Legend says to throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain so you will return to it one day. Visitors flock to the fountain to view the remarkable 85-foot high (65 feet wide) example of Baroque art, designed by Nicola Salvi. There is a little ice cream shop adjacent to the fountain that has a yummy selection so you can stroll around and enjoy a sweLegend says to throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain so you will return to it one day. Visitors flock to the fountain to view the remarkable 85-foot high (65 feet wide) example of Baroque art, designed by Nicola Salvi. There is a little ice cream shop adjacent to the fountain that has a yummy selection so you can stroll around and enjoy a sweet treat while trying to work your way to the front of the crowd.
We chose to fly via KLM and Schiphol airport in Amsterdam because we had heard good things about using them while traveling with infants and children. They provide diapers, formula, baby food, bibs, kid’s activities, and such on request as part of the travel experience (i.e., no extra charge). Of course, the best part was that during our outbound layover, we discovered Schiphol has a baby lounge. Yes, can’t you just picture little babies resting in velvet banquets while sipping milk martinis and using free WiFi? Well, it’s not that kind of lounge and I’ll admit the adult food options at Schiphol leave me hungering for frites and pancakes. It is a haven of peace and ideal for regrouping. LB was getting tired and though he was a delight on the flight from Cork, he needed a feed and a nap to keep his good mood going. Unfortunately, he’s a social baby so if there are people and interesting noises and cool light fixtures, he is sometimes too distracted to eat. But the subtly-marked baby lounge (beside the kid play area and by a library) is an oasis. Enter the generic door and hear Peter and the Wolf on a loop with soft lighting, pastel stripes on the back wall, and several round curtained ‘cubicles’.
On the left, there is a wall unit with changing mats and bath-sized sinks. Paper towels and soap are provided. This is ideal for a baby that is soothed by a bath or in case of a mess (you know what I mean).
There is also a microwave gadget to warm bottles! Our LB likes his bottles chilled though so we didn’t use it.
We did, however, find our favorite cubicle and tuck in to have a feed. Next thing you know, the bottle is empty and baby and I are both asleep. A solid 45-minute nap was all he needed to keep his positive outlook on the world (and for me to keep mine).
Meanwhile, hubby went to get us lunch (tuna sandwich)! That one nap for LB meant that he was not overtired when we took off on our next flight and he could stick with for normal daytime nap schedule that day. But that starts to get into how to travel with a small baby, which is another blog post entirely. Don’t worry, I’m already writing it! Now, back to our 39-hour stopover in Amsterdam.
We landed early in the morning after a red eye from the States and were tired. Even LB was not his usual giggly self. We immediately collected our baggage, went through the passport stamping process, and taxied to the hotel. The public transportation options are great in Amsterdam and we’d taken that before but with us so tired and only 39 hours in town, we wanted to make the most of our time and a taxi costs €38-48 (higher if you get a van taxi).
We arrived at the hotel and decided we needed food. But first, maybe just rest my eyes for one minute? Two hours later, LB and I rouse from our cuddly nap and brave the sunshine to find food. Hubby was being so patient all that time! We stayed at the Eden Hampshire Hotel Americain (can’t remember what the current name is but it is centrally located, clean, and pleasant). We opted for a BIG room and they put a crib in there with soft cotton bedding for no charge. The trick with the mini bar fridge (for bottle storage) is that you cannot remove anything to make room for bottles or you are charged for the mini bar item that is removed. Technology.
Here’s a photo of the outside of the hotel. It is a stone’s throw from the Amsterdam Apple store and the landmark Bulldog (it’s a coffeeshop). I’ve not gone into either but they are handy when navigating or asking directions.
The hotel has a renowned restaurant but we opted to get out and about. But here are photos of it because when I walked in it made me feel like I should be meeting Hastings and Poirot for a cup of tea. That’s a GOOD thing in my book.
Having a basic understanding of the layout of the city and having favorite neighborhoods from our previous visit, we set out for Jordaan. First stop, Pancakes! at #38 on Berenstraat. It’s a neighborhood spot that makes the most of its small space by using egg-crate noise softeners on the underside of their tables and decorating with a light-hearted touch. I had my favorite Dutch pancake, which is apple and cheese. They used an Edam and a pink apple. Delectable and light with a crunchy layer on top. Hubby had something with ham, cheese, and chicory.
Bowls of keychains and toys line the counter by the register and they’re quick to hand them out to keep younger customers happy. We witnessed a waitress give a new toy in-package to the toddler at our table so he’d be too busy playing to object to forkfuls his mother was helping into his mouth. This pair was kind enough to share the table with us and didn’t blink when LB spit up all over himself. Gotta love parenthood! And for everyone who praises me for always being so prepared and on top of things, I’ll admit I didn’t have a change of clothes for him on-hand.
After a quick change for LB from gross onesie to swaddled in my fleece jacket, we went strolling in search of a place that sold children’s clothes. We found a great spot that also sells women’s clothes. We went to several hip kids stores actually and LB has some new clothes to look stylin’ in.
It seems like Amsterdam not only has few vacant retail units but the ones that are filled express personality.
Then there’s the little matter of an afternoon snack?
And where would a trip to Amsterdam by without a visit to one of those places they’re famous for. You know what I’m talking about. You know, a cookie bar. What? They’re not famous for cookie bars? It’s coffeeshops? And they don’t serve coffee? Seriously? I don’t believe you. So, back to the cookie bar because that IS where everyone should go when visiting Amsterdam. We went to Melly’s Cookie Bar and I chose a Dutch Almond Cookie and a… (anyone want to guess?) …hot chocolate. Hubby had a conical cookie filled with sweet cream and a cappuccino or something decadently caffeinated. He is much better at managing jet lag as a result of his relationship with the coffee bean.
I had an afternoon nap too but managed to extract myself from the bed for dinner. One thing to do while in Amsterdam if you’re a foodie is to enjoy a traditional Indonesian rijsttafels (like Indonesian/Dutch tapas). We did this at Puri Mas. Coconut is a prevalent ingredient so be aware of that if you don’t like it or have an allergy.
Day two we set out in search of food but had a few stops along the way.
Tesselschade-Arbeid Adelt is a charming children’s shop one block away from city centre from the Apple store in Amsterdam. Charming hand knits and crafted items that are great gifts and heirloom worthy.
Turns out it is a guild of women in The Netherlands who hand craft things and sell them. They’ve been around since 1870! Even better than handmade things? Handmade fair trade things! No, it’s not as expensive as you’d expect.
A basket of Dachshunds. One of them had to come home with me. I chose a navy one with a pale blue jumper. Her name is Lucy after a friend’s Dachshund. Wish I had gotten an orange one too so they could keep each other company.
Here are more goodies. Mmm, hand knits!!!
And speaking of the Apple store, here’s a photo of the historic building from the outside.
If you are into dental hygiene or want to encourage your child to brush his or her teeth, definitely pay a visit to De Witte Tanden Winkel at #5 on Runstraat. This little shop has a toothbrush ferris wheel in its window display and carries toothbrushes, toothpaste, dental floss, and dental hygiene products. Want flossers? What kind? Seriously, there are several. This is also our favorite spot for choosing toothbrush holders (like the one I got Q). I have a pink hippo but wanted to get another so I can use one for traveling and one for home. Each has a suction cup on the back so it adheres to a mirror easily and holds your toothbrush. If you travel a lot and stay in hotels, it is nice to have something out of the way of housekeeping so they don’t need to move things to do their clean-up. If you’re not near this shop though, take heart because some animals are available from Amazon.com.
Shortly after The Pancake Bakery opened, we were there! Because one pancake meal wasn’t enough.
I always get the same thing (again, all three times I’ve been there). Gouda and green apple pancake and French onion soup.
It is around the corner from Anne Frank’s house. Nice if you need a meal after waiting in the queue.
Couldn’t miss a chance to go to my favorite spot for a bit of domestic indulgence is Kitsch Kitchen at #8-12 on Rozengracht.
It carries things made of plastic, little goodies, household items, cookbooks, paper lanterns, wallpaper, pulls/knobs, bags, and dishes! Yes, dishes!
If it also sold argyle socks, garden gnomes, and fish dishes, I’d never leave! Thankfully, they don’t sell those things… yet.
This is where we bought our nephew Q an awesome toothbrush holder that is a Triceratops. That is his favorite dinosaur. Being an awesome aunt, I make it my job to remember these things and even drew one on the mailer when I sent it over to him. They also sell amazing paper lanterns, toss pillows, rugs, wallpaper, and have a wide selection of oilcloth.
This reminded me of something I’d see in Young House Love. Sherry over there has a thing for ceramic animals. These are drawer pulls, hooks, or whatever you want them to be really. I would love to get the triceratops for Q but what would a toddler do with such a thing? Would be fun to get two and drill them on either side of a wood bucket and use it for crayons & colored pencils or a little toy catchall. Especially if the bucket is painted boldly (think pink deer heads with yellow matte.glossy striped bucket). If someone does this, please share the link in the comments?
I didn’t see until we were paying and ready to leave there is a small sign to the side of the register with a camera and a line through it. Big oops! I was respectful though (no flash, no faces, no staging of items). Oddly, no one said anything to me in spite of the big DSLR looped around my neck. They didn’t hesitate to scold me for possessing a camera once in Vienna.
Have you ever had the souvenir that got away? Well, this trip it was a paint roller from Kitsch Kitchen that has a faux wood-grain effect. I stared at the basket of them for several minutes trying to devise a way to fit it in my already overfilled luggage then said a sad goodbye. I had dreams of using a dark gold paint and rolling it on the blackout curtains in LB’s room to complete the nursery’s Enchanted Forest theme (yes, there are gnomes and even a dragon). Did I mention it was €19.95 on sale 50% off? The squirrel and hedgehog hooks are cute for the design of his room too. But I’m pining for the paint roller. Get it? Pining? *Collective groan at pun* Seriously though, I am. Next person going to Kitsch Kitchen then to Cork City, I’ll give you the tenner plus a batch of baked yummies (Croissant Monkey Muffins, cupcakes, or Chocolate Chip Cookies) if you bring a wood-grain paint roller back for me.
We then went exploring and quickly decided that we should eat more so we remembered the words of our KLM stewardess (sorry, flight attendant), “Winkel has the best apple pie in Amsterdam.” So we went!
Winkel at Nordermarket has a pie crust over their baked apple goodness that more closely resembles a cookie than a crust. Good hot chocolate too.
Very friendly staff and a nice bar inside that had a beer on tap that my hubby has never seen on tap anywhere. I was distracted trying to change LB’s diaper and outfit in a tiny bathroom stall (it seems I have a new superpower) or I’d remember the beer’s name. Maybe he’ll comment with it. They serve other things too (besides apple pie and hot chocolate), here’s the menu:
We even got to see a barge trolling the canals retrieving lost bikes and shopping carts.
Now there is one great place to go for croquettes in Amsterdam and everyone will tell you it is Eet Salon Van Dobben. Around for decades, this deli-meets-soda fountain style restaurant has croquettes that melt in your mouth and thin slices of deli meats piled atop a soft roll that you can adorn with mustard for a sandwich. Nom nom nom. I always (you know, all three times I’ve been there) the roast beef and we split some croquettes (which are made with beef not pork, woohoo!).
Of course, don’t miss the chance to stroll through the Flower Market. When I say stroll, I mean stroll – no bike riding allowed in this pedestrian area.
Though we had wanted to do an excursion out to see the tulips or visit a cheese factory, we decided that having a baby with jet lag was reason enough to take it easy and sure Amsterdam is a short flight from Cork so we can go another time. We went to Henri Willig across from the Flower Market instead of a cheese excursion and got to taste many cheeses and even bought a fun cheese knife (checked luggage material). But for anyone wanting it, day excursions are available for layovers or those staying in the area. Some of the companies running them are: Amsterdam City Tours, Viator, and Great Amsterdam Excursion Company.
I know this was a very long post. Now you know why I sometimes don’t write posts about our getaways. Even just 39 hours someplace has this many photos (actually more), stories, and adventures. Please comment if you like this or try any of these places and it may just encourage me to write posts like this more often.
The Times ran an article today written by Daisy Greenwell (if you haven’t read her articles, you’ll like them since she writes about food fairly often and in a cultural and lifestyle sense) hat discusses online reviewers and their approaches, roles, and perspectives on the process and websites themselves. Throughout this post are screenshots of portions of the actual article.
Now that the piece is published, I’ll tell you all about how it came about.
A few months ago when I was in the final days of my pregnancy, Ms. Greenwell contacted me to enquire about my role as a Top Contributor on TripAdvisor. With over 280 reviews, I guess that’s something to be proud about. It’s also something I don’t spend much time dwelling on. Trips happen and while I’m busy writing about it for my blogs, why not whip up a review too? It’s only fair since I use TripAdvisor information to help plan the adventures in the first place. So back to me being very pregnant and on the phone with Ms. Greenwell… She interviewed me and I answered her questions honestly. I think I gave birth within a week or two after that so talking on the phone was just my speed at that point in the pregnancy. I kept quiet about her article until today because it’s her scoop to share, not mine.
Fast forward to a couple weeks ago, she asked about sending a photographer out to take my picture. Me? Post-pregnancy me? With my son’s age still being counted in weeks, I am not feeling my fittest but professional photographers bring out the best in us, right? Hopefully. They even sent Don Moloney, a professional photographer, to photograph me in seven or so poses to choose to run with the piece. I waited and hoped a photo would look good. I guess it must have because one friend didn’t even recognize me. Provided, the ponytail makes a difference.
I was relieved when the interview was shared in a straight-forward manner, giving little chance for misquotes. Honestly, I was worried I would somehow come across as a ruthless reviewer who seeks out opportunities to ruin businesses with harsh ratings. Trust me, I’m not. I think anyone who knows me will laugh at that worry now that I’ve voiced it. Of course, I also worried about that photo. Should I have worn a necklace? Did the post-pregnancy weight show? Were my Tracy Anderson DVD workouts helping? Would I shine through as the person I am in spite of the fact I was faced with a photographer (usually I snap my own portraits with my camera’s self-timer feature, like I did for my Twitter profile pic).
Want to read my reviews on TripAdvisor? Go right ahead. I’ll warn you though, some a short and some are long with no consistent review format being followed. If I go to a place that doesn’t give much of an impression, I only mention the part of the experience that made an impression. The boring things that every restaurant or hotel offers/has/does are skipped.
So that’s it. And my boss is asking me to make him lunch now. He’s so good at encouraging me to keep my blog posts brief in favor of the all-important snuggles, floor playtime, and meals.
Do you write review on TripAdvisor? What food do you think defines the success of a restaurant or hotel? What is your top pick in Cork, Dublin, or Ireland for a place to visit, stay, dine? I’d love to hear from you!
Paris is an iconic city with romance, light, cuisine, style, and love abound. I personally associate Paris with my father. My parents and I have gone there together, but my dad and I went on a couple of occasions for weekends when the rest of the family couldn’t get away. It feeds into what Bruce Paltrow once said to his daughter Gwyneth as they were flying home from Paris, “I wanted you to see Paris for the first time with a man who would always love you, no matter what.”
Having visited Paris over one dozen times, I’ve collected some favorite places to dine, stay, and shop as well as other practical tips. I’ll admit that speaking French makes it easier, but I’ve found that after uttering my first sentence in French most Parisians are more than willing to respond and assist me in English. Don’t take it as an insult to your French, merely a gesture of hospitality. When traveling, it’s all about making an effort with the language and culture. It’s a sign of respect and gives you the chance to more fully experience a place. David Sedaris mentioned in an interview with Rick Steves that watching what others do is a great way to learn.
France enjoys a high context culture. One thing you may notice is that when you enter a shop, you are greeted and it is polite to respond with a ‘bonjour’. There is something so lovely about shopping in France since you are acknowledged. Knowing how to say ‘hello,’ ‘please,’ and ‘thank you’ can go a long way in France. Though I enjoy high context culture, it can be confusing and fatiguing for visitors. I suspect this cultural difference is one reason Americans have the misconception that the French are rude – or those spreading this ‘truth’ have been meeting all the wrong people.
If you don’t already know this, you’ll find Paris easier after learning that the region (or ZIP) code helps you learn a lot about a Parisian address. All Paris region codes start with ‘750’ and the final two digits are the arrondissement. When you see a number with ‘eme,’ ‘ieme,’ or ‘e’ after it that is the equivalent to a number with ‘nd’ or ‘th’ after it. Arrondissement can be abbreviated to ‘arr.’
Most Paris bookstores and many newstands sell the very useful Paris book of maps. It is a pocket-sized book containing maps by arrondissement and often an index with all street names. It is very helpful and won’t make you look like a tourist (the white sneakers and baseball hat will give you away long before any map). Try to find one that has good page layout because there’s nothing worse than trying to find a place that falls on a page crease. Waterproof is also a nice feature if you plan to use it a lot or during winter. Here is an old version of it to give you an idea.
Paris Metro is helpful in getting places within and in the immediate outskirts of the city. A Carte Orange gives the user unlimited use during a specific period of time. The TGV and SNCF serve a wider area and are known for high-speed trains.
Getting to/from the airport to the city can be less pleasant than your actual trip. One thing I’ve found to be very helpful is the Yellow Van Shuttle. Passengers share a ride to the airport from downtown Paris and are charged a flat-rate fee (aka tariff) starting at €25pp. The prices are per party/group, not per person, unless there’s just one of you. It is very cost effective when traveling as a family or small group since with five people the group price (€75) evens out to €15pp. Pets have special tariffs. If you stay in a hotel you can reserve through your front desk and, I believe, part of the tariff goes to the hotel and the other part to the driver. You can reserve online for an arrival lift or departure drop.
Useful Parisian taxi and rental car information available on TripAdvisor.
Paris has several train stations, so check into which one works best for your destination.
Best steak. Order “á point” for medium, never order well-done in France. Open for lunch and dinner and is even open on Mondays, when other restaurants are often closed. Opens for dinner at 19:00 (7:00 p.m.).
20 Bis, rue St Benoît, 75006 Paris, France
01 45 49 16 00
Delicious ice cream put on a cone in the shape of a flower.
5 rue Mouffetard, 75005 Paris, France
Neighborhood nightlife, deliciously creative dishes and drinks.
122, rue Rennes, 75006 Paris, France
01 45 48 70 66
Three-course fixed price meals at €10pp
31, Avenue Théophile Gautier, 75016 Paris, France
01 42 24 52 31
Known for their lamb dishes, a lively neighborhood spot.
2,rue Casimir-Périer, 75007 Paris, France
01 44 18 94 64
Hotel Aramis (Best Western)
Rates starting at under €100 per night in the heart of the 6eme.
124, rue de Rennes, 75006 Paris, France
01 45 48 03 75
Jewelry, accessories, and shiny sparkly things.
75, rue de Rennes, 75006 Paris, France
Fun household goodies, including lavender sachets, knife rests, reusable market totes, and much more. Friendly staff.
92, rue Saint-Antoine, 75004 Paris
85, rue de Rennes, 75006 Paris (I’ve gone to this one, closest to hotel above)
80, Boulevard Haussmann, 75008 Paris
79, rue Saint-Lazare, 75009 Paris
An American bookstore in Paris.
37, rue Bûcherie, 75005 Paris, France
+33 1 43 25 40 93
New York Times had a recent article about enjoying Paris on a budget, which seems like a clever idea given the economy.
Before traveling to France this month, I looked on Ravelry to see where users in the cities I’d be visiting bought their yarn, hoping to get shopping ideas for myself. In the course of admiring yarn, I was so amazed at a few Ravelers’s projects I had to write them and reiterated my inquiry. As a result, I made plans with two fabulous women to meet while I was on holiday. They each were welcoming, kind, and great company. As an added bonus, I met a third Raveler by chance! It was one of those cute moments when she asked what I do and I mentioned my blogs and she asked what I blog about and I responded and once the word ‘knitting’ was out we started shouting and jumping like school chums reunited. I look forward to keeping in touch with all three and basking in the kind world we live in. When so much negativity, violence, and oppression is seen in the news each day, it is a glimmer of hope to know there are still good people out there with warm hearts and open minds.
FOR ALL THINGS KNITTING AND CRAFT-RELATED, VISIT OUR SISTER BLOG: Spring Stitches.
Arriving at the Brest train station in the mid-morning, we traded our TGV reservation in for tickets (billets). The bathroom facilities there are located by the train platforms on the left. The men’s room door was wide open with an honest view of the urinals while the ladies’ room was open to the sink area and required 20 cents to enter the loo itself. On the bright side, 20 cents buys you toilet paper!
Once on the TGV, I began to wonder why we bought 1ère Classe (first class) tickets with reserved seating. Since Brest was the first station on the route, it was not overcrowded to the point where seating would be an issue (perhaps the early morning or weekend trains may though). About one half hour outside of Rennes, I understood that the expense of 1ère Classe was worth it to me when I made the wobbly trek to the café which is located in the first car of second class. On the way, I found passengers seated in the vestibules and luggage overflowing from the main baggage cubbies. Provided, we were traveling on a June Friday mid-day so many weekend travelers may have been aboard. Many passengers seemed to disembark in Rennes, but it is likely more boarded as well.
First class on some TGV trains also means wider seats, power outlets, and table space. The trip from Brest to Paris is about three hours so having a power source for my laptop and various gadgetry was helpful. If only it also had WiFi
Lunch was available. For €12.30, I bought a chicken Caesar wrap, small fruit salad (11 bites – three honeydew, three kiwi, three pineapple, two grapes), 33cl lemonade, and 50cl Pelegrino.
While in Brest this week, I couldn’t resist checking out a couple yarn sources recommended by a friend from Ravelry. I was informed it would not be luxury yarns, but definitely something different than what I get in Ireland. I discovered, yarn is expensive everywhere. Though for €30, I was one dozen skeins richer. Not bad considering they were all in delicious blues and greens. My friend also surprised me with nine skeins of a beautiful stormy gray wool that I think want to be a vest. I am keeping an eye out for the right pattern and may look for the same yarn in a different colorway to use for the edging, but the stormy gray is just so great and will be versatile to wear with many things. Thank you, Joëlle!
We are visiting Italy this week, so look forward to updates next week with details of our trip. And, for that, I would appreciate your opinion…
For my D.C. and Barcelona trips, I wrote separate posts for each adventure or topic, for London I wrote two posts (Accommodations/Touring and Dining), but for Amsterdam and Vienna I put everything into one post each. What do you prefer? Do you find it’s easier to read in bits and pieces or is it more central to have everything in one post about a particular place?
My question for you is… Do you have a preference if I put everything about our trip to Italy in one lengthy post or should I break it up by city/site?
Leave your thoughts in the comments section please and I’ll consider them when I write the post(s) about Italy. Thanks!