Saturday morning we drove about 45 minutes to a Park & Ride where we caught a train into Amsterdam. (We really didn’t want to mess with parking in the city, that’s the drawback to using a car for transportation.) The weather was breezy and cool, and when the sun came out it felt lovely, but it was chilly when the sun went behind a cloud. We got off the train at the Central Station without any kind of plan. We had a list of things to possibly see/do and a canal tour was on the list. (It was really just a list in our heads.) Despite the cool weather, I REALLY wanted an open-boat tour. The boats are smaller and it just looked more private and personal. It was more expensive, but not by much so I begged and Richard relented.
We decided to get something to eat first so we walked for a bit until we came to a little cafe/bakery. I just let each of the kids choose a giant pastry of some sort, and Richard and I split a giant sandwich. It was all really good.
Cameron chose a massive croissant, filled with custard, and ate every last bite. (Except the bite I took.)
Mim & Eli chose these pastries covered in cheese and olives. (They called them pizzas, but there was no sauce on them.) They polished them off.
I chose this for Simon. (And one for myself.) It’s called an appelflappen – we had one at Efteling and I fell in love. They are a puff-pastry type crust with apple filling, and giant granulated sugar on the outside. They toast them for you so they are nice and warm. Definitely my favorite Dutch treat.
On our way back to the canal boat Richard also bought some frites to share. Frites are just french fries, but big thick ones, with a generous dollop of flavored mayonnaise for dipping.
Richard and I were both worried about being cold during the canal tour but the captain put up a wind/rain guard on the back half of the boat, there were floor heaters, and plenty of blankets. The kids were cozied up in no time, but about 20 minutes into the tour the sun was out and we were all warm enough so we asked him to put the plastic cover down so we could see better.
I wish I had taken a picture of the boat. It wasn’t too big, and our captain stood behind the wheel. There were two other passengers, two Korean twenty-something girls from L.A. who were smitten with the kids. The took glamour shots of each other during the whole tour, which really amused Richard and I. They were really sweet though and good company. They weren’t so much interested in what our captain/tour guide had to say, so he spoke softly mostly to Richard, who sat close by and asked questions and listened attentively.
Tall and narrow. The architectural style of Amsterdam in two words.
This building is an old warehouse, we learned that you can tell because of the way it was built to lean forward. There is a pulley up at the angle of the roof where cargo could be lifted from canal boats and loaded into the warehouse. The angle of the building kept the cargo from banging into the walls.
Wooden shutter love.
The house with the red shutters was the home of the famous artist Rembrandt.
The kids couldn’t get over the idea of a house boat. Live in a boat? On a canal?
In their photo-taking zeal the girls offered to take a family photo for us.
And because the glamour shots just looked so fun… The wind effect wasn’t quite the same for me though somehow…
The row of seven bridges. You can only see four or five in this photo. There are three times as many bridges in Amsterdam as there are in Venice and there are 165 canals in Amsterdam.
When the sun was out it was just right.
When it went behind a cloud it would get cold.
This photograph is painful for me to look at. How did it go so badly?
Much better. These houses are called the “Dancing Houses” because when they were built it was so swampy that over the years they have moved and shifted. Our tour guide told us that they would actually haul in earth and dirt to build on because the city was expanding toward the ocean.
Here’s another example of a swampy foundation…
Simon dancing with one of the Korean girls.
The South Church
So. Many. Bicycles. Our tour guide told us that in Amsterdam there are 800,000 people and 1,200,000 bicycles.
We really loved the canal tour. It took about an hour and a half and our tour guide was really nice and knowledgeable and the kids were pretty entertained by our new travel friends and other things to look at.
We weren’t really sure what to do next, so we just took a bus to the Anne Frank House and Museum. The queue to get in was FOUR hours long. That wasn’t going to happen. My original plan was that Richard could take the kids to a park while I went into the museum but it was too cold for a park. We’ve since learned that Easter weekend is one of the busiest travel weekends in the year because it is sandwiched by two holidays and so we should have anticipated the crowds. From there we tried the Van Gogh museum but it was the same story. We were feeling pretty discouraged and disappointed by now, and the kids were restless and hungry. Our public transport passes were about to expire soon too so we decided to catch a bus to a pancake house someone had recommended and call it a day. It took longer than expected to get to the Pancake House, but it was in a really fun part of the city and I’m glad we had the chance to walk around there and see more than just the central part of town.
Richard’s friend had recommended the Pancake Bakery, and it’s the kind of place that as a tourist you only find if someone recommends it. (My favorite.) It was kind of tucked away off the beaten path. The kids menu listed about seven different pancakes like the “Police Pancake” and the “Fireman Pancake” and it was really all the same pancake, but they brought out a prize associated with the pancake type. Simon of course chose the Fireman pancake and I’m pretty sure it was the highlight of his day.
I had a pancake with mangoes, slagroom, coconut flakes and pistachio gelato. Soooo delicious.
more canals. (Simon was done with canals and bicycles and photographs.)
After pancakes we walked to a bus stop where we caught a bus to a train station where we caught a train back to our car and then drove back to The Hague. Amsterdam was a let down in a lot of ways, there was so much I didn’t get to see that I wanted to, but maybe I’ll get a chance to go back. Without kids, bless their traveling hearts.