Fairy­tales come to life at Dutch theme park

Mag­i­cal char­ac­ters and some old-fash­ioned fun make this es­tab­lished amuse­ment park the per­fect Oc­to­ber half-term fam­ily break, says Sh­erna Noah

Belfast Telegraph - Weekend - - TRAVEL -

You know Eftel­ing, in the south of the Nether­lands, is go­ing to be dif­fer­ent when you spot its slightly spooky, other-worldly en­trance, re­sem­bling a gi­ant bat wing. Once through, our first des­ti­na­tion is the Fairy­tale For­est, per­fect for the youngest of chil­dren. Here you can catch a glimpse of Hansel and Gre­tel nib­bling at the ginger­bread cot­tage, Sleep­ing Beauty ly­ing on her bed or Ra­pun­zel locked up in the tower.

Fol­low­ing a me­an­der­ing path through the trees, it feels — at times — as though we’ve stepped into the pages of a clas­sic fairy tale. The Fairy­tale For­est dates from 1952 and was the cre­ative vi­sion of An­ton Pieck, a Dutch artist who also il­lus­trated the fa­mous Brothers Grimm books.

But there are plenty of newer rides across Eftel­ing, in­clud­ing the Baron, which plunges you down at a ter­ri­fy­ing 90km per hour, and fairy­tale at­trac­tion The Six Swans, which will open next au­tumn. None of us had the stom­ach for the Baron, or the Python steel roller coaster with its dou­ble loop and corkscrew, but my hus­band and our nine-year-old son opted for the wooden as well as the wa­ter coaster, which got them nicely drenched.

For us, two days is just enough time to en­joy the five themed ar­eas of the park, with boat rides, a Thai tem­ple of­fer­ing panoramic views, play­grounds, mono­rail, maze, pedal train and rides.

The Dutch snub the idea of fast passes, so ev­ery­one has the same wait, but the Eftel­ing App al­lows you to keep an eye on live queue times — we wait an hour for one very pop­u­lar ride at peak time. And if your child gets tired walk­ing around, you can hire a gor­geous wooden cart to pull them around in.

One of the lovely things about Eftel­ing is that na­ture gets a look-in. Theme parks are not usu­ally home to gor­geous flower beds, duck and fish ponds or the odd pea­cock, but this one has all of that.

At Eftel­ing Vil­lage Bos­rijk some of the houses sit on the edge of a lake — where Mr Sand­man, one of Eftel­ing’s most pop­u­lar char­ac­ters, ‘lives’ in a sand­cas­tle. He ap­pears in the evenings to read chil­dren a bed­time story, al­though it is in Dutch.

There are two other ac­com­mo­da­tion op­tions, and stay­ing in any of them gets you ac­cess to the park half an hour early.

Eftel­ing Hol­i­day Vil­lage Loon­sche Land in­cludes tree houses built on stilts and a small on-site farm. Eftel­ing Ho­tel is lo­cated a stone’s throw away from the park and has a Cin­derella and Sleep­ing Beauty Suite.

I fall in love with Bos­rijk, though, with its nat­u­ral play ar­eas and wild rab­bits. Break­fast at our vil­lage restau­rant had its very own kids’ buf­fet — mini dough­nuts and hun­dreds and thou­sands to sprin­kle on toast.

In the park, there are stalls sell­ing fresh veg­eta­bles, as well as the ice creams, mini-dough­nuts and Dutch waf­fles. We re­ally en­joyed the food — from healthy, fresh sal­ads to Turk­ish piz­zas.

Our vil­lage houses an in­door swim­ming pool, com­plete with bub­ble bench and rapids, and a baby and tod­dler pool.

One af­ter­noon, we hired bikes and cy­cled to a na­ture re­serve just 10 min­utes away, with stun­ning sand dunes and for­est walks. We could have spent the whole day here — if the prospect of spot­ting Pinoc­chio in the Fairy­tale For­est hadn’t torn us away.

MAG­I­CAL TRIP: Eftel­ing fairy­tale for­est and (in­set from top) The Sym­bol­ica and Python ride, and (be­low) the river­side ac­com­mo­da­tion at Eftel­ing

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