Design

Vacation Photos: Amsterdam

As I mentioned before, Alex and I recently took a pretty spontaneous four-day trip to Amsterdam to visit my college friend and explore the city, while Toby stayed home and guarded the fort. It was a whirlwind adventure! Thank you again for all your tips! Here are some photos, if you’d like to see….

Once you travel with a child, a flight without a child seems like a spa. It was heaven to spend seven uninterrupted hours reading, watching Fraiser reruns, eating airplane Pringles, and snoozing. Confession: I was almost as excited for the flight as for Amsterdam! (P.S. More on this brilliant book later.)

Amsterdam is one of the most bike-friendly cities in the world (remember this?!) but I had no idea just how many bikes there would be. Look at this bike parking around the train station–it’s bigger than a parking garage!

We, of course, rented bikes. (By the way, the forecast was for rain everyday of our trip, so Alex got us rain pants, which worked really well.) Amsterdam felt much smaller (in a good way) than I had expected; the narrow streets with townhouses are beautiful. And there are so many canals—more than Venice!

Many staircases in public places had tracks for your bike, so you could easily push it up. Genius!

Instead of staying in a hotel, we rented a houseboat!! We booked it through the fantastic site Enrout.com. What a treat to stay right on the water and watch the ducks swim by. This was the evening view from our deck, above. (Btw, did you know that the canals sometimes freeze in the winter and you can go ice-skating?)

We watered the plants in the morning…

…and drank wine on the deck before heading to dinner. (My friend Penny is hilarious, if you couldn’t tell from these photos:) Interesting tidbit: After spending a year in Amsterdam, Penny told us that the Dutch (well, the people she works with at least) preserve a strict work-life balance. She says she never gets work-related emails after 5pm or weekends. Thumbs up!

Since our trip was so short, we decided to treat it as if we were, more or less, living in Amsterdam. So we would sleep in, ride bikes, and then have lunch and drink beers beside a canal. Then we’d see where the afternoon took us–maybe on a bike ride or exploring the streets and shops. It was a fun way to experience a city. We didn’t go to many of the tourist attractions, other than visiting the tulip fields, and the powerfully affecting Anne Frank House, which was incredibly moving.

Everyone in Amsterdam seems to eat sandwiches for lunch. (Dutch readers, is that true?) A grilled sandwich is called a “toasty,” which sounds especially cute when grouchy old men order it. Our favorite spot was Cafe ‘t Smalle right on the water. Penny insisted that the Dutch really nail club sandwiches, so we ate them three days in a row. Delish. Pictured above is Penny, her French boyfriend, and the aforementioned club sandwich:)

Back on our honeymoon, Alex joked that the hardest decision you have to make on vacation was what time to switch from coffee to beer. On this trip, however, he once went for both!

One funny thing about Amsterdam are the public restrooms. Metal structures are peppered around town, and guys can just go in and pee–even though passersby can see their feet and faces. It was a secret thrill to use one, Alex said!


Another afternoon, we biked through Vondelpark, the big park in Amsterdam. The playgrounds were awesome, including this GIANT slide. Kids as little as three were scampering right up.

We spotted this Dutch dad riding with his daughters…

And this tandem bike carried FOUR people: the dad in back (his handlebars turned the front wheel), a five-year-old up front, plus twin toddlers in the baby seats! (See many more Amsterdam bikes here.)

Amsterdam has killer restaurants! We went to Wilde Zwijnen, an uber-hip spot with fresh flavors and crisp wines, as well as Blauw, a cool Indonesian restaurant, where we ordered the “rice table,” and they brought out dozens of teardrop bowls filled with meats, fish, sauces and rice. One night, as a special treat, we went to dinner at De Kas (pictured above), an award-winning restaurant in a greenhouse, where we had one of the best meals of our lives. I loved that people still rode their bikes, even though it was a super fancy place.

They brought Champagne with freshly picked flowers, and this cutie, above, told us all about each course as it arrived. It was such an amazing trip, from start to finish.

Have you guys ever been to Amsterdam? Do you live there? What a place! Amsterdam, we miss you! xoxo

P.S. Nutty Amsterdam bikes, and a hilarious children’s book. And remember this insanity?

(Photos mostly by us. A few De Kas and Wilde Zwijnen photos courtesy of the restaurants themselves.)

  1. Hi Joanna,

    I love your vibrant talk about Amsterdam. I adore it when people say we (the Dutch) have a beautiful country or a beautiful city. I am quite proud of being Dutch so all this is very flattering :)

    So, it’s true about the sandwiches. We do eat them all day, every day. In fact – I always need to change my mindset when I go to another country since they would eat warm meals in the afternoon in France, Germany, Italy and Spain. But in The Netherlands we eat bread. In the morning and for lunch and then for dinner we have a warm meal with vegetables, potatoes and meat/fish. That’s typically Dutch as are the bikes. We do ride them everywhere we go and it even comes in handy because you don’t want to drink and drive. You just drink and bike :) So we have a lot of great stuff going on here in The Netherlands (I live in the south, so for me Antwerp is also very near) but I must admit that I’ve just read a comment of somebody who’s not native and not really fond of anything Dutch – and what she was right about (only one thing, really) is our weather.
    Dutch tend to talk about the weather with each other. Apparently it’s typically Dutch to do so. We talk to the hairdresser, the butcher, the woman at the desk or just people at busstops about the weather. Because it rarely is nice weather, so we’re sighing because it’s raining. But when the sun is shining, people start to sigh since it’s too warm to sleep at night. As you can tell: we can be fussy about the weather. But spring time is beautiful and every season has it’s own charm. Even a cranky Dutch man can’t change anything about that.

    Love to welcome you again to our great country and thank for this wonderful blogpost.

    Love,
    Nancy

  2. I’ve not (yet!) been, but wanted to thank you greatly for this perfect escape as I start my morning at work here on the West Coast. I plan on exploring my Dutch roots in Amsterdam soon, albeit not soon enough. The public restrooms for the guys are hilarious! I bet guys would definitely get a rush from (almost) peeing in public…wish it was that easy for us ladies.

  3. Well this place Amsterdam would be an amazing one to spend in a vacation at a such a scintillating place and atmosphere…

  4. funny, I live in Amsterdam (as a non native) and am not as near excited about it as you are. I guess it is always different when you are only visiting. I think the service in restaurants is appalling, they possibly have the worst service in the world (but not in de kaas – been there – they are nice), the weather is terrible, really terrible and they only eat toasties for lunch….
    but the work-home balance is amazing and it is cool to be able to get everywhere by bike and if the sun would shine mor than twice a year, it wouldn’t be such a bad city to live in

  5. Yeah! I live in Amsterdam and love to read things about ‘my city’ that are related to all the pretty things instead of smoking weed (like most tourists)…
    Thank you!

    Rena

  6. Ev says...

    Yess!! we do eat sandwiches for lunch! I live in Barcelona now and I still do it – everybody thinks it’s weird

  7. Amsterdam is right on the top of my list of European cities I still have to get to! There seems to be adventure around every corner in that city; never a dull moment! Your photos are gorgeous! Well done!