Amsterdam. What a beautiful city! The canals, the cafes, the pancakes, the history, the buildings, the Indonesian food and the houseboats.
It was cold when we visited last weekend but between the walking, going into a couple different museums and the cafes, we were warm enough and happy.
Amsterdam’s always been one of my top 10 places to visit. It wasn’t really for the above reasons, but mostly because my grandfather talked about it quite often when I visited him. He grew up in the Dutch colonial system (Indonesia colonized by the Dutch for around 300 years) and besides speaking fluent Dutch and loving Dutch influenced food he never visited. When Indonesia became an independent country, he wanted to move to The Netherlands but the family didn’t and so he stayed. Ever since I can remember, he always told me to visit Holland, Amsterdam in particular, and I am so glad I finally did!
We took the ferry from England to The Netherland. A night one. And it was so relaxing! We only had to drive a bit over an hour and the next thing we knew, we were there. If you’re interested in taking the ferry from Suffolk county to The Netherland, you can read my write-up here. I am a bit OCD on details so there are LOTS of info!
While in Amsterdam we visited and did a few of the things listed on TripAdvisor’s website. Since it was a short trip, we wanted to make sure we went to the places we really want to see but still try to keep it relaxing. To do this, I only scheduled activities for day 1 and the rest we just winged it.
Day 1 we visited Ann Frank House, a WW2 walking tour for hubby, a long lunch and casual walking tour for the girls and I, lunch at an Indonesian restaurant, lots of coffee breaks, and a Rijsttafel dinner (a very Dutch thing to do I think).
Day 2 we spent shopping and exploring Amsterdam. By the end of the day we walked everything but the (old) Jewish district (although hubby visited during his tour but he thought it was really neat and wanted to show us — next time!).
Day 3 we split up again and hubby went to the Resistence museum and the girls and I visited the Rijksmuseum — and what a FABULOUS museum it was!!
We saw a famous Rembrandt: The Night Watch. What a magnificent painting!! Pictures do not do it justice. You really have to see it in person to appreciate the details, especially the way he used light.
I wasn’t sure what to expect at the museum but there were surely many things to see. This one for example, the old library. One of my favorite (I was too busy looking to photograph) was the room with the old ships and the one that told the story of early film. Very neat! I did think that M might be bored after a while but no, she loved it as much and thought the Rijks to be one of the best one she’s been to. I think because it’s got a lot of varieties and everything in there was just beautifully displayed.
I took a few photos of buildings, streets and canals of Amsterdam but not too many. I think it’s nice to capture a few for keepsake purposes but when I am in a new place, I love to just take it all in and as long as I have a few great photos, I am happy. How about you?
While the walks alongside the canals were mostly quiet and lovely, the shopping areas and main thoroughfare were always busy with trams, buses, cars, people, bikes and scooters. You really need to be on guard when crossing because even when the light is red, a bike may still waltz by.
I thought Cambridge, UK, has a lot of bikes. But after Amsterdam, I think Cambridge got beat!
There were many ways a parent would peddle with their children but if I were to live there with little ones, this would be mine.
Before leaving for Amsterdam, our friend lent Jovie and I a Zwarte Piet outfit. But since it’s been a couple weeks since him and Sinterklaas came to visit, there were no other children wearing the costume and Jovie refused to wear it out and about. So here she was modeling.
Hope you enjoyed the photos. If you ever have a chance to do some traveling, I highly recommend Amsterdam. It’s family friendly (even the Red Light District was easily avoidable and even at the tip of it — I had to see what it was all about — I could distract M), small for a city and easily walkable (but the public transport was really nice, easily accessible and frequent), and for a small city, Amsterdam has A LOT to offer in terms of things to see and do.
We want to go back sometimes during our stay here but next time it’ll be during the warmer months! We want to sit outside our houseboat drinking coffee (or beer)!
Maybe we’re lucky, but we’ve been able to take the kids to nice restaurants (places that most people would only go on anniversaries) since they could sit on a high chair. Even with Jovie’s pickiness, I never ask whether they have a kid’s meal or not. While I do ask what the kids want to eat for lunch/dinner (if I am cooking that is), when it comes to eating out, mom and dad gets to pick and they eat whatever is on the menu.
I remember when Emma was about Jovie’s age and I booked a dinner at a French restaurant. On the notes section I wrote: Two adults and one VERY well behaved 3-yrs-old. After dinner the owner stopped by our table and commented on how true I was about M’s behaviour. Not only was the owner impressed by M’s table manners, she was also impressed with the fact that we didn’t order a kid’s meal AND that M ate the escargot and cheeses. So for Emma’s good behaviour, the owner treated M to dessert.
Fast forward to a month ago when we were in Paris. I booked lunches and dinners at restaurants that food bloggers (well, mostly David Lebovitz) and Chowhound folks were clamoring about and the girls sat nicely throughout the meals (I think one was a two hours meal). Fast forward again to a few weeks ago. We were at a casual restaurant and in the middle of our meal, an elderly gentleman stopped by and praised us on how well the girls were eating and how great of a job raising them I did. That comment made my day and M (Jovie doesn’t get stuff like that) was pleased too.
Earlier in the year a book was published by an American living (or maybe used to live) in Paris: Bringing up Bebe. I haven’t read the book, but the WSJ article made me believe that if we were to live in France, our kids would just fit in. At least in terms of eating and playing.
What have we done to make the girls this way? Well, I’m not quite sure but we do the following when we eat (with special days here and there):
- We always eat together as a family at the table
- There’s no slurping (although I told hubby that in Asia, slurping is a sign that you love the food, but then he argued that we’re not in Asia)
- There’s no chewing and talking
- There’s no leaving the table unless you’ve been excused
- We eat everything that’s served, even the yucky vegetables (or in M’s case: Fish)
- We respect each and every food (so no food playing)
- There’s no TV (and this is where the special days come in, we watched the Olympics opening while eating a few weeks ago)
- We all talk about our day and whatever else that comes to mind (nothing negative or work issues – we save those for hubby and I time)
- We practice our pleases and thank yous
- And we do punish during meal time for table misbehaviors
They’re all pretty basic and I have to admit that without hubby, the girls wouldn’t be as good (he’s louder than me). It’s kind of cute too because when Jovie’s done she’d go, “Can I be excused?” and if I said yes, she’ll go off an play quietly until we finish or if I say no, she’ll just sit there and as long as I keep talking to her, she’ll be just fine.
There is one nice restaurant tip for toddlers/preschoolers. Always give them something to do, always interact with them, and give them something to eat that will last a bit. Jovie’s favorite is bread and butter, which most restaurants (at least here in Europe) serve.
Yes, she likes posing with her food.
Also, let the kids use the same glass and cutlery you’re using (sans real knife unless the kid’s old enough) and they will feel pretty special about eating with mom and dad at a nice restaurant.
Yes, she drank water from a wine glass, got her own gaspacho, and spreading butter on her own bread.
I did make a few projects too a few weeks ago. Presents for M’s twin friends. And matching cards. I enjoy a bit of stitching now and then and I always think that hoop art is just fabulous. I used Waltzingmouse’s stamps for the little girl and I just winged the rest of it.
Back in Missouri, we used to drive a 430 miles route in one day. We’d leave the house at 5 a.m., have breakfast at a Cracker Barrel outside of St. Louis (225 miles and 3.5 hrs later), then a lunch stop 2 hrs later at Sikeston (Lambert’s – the only restaurant that throws their rolls), and then Mississippi (just a few miles south of Memphis).
A few months ago we were planning a trip up north, to the Hadrian’s Wall area. Hubby asked me how far it was and I said about 250 miles. His responds was: “Dang, that’s far! Can we split the trip up into two days?”
I had a good laugh after he said that and said, “Wow, you’re sounding more like a Brit!”. The reason was because a few days before that, my neighbour suggested staying the night half way there. She said more less, “I know you Americans are used to going long distance in one go but that’s a long drive here.”
According to Google maps, the drive from our place to the wall would take 5 hrs 15 min. That’s non-stop.
If you’re somewhat decent in math you’re probably thinking that the speed limit here is ridiculously slow. Or maybe there are no interstates. There are interstates (and the majority of our drive was on the interstate), and the speed limit is 70 miles/hr, BUT interstates/highways are not everywhere and roundabouts are scattered all over highways, county, city, town and village roads. Traffic jams are easier to come by around here too.
When we’re not in a hurry, I love driving two lane roads (the road next to the wall above is a two lane road). You get to pass all sorts of cute villages and towns and if you want/need to, you can easily stop to take in the scenery. But when you have a long drive, the two lane road brings the opposite effect: They can get stressful and tiring.
Sometimes I feel like a sorry driver. Breaking a 250 miles drive into two days. But, besides the drive, there are just so many things to see along the way that the breaks were always worth it, like Fountain Abbey below and all the little adorable towns near it. The kids appreciate it too since they can only look outside, talk, or nap when we drive — only on special occasions do I whip out the iPad, e.g. long ass traffic jam, me driving alone long distance.
So little time.
I wish I can travel all the time. I know that bit of me overwhelms the hubby but goodness, there are too many things to see and I’ve only just scratched the surface. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do since I was about 10-yrs-old. By this age we were back in Indonesia and our travels were limited to our small island, Java. I missed the big trips that we used to do when we were living in the US. I wanted more Japanese food at a restaurant in Japan, I longed for the Hong Kong food stalls which flavors were just divine, I dreamed of going back to that beach restaurant in Hawaii and I thought of that crab, which was a lot better than the lobster, at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco.
Hmmm… maybe I should rephrase the third sentence above… it seems like I have more “eating” memories than “seeing”…
Either way, I wish I can travel all the time!
The last two plus years I have been living in travel bliss. Even with a limited budget and vacation time, I have been able to travel to places I’ve always wanted to go in Europe. Not only that, I have been able to travel with people I love. They let me drag them everywhere and they try whatever weird food I said they should try (Jovie is still hard to convince though).
In a few weeks we will be going to a special city. A city that I promised M I’d take her to before we moved here. I can’t wait to go with them and show them around while eating some fabulous food.
I know life isn’t going to be like this all the time (and we’ve had our fair share of hard times). But while it is good, I will take advantage of it and let tomorrow be tomorrow.
I am not one who gets excited easily about a celebrity. Even though I think Johnny Depp is pretty cool (and he’s only a couple hours away), I wouldn’t be screaming and jumping up and down if we ever bump into each other. I don’t wait around for famous people to pass by either. Sleep is too precious for me and if it’s cold outside, forget it!
But while in York (April 5th), Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II was there too and by accident we saw her pass by (with nobody else blocking my camera). I got a couple good pictures of her and one was this:
I have another photo but this one shows all three royals inside the vehicle. Emma was standing right in front of me and even though I am almost sure the Queen was not specifically looking at us, it felt like it. We were just at the right place at the right time. No waiting or anything…
Here was York the next day. The sun didn’t want to come out and it was a bit chilly but still, a very beautiful ancient town!
Emma… M is well. BUT, she’s been difficult to photograph lately. Jovie on the other hand keeps asking for a photo. But the other day I caught this. A happy girl who just got her croquet ball through the hoop (random ball and random hoop).
And this, Jovie behind a chess board.
The card… I created the card using this week’s Waltzingmouse sketch. LOVE the sketch! Had so much fun creating this one piece!!
Take care and until next time!