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This is a photo-heavy travel post about Budapest

I was fascinated by so much that I saw in Budapest.

The grocery stores, markets, food

Spaces, things available to the public.

book cart in budapestwater fountain on groundbike rental in budapestwreath on a wall in budapestscooter parking in budapestPlaygrounds

The playgrounds were so nicely designed, new, cushy, the kind every child wants to spend time in.

beautiful playground in Budapest with child on the rope walkway
children playing on a mound in a playground in budapest
child on rope path
children on round swing

The buildings in Budapest are famous for a reason: they are almost unbearably lovely.

beautiful row of old buildings in Budapest
old apartment building in budapest
hungarian parliament? something important
liberty bridge in budapest
geraniums on window sill in budapest

The doors are like art; the details made my soul ache with the beauty.

door in budapest
bridge lamp detail in budapest
geraniums in window sill in budapest
bridge details in budapest

But I found after a while that I didn’t care very much anymore about how gorgeous everything was.

I was just unhappy with how mean and grumpy everyone seemed to be.

You know, I’d walk up to a little kiosk and smile and make eye contact and emit ALL THE GOOD VIBES and ask for some bread or something and the sales person would visibly roll their eyes and all but spit at the bread before handing it to me.

chimney cakesIt was like they could not be more put out by being there, by our existence, by absolutely everything surrounding them.

Add that to heat, miles of walking, trying to figure things out and you’ll get a mom who was getting increasingly put off by the attitude, less willing to shine the good vibes.

Even though I suspected that I could be in the wrong areas at the wrong time – or in a tourist zone? Or just unlucky? – I was seriously thinking of just leaving because there didn’t seem to be a point to being in a place that, however gorgeous, was just mean.

The Railroad Museum of Budapest

We went to the Railroad Museum when I was feeling no positive vibes and ready  to leave the next day.

It took a long time to get there – about 6 transfers through Metro and Tram (we left the stroller at home through the entire trip to Budapest on account of the flights of stairs and lack of overall access).

kids on subway in budapestsubway in budapestshop in subwaywalking undersground in budapestwalking in budapestI noticed that people got nicer as we got further from the city proper.

They looked less grumpy. We got more smiles – even if just eye smiles or eye warmth.

I thought later how impossibly different Hilo is from Budapest – I mean, the town where everyone smiles at everyone else and says hello, waves shaka, with the city where everyone walks around like their house just burned down.

little girl holding bread and cheeseAnyway, so.

Like I was saying, people were getting a little warmer with more transfers we had, then we were at the Railroad Museum.

The Railroad Museum was cool.

trains at the railroad museum
trains at the railroad museum
child in front of train entry
view from old train

The people there seemed nice and I definitely enjoyed all of their trains. As did the kids.

child in an old train
inside an old train
two children on an old train car
child smiling on a miniture train
child with arm up on miniture train
going through tunnel on a miniature train
engineers taking a break at the railrway museum
train at the museum

We made our way back

in between trainstrains on tracklittle girl running by trainsopen gate to circus rides walking down tree-lined sidewalk in suburban Pestplayground and outdoor open gym in PestWe made our way by walking, then via trams to the subway station and decided to stop for a bite to eat at a station eatery (that looked remarkably like a Mexican taqueria).

Hungarian train station eatery with child eatingWe got food, settled in, and after a while, Micah told me that people at the back of me seemed to be deaf, signing.

I turned and sure enough!

We started talking, and it felt like I was home.

The lady spoke ASL; the man only Hungarian sign.

But we had the best conversation about just.. stuff.

Everything and nothing and it felt so easy and wonderful to talk to them and laugh at their (many) jokes (like she couldn’t believe all of my kids were from the same father, and joked that I had a lot of guys stashed around with all these kids of mine).

We laughed and laughed and it felt sooooooooooo good after holding all that tension inside – it was like the steam blowing out from a pressure cooker. 

Tears slipped out of the corners of my eyes from the delicious release of all the pressure and joy of friendship and through the laughter my heart opened to Budapest.

This is a travel post about arriving in the train station Budapest and finding our way to the Air B n’ B through public transport.

Budapest dazzled and intrigued me as we stepped off the train at the Kaleti station.

Like a glorious glass lace building, it’s arches soared and sunlight poured in. It was easily the most exquisitely luxurious train station I’d ever been in, and yet, bordering the hall were distinctly communist-type shops, titled simply by what they sold, “Tobacco” or “Grocery”; “Luggage”. Even the fonts used harkened back to communist Russia, and reminded me of China.

in kaleti budapest train station, two shops next to each other, one reading grocery store" and the other reading "tobbaco shop"

We went to the Starbucks across the street first for the wifi and to get our bearings. I downloaded the directions and address to the Air B n’B we’d be staying at, and tried to condense the bags into the suitcase (because things always seem to spread out after some time on a train).

Once ready, we went back to the station to get to the underground. I had told Susie, who owned the Air B n’ B that we were going to be staying at, that I would be traveling with a heavy suitcase, huge stroller and 3 little kids. She had given me directions to her place. I have to admit that I was really surprised when we got to the metro station and found that there were NO ELEVATORS.

There were only escalators, and I’m talking, escalators that go into the bowels of the earth, like, escalators so long that it takes like, 20 minutes just to ride them going down to the station.

I gulped.

Big heavy suitcase, stroller, all of us with backpacks.

I was nervous. But I while I was probably justified in being nervous about that stuff, I hadn’t even considered the fact that Mack and Moxie had no clue as to how to ride an escalator!

Later on, I was slapping my head, I mean, OF COURSE they don’t know! We live in HILO, HAWAII, where there are two escalators, both located in the airport the kids have never flown from! Before Hilo, we lived in a yurt on the Lost Coast of California, where they sure have bears, mountain lions, scorpions and fields of marijuana but nary an escalator in sight.

Unthinking, I was gripping the suitcase in one hand and the double BOB in the other, and urging Mack and Moxie to get on after me. Mack was screaming and crying, wanting to hold my hand – I was already on the escalator and being pulled away. Right then, an old Hungarian woman grabbed Mack by the hand and led him over and helped him on, holding his hand firmly the whole way down. Another elder did the same for Moxie, and the kids made their way down that terrifyingly long way to the subway.

Once there, we wound around the tunnel to the train car, caught the train and it was at the very next stop that we were to disembark.

I admit I was a little ticked off with Susie as we navigated those escalators once more. I just couldn’t understand why she would recommend we take that whole route, when she knew what we were coming with.

Anyway, I shrugged it off and focused on trying to figure out the next step: the tram.

I asked person after person where the tram was, showing them the directions that had the Hungarian names on it. No one knew, people simply shrugged and said, “no” and walked away. I was feeling like I was back in Communist China (when it was really Communist), really trying to figure something out, pouring sweat as I moved something heavy and met with shrugs and nonchalence.

I found that the only way up to the trams was up a double flight of stairs.

I sighed and got ready to carry it all up when a  little old woman (what is it with these old women?!) came over and tried to lift the suitcase for me. I thanked her and said no and took the suitcase and somehow hauled it up, but was so much happier just have someone care.

Then I went and got the stroller up, and the kids and I found the tram – once I saw all of the stairs to the tram, the narrow doors,  throngs of people, and the tiny margin of time allowed for boarding, I knew I couldn’t do it. I mean, I knew I wouldn’t be able to get the kids, the suitcase and the stroller and myself all in those doors with all the other people around in the 2 minutes or so they give you.

I figured the Air B n’ B had to be close by, since that last stop was only one away. I thought it had to be less stressful to just walk it.

Finding the Air B n’ B

Four hours later, we found it.

Yes, four hours of walking, wandering around in the neighborhood that the apartment was in.

So many times we were in spitting distance, like we just walked on streets just one or two over from the one we wanted… and yet each and every time I showed the address and asked someone where it was, they just said, “no” and looked away.

I was getting pretty frustrated, like, ‘can you even look at the address? Can you even see if you know it? Do you have to just say, “no” right offhand?

I finally found it, and once there, kind of cried when I saw that instead of it being on the second floor (as Susie had assured me), it was actually on the third floor, and each floor had two flights of stairs – so it was more like 6 flights of stairs for me, my arms, the suitcase and the stroller.

It was a beautiful apartment – high, high ceilings, so much space and a lovely design.

The smell of stale of smoke was overwhelming, so I found the windows – double windows! – And opened them, and loved how the curtains lifted with the breeze and the light came in.

I couldn’t find any wifi though. So I gathered the kids up again and left the apartment in search of someplace with free wifi so that I could contact Susie to figure out what was up.

I found the wifi, a few blocks away in a movie theatre, contacted Susie.

Susie said did indeed have wifi and all kinds of helpful information (including the password) that was kept in a mysterious folder that the cleaning lady may have forgotten to leave… but that I should be able to find the password and network somewhere on the router. Thanks, Susie!

We all walked back to the apartment, walked up the flights of stairs, and eventually found the router, network and password and all was well.

But I kind of hated Susie by that point.

This is a travel post about taking the sleeper train in Europe (from Utrecht in the Netherlands to Budapest, Hungary)

There was a change in plan.

My mom, whom we were going to meet at Nijmegen, Netherlands after her conference was finished, had to delay her departure from the US. That meant that the kids and I are going to be traveling by ourselves until she heads over.

With that, I thought it might be a great time to go to Budapest. So I went to Amsterdam to get the Eurail tickets sorted out and got everything for Budapest squared away.

Then!

We went to (what was quickly becoming our beloved) little local grocery store in Bunnik to stock up on some food for the trip.

two children in a play center in a supermarket with another child with a child cart full of food looking at the other two

Ran back to our Air B’n’B, finished packing the all-important Snack Basket

a basket with handles and leaves
The Snack Basket!

Then we ran (like, literally: RAN) to the train station to catch our local train to Utrecht.

three children on a Dutch village train platform with a suitcase and a big stroller. the chidren are drinking water

Looking at this photo makes me smile because you can barely sort of see this young couple in the back of Micah. They started making out after I took the photo, and I was laughing at them a little in my head, “oh, get a hotel room!”

When the train came, they disentangled themselves from each other and both the guy and the girl raced over to us and just lifted our stuff up and helped us in the train. They were SO SWEET!

We started chatting and they taught the kids how to say “thank you”, “hello” and “please” in Dutch, then before we knew it, we were at Utrecht and they helped us off, waved cheerfully and went on their happy way.

I love the Dutch

three kids and a woman are looking at the camera. the woman and a child are smiling, another child is making a face and another child has a lollipop in her mouth. all have light skin and brown hair

 

Utrecht to Budapest, by Way of the Night Sleeper Train

We had three transfers on the way to Budapest, the first of course being in Utrecht.

From there, we transferred in Dusseldorf (Germany) and Munich.

It was all going really smooth. We had these super comfortable, plush seats in these super comfortable, plush carriages. We were all munching chocolate (given to us by train attendants) and watching the sun set over lovely rolling German hills.

 

lovely rolling german hills with a village in the valley
sceneary from the train

The Munich Transfer

“Munich” in German is not “Munich” – it’s this other long word which I don’t remember.

As our train pulled up to something long-Munich-looking, I gathered up my kids, the bags, the stroller, the suitcase, and prepared to get off for another transfer. I wasn’t in a huge rush (like I had been at Utrecht and Dusseldorf) because we were supposed to have an hour layover in Munich.

So we went over the vending machines, got some German sugar to keep us up (- it was 10:30pm and I needed us to be on our toes until the 11:30pm boarding!), and kind of wandered over to the information desk to ask where the platform was for boarding this night train to Budapest.

The ticket guy was all, “oh, you are at the wrong station – you need to be at Munich-something-something-really-long”

OH SHIT!!!

I turned that party right around and we hauled ass to the train platform to catch this train to the Munich-something-something-long-name which was FIVE STATIONS AWAY.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to stay really calm and “hey! this is fun, kids!” so Micah doesn’t freak out because this is just the kind of thing that will set him off.

We got to the hella-long-station-name (the RIGHT ONE this time!) and I ran downstairs (“ran” being a relative term for this middle-aged woman with 3 little kids, all carrying huge backpacks with an enormous stroller and a wheeled suitcase) to find the information desk to find out what platform we were supposed to be on.

The information desk was closed. 

So then I was frantically (but with that calm facade for my kids, right?!) trying to find it on the monitor display – FOUND IT!! – but where the fuck was PLATFORM 12????? I couldn’t see it anywhere!

I ran (relative term, remember) over to a group of guys that looked like they worked there (something about their uniforms). I asked them where the platform was and one of the guys looked at my ticket while I all but jumped up and down in impatience for him to HURRY UP and this other guy was giving my kids candy and smiling at them in delight. The first guy finally looked up and was like, “I don’t know where this is…” but then added, “maybe go upstairs and look.”

I found the elevator and rushed us all in, squeezing, and holding my breath – we had TEN MINUTES to get on that train before it left.

The seconds stretched as the elevator moved slowly up, and I thought of how happy I was to be doing this rush in Europe, in the something-something-long-Munich-name-station and not in say, Oakland, where the elevator would be reeking of piss if it worked at all, and I’d be slugging up those Oakland train stairs with all of the bags and the kids. Go, access, Europe! I love you, working elevators!

The doors opened to this totally different world – one with huge trains resting on a multitude of platforms.

BOOM – there Platform 12 was, at the far end – we ran, ran, ran and hopped on board, made it. 

The Night Train to Budapest: A Sleeper

I used to read Agatha Christie’s books when I was a kid.

Or, more accurately, I devoured Agatha Christie’s books when I was a kid, I gulped her books down in voracious single swallows and reached for more.

I adored Hercule Poirot, got to like Miss Marple (because I was desperate) and avidly dreamed about intricately fashioned art-deco worlds in which sleeping on the train was a way to get somewhere in Europe.

So, of course. The kids and I took a sleeper to Budapest, and I think that sounds like the sexiest line I’ve ever typed, “the kids and I took a sleeper to Budapest.” Right?! That’s every kind of WOW, right there.

the train sign on the train - all the stops for the sleeper train to budapest
just look at all those dots over the ‘o”s!!

 

The kind (but stern, unsmiling and professional) Eurail lady in Amsterdam had gotten us a car to ourselves. There were six bunk beds once we figured out how to pull them down, and absolutely no room on the floor for the stroller and suitcase!Channeling Captain Marvel, I hoisted that stroller up to one of the top bunks, the suitcase on a lower one, and we settled in.

Sleeping on a European Sleeper Train

I was in heaven.

My kids were totally laughing at me, saying I was like a kid in a candy shop. But it’s the truth: I was SO FREAKING HAPPY to be in that moment, in that space, to be with these little people that I love so much, doing something as rad as riding a sleeper train to Budapest!

We all slept deeply and well, the rocking of the train lulling us back to sleep whenever we’d chance to wake up.

Waking up with the sun, we had a great breakfast from our Snack Basket full of lovely Dutch things, and watched the Hungarian countryside pass by.

waking up on the sleeper trainchild eating breakfast on the train

two children eating breakfast on the train

The mustachioed train conductor (Hercule!!) came by to tell us to get ready, and also to collect our “bed clothes” (- the blankets).

child carrying backpack looks out of window on train
budapest kaleti station

And just like that, we were there.

on the night train to budapest - the european sleeper train with children - image description: three children stand in the budapest train station with a train in the background and luggage around them

This is a travel post about physical access in Holland (the Netherlands). It includes opinion about Dutch euthanasia, eugenics and the differences between the Netherlands and the United States with regard to disability rights and access.

You know how you don’t really miss something you’ve never had?

Like, you kind of bumble around life, stumble over some stuff and think, “man, that sucks, but it’s the way it is, right?” and continue forth.

I was like that with captions in the movie theatres for most of my life. I couldn’t hear a lot of what was going on, but I thought that was all I could do, and tried to make the best of it. But then once I experienced having captions on my movies, there was no looking back: I wanted captions on ALL of my movies, and I wanted them NOW!

Coming to Holland and seeing how access can be has that same feeling for me.

Access in Hollandaccess in holland - a path to the left for pedestrians and a path to the right for bikes or strollers. then a swathe of green and a road for cars

See this?

A path on the left for pedestrians, a path next to it for bikes and strollers. A swathe of grass, then a road for cars.

THIS IS HOW IT SHOULD BE!! Oh my God! This is so much better than the bike lanes they have in the San Francisco Bay Area because these have the grass that separate the (tiny!) car lane from the people who use wheels.

This makes so much sense, doesn’t it?

Of course this was in a village about an hour outside of Amsterdam and Amsterdam wasn’t the same

central station in Amsterdam with people milling around. the ground is flatthe street in Amsterdam with many people on it
But the difficulty in Amsterdam wasn’t physical access so much as it was just getting through the hordes of tourists. That place is packed and that made it no fun for me, so we left.

But it was still physically accessible and I think it’s that way because the Dutch really love their bicycles

bicycles parked in Amsterdam

Train Access in Holland

This is where in particular it was amazing to me.

You see, when I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, I used the trains a lot, and I also had a lot of friends who use wheelchairs. Later, I used strollers myself, and access really mattered.

I can’t tell you how many times an elevator was broken by the train, and I had to just skip the trip or walk to the next station or something. Other times, the elevators worked, but I couldn’t ever wrap my head around how awful it all was. The elevators usually reeked of urine and were just gross. We would have to go all the way down, all the around to punch a ticket, all the way down again, and overall, it would take easily twice or three times as long as it would the inaccessible route.

So these Dutch train elevators made me want to cry a little:

train elevator in Holland, made of glass

Check that baby out.

ALL GLASS.

Gleaming. Spic n’ span. Fast.

In every station I went, I had to take the elevator because I am traveling with a double BOB stroller (which is the same exact size as a wheelchair). It’s a pretty fantastic measuring stick for how it would be for someone who uses a wheelchair.

It was awesome. Super easy to find the elevators – they are all as centrally located as is humanely possible. They are directly in the line of the trains and the ticket counters. I mean, this is how it should be! THIS IS HOW IT SHOULD BE EVERYWHERE.

Why is this so hard? I mean, people who use wheels are not second class citizens – we shouldn’t have to go through stupid hoops to get on a train, nor should we have to ride gross elevators that stink of piss to catch a train when no one else has to. I’m kind of wondering what good is the ADA when you get such a separate experience? Why are we even paying the same prices?

Bunnik train station in Holland - the road is accessible, the elevator is the left
You know what? They didn’t even have curb cuts because they didn’t have raised sidewalks! They had spaces between the sidewalks and the paths for people who use wheels.

It’s like access upon access. Blew my mind.

On the Train Itself

Some of the trains came flush up to the platform. That is, there was no space or steps and you could just wheel right in.

train platform in hollandOthers did have a step – the longer distance express trains often had two steps. I kind of freaked out when I saw that because I wondered how on earth I was going to get that stroller up there in the 3 seconds I had (because the trains do not stop long: they are FAST).

Every. Single. Time. I got on a train, lovely, tall, gorgeous, sunny, friendly, Dutch people rushed over to offer to help. No kidding: every. single. time. So, every. single. time I had these people who looked like magazine models lifting up my battered double BOB and hoisting it into the train and smiling their sunny Dutch smiles at us all and saying things that sounded nice as they cheerfully walked away.

access on the train in holland - spaces for wheelchair users, strollers, bikes
the double BOB on an inter-city express train (which has row seats)
areas for bikes on the train in holland
inter-city train bathroom in holland - a sliding door opens for a wheelchair accessible bathroom and an accessible wash stand. it is all very clean
the accessible bathroom on the inter city train!

I can’t imagine this happening with wheelchair users (“can I help lift you up to the train?!”), and I also can’t imagine that the ever-practical and highly-resourceful Dutch just let wheelchair users not access trains after they pay attention to all that other access.

I’d like to know how this is handled: do you need to touch base with the information desk at the large stations to make sure the conductor has a portable ramp? Or do you just go to a certain train car where they unfurl a ramp? I wonder what happens.

Other Disability Access on Trains

There is captioning on the trains!!!

They have these little video monitors and it displays what the next station is. When I was in the stroller/wheelchair area on the inter-city express trains, I couldn’t see the display, so I just relied on looking out the window to see the station signs. They do announce the name of the station that is coming up next,  so if you are blind, I wouldn’t think anything would be an issue.

access on trains in holland: a little girl cups her ear and is listening

Deaf and Disability in Holland

There was a lot I wanted to see and experience with regard to disability and deaf community in Holland. There’s this Deaf Club in Amsterdam I wanted to go to, this blind museum in Nijmegen, there are deaf boat tours in Amsterdam and other cool stuff. But it’ll have to wait until a little later.

three kids with a big stroller and a large suitcase

The Dark Underbelly for Disability Access in Holland: Eugenics and Euthanasia

People have pointed out to me that with the advent of legal euthanasia in Holland, people with disabilities have been encouraged to die. The book, Do You Call This a Life? explores this in greater detail.

I haven’t read the book, so I can’t tell you more about it – I’m just linking it here in case you’d like to delve deeper into understanding this.

I did, however, read this fascinating Short History of Disability Approaches in the Netherlands. It seemed to me that a lot of the disability history and the disability rights developments in the Netherlands echo those of the US, but with greater success. They had the institutions, sheltered workshops, etc – and have moved out of them. They are apparently not united – it’s still separate disability groups in the Netherlands, each to their own cause.

While the US has organizations like the National Council on Independent Living (read my post on 32 Disability Organizations You Should Know About), it is still largely disability-separated. Most disability groups still do not join forces and unite, so that is pretty similar to how it apparently is in the Netherlands.

The one thing that has really stuck in my head about all the eugenics and euthanasia in Holland is: it’s so weird to me that people with disabilities might be encouraged to kill themselves in Holland by way of being euthanized, but the quality of life for a person with a physical disability in Holland looks like it’s pretty accessible.

Is it like, “okay, we’ll encourage all the disabled people to kill themselves, but make sure they can really get out and participate in life until they do so”?

In the United States, it feels more like, “you’ll have a law to protect your rights as a person with a disability, but you’ll have to fight every step of the way for access to all public spaces, education and employment.”

The Netherlands is about the size of the American state of Maryland (and Maryland is a small state). I feel like making a direct comparison between the Netherlands and the Unites States doesn’t make sense because they are just too different, size-wise and politically.

In the here and the now, we can just learn. Take notes. See how we can all do things better.

Read More:

PS

More of this Dutch awesomeness: we arrived at Utrecht, stepped out of the sparkling glass elevator and boom! There was some kind of pride…something going on!

rainbow covered podium dj stand with rainbow ballooons and a man in a rainbow suit are in the train station with a lady crouched by a child in a stroller - the lady is wearing a rainbow dress and is smilingMoxie was in heaven.

lady in rainbow dress next to a child in a stroller. both are smiling

 

This is a travel post.

In the Down syndrome community, there is a famous missive called, “Welcome to Holland.

It was written in the 80’s by Emily Perl Kinglsey (who was a writer at Sesame Street – you can thank her for a lot of the inclusion that went on there).

A lot of people hate the missive once they are over the shock or grief of having a child with Down syndrome, because in Welcome to Holland, she’s basically saying that we’ll always be sad about having a child who isn’t like what we signed up (to have a baby for), but we’ll find the good in it.

I thought of Welcome to Holland as our plane was approaching the actual country of Holland.

 

windmills in the ocean water, viewed through airplaine window

Windmills in the water. 

My resourceful-nerd heart beat a little faster when I saw those windmills in the water.

WOW. A country that utilizes clean energy, and has wind farms in the ocean?!
view from the plane of green, flat holland

The view from the plane was stunning.

Water, canals, green, carefully cultivated land.

We landed and right off the bat, I was blown away by how tall and handsome all the men seemed to be.

THIS IS WHERE THEY ARE!!

Yes, it seems like everyone in the Netherlands is tall, good looking and wears sensible shoes.

Even the airport bathrooms were beautiful – long, strong doors that closed for full privacy, wonderful automation and sparkling clean.

paper dispenser with a sign asking for a rating for the cleanliness

Micah said the airport reminded him of a cross between a mall and IKEA.
huge pair of red clogs hang from the ceiling in the airport
I thought that kind of nailed it.

So, we mosied over to our Air B n’B from the airport – it was in this little village called Bunnik that is outside of Utrecht (which is half an hour from Amsterdam).
backyard gate covered with green vines in Bunnik, Netherlands

You may be surprised by my choice of Bunnik… I know I was!

I had been looking at places at Amsterdam to hang out while my mom was at the Virtues Conference that was to be held in a forest about an hour and a half away from Amsterdam. Amsterdam just seemed too… too much. A Dutch friend of mine in Hilo recommended Utrecht (where he’s from!) and so that’s what I did.

I actually thought that Bunnik was a street in Utrecht, not a village outside of it. Ha!

cars on the side of the road, with an old model citroen closest, the road is cobblestone

downtown bunk
Downtown Bunnik

Hey Bunnik. You sure are cute.

living room with booksliving room with a round table

This wasn’t one of those places that’s set up like a hotel: this was the actual home of a Dutch family.
Our host was this laid-back guy who had Buddhist stuff all over the house and invitations to meditate with books by Herman Hesse.

It was really beautiful.

Lil’ Bunnik was too.

bread shopcheese shop with a small boy in red jacket at door. a bicycle is parked outsidestack of cheese

It’s impossible not to catch on pretty fast that bikes are important to the Dutch.

bicycle standing on pedestal with a kid seat in the back

bike seats on a bike

This place is a veritable bike heaven!

Can’t get better than this!

Bikes everywhere, every kind. You name it, if it’s a bike and it’s awesome, it’s here.

The whole infrastructure seems to be built around bikes too. It’s all totally flat, with bike lanes, pedestrian lanes and a tiny lane for cars.

I love that cars get the worst deal here. I mean, this place is built for PEOPLE.

We wandered into a park and played.

child pushing another child on a swing

I started talking to another mom at the playground.

A super nice (really tall! gorgeous!) young mom and asked her if it was always this way, or if they had some kind of revolution and made their country so accessible and bike-friendly?

She said it had always been that way for her.

lavender with a honey bee

trampoline
Dutch backyard trampoline! with the space for it UNDER

free library
free library

I wonder what it be like to grow up in a country that values people first?

How would that feel, to have our health and well-being, our access, our enjoyment, our pleasure, our education, our comfort to be valued above corporate profit and cars?

I looked around that little village of Bunnik, so full of happy, healthy, vibrant elders on their bikes, these happy, healthy, vibrant young families and happy, healthy disabled people running around in their wheelchairs and scooters, and I just marveled at what they’ve accomplished here, and felt sad about where we are in America.

I see what it could be like.

And it’s NICE.

moxie in a park with a can of orange juice

We went to the local cemetery that first day too – I just happened to pass by and I asked a guy outside what it was (everyone in the Netherlands seems to speak excellent English). He said, “cemetery – you are welcome to go in and see.”

So we did, and we offered a prayer to my brother Dana, and to our ancestors, who while not Dutch, were all from around here, and it felt right and good to pray.

white building with a curved entry
outside the cemetery

white building with a bikegrave stonepurple flower

Back to Welcome to Holland

When Emily Perl Kingsley wrote “Welcome to Holland,” she was trying to say that having a child with Down syndrome could be a good thing, like Holland could be a good thing even though you really had wanted to go to Italy.

I think Italy sounds cool, but I am frankly enamored with a country that values people to the extent that Holland does.

I love the Dutch practicality, resourcefulness. I love their aesthetics, the flowers everywhere, the deliciously healthy food that’s so readily available.

I think when we say “Welcome to Holland” in the Down syndrome community, it should mean, “welcome to an appreciation of access and inclusion – you’ll never look at the world in the same way once you have a child with Down syndrome, or a disability.”

I think when we experience disability, we are experiencing a unique way of living in this world.

Travel is also a way of experiencing unique ways of living in this world.

Travel expands the way we imagine possibilities, learn how other people structure their worlds, and see how the potential, the possibility.

And with that in mind, I think Holland is the perfect country for both: for understanding and appreciating an entirely different way of living, with a practical, humane way of living.

child plays on a window seat , houses are in the background

More Photos are on Meriah Snaps
white wall with lavender drying
we went to sleep with the smell of dried lavender in the air... click here for more photos

First of all, let me jump and down and squeeeeeeeel:

we are going to Europe!!

we are going to Europe!!

we are going to Europe!!

!!!!!!!!

Here are the nuts and bolts:

My mom is taking the kids and I on a Heritage Tour: we’re going to go to all of the places where her family is originally from. That means Ireland, Scotland, Sweden, Germany. Those countries are the heart of the trip, but we do want to visit some other places (I’m looking at you, Budapest!).

We’ll be starting off in Amsterdam on May 29th and we’ll have until July 5th to explore and connect.

Do you live in the Netherlands, Ireland, Scotland, Sweden, Germany or someplace else in Europe? I’d love to hear your recommendations on kid (and budget) friendly ways to enjoy our stay. We’d love to connect with community (Down syndrome, deaf, disability and Baha’i). We prefer more rural areas (but not creepy scary rural with total isolation, obviously).

We already have global Eurail passes!

This is fantastic because the kids are freeeeee (Micah’s close to the cut off age, so we were glad to slip in).

We’re diving into the guidebooks, app, websites and planners now, and trying to figure out all kinds of things.

But if you are over there, holla! Let us know.

 

stack of guidebooks to Europe
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