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Trip Report A Little Report on Amsterdam

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Thanks to all who provided advice on our recent trip that included Amsterdam, and especially the transportation portions!

We (DH, 11yo DD and myself) visited Amsterdam two weeks ago, and had a great time, despite chilly (to us) weather and a bit of rain. We were there for three nights as part of a 10-day trip that also included Belgium and Paris. DH had visited previously, a LONG time ago; it was the first time for DD and me.

Short summary: a nice visit, I'd like to return, probably as part of a trip that included time in the Dutch countryside. Due to the time of year of our trip, a city-only vacation seemed the better decision - and based on the weather, it was the best way to go this time.

I was pleasantly surprised, partly because I’d heard that Amsterdam was a bit seedy and run-down, that we all found Amsterdam to be charming and beautiful. I loved the sturdy, prosperous brick buildings with the variety of roof outlines, particularly the step gables. The buildings reminded me of those we've seen in Newburyport, Massachusetts. The city was quiet, even with thousands of bicycles whizzing by. We spent very little time in the Red Light District or around ‘Dam Square, and a lot of time in the Jordaan areas and nearby; that probably influenced our impression of the city.

Our hotel, Hotel Aalders, Jan Luykenstraat 13-15, was in the museum area, which I found beautiful as well, and I loved its residential character. The local elementary school was down the street, and we got to see the parents biking their children to school.

Our focus on this trip was art museums, food and people-watching. Even though the Rijksmuseum is (still) undergoing extensive renovations, we spent over two hours viewing the highlights collection. I found the Golden Age portion of the exhibit very helpful in reminding DD of the international influence that Holland had during that time period. l love Vermeer, and the Rijksmuseum has four of them, though one is away being renovated.

The Van Gogh museum has been a trip destination goal for years, and we loved it. DD liked seeing Van Gogh's work, and life, in chronological order. It added a lot to her understanding and appreciation of him, and how any artist's work can change over time.

We also visited the Amstelkring, the Rembrandtuis and the Museum Willet-Holthuysen. We all like what we call “house museums.” Of the three, I think we enjoyed Rembrandt’s house the best, to see his etchings and one painting there on loan, but even more so, to see a fairly typical house of that time period. We didn’t make it to the Dutch Resistance Museum – guess we’ll have to return!

We did visit the Anne Frank house. DD had (despite my nagging) only read about 1/2 of Anne Frank’s diary, so I felt it was even more important for her to visit. The informative displays, I felt, were very good; I especially appreciated the quotes from Anne’s diary. DD didn’t say much about the experience, but sometimes those kinds of impressions on kids surface later.

Everything you’ve ever heard about the bicycles in Amsterdam is true – I’d warned DH and DD, but I guess they didn’t really believe me until they almost got run down several times in the first 10 minutes of walking around. We saw one collision between a car, a bike and a pedi-cab – nobody was hurt. I especially loved the bakfiets, a bike with a sort of cargo box between the handlebars and front wheels (google it), mostly used for transporting children.

I purchased tickets in advance, online, for the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum, which was very handy. There was no line at the Rijksmuseum, but a short-ish line at the Van Gogh Museum (right as they opened; I noticed the line was quite long as we left), but it was still helpful. We had also purchased tickets for the Anne Frank house ahead of time, and there was a long line for this, even in late October.

Everyone in Amsterdam that we spoke to did speak English, with very little accent. People seem to greet each other by saying "Hi" or "Hello," which kind of threw me, as I didn't know whether they were greeting me in English or Dutch, if that makes sense. Not all words on menus were translated, though, so I was glad I'd brought a little cheat sheet that I'd made up.

Next, a summary about our dining, drinking and snacking experiences...

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