Day 3 Summer 2018: Amsterdam, Netherlands

Now that we have luggage and a good night’s rest under our belts, we’re prepared for a museum day. After breakfast and a train ride into Amsterdam, we bought pricey tram tickets to get us across town to “Museumplein,” an area in southwest Amsterdam that is flanked by the Van Gogh museum, Stedelijk Museum (modern art) and, our destination, the Rijksmuseum.

The Rijksmuseum is the most visited museum in all of the Netherlands. It is packed to the rafters with pieces from all of the classic Dutch painters: Rembrandt, Vermeer, Hals and Steen. There are even a few pieces from Van Gogh.

Van Gogh, self portrait

The most famous piece is The Night Watch by Rembrandt. It was huge!

Rembrandt’s The Night Watch

Night watch

The Wilson version of The Night Watch

The floors are organized by time period. Jeff split off on his own and the kids and I went to the 3rd floor to see the modern art. My favorite piece was a piece of furniture called the “Womb Tomb.” It was made to climb inside. A little risqué, don’t you think?

We spent a few hours wandering the floors, which I thought was delightful, stopping literally seconds before the girls were to perish at the hands of boredom.

Wombtomb, 1968

After leaving the Rijksmuseum, we stopped in a pub not far from Museumplein to have a snack (and beer) before continuing on to the open-air Albert Cuyp Market.

Dutch Poffertjes pancake treats

Albert Cuyp is similar to Pike Place Market except that it is set up on the street for several blocks in front of some shops. Some of the booths are an extension of whatever is sold in the adjacent shop (fabric, clothes, souvenirs, electronics). Other booths sell homemade wares, fresh fruits & vegetables, nuts, baked goods and fresh fish and meats. Kai and Kiki enjoyed the Dutch Poffertjes pancake treats, dusted with a generous snowfall of powdered sugar.

Just a short stroll away, we sort of stumbled upon another tourist trap, the “Heineken Experience.” Set at the location of the original brewery, established in 1867, this “experience” consisted of several compartmentalized sections. We learned about the history of the brewery, the brewing process, and Heineken’s place in sponsorship of several sporting events. There was also a “ride” that puts you Magic School Bus style into the brewing process and, finally a beer tasting, complete with the sticky floor bar atmosphere. It was super touristy, but fun even for the kids. Having used up most of our day, (most things close by 5pm) we walked to the Avis shop to pick up the car that we’d have for the next two days. Jeff drove us the 20 km back to Haarlem. Thankfully the GPS spoke English and we made our way through the city streets giggling and creating alternate names for at all of the things that we could not pronounce. We found a public pay lot for €30 (whoa $$$) and then walked back to the hotel.

Jeff immediately set out for the train to get back into Amsterdam for “Secrets of the Red Light District” tour. Jeff says, “don’t bother.

“The kids and I explored the quiet town of Haarlem, stopping for a burger (Kai says the best she’s ever had) and a photo op in front of the Molen De Adriaan, Harlem’s windmill – which was definitely on the way back to the hotel, regardless of what my consistently complaining children would tell you. Once again, we arrived back to the room mere seconds before one (or both of them) died of exhaustion/boredom/learning something new.

Goddess nacho!  (That’s the autocorrect of “goede nacht” – see what I mean about hilarious nonsense words that sound like real words?)

Day 2 Summer 2018: Amsterdam, Netherlands

We started off today in the hotel restaurant with a traditional European breakfast of tiny cups of strong dark coffee paired with assorted meats, cheeses and bread.

Haarlem Station

Shortly thereafter, we walked a few hundred yards from the hotel to the train station in Haarlem and figured out how to get the 20 kilometers or so to Amsterdam. It was pretty simple to figure out and soon the train dropped us off at Amsterdam Centraal Station.

I did a bit of research before our trip and found that with a pass called the “Holland Pass” we could see a variety of tourist attractions with one flat fee. I bought them back at home and so almost immediately upon arrival we got right down to working our way through our must see list.Amsterdam is a city full of canals, the first of which greeted us immediately upon emerging from the train station. Despite having cruddy weather, we decided that a canal cruise would be a good way to get a feel for the layout of the city.  The big take away for me, was that the name “Amsterdam” came from the fact that the city developed at the point of a dam on the Amstel river. Well, duh right? I also quite brilliantly figured out that Amstel beer is from Amsterdam. Lightbulbs are going off left and right in this crazy city.After cruising around the city, we made our way on foot to the Jordaan neighborhood to find the Anne Frank House. Tickets go on sale two months in advance and sell out quickly. We had tickets for the 2:15-2:30 window, which gave us just enough time to grab a beer and drop in to a tulip shop (bulbs) in the neighborhood.

Anne Frank Huis

The Anne Frank “Huis” is a small somber museum at the site of the annex where Anne, her family and four others hid for four years during the Nazi occupation of Amsterdam. It is a very well laid out and thoughtful museum that weaves you through a labyrinth of rooms beginning with the spice & pectin business that Anne’s father set up after relocating from Germany. I enjoyed it very much. I believe we can learn a lot from the atrocities of history and this museum really punctuates that point. Kai and I read the book together last year, which made it that much more meaningful.After the Anne Frank museum we wandered around the Jordaan neighborhood a bit, stopping to have a few pastries along the way.Most things close by 5 pm (1700). One exception is the ultra-touristy Madame Tussaud’s wax museum. Jeff wasn’t interested, so he walked back to the train and set off for the hotel. I “got” to go look at wax celebrities with the kids. I recognized some of them. LOL. Kiki especially loved posing with the actual-sized super life-like figures.On the way back to the train station, we stumbled upon a colossal CHEAP clothing store, Primark. The kids enjoyed wandering, trying on clothes and spending some of their Euros.  After shopping, we stopped for a slice of pizza outside the train station, journeyed back to the hotel and delightfully found Jeff snoozing with all four of our suitcases nearby.

Goede nacht!

Day 1 Summer 2018: Travel to Amsterdam

I thought summer break would never arrive this year but here we are, on the way out of town to visit four countries in western Europe.

Our first stop is the Netherlands, which we will get to via Ireland. The last two times that flew across the Atlantic, we flew Icelandair via Reykjavik to continental Europe. It seems that perhaps Ireland was paying attention and didn’t want to miss out on the opportunities ty to ferry Americans to and from Europe. Aer Lingus started their direct flight service from Seattle to Dublin just about a month ago, on May 18. Like Icelandair, Aer Lingus also offers plenty of connections to points all over Europe.

Unfortunately, perhaps because their Seattle route is so new, they have not worked out all of the logistics to the point in of precision. What was supposed to be a roughly one hour window to get us off of one plane, through the passport check and onto another plane dwindled to about 25 minutes because of a late departure. Despite our nerves, Aer Lingus handled the transition beautifully, having “connecting agents” sift us out from the crowd and escort us through the airport, through the immigration check point and onto a bus to our gate. Which just happened to be the plane that was literally right next to the plane from which we had just disembarked.

The flight was lovely, just 90 minutes more from Dublin. What we didn’t realize at the time is that our luggage had other plans.

Upon arrival at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, after watching our flight mates collect their gear, we ended up in the baggage office filling out lost luggage paperwork. Since there wasn’t much we could do beyond that, and we had been traveling about 12 hours by now, we found a taxi and rode the 15 miles or so to Haarlem to check in to our cute little hotel: Boutiquehotel Straats.

It’s been a crazy day, but not as crazy as the slowest day at school.

Tomorrow, we’re off to Amsterdam (in yesterday’s clothes).