two single beds (you could hire a cot for babies but we chose not to), and we slept next door in a double bed. 

We woke the next morning to a fairly misty start, and it was freezing ! A slight air of disappointment (but mostly the adults) was soon lifted by the excitement of the day ahead. We chose to drive the 2km to the park, as the idea of carrying a 1 year old (and probably 5 year old) back at the end of a long day was too much for us ! I can’t express how amazing it was to arrive at the old stone wall, sweep down the drive (and past all the empty parking spaces) to the fairy entrance of Efteling. For a five year old with a big imagination this was like stepping into all her fantasies at once. 

Once through the grand entrance we hired a “pushchair” for the day to keep the two smaller ones from walking / being carried and set off down the tulip lined walk towards Sprookjesbos. Here the most beautiful forest recreated (via animatronics) every fairytale you can think of. Sleeping Beauty was up in a castle you could walk through, passing snoozing guards on the way, Rapunzel continually let her hair down so the prince could climb up, Hansel was locked in cage with Gretel outside holding a broom. Around every corner you found another tiny house, with washing up outside or a miniature table and chairs. The details were beautiful, and to be honest, this alone would have been enough for our children. We stopped when the sun came out as a name naked Emperor paraded from right to left in front of us. It is hard to describe the sheer beauty of the wood. It is old fashioned, and not super hyped, but in that lies the appeal. It is crafted from a different time. We particularly loved the tale of the Indian Water Lilies, where, after persuading Molly to wait, tiny fairies emerged from lilies and sang accompanied by a life size frog band. 

Once through the forest we headed to the Droomvlucht Fairy Ride. Being out of season we had only a few minutes in a queue before stepping into our suspended carriage which took us through the most wonderful world of singing, swinging and dancing fairies and elves. The rickety carriage took us up, down and round the ride. The minute we stepped off Molly insisted on going on again. The bonus of being there in mid April, was that she could. With no queue we were free to take our time everywhere. 

Neve and I stopped for a snack and consulted the map. 

Next up we went on the snail monorail, another ride which both Molly and a bemused Neve could enjoy. We rode (4 meters) above tiny houses, all telling their own story. Once off the ride we could then explore the houses, all of which you could walk in to to some degree. Molly was in heaven, being able to recreate her own world as she went from home to home, getting a shock when we entered the house with the noisy steps… this I will leave for you to discover !

Then we entered the other side of the park, filled with roller coasters, water rides, rocking pirate ships and other death defying excitement. Unfortunately Molly was a little too small for most of the white knuckle rides (I say unfortunately but…) with 120cm being the required height, but that didn’t stop Morgan and I from taking on the black hole (separately), a roller coaster ride in absolute darkness! There was also a very gentle “round the world” ride for Neve with stereotyped dolls waving at us round every corner. It was fun.

And then we found it, the wooden roller coaster that allowed children of a height of 110cm and above to go on. Molly took no persuading, despite feeling terrible after coming off the pirate ship, and Morgan and her took to the queue. Twenty minutes later they emerged and to our surprise Molly wanted to go on again straight away. So I went with her, round the long walkway which would normally be chocked full of teenagers, through to the platform. We sat in, the bar went down and away we went. It was fast (no loop the loop), and thrilling. I looked over at Molly to see her bright red face morphed into a wild cocktail of sheer terror and excitement. Yet, at the end, she was full of the wonder of it. I felt slightly wobbly but she bounced back straight away. 

We spent the last hour or so wandering around the grounds, revisiting the fairy tales from the beginning and watching an impressive water display by the entrance to round it all up. We were all exhausted, but I can’t recommend it highly enough. 

There was something truly magical about the place, the charm of it was in the understated calm. No big mascots walking around, only beautiful flower arrangements, easy to navigate paths and lots of places to rest, relax, sample Dutch snacks of meat or cheese filled pancakes twinkies (!) and enjoy. 

10 out of 10

Gen 2.0 sx70

We went away, and I took a pack of the Gen 2.0 sx70 film with me...I was very excited to shoot this new film and was looking forward to the results. However, I was a little disappointed. OK, I did shoot on a cold day and perhaps should have been more considerate of this (the later photos when the sun came out certainly had more snap to them) as the images I took really were rather flat. The first couple of pictures I took had the usual "green" hue to them. It also seemed that the film was reacting differently in the same conditions, with under and over exposed images.

On the positive, when the sun did come out the film picked out the blue sky brilliantly, the reds and yellows in the flowers were clear, and the pink of my daughters jacket shining even in the cloud.
The details in the images are much sharper too.

I was frustrated also, when I noticed the chemicals leaking slightly on the back of the film. This has happened to me for a while !

The film is wonderful if you shoot in bright, clear conditions. But that has always been the case. If I'm honest, I don't see much difference from the previous film...

Friday 1 May 2015

Bolleboos Design

I recently took a market research task for Dutch design team Bolleboos. It was all about memories. To say thanks each participant received a free pack of film (along with other goodies) from Impossible. Thank you. So I created some new memories with a colourful free shoot.