European Adventure Part 1: Amsterdam and the Netherlands
Since Dave and I are leaving on vacation number two on Friday, I supposed I should at least post about some of our European vacation! We booked the tickets about a week before I found out I was pregnant so it turned into a babymoon! Unfortunately that meant I couldn’t drink and had to watch what I ate, but we still lived it up.
To keep these posts from getting too out of hand, I’m splitting the vacation into three parts by country. First up, The Netherlands!
Our vacation started out a little rocky with a 2-hour delay at the Pittsburgh Airport and then a 4-hour delay in Detroit due to storms basically everywhere else in the U.S. This meant that we arrived in the Netherlands in the afternoon, losing half a day of our vacation. Boo.
European hotels are a crap shoot. I don’t mean that by cleanliness, but simply by how “westernized” they are. The NH Museum Quarter is most the western-style hotel we stayed at: decent size room, queen size bed, shower curtain (instead of half-door) and the toilet was in the bathroom. Your basic hotel. We loved it! Nice, clean and our room overlooked a canal. Plus, it is away from the city center with all of its hustle and bustle, which we soon learned was not our style. But I digress…
After the obligatory post-plane shower and nap, we headed out for a canal cruise. We pre-purchased iAmsterdam passes and I cannot recommend them enough. You get free or reduced admission into a whole slew of museums, free transportation and a bonus canal cruise. The cruise was a great way to introduce ourselves to the city and get to ride in the city’s historical and picturesque canals.
We went to a local restaurant, Brasserie Sent by our hotel for a late dinner and at one of the tables on the sidewalk. It reminded us of dining in Paris and the food was delicious! The salad was freshly picked and reminded Dave of his grandfather’s garden, which was neat.
Sunday, our first full day, we started with breakfast at a little shop called De Bakkerwinkel. A TripAdvisor reviewer deemed their scones to be “a miracle” and “sent from heaven.” That’s a lot of pressure to put on a pastry! But, seriously, they did not disappoint.
From there, we went to the Van Gogh Museum which was neat and super informative about his life. I love getting to see less famous paintings by famous artists! We couldn’t take photos, but this one titled Trees and Undergrowth was one of my favorites.
After the museum, we explored two house museums of historical, wealthy families: the Van Loon House and the Museum Geelvinck Hinlopen Huis. These were cool because it gave more historical context to Amsterdam and showed traditional Dutch style and personality (present-day Amsterdam is such a conglomeration of nationalities). I’m such a history nerd, so this was fun! From the street, Amsterdam is crowded with people and bikes and tons of row homes, but behind the houses are huge, gorgeous gardens! They are like an oasis in the city and you can hardly even hear the hustle and bustle in the outside world.
I don’t have much to write about the floating flower market other than it was a bust. We were expecting beautiful fresh flowers in open air and lots of colors, but it was a tourist trap with cheap souvenirs. Some of the stalls were pretty nice did sell nice flowers, but overall it wasn’t that awesome. SUPER BUMMER.
Lunch at Singel 404, however, WAS awesome. Maybe just because we were sooo hungry, but the food was delicious and the sparkling citrus lemonade? Omg, so good. It’s mainly sandwiches, but these are not your basic turkey and swiss on white. These are balls to the walls sandwiches.
After lunch, we wandered around the city for most of the rest of the day. We went into the Beginhof, and lit a candle for my Grandmom (she asked us to) and little Cootie. No pictures allowed there, either.
We saw Anne Frank’s house, but the line was ridic, so we sat on the edge of a canal for a while and chilled before heading back, passing the Westerkerk, the Houseboat Museum (closed by the time we got there) and going into the Delft Experience.
Monday, our last full day, was an adventure and a half, if only because the streets confused us. We had a delicious breakfast at Dwaze Zaken, then we meandered around the Red Light District to the Oude Kerk, Amsterdam’s oldest church- founded in 1213!
We went around and around in circles to find the Museum Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder. It was under construction and there was a truck blocking the entrance, so it took us a while to find it. It was definitely hidden! This is another place I would definitely recommend going to, particularly if you’re Catholic or a history nerd. When the Protestants came into Holland, Catholicism was no longer allowed to be openly practiced and this church was created in the attic of a row home for Catholics to practice. We took an audio tour and learned so much.
Afterward, we wondered around some more, briefly stopping by the Nieuwe Kerk, before getting on a tour bus for the afternoon’s tour to some small villages in the more northern part of the Netherlands.
Our first stop was a windmill tour in Zaans Shanz where we got to go inside a working windmill and see how peanut oil was made.
After some pictures and lunch, we hopped back on the bus and headed to a small seaside resort town called Volendam and visited a cheese factory. There was a short demonstration on how Dutch cheese is made and then….samples!! So many different types of Gouda, oh my word. We also had about an hour to walk around and explore the town before boarding a boat to go across the inlet to our last stop.
Our last village was Maarken. Here we met Bart, who showed us how wooden shoes are made. We got a pair for little Cootie!
All these towns were so picturesque and life just seemed quiet and simpler- a huge change from the whirlwind that is Amsterdam! Back in the city, we ate dinner at Poco Loco where we chose from a number of tapas. While the food was pretty good, the service was…unorganized. Us and the tables around us all seemed to have trouble getting consistent service, which was kind of a bummer, but it was still a fun night.