Friday, August 28, 2009

I love Amsterdam.

This above photo was one that was recovered from my lost group. I am so happy it came back to me, because it defines Amsterdam. I can't think of a better way to describe the masses of people riding their bikes and to them it is just like walking.

After we left Brussels we drove straight to Amsterdam, which was only a few hours away. The night before Jeff was scrambling online to find us a place to stay the next night. Everything he was looking for was either too big and expensive or too small. He even tried to get us a house boat for two days, but it was just too much money. (how great would that have been) He ended up finding an apartment that rented through a hotel. We were emailing the owner on our way to Amsterdam to let him know we were on our way and he was going to meet us there with a key.


Driving into Amsterdam was just as Rick Steve’s described. Beautiful people riding bikes everywhere. We could tell from the first five minutes that we loved this town. photo of the street we stayed on. Our apartment was on the left.

When we pulled up to the little apartment on a little, brick paved street barely big enough for one car to drive in, Robert ( pronounced Ro-bear) was there to meet us - no big surprise I gave him a big hug! He was 6 foot handsome, with spiky blond hair, the bluest of eyes, t-shirt, shorts and bare feet. He was there to meet us with the key. I wish I would have felt comfortable enough to ask if I could take his photo, but I think the hug had already weirded him out for the day.

this photo is from the floor of our apartment looking down to the front door

The apartment (circa 1790) was in the Jordaan neighborhood of Amsterdam, compared to that of Soho of New York City. We were staying on the top (fifth) floor. Robert offered to help us with our luggage saying that stairs here are not like the ones in America. I was thinking, stairs are stairs. He was right these were like no stairs I had ever seen. There were about 4 stairs in place of one of the stairs my large size 10 feet are used to. The were wooden green steps maybe 5” in width and very, very steep. We climbed the 5 floors gripping the hands of the girls. Our door to our apartment was on the roof. It was just like the scene in the movie Enchanted when they come our of the sewer onto the streets of New York. Hard to describe, the floor of the apartment was our front door.

It had a hinge like system that would open up for us to enter. The apartment full of charm and smelled a little like soy milk, not bad annoying soy milk . There were two bathrooms. One with a toilet that had a Hippopotamus reading the newspaper on it and with a shower. The other bathroom had the bath tub and the sink. A long skinny hallway that connected the bedroom to the kitchen. The bedroom had lots of low beams and a washer and dryer. Everything was crisp, white and simply decorated. Looking out each window we could see the peaks of many roofs in every direction. Pitched roofs and brick everywhere. Robert took Jeff and I out a window from the bedroom to climb a small fire escape type ladder that went straight up one of the gables of the roof to find a small ledge to look over the city. It was a bird’s eye view.

The kitchen and main room were one long, large space. One end was the kitchen while the other room held a hammock and a loft above with a queen size mattress and fluffy white down comforter. Over the mattress was a Buddha like character with a gold medallion that made the girls too scared to sleep on top. The room felt like a display room in an IKEA store. Simple lines, simple color and very relaxing.

Robert told us before he left that we were the first renters since it had been purchased and renovated for renters. I wonder if he was a little worried to leave watching our three littles run amuck. Before we left Caroline came in the bedroom and told us that Sally Jane had peed on the couch. The look on Roberts face was the look of a young single childless man.

He was still nice enough to stay for a bit and tell us of great places to eat and things to see. He commented on how excited he could tell I was to be there. We asked him if he had ever been to the US and he said he had been once to NYC. He told us that even though this neighborhood was much like SOHO, this town was nothing like NYC, much slower paced and happier people. It was interesting his comment on Americans and how all they want to do is work 2 jobs to make a lot of money. He said "we are happy here with just a simple life." I am always intrigued on how Europeans see Americans.

We were so happy to have a space to land for a bit before we went out hunting for dinner. Finding food on this trip was very frustrating. We know we have picky eaters but putting that with food that is never served fast causes some rumbly tummies. The grocery store on the Military bases as saved us financially as well conveniently.

We walked the canal lined streets and I started taking some photos of all the different bike bells on the bikes. I thought my Chicago friend Nora would be proud of me. I thought this would make a great "good luck" card.

We ended up eating the best ice cream/sorbet type treats in 6” tall and skinny waffle cones.

No one slept in the loft so the girls pushed the two couches together (which Sally Jane had peed on) and made a big sleeping couch that they loved. Having a DVD player on the nice new flat screen was exciting for them to fall asleep to the Netflixed Bernstein Bears movie.

Jeff and I had our own room down the hall that gave us a much-needed sleep.

The next morning we had big intentions of getting up early to be the first to the Anne Frank house, since we had no way to buy the tickets online. Also buy tickets to something in advance would mean we actually had to stick to some kind of schedule which I am not sure if we would be able to do. Rick Steve’s told us the line would be really long and to either go early or buy tickets in advance.

The bakery around the corner from out apartment

We ended up sleeping in until 10:30. This was our first hotel we had stayed in more that one night so we actually could sleep in. (Our first morning in Germany was us waking up to the maid pounding on the door telling us it was time to check out five minutes earlier) We were on day 3 of the trip so our clocks were still a little off.

Caroline getting a Blueberry Muffin at the bakery around the corner

Our late start changed our plans a bit. After eating our cold cereal with half and half milk (Jeff could not read the carton at the Iranian grocery store he had purchased it at) we made our way out the floor of our apartment and down for a day in Amsterdam. We went to the bus stop with full intentions of trying to figure it out but just ended up just catching a cab. All the cabs in town were nicer than any car I will ever own. Very clean inside and all Mercedes, Volvo's and BMW’s. The toll came up digitally at the end of the trip in the rear-view mirror - I had never seen before.

Our first stop was the van Gogh museum. It was raining and we were loving our Gortex jackets as we had no umbrella. The line went fast (just like Rick Steve’s told us it would)

With all of our trips I have learned unless we are on the beach or at a pool there is always one of us who is not happy and wants to be doing something else. It is usually the kids, but can even be Jeff or I. This morning it was Annie Kate's turn to be the "mopey mope" We tried to never get frustrated with the kids when they got cranky because we knew in an hour it could be us too. Caroline did her best to cheer her up.

I had done some research on the painter before our travels and was really excited to see so many of his original works in one room. Sally Jane just kept asking where the picture of him with the bandage was. It is not in the museum so we kept trying to fake her out to keep her happy. Taking three little kids to a museum after spending an hour in the rain to get tickets is tough, but trying to enjoy the museum with three little wet kids is impossible. Jeff and I would have loved to have had a pair of headphones and walked around hearing about each print but that was not an option. I doubt that we spent more than an hour there but we are in our own kind of survival mode when we travel and feel lucky to even be here and see what we can. It sure does make me want to come back to all these places with Jeff some day.

My favorite prints were the open faced bible, the one he painted of his passed friends garden and the room of the yellow house. I actually got teary seeing it – as an emotional gal this does not ever really surprise me. I think it is my bodies way of making me pause for a minute and really think about something. Annie Kate walked over to me and said “are you crying” I don’t know if she thought it was because of the painting or because I was holding Sally Jane and she was screaming that she wanted to get out of there.

Before we left the museum we could send a video card to two friends. We sent it to our neighbors back home. We asked the girls to tell them where we were thinking they would say - at the vanGogh museum in Amsterdam and what do they say???

in case you can't hear Caroline says "in deep doo doo"

Part 2 of Amsterdam to come.

A little Amsterdam trivia
you deserve it if you read all of this!

Amsterdam has over 1 million bikes but only 700.000 Amsterdammers

When you land at Schiphol Airport, you are actually four meters below sea level.

The Netherlands has more than 4,000 km of navigable rivers, lakes and canals.

The name Amsterdam comes from the combination of the river Amstel and the Dam that was built on it in order to found the original village know today as Amsterdam.
You might know the name Amstel as the name of a beer which was also named after the river because it was brews locally.
Amsterdam boasts more museums of any city in the world, measured per square meters.
With over 70 major well know museums in Netherlands of which over 40 are in Amsterdam.

The Dutch people are the tallest in all Europe and second tallest inthe world.(and the best looking)

Holland and the Netherlands are the same country.

A quarter of the Netherlands is below sea level.


Lauralee said...

that front door is really strange! the stairs would have been hard on my feet too! (sz 11)

bummer about the couch! what a fun time!

Nora from Chicago said...

You're right! That is exactly what I was thinking! A perfect St. Patrick's Day card for bicycling friends. Thank you for sharing thoughts of your trip with us. I love that you are creating such wonderful memories for your girls.

Jill said...

Wow, that apartment is so unique and oh so European. It's hilarious/disturbing to think that Sally Jane peed on the new couch. I guess you guys like to leave a bit of yourselves wherever you go!

I think it's great that you guys went to the Van Gogh museum even though it meant standing in the rain for an hour. Hopefully Annie Kate will have good memories of that day. I also think it was wise that you and Jeff were so patient with the kids. I don't think I would have been.

I had no idea there were so many museums or bikes in Amsterdam!

tootie said...

I loved seeing your pictures! My parents and I went to Amsterdam when I was a kid, and this brought back great memories. (Although our hotel wasn't as nice as your apartment!)

michelle said...

Great post! I loved seeing all the pictures of the apartment you stayed in. And I loved how real it all was -- someone is always unhappy, you and Jeff try to be patient because you know it could be you next, just making the best of it all, etc. I also loved the idea of getting teary being your body's way of making you stop and think.

I definitely think that traveling with children is all about pushing through and enjoying and documenting what you can. It's almost more enjoyable to look back on it afterwards!

Mindy said...

WE are loving these posts, Kristi!! Keep 'em coming!!!

Leigh said...

I loved this interesting since I JUST finished reading the part of John Adams' biography where he was living in Amsterdam. Your apartment was built only a few years after the time he was there! So crazy!

I love your attitude about traveling and dealing with cranky kiddos!

Carrie said...

Great post! Keep them coming! I am loving reading all about your trip and it is making me anxious for our next European adventure (Spring 2010). We attempted to visit the Louvre with a 15 month old, so I can sympathize with your museum experience! Thanks for all the great facts about Amsterdam too.

elshmobelsh said...

yay!!! Reading this made me so homesick. I can smell it and hear it just from your pics. I'm so glad you enjoyed your time there- ditto with enjoying museums with kids.:) And I wish I could boast to be as tall and as good looking as my heritage! You compliment them so much!

My name is Andrea said...

Loved this post and very jealous...and I have to agree with you about Dutch people being tall and good looking! My husband is Dutch and all of his family is still there except for his immediate family!! They are in Rotterdam and I would love to take my children there someday! Thanks for sharing!

Holly said...

I must go back and stare at your door/floor thing and try to figure that out. :) I will say those steps are the steepest I've seen and would certainly give my pause!

I'd LOVE to visit, well all of Europe someday, but Amsterdam after reading Corrie Ten Boom's story The Hiding Place.

Love the bikes and the bird's eye view--stunning.

I love your roll with it personality!!