Our trip to Amsterdam | Days 5 & 6

By day 5, the record setting heat wave had us rethinking our plans to ex-patriate… then we went on an awesome bike ride, ate the best apple pie ever, and spent the rest of the day in a beautiful park, swimming, drinking beer, and eating ice cream. Well done, Amsterdam. Well done.

Day 5 Highlights:

  • Carbed up at our neighborhood Bagels & Beans before heading to our bike ride

  • Set off for our countryside bike tour with We Bike Amsterdam. Definitely a highlight of the trip, despite the heat. Our fantastic guide, Leon, led us on a 30km loop from downtown, through North Amsterdam, and around the picturesque Dutch countryside.

  • Stopped at Het Schoolhuis halfway through the ride to hydrate and promptly devour the best dang apple pie I’ve ever tasted.

  • Made it back home sweaty and exhausted, but our apartment was way too warm to spend much time in, so we trekked out to Westerpark at the suggestion of our awesome AirBnB hosts. The kids had a blast swimming in the man-made stream that runs through the park, while Jared and I popped a squat on the shady banks, wishing America did parks the way Amsterdam does parks.

  • Walked over to Brouwerij Troost for dinner and beers. Finally had bitterballen, though it was vegan so I’m not sure that counts.

  • We’d more than earned some ice cream by that point, so we stopped into Ijscuypje for a cold treat before catching the tram back home.

Day 6 Highlights:

  • Visited Rijksmuseum. Beautiful art + air conditioning for the win.

  • Ate lunch on the rooftop of the NEMO Science Museum. The museum was at the top of Emma’s must-do list for Amsterdam, but she got sick during lunch and we had to punt NEMO to the next day.

  • After a bit of rest, Emma was back to normal and we all headed out to the neighborhood fountain again to cool off.

  • Burgers & ice cream for dessert capped off the last day of the heat wave. Hooray!

Our trip to Amsterdam | Days 3 & 4

By our third day in Amsterdam we were Googling how to become ex-pats and looking at real estate listings. We’d fallen head over heels for the laid-back efficiency of the city, from its bike culture and public transportation, to its happy families and love of leisurely dinners where more beer, wine, and conversation were consumed than food. We wanted in. We still want in. Anyone hiring? (Jk, but not really.)

Day 3 Highlights:

  • Happy Pig for legit Dutch pancakes. So good we ordered seconds.

  • Flew over the Netherlands on This is Holland. We were worried this would be a tourist trap but it was awesome. They even made it smell like tulips when we flew over the tulip fields. Totally made up for the “storm” we got caught in when they jostled us around and misted us with water.

  • Took the train to Weesp, then a bus to Muiden to check out Muiderslot castle. It had a moat, drawbridge, a scavenger hunt for the kids, and a birds of prey show. Fun fact, if your activity guide has the words “birds of prey show”, the Shellaways will be there.

  • Dragged our tired tooshes to Moeders for an authentic and delicious Dutch dinner. Many spare ribs were consumed. The family seated behind us were visiting from Portland and lived in our old neighborhood.

Day 4 Highlights:

  • Walked a couple blocks over to Moak for American-style pancakes, which were just as delicious as the pancakes at Happy Pig, proving that the Dutch are the masters of pancaking, regardless of how they’re made.

  • Perused the shops along De 9 Straatjes, which was probably the least favorite part of the trip for the kids until we discovered the heaven that is aged gouda and (separately) freshly made stroopwafels.

  • Made our way over to De Pijp neighborhood for lunch. The main tram roads through De Pijp were pretty lackluster, a stark contrast to its adorable side streets sprinkled with shops and cafes.

  • The heatwave was in full force by late afternoon, so we took the kids to a fountain we’d discovered in our neighborhood. It was the cleanest public fountain I’ve ever seen in my life, filled with kids having a ridiculously good time, and surrounded by seemingly carefree parents sipping wine and Heinekens. (See part about wanting to ex-patriate.)

Check back tomorrow for Days 5 & 6…

Our trip to Amsterdam | Days 1 & 2

We celebrated the last day of school a little differently this year… by hopping on a plane to Amsterdam. (Technically it was two planes and we had to sprint, not hop, to catch the second one, but details shmetails.) We’d always talked about traveling abroad with the kids, and this year finally felt like the right time to start our international adventures. So with their shiny new passports in tow, we set off for the land of tulips, canals, bikes, and pancakes.

We had no idea how the time difference would impact the kids, so we had very little planned ahead of time. Don’t get me wrong, we did our research prior to leaving, pored over the recommendations from our AirBnB hosts, and watched a bunch of videos on YouTube from other families who’d visited Amsterdam with young children. But we had exactly two things booked before we left: a private canal cruise, and a countryside bike tour. The rest we decided as we went, taking each day as it came. Jared and I have always traveled that way, and it was particularly liberating with the kids. Lax schedule = less stress.

Here’s a rundown of our first day…

Day 1 Highlights:

  • Settled into our 2-story apartment in the Oud-West neighborhood of Amsterdam, our home away from home for the next 7 days.

  • Walked to Foodhallen for dinner. So good. The kids had Mexican, I had Vietnamese, and Jared had Spanish. All were happy.

  • Played on the first of many awesome playgrounds we discovered around the city.

  • Stopped at Marqt to do a bit of grocery shopping. Discovered the deliciousness that is Tony’s Chocolonely.

We ventured out of our neighborhood early the 2nd day to check out the Van Gogh Museum. He’s long been my favorite painter and to see so much of his work in one place was overwhelming. Each new room brought a wave of gratitude, humbled by the opportunity to stand in front of paintings I’d only ever seen in books. We all felt it was one of the highlights of the entire trip.

Speaking of highlights, I’m so glad we opted for a private canal cruise through With Locals rather than booking with a larger commercial boat. We wanted something more personal given that it was meant to serve as an intro to the city, and our guide, Carl, didn’t disappoint. We truly got a local’s perspective, and his love for his city was infectious. We weren't sure what to expect in terms of the kids, as most of the reviews seemed to be from adults-only groups, but Carl kept both kids interested the entire time, asking them questions and making them laugh. It was the perfect way to see the city.

Day 2 Highlights:

  • Accidentally slept until 9am. Felt glorious. Pretended it wasn’t due to the time difference.

  • Toured the Van Gogh Museum. Lucked out that it was the first day of the new Sunflower exhibit.

  • Walked over to Vondelpark. The kids could have spent the rest of the vacation playing on the jungle playground, but thankfully agreed to let us tear them away for lunch at Groot Melkhuis.

  • After a brief rest at home, we headed toward Central Station to meet Carl for our canal cruise.

  • Popped into our neighborhood Albert Heijn to pick up dinner ingredients. (Also purchased Cherry Cola Haribos, which did NOT disappoint. My mouth is watering just thinking about them. Regret not buying them out of their entire stock.)

Check back tomorrow for Days 3 & 4…