We did it! We survived our first family international vacation. Over the last seven days, we toured around Amsterdam and the surrounding cities and just had a blast soaking up the sites and especially the foods of the Netherlands. To recap our little adventure, I am going to write about our trip in two parts. This first part will look over the wonderful sights and foods we enjoyed along with our daily routine abroad. Post two will cover the wild and crazy nights and other oddities that come with traveling with a jet-lagged baby! During the daylight hours, our trip could not have been better. We traveled direct from Boston to Amsterdam and Henry did not really sleep during the flight. It was clearly too exciting to sit in the bulkhead which meant tons of noises and sights from the flight attendant galley. Once we landed the excitement continued as we made our way via taxi to our apartment which we rented through airbnb on Frederiksplein. It was a great location. We were about a 10 minute walk to the major Museums and a 15 minute walk to the city center. And did we walk! We decided to not take the trams even though they were super easy to navigate because we really wanted to see everything. From 8AM through 8PM each day, we packed up the baby and our gear and walked all about the city. During these days out, Henry would nap in his stroller around 10AM-12PM and then again from 3PM-4:30PM. This schedule worked perfectly. We were able to enjoy meal times together and when Henry napped, it felt like David and I were traveling just the two of us. It was quite the perfect balance of family time and couple time.
We definitely ate our way through the vacation. And since we were walking so much we did not really heed any caution when ordering the second or third helping of frites with garlic mayo. When it comes to food, I am the sweet eater and David the savory. Thankfully Amsterdam has enough of each to make our marriage a happy one. A few mornings prior to visiting museums, we ate at Cafe Cobra. Here we indulged in dutch apple pie, hot cocoa, pancakes, and egg sandwiches. The pancakes were as fluffy as marshmallows and the apples in the apple pie were perfectly crisp and cool. I ate my weight in stroopwaffle and am SO sad to have eaten all the waffles I brought home as “souvenirs” within the first 8 hours of my return state side. Continuing with our sweet treats, we enjoyed Metropolitan a few times as well for waffles and ice cream. This place was always packed and the chocolate delicacies including “sniffing cacao” made it very clear why people flocked here in droves to satisfy the sweet tooth. One morning we stopped in at Starbucks prior to taking a tour of Volendam and windmills and were surprised to find a chocolate hazelnut donut that was so yummy that I am left saddened that the U.S. stores don’t carry this. I should have bought some to bring home! haha. Then there was this little bakery on one of the 9 streets. We didn’t catch the name of it, but would pass it on a various walks about the city. Here along with our friends, Robin and Heather, we devoured a dark chocolate cookie filled with gooey white chocolate. Yes, this was a little taste of heaven. On the savory side of things, we dined on more frites than is healthy! Seriously, we may have eaten frites two times a day. I know, I know what were we thinking? Well we were thinking that these fried potatoes were so delicious and that the mayo and convenience of the hand carry packaging was to easy not to pass up! We also stumbled upon Mazzo and enjoyed a delicious pizza with butternut squash, bechamel sauce, haricot verts, and prosciutto along with a spicy bruschetta. It was creative and our taste buds loved this combination. When in the Netherlands, it is important to try “traditional dutch cuisine” and for this we walked all the way to Moedars. And, it was totally worth the hike. We dined on delicious meats, beer, and cheese. Henry ate with gusto here as well. All along the trip, he regained his appetite following his awful sickness prior to our departure and ate everything we put in front of him. The waitresses were impressed with him at Moedars and even gave him little gifts of baby socks and booties. They were so sweet with Henry as was everyone we met. We were SO surprised by how accommodating everyone was in regards to Henry and how truly baby friendly every aspect of the city was from dining out to visiting sites to crossing the streets. Everyone was so friendly and made visiting the country truly pleasurable for everyone, especially for Henry who was smitten by the people he met and enjoyed smiling, babbling, and being cheeky with everyone!
We did more than just eat though! We saw so much of the city and it is a BEAUTIFUL city. Gosh, the apartments are so unique and beautiful. Wandering the streets for hours you are left constantly in awe of the unique fronts, patterns, details, and canals. David and I kept saying, “wouldn’t it be fun to just live here for a year.” In many ways the city reminded us of Boston. The brownstones of Boston have a similar “feel” to the streets of Amsterdam which made exploring the nooks and crannies even more fun. We tried to soak it all up from museums, to shopping, to long walks, to finding hidden courtyards, to taking canal tours, to getting out of the city and exploring the surrounding cities and towns: Rotterdam, Delft, The Hague, Volendam, Marken, Zaanse Schans.
- The windmills of Zaanse Schans were idyllic. Coupled with a light fog, the town looked like pastoral perfection.
- Volendam cheese factory was great. We ate our weight in cheese samples and Henry was adamant about eating every single piece of cheese he could get his hands on including cheese with Italian spices, truffle oil, and peppercorns.
- Marken was picturesque and seeing a local clog artisan at work was really neat. It was fun trying on clogs and eating freshly made Stroopwaffle.
- Delft though was definitely my favorite excursion. It was a smaller, quieter version on Amsterdam and the food and town square were just beautiful. I wish we had spent even more time there!
- Visiting the Begijnof in Amsterdam was one of my favorite sights. It was so peaceful and quiet and calm. A beautiful oasis from the hustle and bustle of the city center.
- Our favorite museum exhibit was the Late Rembrandt at the Riksmuseum. Henry slept through the whole thing, but it was just great being able to see that many Rembrandts’ in one area.
- The Van Gogh museum was colorful and the perfect counterpoint to Rembrandt’s darker palette.
- The Anne Frank house was a somber but important visit and it was crazy that when we entered the little secret annex we bumped into one of my students. Small world!
I would go back in a heartbeat. It was an excellent visit, we felt like we saw and experienced so much, and it was really a fantastic country to tour as a new little family.