Our family took the Eurostar train from London, through Belgium, and north to the Netherlands.  Past windmills and colorful miles of rows of tulips – every kind of tulip you could never imagine – and into Amsterdam.  This Spring holiday was arranged as a home-exchange, in fact.  And we stayed just south of Amsterdam’s Vondelpark, off Noorder Amstelkanaal.

WARNING:  The mosquito netting around each bed, is not just for looks.

Amsterdam

Amsterdam was charming.  The bikes alone!  The hundreds of Dutch on bikes!  And the Dutch children ride in what look like large wheelbarrows attached to the fronts of the bikes.  No helmets.  Just bikes.  And people.  And crazy kid-carrying devices.

Amsterdam is old. And filled with stories, you can almost feel inside of you.

Amsterdam is beautiful.  And also brimming with hungry mosquitoes.  “Squageetos” in L’s words.

AMSTERDAM TOP TEN LIST:

Van Gogh Museum held my attention, and my heart.  I was brought to tears by the magnificence of the man’s work.  I left feeling absolutely humbled, and yet incredibly inspired.  E, L, and J left feeling lucky to have gotten a free postcard from the front door attendant for completing their packets.

Rijksmuseum is just a short distance from the Van Gogh Museum, in the center of Amsterdam, and offers a multi-media Family Tour.  And the children, with their travel-journals, spent time sketching their own in the midst of recognized masterpieces.  Brilliant museum shop!

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Anne Frank House.  Bryant and I were able to spend an evening at the Anne Frank house, without the children, thanks to their auntie, Christine.  The home was sobering, thought-provoking.  The encounters therein gave me a knot in my stomach that has not yet been entirely resolved. We chose not to take the children, as we had not yet introduced them to the horrors of the Holocaust, though we found the museum not at all graphic.

Canal boat ride.  I had a difficult time understanding the commentary offered, even with headphones.  But that may be due to the three children wanting my attention.  Through the canals, under the low bridges, and past beautiful gabled houses lining those canals.  We ALL loved the boat ride!

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Keukenhof , the “Garden of Europe”, is the world’s second largest flower garden, and found just outside of Amsterdam.  Seven million flower bulbs are planted annually!  These bulbs are planted in gardens, not the popular long rows of tulips, though rows of tulips can be seen from Keukenhof, on private farms.

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Openluchtmuseum is, again, outside of Amsterdam.  But well worth the 2 hour trek on public transportation.  A train from Amsterdam Centraal will take you to Arnhem, where you will take a bus to Ziekenhuis Rijnstate, dropping you just outside the “Open Air Museum”.  Is it worth your time?  Yes!  Even on a rainy day!  As suggested by its name, the museum is outdoors, enabling you to wander through traditional villages – homes, farms, and uniquely Dutch windmills.

Playgrounds in Amsterdam rocked our world!  (And would probably never fly in US, for fear of law suits.)

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Floating Flower Market, or “Bloemenmarkt”, on the Singel Canal, is the only floating flower market in the world.  And our experience shopping there, with three young children in tow, was brilliant!  Not just flowers and bulbs, but we enjoyed Christmas shops, cheese shops, and souvenir shops, of course.

NEMO, the Science Center, was an attraction we opted out of, this visit.  Though we got a good view of the architecture from the canals.  Very popular, and child friendly.

Queens Day.  We happened upon Amsterdam on Queens Day, a carnival held in Amsterdam every year at the end of April.  Wear orange!  And join in the street markets, the food and the music of Queens Day.   (Interestingly, Queen Beatrix recently abdicated the throne.  Her son, Willem-Alexander, was made King, and starting 2014, Kings Day replaced Queens Day, and is held on 27 April, annually.)

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TIP:  Once in Amsterdam, we used only public transportation.  The trams and trains are easily accessable, clean, safe, and reasonably priced.  Plan your journey on public transportation here.

Finally, just something I penned, upon our return:

In tulips
In puddles
Dutch buggies
Canal shuttles
Making a wish
Or two

Asleep on our auntie
Recreating Rembrandt(ie)
In careless abandon
And you?

Trying out the dutch slides
Trying out the dutch rides

Where’s Waldo in Vondel
Who’s goff in Keukenhof

With Van Gogh
And Rembrandt
With Anne Frank
And Avencamp

IT’S ALL IN ONE PLACE – AMSTERDAM!