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. So charming and 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, 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 below? 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. (You probably already know that Indonesia used to be a Dutch colony.) 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. Speaking of bikes, did you see the bucket bikes and crazy bike seats? I saw 4 kids on the mom’s bike without a bucket! Just strapped on there, and one of the kids had to be 10. I thought instantly of what I would have told that huge kid if he were mine: “get your own bike, kid!” I am still dreaming about getting a bucket bike to take the kids to school where we live in Connecticut…..

  2. I knew Amsterdam was serious about their bicycles when I saw an American-sized parking garage exclusively for bikes! What amazed me is how creative they are at carrying not only bags/groceries but multiple kids as well on their bicycles. I only wish they all wore helmets!

  3. I feel in love with Amsterdam too! I’m finishing up my year abroad in Germany and it’s a quick 2 hour train ride away, I’ve been 3 times already, and am going again this Friday. I absolutely love the flowers, shopping, history, and culture :)

  4. I love your photos! I have always longed to visit Amsterdam. I’ll be passing through briefly on my way to Kenya this summer but sadly will only see the airport. Must plan a trip there! Thanks for the photos.

  5. Oh The Five Flies! I went there with my dad and Oma when I was a little girl. They had a fat cat walking around the restaurant. I love that about Holland. Animals welcome everywhere. My mom was born in Amsterdam just after the war. Quite a different place now. Anyway, I love reading your posts about traveling/living in Europe with a large family. I sure wish I had the guts.

  6. Hi, as an Amsterdam girl I would just like to remark that those hooks you saw on Amsterdam homes were used in buildings up until the 19th century. 20th Century Dutch homes don’t have them.

    Looking at the location of your hotel you probably had the Indonesian food at ‘Kantjil en de Tijger’ in the Spuistraat? And it might have been the ‘rijsttafel’ with offers small samples of different dishes :-) I love rijsttafels.

  7. What I love about traveling to foreign climes is how the exotic nature brings us an immediacy that we wouldn’t have in familiar environs. Somehow our five senses (and perhaps our sixth) are sharpened and alert. We see architecture and humanity in rarefied, sharp relief. We smell new scents that will forever bind us to that specific place and time. When we eat in restaurants with unfamiliar tastes we are bound forever to that flavor in that space. Travel and stepping out of our comfort zones is as important as steeping ourselves in the familiarity of our ancestral climes. Can you tell I’ve been eating unfamiliar chocolates and drinking bombastic wine?? (Yes I know I’ve used “bombastic” out of context, but it’s such a good word!) Thank you for providing me with my reveries.

  8. I know yr website just now … Love to read your travel story … We went to Amsterdam sept 2011 … well actually just drop by during our tour to several European country .. We are leaving in Indonesia.. Maybe someday you want to go to and write about it ..for many people Bali maybe is more well known than Indonesia … Well actually Bali is just small part of many beautiful places in Indonesia …. Happy traveling ..

  9. I went to Amsterdam last fall with my family and we really enjoyed the city…The canals, the streets… everything is very unique. We took the kids to NEMO and we ate the famous pannenkoeken ;) We also took pictures in front of the I AMSTERDAM letters…it was so much fun!
    We visited the Anne Frank’s museum (Did you know that there is a permanent exhibit with a replica of the Anne Frank’s house here in Atlanta, GA?) ;-)
    During our trip to Holland we also visited Leiden, Delft and Gouda…
    I won’t forget about the bikes! I was really impressed by the amount of bikes…

  10. While we’re in Europe this summer, we are going to try to fly up to Amsterdam. Your post inspired me to make it happen. If we don’t go to Holland, I think we might fly down to Morocco.

  11. This was posted a long time ago haha, I know. But I wanted to leave a comment anyway.
    I’m glad you had a wonderful time in Amsterdam with your family. I was born in the Netherlands (the east side) and I’ve been living here for 19 years now. I love reading these stories about all the crazy (which seem so normal to me) things tourists see. Bikes for example, are literally the most normal thing in my life. Many dutch people count their bike as their most valuable possession haha! Sometimes I see tourists riding their rental bike through town and it’s so adorable to see. Very cautious, very scared to fall. While we dutchies ride our bikes at high speed, often without hands.
    And I think it’s so funny many people don’t know Indonesia was a colony of the Netherlands. For us, that’s common knowledge. It’s all over the history books we read at high school haha.
    Anyway, I loved your story about Amsterdam and I hope you’ll come back someday :)

  12. Hi dear DesignMom!

    reading your post on Amsterdam has been fun! As a dutch woman myself I thought it would be nice to tell you that there is a children’s song that says: “..Amsterdam that big city, has been build on poles..” so it’s really the other way around, as you will probably know. The water was there first and the city build in and around it!
    In Belgium, if you’re still over here (in Europe I mean) it’s also worth wile visiting Antwerpen as well as Brussels en Brugge! And maybe The Ardennes, we love hiking and vacationing there! All the best where ever you are and go,


  13. Molly Hyde-Caroom

    I love your inspirational posts! We have visited several of the same spots but we would really like to visit Amsterdam this fall! Usually, we rent a flat so that we can make some of our own meals, etc. Would you mind sharing the area you stayed in? I will be there on my own with 3 children and I like to be sure I pick a safe area. Thank you in advance for all of your blog posts! You have such beautiful pictures and visit some wonderful places. What a find for someone like me lucky enough to live here in Europe for a while!

  14. Sarah Paisley

    I just found your site after hearing your interview with Classical 89, and I had a question for you. What are you doing for your children’s schooling while you are in France?

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