Amsterdam

I woke up today thinking about our visit to Amsterdam. I talked about wonderful Vondelpark here, but I wanted to have a record of other parts of our trip that stuck with me. So please forgive the rambling nature of this post. : )

I have to say, I fell in love with Amsterdam immediately. Our hotel was in a great location and we could wander the streets and find interesting spots in every direction. The Palace. The Nine Streets shopping district. Museums. Charming side streets. And canals everywhere you look!

On one of our walks, we happened upon the floating flower market. It’s Amsterdam’s flower district  — but it floats on barges in one of the canals. Isn’t that fun?

The floating flower market sells all sorts of flowers, but the real prizes were the enormous bulbs. Seriously big! Notice Maude’s hand below for size reference. : )

Speaking of bulbs, I’ll share our images from the tulips fields in another post. I think we saw the very last fields of the 2010 season. : )

The main visual impression Amsterdam left me with is: bikes. I was told ahead of time that Amsterdam is a city of bikes, but I didn’t really understand until we arrived. There are bikes everywhere. Everywhere! The city streets are an organized mishmash of bike lanes, car lanes and pedestrian lanes, but I’m pretty sure bikes rule.

It was neat to stop into grocery stores or convenience stores and see bike accessories, bike baskets, and flat tire kits for sale.

Ben Blair commented that Amsterdam has everything fun about our beloved New York — trendy stuff like frozen yogurt (we stopped at Frozz twice!), and lots of international food choices. But it’s also very European with cobble stone streets, bridges and canals, charming architecture and the very real possibility of hearing 5 different languages as you walk down the street.

Of course we wanted to taste the local faire. So we ate poffertjes (little puffed pastries) and pancakes at Sarah’s Pancake House. The pancakes were huge! They covered the whole plate. Everything was delicious, but I especially loved the cherry poffertjes. Tart cherry is one of my favorite flavors.

The canals are certainly the most distinctive thing about Amsterdam. One afternoon we took a canal trip and the tour guide said that an average of one car each week ends up in the canals! Can you imagine?

The canals in Amsterdam felt different to me than the canals in Brugges (our report coming soon!) or Venice. In Amsterdam, it’s like they took a big, modern, metropolitan city and then filled the streets with water.

Do you see the hook? Every house in Amsterdam has one. They use it to move furniture in and out of windows.

One night, Ben Blair and I met Esther of Babyccino and her husband for dinner. We ate at an Indonesian restaurant which I can’t remember the name of, but which we really enjoyed. (Did you know that Indonesia used to be a Dutch colony? Me neither.) It was wonderful to meet locals for dinner. Esther and her husband were endlessly fascinating — they’ve lived everywhere and were super fun to talk to. At dinner and throughout our visit, we were impressed by how seamlessly the population moves between Dutch and English.

Growing up in St. George, my family would make frequent trips to Los Angeles and the drive was 6 hours long. So in my head, any drive in the 6-hour-or-less range is super doable. (Do you use mental references like that?) Amsterdam is 6 hours from our home here. So close! I think that’s one of the really fun parts about living in Europe. Instead of passing through different states, a six hour drive can take us to several different countries.

How about you? Have you ever spent time in Amsterdam? What was your favorite part about the city?

P.S. — Ben Blair snapped the photo below when we walked to dinner. I know it’s blurry, but I love it anyway. It looks to me exactly how Amsterdam felt to me. : )

96 thoughts on “Amsterdam”

  1. We went to Amsterdam this past fall. It was a lovely city! I really like vondelpark too! In general it was a great city to sit with some stroopwafels and people watch.

  2. YES! Amsterdam is one of my favourite cities – I really love it. I can’t remember, have you been to Keukenhof? Magical with soo many flowers. The photos you took reflect Amsterdam so well. I even studied Dutch because I love The Netherlands so much :)

    Have you been to Rotterdam as well? They have really great bridges..

  3. Amsterdam is my very favorite city. I lived there for two summers in college over ten years ago! I miss it so much and wish I could just jet over for a weekend or two. thanks for the pictures. What do you call feeling homesick for somewhere that is not your home? Being an art museum junkie, this is my second favorite art museum I’ve ever been to. You must check it out and the surrounding park. your family would love it. http://us.holland.com/e/8209/Kr%20ller-M%20ller%20Museum.php

  4. My father is from Amsterdam and most of his family still lives there. We are going for a visit in three weeks. It will be my 8 year olds first time. We can’t wait! She has been learning about Anne Frank in Hebrew School and is so interested in seeing the hideout.

    A

  5. Rent a bicycle at the train station in Amsterdam and then just ride around. Get lost. Find your way back. Eat lunch and then get lost again.

    1. We rented bikes and rode them in the park, but I confess, I was scared to take my kids riding around the city. I’m not sure we’re good enough around such expert cyclists!

      1. I agree – I was too chicken to ride the bikes in the city for the same reason… people ride their bikes so fast there! It’s amazing.

  6. Amsterdam looks and sounds quiet lovely. My best friend is from Amsterdam, we often have tea and stroopwafels. I could live for that stuff.

  7. We all spent a few days in Amsterdam on our last trip abroad. My favorite part was walking all around the city and of course the fabulous crepes! My older daughter sketched many buildings and once home created some fabulous large watercolors from them. And the Van Gough exhibit was also not to be missed. My youngest was most moved by our visit to Anne Frank’s house, as she had just finished reading her diary and studying her life. It was a trip we will always remember.

  8. The only bit of Amsterdam I’ve been to is Schiphol Airport — it’s our “local” connection for flights from our city in England back to the States. But it’s the best airport to get stuck at if you miss a flight. I love flying into it & seeing all the windmills that surround Amsterdam at work. There’s a nursery with about 10 ROUND cribs set up with shimmery, gossamer curtains that screen each baby and accompanying family from the next — and low lighting so the tired mommy can sleep, too. The kid playland is very stylized, woodland- industrial. And there’s a beautiful mini art museum with actual Dutch Masters’ works and that charming (300+ year old ) Delft tiling on display. Really, something for everyone in my family.

  9. For some reason, Amsterdam has a really negative connotation in my head. These photos totally *blow.it.out.of.the.water*. So pretty.

    And I *love* the 5 flies Restaurant sign! Cool typography is my weakness!

    amy @ glass confetti

  10. This is one of the places that I NEED to get to. Soon! I just love European springtime. Thanks for posting these. And wow, what great outerwear your kids have on. :-) Love those stripes.

  11. Hi Gabrielle –

    I am so jealous. we were in amsterdam last year in Fall and it was quite the change from Ohio. I came back immediately and started looking for jobs to move there lol. Amazing and very cultural. Europe in general is very culturally diverse, but amsterdam seemed to have an extra dose!

    Like you loved Vondelpark, with 2 kids it was an instant success – loved walking the streets and just hanging out. People are amazing as well

  12. Those bulbs are huge! Do you know what they were? I also love the 5 Flies sign, the font is soooo pretty and the fact that it was established in 1627 is mind boggling.

      1. Those big bulbs are Amaryllis. We have a white one, got it from St Nicholas :) Early December we plant it in a vase and around Christmas there’s a huge stalk with 3 or 4 big flowers. My kids love to see how fast it grows, centimeters a day! Right now the vase is in the attic (beauty is gone) but after the summer holidays I stop watering, take it out of the soil and leave it ’til next St Nick’s to plant it again.

  13. oh, how i love Amsterdam. We spent 10 days there on our honeymoon and it was so romantic. We always talk about taking a trip there again with our children.

  14. I would love to see Amsterdam someday. I was searching your site the other day for posts on Belgium…I may finally be traveling there this year, so excited. We will see Brussels & Bruges for sure, any other recommendations? Merci!

  15. That’s exactly what I love about living in Europe, I can experience so many cultures and languages (and food, ha!) in a few hours.
    I was looking up my year abroad in Montreal, and looking at the map (with my English mind set), New York looked like it was only a couple of hours drive away. How mistaken I was, I forget how tiny our little country is!

  16. Can’t wait to hear about your trip to Bruges. It is my favorite city! Have you seen the movie “In Bruges”? The beautiful scenerey was the reason we took a detour and discovered Bruges for ourselves.

      1. I totally agree with Meg; Bruges is an amazing city. We did a 6 day trip around Belgium a few years ago and it was wonderful. The people are friendly, the architecture is amazing and the food is to die for.

  17. One would think you are not eating. You are getting so skinny. One would never know that you had a baby a year ago. It must be from all the walking.

  18. Aren’t poffertjes great!? :)
    Oh, glad you liked Indonesian food! :) What did you have? I think Indo food in Holland would taste pretty authentic since there are many Indonesians living in Holland.
    I’m from Indonesia, btw :-D And yes, Indonesia was colonized by The Dutch for 350years.

    1. Hi Sila! I swear, we had everything on the menu. : ) If I remember right, it was some sort of tasting menu that we ordered, and then all 4 of us passed bowls and shared everything. So delicious!

  19. Gabrielle, this is wonderful!
    I will be in Amsterdam in a little less than 2 months with my family and your post has made me even happier about it.
    I know you were recently in Stockholm as well, is there any chance you could do a post about it? I’ll also be going there on my vacation.

  20. We went to Europe on our honeymoon in April 13 years ago, Holland was our favorite country that we visited. We ate at a few Indonesian restaurants and we are so sad that there isn’t one here in Utah. We hope we can make it back there someday with our 5 kids.

  21. Back in 2008 before I was married, I went on a Europe backpacking trip and Amsterdam was by far one of my favorite places. It has so much history that gets overlooked by the Red Light District! I loved every minute I spent in that city and wish I could go back!! I’m glad you had fun. :)

    1. At dinner, Esther said the Red Light District is actually a really pretty and historic part of town. But I was too shy to check it out. I think I would have been blushing the whole time!

  22. Amsterdam is my favourite city – we seem to fly in and out of it every year. I really recommend the Dutch Resistance Museum. You can take Tram 9 or 14 to it – it is just across the street from the zoo. It is very interesting for school age children.

  23. I grew up in Utah as well, and now live in “The South” (N. Carolina). When we first moved here all our friends thought it was really weird that we’d take off on road trips and only be gone the weekend. “It’s not worth the time in the car!” they’d say. It’s all relative, isn’t it? A four hour road trip could find us in DC, the Smoky Mountains, or the Outer Banks. A four hour drive from Utah County would get me to Southern Idaho or St. George. Potentially fun places, but nothing to really write home about!

    When I read these amazing posts I try really hard to just be happy for your family and the amazing experiences you’re giving your children. It’s a tiny bit difficult to stop at being happy for you, and not feel thoroughly envious too! Thanks for sharing your adventures with us! And thanks for the 411 on the French and their ironing. I now know I could NEVER live there! :O

  24. Amsterdam is by far one of our favorite cities! We rode bikes everywhere and lived in a beautiful house right by a canal in the city. We loved watching all the stylish parents ride by on bikes with two or three kids hanging on. Can’t wait to go back with our children.

  25. Love your posting and your site. While I’m from Boston, my husband is from The Netherlands, so I’m very familiar with Amsterdam and the entire country.

    I’ve been lucky enough to spend time abroad and lived in France for 4 months – (Provence).

    Enjoy every moment you can abroad, the memories and experiences will be cherished forever for you and all your children!!

  26. Dear G,
    Um, I’m sort of dying here… you found CHERRY poffertjes?! I’m practically drooling on the keyboard! I’m putting Sarah’s Pancake House on my list for next time, for sure.

    I especially loved seeing all of the photos you shared. Its fun to recognize streets and buildings… and realize I have so many of those same shots. How funny is that? And the discussion of bicycles… I’m sure that having just come from Amsterdam made a certain 5-year old’s birthday bicycle horn even THAT much cooler. Completely awesome. :)

    Thanks for sharing your trip. Loved it! (and now I have to stop daydreaming about cherry poffertjes… {sigh})
    – C

  27. Hi there!

    I am Dutch and I live in Maarssen, a town near Amsterdam. If you come to Holland, that is worth visiting too. It’s along the river the ‘vecht’, which has lovely old estates on it’s riverbanks and pretty little towns. And if you travel further you will get to the city of Utrecht. Very nice to visit too, it also canals and nice old houses but is smaller than Amsterdam.
    I went to NY last year and really loved it!

    Have fun visiting Holland!

    Best regards,
    Charlotte

  28. Wow! Beautiful pictures and a stunning environment. It never ceases to amaze me how your big fabulous family finds so many amazing adventures abroad! I love how the siblings help out with baby June, too; so cute! :)

    1. Speaking of kids helping with June, I have a funny little story. We actually forgot to pack the stroller for both of our recent trips! There are so many good baby holders in the family that we usually just pass June around. Hah!

  29. totally agree with your assessment about the canals, it does feel like they filled the streets with water. Lovely, lovely city. Amazing shopping too – did you get to hit up any of the rad stores there?

  30. We love Amsterdam. My husband was born there, and almost all of his extended family still lives there. We’re heading there with the boys this October — my sixth time or so, second time with children. Cannot wait. What amazing people and city!

  31. Dear Gabrielle,
    I somehow came across your blog a few months ago. Ever since, I love reading your posts. Especially since you have moved to France and are exploring Europe. It´s fascinating and so much fun to read and observe how you are fascinated by Europe. Good for me to not take things I am used to, as a European, for granted. And as a Dutchie, I absolutely love your posts about Amsterdam. I live in Lelystad, half hours drive by car north of Amsterdam. Originally, I am from Rotterdam. A place that defenitely should be on your travel lists as well. As well as Kinderdijk, Middelburg, Bergen aan Zee, Utrecht, National Park Hoge Veluwe, National Park Oostvaardersplassen, Den Bosch, Maastricht, and so on ;-)Well, in case you do need local and inside tourist information, pleae feel free to contact me! And may I point out another lovely blog on Dutch design: http://www.wannekes.nl. Three kisses from Holland, Ilse!

  32. Love your shoes! : )

    I took a nap in the airport on my way to Italy…but I have never really set foot in Amsterdam. Would love to though. And if only more of our cities here in the states were so bike-centric!

  33. one other comment Gabby, I’m very curious about how your family is received overseas when you’re out and about… I get weird looks carting three kids around San Francisco, how do people respond when they see the Blairs?

    1. Good question, Michelle! So far, we’ve been received very well. Some places particularly well. In fact, Sarah of Sarah’s Pancakes was amazing. She’s from a big family and loves kids. She too the time to talk to each one of my kids and made us feel incredibly welcome.

  34. We spent 5 hours in Amsterdam last summer between an overnight ferry from the north of England, on our way to take a train to Paris. It was a rushed-squeezed-in visit, but so worth it. It went right to the top of our fantasy vacation list!
    Travelling with our four children (16, 14, 11 & 9 at the time) is such a pleasure, because we love showing them the world, but logistically it requires managing. Two questions about managing your tribe: 1. I checked out your hotel, and it didn’t seem to have suites. How many rooms do you get, and how do you “divide and conquer” the children between you? For us, we rented an apartment in any city we were in for longer than three days …, and 2. Grown-ups’ night out on a family vacation? Sounds lovely … do you have help, or do your local contacts connect you with babysitters?
    By the way, my “benchmark” is 34 weeks pregnant … one of my first girlfriends to have a baby gave birth at 34 weeks, and ever since then, 34 weeks has been my “any time now” benchmark, even though I always went over 40!

    1. Good questions, Elizabeth. I should write up a whole post on how we handle hotel rooms while traveling. For us, it all depends on where we’re going and what’s available. In Brugges, there was a hotel that offered apartments, so that was perfect. In the case of NH City Centre, we called the NH reservation line, explained our family size and situation and they looked at all their hotels in Amsterdam and found a good fit for us. We used two rooms that were side by side. One room had a king size bed (for me and Ben Blair) and a little nook with a queen size bed that Oscar and Betty shared. They also brought in a crib for Baby June. In the room next door, there were 2 twin beds, and they brought in an extra twin size cot. So Ralph, Maude and Olive slept in those beds. The rooms didn’t have an adjoining door (which is ideal), but they were right next to each other and we had plenty of keys to go back and forth freely.

  35. Thank you so much for this post! Zuster (Sister) Welch, my sister and LDS missionary, hasn’t sent any pictures of her mission yet. We are relying heavily on Google Earth to get any idea of what it looks like over there. Your photography is just beautiful. It means a lot, thanks.

  36. Love the shoes! Love the shoes! I’m dying to know more about them.

    This Amsterdam post is amazing. I feel like I was just there. Thanks for sharing.

  37. This post was amazing, thank for sharing it! Everytime I read your posts about a city in Europe my heart soars dreaming of going there one day :)

  38. If you liked Amsterdam so much, you should come down to our neck of the woods- Den Haag (the Hague). You’ll be amazed at the difference between the two cities. I always feel that Den Haag is like a big city with a small town feel.

    Oh and the bike thing..it’s like that everywhere here! I don’t know of any person here that doesn’t have a bike it’s not just in Amsterdam…

    Love your postings, makes me realize sometimes I don’t live in such a bad place afterall. :)

  39. Oh how I love Amsterdam. We lived outside of it when I was a tot so it must be in my blood. Hoping you make many return trips as 6 hours is so do-able in a day. How fantastic!

  40. Before our little guy was born, we took a trip through Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland. I would love to go to Amsterdam! It seems similar to some of the major cities we visited. sCopenhagen and Stockholm especially had a ton of bikes and bike lanes. As a tourist, it was tricky figuring out when to cross and where to walk but I love the idea of biking everywhere. I wish the US would get on board!

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