The third day of our stay in Amsterdam also happened to by mine and Ryan’s 10 year wedding anniversary! What better way to spend your wedding anniversary than to look at hundreds of varieties of tulips. Ok, I can think of a few things but we’re in freakin Amsterdam in spring! Whether you’re a flower aficionado or not, the flower scene here is on point. We booked tickets to visit Keukenhof garden which is a 20 minute bus ride into the countryside. Keukenhof is only open two months out of the year so when I learned that we would be visiting Amsterdam during prime tulip season, it seemed like a destination that was a required visit.
People who have visited Keukenhof told me how beautiful the garden is but it’s super hard to arrive when all the flowers are in bloom and in fact our visit probably wasn’t as stellar as it could have been. From what I heard, it had just been too cold for the flowers to fully open up so we didn’t see the vibrant fields that we saw so many pictures of. Instead, we walked around the gardens and jumped into various buildings when the rain picked up.
The main reason to visit Keukenhof is to visit their giant greenhouse that is home to more than 800 varieties of tulips. It’s quite an impressive sight to see rows upon rows of big, bright colorful flowers. When you could make it past the hoards of people taking selfies in front of various flowers, you could take a closer look and see the vast range of flowers showcased. I had the chance to take some time and really look at the flowers while Miles once again needed another bathroom stop.
When we returned back to Amsterdam from our morning of flowerpalooza, we decided we needed to butch things up a bit so we headed to a brewery that just happened to be right across from our apartment. Brouwerij ‘t IJ is a small brewery located next to the De Gooyer windmill which just so happens to be the tallest windmill in the Netherlands. See, my posts can be educational!
The brewery is very popular amongst locals and it’s obvious when you approach the brewery and find the sea of patrons on the front patio surrounded by the rows and rows of bicycles. We found what made us feel the most like tourists was our desire to always sit indoors. We were always able to find a seat indoors because majority of the city’s residents preferred to sit outdoors. Our thin California blood is much too delicate to endure the Amsterdam weather conditions for long periods of time.
The beers were great and surprisingly cheap–$4 for a pint! A girl could really get used to those prices. The general consensus was the Tripel was hands down our favorite.
After we finished our tasting paddle and a few pints of our favorite selections, we headed to De Biertuin based on a recommendation given to us by one of our waiters who observed how much we loved beer (are we that obvious?). De Biertuin is a beer garden tucked away from the vast hoards of tourists. Upon entering, you’re greeted by menus strictly in Dutch which immediately told me that this is indeed a locals only spot. No problem for us because I can faintly decipher beer on the menu and a couple other food items and know we’ll be just fine. We attempted to order food only to be told that the kitchen wouldn’t reopen for dinner for another hour but there were a few munchies that could be ordered while we waited. We settled on the mucho grande nachos and a whole roasted chicken. Yes, those items are considered snack items.
After we were adequatly intoxicated and our bellies were full with nachos and roasted birds, we headed back to our apartment. We took a couple hours to rest our feet and heads. Ok, the adults needed to process some liquor so after we rested our heads for a bit, we decided to take another stroll around our neighborhood to see what was life in Amsterdam really like for those that call this beautiful little city home.
The most surprising discovery during our walk around the neighborhood was how quiet and peaceful everything was. In fact, it took us a few blocks to realize the loudest person we could hear by far was Miles. There was no loud traffic or dogs barking but instead the subtle sound of bikes rattling over potholes in the streets, children laughing from inside their homes and the faint sound of bike bells. One of my favorite moments was walking along a canal in a residential neighborhood and hearing a sound in the distance of a trumpet being played beautifully. As we walked further up the canal, we discovered an apartment window open and from inside, you could see the resident playing his trumpet. We sat for a couple minutes watching the ducks in the canal and listening to this sound drifting across the neighborhood. That is until Miles broke the silence with another request to visit a bathroom.
Our anniversary was one of a kind and will happily go down in the books as one of the best.
The following day, we planned to awake bright in early in an attempt to visit the Anne Frank House first thing in the morning. I had read how popular the museum was and after attempting and failing to obtain tickets online, I decided that our best chance of getting in and seeing the house would be to arrive at opening hours. We arrived 15 minutes before the museum opened to discover a healthy line running down the street and wrapping around the corner. Clearly other people had learned what a popular destination it was.
While we waited in line, we feasted on freshly baked stroopwaffels and coffee and the kids developed international relations by making friends with other children who found themselves in a line with no end in sight. We waited in line for an hour and a half, people watching and listening to the Westertoren bells that Anne mentioned several times in her diary.
The museum was really well done and thorough. I was fascinated with Anne Frank as a young girl and remember reading her diary and for the first time, being brought to tears by her words. It was an incredibly somber experience walking through the house and entering through the infamous bookcase that housed Anne and her family for 2 years. We walked through all the rooms, observing the pencil marks on the wall made by Anne’s dad, measuring Anne’s and her sister’s heights during their stay. We walked through Anne’s bedroom and observed all the pictures she had cut out and pasted to her walls. I gave the kids a brief synopsis beforehand on Anne’s life without going into too much detail. They had a general understanding and behaved themselves quite well in such a sad and quiet setting.
I’m not sure how much the kids took away from their visit to the Anne Frank House but hopefully one day when the topic is discussed in class, they will have a memory or a feeling to share with others.
From the Anne Frank House, we walked through the nine streets shopping district once again since the first time through was a soggy experience.
The nine streets shopping district is a neighborhood within Amsterdam consisting of nine streets that are filled with adorable little cafes and shopping boutiques. Without the rain, it seemed like a total different neighborhood. Alas, I wanted to buy everything but the problem with only bringing a carry-on is you leave yourself zero room for anything else. Instead I oohed and aahed at everything and dreamed of a shipping crate that would carry away all my amazing finds. Sadly, it was but a dream.
After a quick lunch, we walked to Vondelpark which is Amsterdam’s central park, for an afternoon of exploring and resting. Ryan was planning to leave for a bit to get his tattoo so Tim and I found a playground to let the kids run around for a bit.
One of the highlights of our trip and quite possibly a glimpse into a better life was discovering De Vondeltuin. As Tim and I were seated at a bench in the playground, I noticed a lot of the adults around me had some sort of beverage in their hand. At one point, I even saw a very pregnant woman, seated in the sandbox with a pint of beer in her hand and she was just drinking away. I looked closer and noticed people coming out of a gate with full bottles of beer and glasses of other magical concoctions. I needed to check this out. I entered De Vondeltuin which just happened to be a beer garden with a full bar AND a playground attached! WHERE HAS THIS PLACE BEEN ALL MY LIFE?! You can imagine the overwhelming joy I was feeling in that moment. Suddenly spending time at the playground didn’t sound so mundane.
With all the parents drinking, it was clear that most of the kids were on their own. Add to the matter that you have a play structure that is not at all safe around the edges like the playgrounds found here at home. There is no padded flooring under the structure nor is the structure made out of forgivable material. These are a bunch of 2x4s nailed together with a metal slide protruding from the top. I witnessed one kid on a tricycle with a lollipop hanging out of his mouth ride around and then proceed to fall. Sure, he may have choked on his lollipop a bit but that kid is a lot stronger now because of it. I assume.
Another problem I found when you mix alcohol at a playground is the possibility of your drink being knocked from your hands as we witnessed by a little hellion who was running amok, kicking his soccer ball as hard as possible in no clear direction. Sometimes he missed and sometimes he nailed people right in the face. I was terrified of the wee devil and safely protected my drink and myself behind Tim anytime he came into view. Other than that, a super awesome concept that I wish would get picked up here at home. I demand it!
From Vondelpark, we decided to eat pancakes for dinner because it’s something the Dutch offer that is really really good.
The kids settled on pancakes with strawberries and I decided to try poffertjes with lemon curd. If you’re not familiar with poffertjes, they are these delicious little pancake balls smeared in butter and powdered sugar. We didn’t realize the restaurant was closing shortly after we arrived because I’m sure only the tourists are the ones who patron a pancake house for dinner. I don’t care–I have a duty to sample each and every pancake in Amsterdam. THE PEOPLE NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE PANCAKES IN AMSTERDAM!
I’m happy to conclude that they were all delicious.
Next post: we leave Amsterdam on a high and travel to the loud and beautiful Copenhagen!