A Very Active 39 Hours in Amsterdam

This isn’t a play on the NY Times series titled 36 Hours in… but the actual time we spent on a stopover in Amsterdam on a recent trip back from the States.

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’.

Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport Baby Lounge

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).

Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport Baby Lounge

Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport Baby Lounge

There is also a microwave gadget to warm bottles! Our LB likes his bottles chilled though so we didn’t use it.

Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport Baby Lounge

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).

Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport Baby Lounge

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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It seems like Amsterdam not only has few vacant retail units but the ones that are filled express personality.

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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.

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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.

Traditional Indonesian rijsttafels at Puri Mas

Traditional Indonesian rijsttafels at Puri Mas

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.

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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.

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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.

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Here are more goodies. Mmm, hand knits!!!

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And speaking of the Apple store, here’s a photo of the historic building from the outside.

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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.

Toothbrush Ferris Wheel

Shortly after  The Pancake Bakery opened, we were there! Because one pancake meal wasn’t enough.

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I always get the same thing (again, all three times I’ve been there). Gouda and green apple pancake and French onion soup.

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It is around the corner from Anne Frank’s house. Nice if you need a meal after waiting in the queue.

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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.

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It carries things made of plastic, little goodies, household items, cookbooks, paper lanterns, wallpaper, pulls/knobs, bags, and dishes! Yes, dishes!

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If it also sold argyle socks, garden gnomes, and fish dishes, I’d never leave! Thankfully, they don’t sell those things… yet.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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:

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We wandered around most of the afternoon and enjoyed admiring the canals? Around each corner is another stunning view.DSC_0015©

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We even got to see a barge trolling the canals retrieving lost bikes and shopping carts.

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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!).

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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.

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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.

Weekend in Amsterdam

Europe is on our doorstep so traveling is a must. We went to Amsterdam for a long weekend and though we researched recommended restaurants, we tried to leave as much flexibility in the itinerary as possible so we could enjoy ourselves and not stress about seeing everything. This may not work for every destination or person, but it worked nicely for this trip. This is a brief retelling of our trip and whenever possible I link to places we went in case you are planning your own trip and would like some suggestions.

We arrived Thursday morning after taking the 6:30 a.m. flight direct from ORK. Empty stomachs encouraged us to have breakfast in the airport at Vlaamse Frites. We went with a large order topped with mayo. We managed to eat it all, but the small probably would have been sufficient. After taking the train to the tram and the tram to the inn where we stayed, we took a nap! That early flight really does make it nice to have a whole day in Amsterdam, but without a nap we thought we’d be too tired to make the most of it. When we awoke there was a hail storm, which cleared up quickly. Recharged, we went out in time for lunch at The Pancake Bakery. I went with a cheese and apple pancake and started with French onion soup. We ended up walking all around on our way there just to soak up the city. We were mindful of the many MANY bicycles and traffic in general. The quirky little shops were so fun for browsing and we found some great little goodies which I will surely put in my Freckled Past blog soon. If you are traveling to Amsterdam and like quirky shops, check out my list of fun shops (below). 

Canal View

Canal View

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We spent most of our second day at the Van Gogh Museum. The exhibit was wonderful. Wear comfortable shoes and bring an extra layer though – lots of standing, walking, and air-conditioning. Also, there is a free coat/bag check which makes it easier to walk around. There are actually multiple Van Gogh Museum Shops: 1) Outside by the Rijksmuseum; 2) Inside by the coat check; 3) Inside and downstairs. Years ago, they did not have a website and I remember calling them long-distance and purchasing a poster print. They were so kind and overseas phone orders were uncommon so there was no real system set up and it cost only about $18. Times have changed, but they are still just as nice there. The museum has a lovely cafe inside which boasts a great menu and reasonable prices. I had what they called a pizza, which was French-style bread halved and covered with fresh plum tomato slices and melted mozzarella. I opted for water, but couldn’t tell the sparkling from flat so I guessed (red = sparkling, blue = flat). They also have a nice beer selection with corresponding glasses available just to the right of the beverage refrigerator. A far cry from the Air & Space Museum in Washington, D.C. For dinner, we ate at Eetsalon Van Dobben. They have delicious sandwiches, croquettes, and daily specials – photo below.

Daily Special at Van Dobben

Daily Special at Van Dobben

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our third day there was a Saturday so the streets were alive with locals and tourists alike. We lunched at Sarang Mas, an Indonesian restaurant that was recommended by a friend. It was delicious and wonderful service.

View from Canal Bus

View from Canal Bus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday happened to be the day of the Amsterdam Marathon so we took to the canals in the hopes of avoiding the traffic and detours caused by the marathon. We bought a day pass on the Canal Bus and by the end of the day we had enjoyed relaxing and informative rides on all three of their routes (green, red, blue). For dinner, we thought we’d try something different and went to Wok To Walk. It was decent enough and definitely filling.

Amsterdam Marathon at the Rijksmuseum

Amsterdam Marathon at the Rijksmuseum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We enjoyed our trip and hope to return again [soon]. The people are helpful and speak English beautifully. I felt bad that we kept needing them to speak English with us, but no one seemed to mind. I plan to learn a few Dutch phrases before we return though. And next time, escaping the city would be nice, perhaps to Delft, Utrecht, or Rotterdam. From door-to-door the return home took us 3.5 hours.

Here are some of the shops we enjoyed while there:

Meubels En Freubels, Van Woustraat 31-33 (fun stuff, household goodies)

Serekunda, Tweede Egelantiersdwarsstraat 3 (stockings, undergarments, ladies apparel, accessories)

Kitsch Kitchen, Rozengracht 8-12 (things made of plastic, little goodies, household items, bags)

Beadies, Huidenstraat 6 (beads, beading supplies, beaded jewelry)

De Witte Tanden Winkel, Runstraat 5 (toothbrushes, toothpaste, dental floss, dental hygiene products)