Friday, July 19, 2019

Our Amsterdam Trip

Hi friends, and happy Friday! I'm back with part 2 of our summer vacation, this time to Amsterdam! The boys were 5 and 3, and here's everything we did while there. 

We landed late in the afternoon on a Tuesday and took the train from the airport directly to the main train station, Amsterdam Centraal, and walked to our hotel, luggage in tow. Space is TIGHT in any city center residence, but I'd highly recommend The Highland House if traveling there with kids. The hotel has options for two (or more) rooms, so the kids were able to sleep on one side while we stayed up and had a glass of wine on the other. 

After dropping off our luggage, we headed back out to stroll Dam Square, the historical center of Amsterdam. This is a great location for shopping, as well as casual restaurants with tables outside. We headed straight to the STROOPWAFELS, the most delicious caramel filled thin waffle crisps dipped in your choice of topping. The kids couldn't gulp theirs down fast enough. We then walked around the Jordaan area, across countless canals, soaking in the sites. Truly, it was one of the most beautiful cities I've ever seen. 

We capped our evening with a light dinner and headed back to the hotel for bed. Luckily, the kids were adjusted to the time already since we were in Finland first, so everybody slept great and woke up raring to go for Day 2. 

I had heard amazing things about a place called The Pancake Bakery, so we headed there first thing to line up before they had even opened (at 9). We did the right thing, because as soon as their doors opened, people flooded in to eat the very best Dutch pancakes OF MY LIFE. We got seated and ordered up a Caprese pancake and a ham, mushroom, and cheese pancake, while the kids ordered a "Fireman Pancake" and a "Surprise Pancake". Turns out, both of these come with toys on the side of your pancake, so the kids were super into it. Note: Make sure you try the Stroop syrup if you ever have a chance to go, a delicious molasses/sugar concoction that is a spoonful of heaven.

Next, we had purchased tickets to the Anne Frank house for an arrival at 10:30a. It was a harrowing experience that moved every single one of us. Even August asked, "How can people be so bad?" I had just finished reading Anne Frank : The Diary of a Young Girl before we left for our trip, and had read excerpts to Oskar, so he was really interested in the entire experience, too. Pictures aren't permitted inside the house, understandably, but we did capture a few on the outside. Note: tickets to the Anne Frank house are listed for sale 2 months ahead of the arrival date. Make sure you purchase yours WELL in advance, or you won't be able to get in. 

After the Anne Frank house, we headed to a near by playground, which really are all over the place and are mostly all public. The Dutch have come up with "toy grave yards", which serve as a place for people to take any of their kids' old toys or bikes. What's old becomes new again, and the kids were thrilled to ride around on old two-wheelers or tricycles and got out some energy on a jungle gym with the prettiest views. 

After this, we headed back to our hotel to relax and get ready for a Canal Cruise, an absolute must-do while in Amsterdam. There's nothing prettier than seeing the city from the water, and our tour guide even let Oskar steer the boat for us.  He was beyond excited and couldn't wait to call everybody to tell them all about it. They serve drinks aboard, and I don't think a gin and tonic ever looked or tasted so good.

Afterwards, we walked to Rembrandt Square for dinner, which was a bit of a hike for the end of a long day, but was still scenic nonetheless. We walked via the Damrak so we could see the famous Gingerbread houses. So dreamy. The kids were hangry and tired, so we ate our dinner and headed back to bed. 

The next day, we tried to grab breakfast at a place simply called "Pancakes Amsterdam" along the Damrak river (which also came very highly recommended) but the line was wrapped 5-fold around the building. We ended up at a little cafe instead, and planned out our first try at the public transportation system down to Museumplein, where all of the museums are located. Turns out, they sell tickets to buses and trams on board and provide change, so the whole process was super simple and the conductors were very helpful. We had pre-purchased 10:30a tickets to the Van Gogh museum (again, make sure to do this 2 months ahead of time), and was a toss-up on how the kids would do, but it went better than expected. They had a scavenger hunt for kids with the incentive for a prize if completed, so Oskar jumped on that and selected Van Gogh's famous "Skull of a Skeleton with Burning Cigarette" postcard when we finished it together. So much for the Sunflowers painting...#boys. We walked through for about 2.5 hours and had to call it at that because the kids were nearing their limit, but I could've easily spent another 2 hours more.  

We headed immediately to lunch at one of the restaurants nearby, then decided to find the kids a park to run around in. Museumplein has a great playground, although a bit too challenging for August. So, the two of us grabbed ice cream while Oskar and and Matt stayed behind. We brought back cones for the 4 of us and hung out for an hour or so as we figured out what was next.

We decided to take a walk over to the Albert Cuyp street market in the De Pijp area, about 15 minutes away. The market is MASSIVE and has over 300 stalls. The boys picked out new sunglasses and Amsterdam shirts, while Matt and I just looked around. Tons of herring, pancakes, and stroopwafels, which is the best of Amsterdam's food in a nutshell. It had been a LONG day already, but I still really wanted to see the Floating Tulip Market, so we jumped on a tram toward Rembrandplan and found the prettiest row of Dutch tulips (Bloemenmarkt), all floating along the Singel canal. 

We finished off our trip with a dinner outside along the canals, taking in the city one last time. Though we definitely saw (and smelled) a lot of marijuana, if you steer clear of the Red Light district the city is extremely family friendly, easy to navigate, and totally do-able on foot to spare you the expense of a rental car.

We flew out the next morning, and if I were to do it again, I would've opted for just one more day. Overall, a perfect city to travel with small kids who aren't quite ready to take on a Rome or a Paris just yet.  Vaarwel, Amsterdam. We loved you!

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