Belgium + The Netherlands: Days 7 & 8 -- Amsterdam
We spent the end of this wonderful summer vacation in Amsterdam and while we were sad to leave Antwerp, we were all excited to get to the last stop! We packed a lot into four days here, so I split this visit into two posts. We'd booked ahead (and then changed to a little later) our Thalys train tickets to Amsterdam. The train couldn't have been easier and it was nice to have some forced downtime.
I thought we'd seen a lot of bikes in Belgium, but it seemed like every square inch of Amsterdam was covered in them -- turns out most people who live there have several and keep them in different parts of the city to use. The kids were immediately on it and begging to rent bikes before we'd even arrived at our hotel. But after seeing how people bike around Amsterdam, I decided to count ourselves lucky with our Belgium biking and nixed their plans.
I'd booked a family room at the super hip Hotel Pulitzer, which is located in the Jordaan neighborhood and literally down the street from the Anne Frank House. We checked in and turned around quickly to make our reservations at the Van Gogh Museum (you absolutely need reservations and can book up to four months in advance -- do it!).
We set out walking to Museum Quarter, stopping at the Rijksmuseum along the way to play some chess in the garden. The Rijksmusuem is huge and purportedly has the best collection of Dutch Masters. Even though I thought the kids would love to see some Vermeer (Chasing Vermeer was a favorite book of both a few years back), they'd kind of had their fill of Dutch Masters in Brussels so I thought we'd pass this time.
I'd booked late afternoon tickets to the Van Gogh, but it was still the most packed of any other museum we'd visited on the trip. We grabbed audio tours for the kids and Kane in particular was obsessed with the art. Cami liked it, but she's more of a modern art gal and we'd both spied the Stedelijk and Moco museums and were sort of jonesing to visit those. Don't get me wrong, the Van Gogh was amazing and we spent quite a bit of time there going through each floor. But by the end, I'd hopped on my phone and purchased tickets to Moco for after.
The main Moco exhibit when we visited was Banksy - Laugh Now (an unauthorized exhibit of private collections) and everyone loved it. We've seen a few of Banksy's works here and there, but this was a huge collection.
We came up with an awesome Halloween Banksy costume for Cami on the visit!
We hung in the garden for a bit afterwards, waiting to walk to our dinner reservation.
On our walk to dinner, we stopped to see what we could pick up for an Amsterdam vacation home. I'd made reservations at Café Wildschut and it was PACKED for happy hour when we got there, so I'm not sure our reservation actually did any good. We waited for a table outside while the kids voiced their displeasure over the number of people who smoke in Amsterdam. We finally nabbed a decent table, although still downwind of smokers, and ordered. The cafe was great, but definitely full of locals who were friendly and curious as to how we'd found the place.
We made a long trek back after dinner, stopping to reward everyone with ice cream from IJscuypje right by our hotel. Full and happy we crawled to bed to rest up!
We had a great breakfast at our hotel (was included and was a huge amount of delicious food) and then got out early the next morning. I'd bought tickets for the Anne Frank House three months to the date earlier, setting my alarm for 5 a.m. and purchasing in the darkened Philly hotel room where everyone else slept for Kane's summer lacrosse tournment. Tickets routinely sell out immediately for a particular day, and we didn't have a ton of flexibility on when we were going to visit. So I made sure I didn't screw that up! Anyway, three months later, I knew this visit was going to be heavy, so I made sure everyone got some fresh air in the gorgeous morning Amsterdam light.
The musuem was so incredibly well done and thought provoking. The kids handled it all well. I was crying at the introductory session (which you have to sign up for separately and is totally worth it) and didn't really stop throughout. The kids knew a lot about WWII and Anne Frank already and we'd read the book together before our trip. But it was mindblowing to walk through the same rooms and imagine how the Holocaust could have possibly occcurred not so long ago all the while thinking about how the US is acting at home and in the world currently. I didn't want to the kids to be unnecessarily scared, but I wanted them to really think about things meaningfully. And I think they did.
We left in a bit of a daze though and thankfully popped into Nieuws Amsterdam, which is a random mix of novelties and home goods. It was really difficult to figure out how to mix back out into the world after the Anne Frank House and this shop sort of forced us to giggle a bit and pick out random gifts for people. We kept walking back to our hotel and stopped in to change. We grabbed a quick lunch at Casa Peru and then hit up the stores in the 9 Little Streets District, including a bunch of vintage stores where Cami got the cutest Dutch Boy cap.
We'd done a lot of shopping for Cami in Antwerp and we'd promised Kane that we'd get him a proper football jersey in Amsterdam. We grabbed the kids waffles at Kwakman and set out to shop for Kane. But then we happened upon the most fabulously random off-the-wall store we'd ever seen: Kunstboer. They make custom apparel neon and metallic, dog and cat flare. We wanted to buy everything! Cami grabbed a great hat and we said we'd be back. Kane was really itching for an AJAX jersey. We walked to Smit-Cruyff and hooked him up!
We were rushing a bit to get back to the hotel and change for dinner. I'd made reservations at Restaurant Blauw to check out Amsterdam's Indonesian food scene and was really excited. We popped back into Kunstboer for some more gifts and then starting booking it back to the hotel. I was distracted and Cami and I got separated from the boys. I am notoriously (and obnoxiously, ask my husband) hyperaware of being safe. I am highly suspect of everything. But on our walk back, someone stepped on the back of my sandal and I went flying. He bent down to pick up my sandal, steadying me as he did so. I was pissed and my foot hurt, so we just kept moving, but I knew something was off. As soon as we got back to the hotel, I knew my wallet had been stolen. And then I was pissed at myself. I'd been so careful the whole trip and I almost never take my entire wallet out with my when we're traveling. Fortunately we handled all the main things in just about 30 minutes, moved our Blauw reservation to the following night, and were on our way to Satchmo for a super yummy, really fun outdoor dinner.
Can't keep the Greens down! (although a good reminder to trust to be careful and trust your gut!). I'll share our last two days in Amsterdam and the last of this vacation posts when I get through the photos!