The Viatorian’s always like to take pit-stops whenever we are travelling a long distance in order to see something “extra” on the way to our destination. The first time I went to London was on the way to India and Iceland was on the way to London. This time Amsterdam was on the way from Canada to Muscat.
Per usual I managed to find a airBnB house in north Amsterdam for a reasonable price. The house was a great space however the windows lacked screens, and we needed to open the windows to cool the house as the temperature was as high as it gets for Amsterdam. All the beds had bug nets which helped at night but we spent a lot of time hunting and killing mosquitoes during the day. That aside, the house was in a great location and had all the room we needed compared to a more expensive an apartment that we could rent in the core of Amsterdam. Also on the plus side was that we got to take a ferry every time we headed to the core crowding in with mainly locals on bikes, scooters and on foot.
Whenever we would cross from downtown to the North side Amsterdam seemed to change from a busy urban area to a small town. Only a few buildings exceeded two stories and the streets and sidewalks were dead. We could relax and take our time as we walked from our bus stop to the house. The park across the street had great walking paths and also borders a canal on which many boats were moored, some were transient but most were not. Many of them were restored barges which are unique in their design; very “bargey” with round bows and lots of beam for their length. Some were full time live aboard boats as evidenced by the amount of stuff that had found permanent residence on the shore.
We were all pretty tired when we landed so we spent the first few days in the neighborhood and house including going swimming in the pool across the street from our house. The pool was packed, the water cold and the line for the slide took forever all while you were cold from the water and the wind was blowing. Only James, Ethan and I went in the water while Leah and Matty got wet up to their knees and ankles respectively.
I am not sure if we saved any money but we bought Amsterdam Passes which we used for most of the attractions we visited. The best part of buying the passes was setting up a scavenger hunt for the Rowlands so that they could use them a week after we left Amsterdam; which rock should I put these under?
A staple for tourists is the Amsterdam canal tour which was interesting but very impersonal as everyone had headphones to listen to the pre-recorded tour in their language (you can pick one of 6 languages). In retrospect, we should have taken the small boat tour which is a little more money but is one on one with a guide. We sat on the back deck in the sun and it was lovely – I had a nap after taking a few pictures. We later took the ferry again for a second trip around the city instead of the bus or tram so I got to catch up on what we missed.
Our passes also got us access to the Rijksmuseum, Resistance museum, Heineken Experience and Maritime Museum. We didn’t go to the Nemo Children’s Museum but the lobby and roof are amazing… maybe next time. The museums were were excellent and we had a great time – the resistance museum was especially good as they have a dedicated children’s wing with bedrooms of children who collaborate, resist, adapt and hide. Heineken was okay but we would have preferred a tour guide for a few more tidbits of information, thankfully our passes got us to the front of a hours long line so we weren’t that disappointed. Good times. At the Maritime Museum we got kicked out as it was so interesting, the lunch a delicious and welcome respite and the exhibits extremely well done. At the Rijksmuseum I wanted to see the plane from WWI but we took a wrong turn and ended up in the modern art wing which included items like the vulva sofa (sorry in advance for you brave clickers ;). We later found the airplane.
One day we head to Zaanse Schans for windmills, klumpen, cheese (new cheese knife) and by surprise a working sailing ship!
Some impressions of Amsterdam…
To me, it is clear that the downtown core at street level is primarily setup for tourists. Whatever business that occurs in the downtown is behind the scenes. Our house was across the river from the Train Station which anchors most of the tourist zone, so we got to see a little more about how the locals live. Our neighborhood (Noorderpark) was quiet and had everything within walking or biking distance (including Domino’s Pizza). The people around us were helpful, understanding of our non-existent Dutch and eager to interact with us, especially the boys and even with a language barrier. We walked to Domino’s our first evening and wanted to order pizza, but if you ordered online you could get a free pizza. One customer kindly placed our order for us on their phone and then spent a few minutes chatting until her order came up – which she balanced on her bike and took home – wearing high heel shoes and an all white pant suit.
Amsterdam was a great stop on the way home from Canada, we saw some unique things though the next time we go to the Netherlands I think we will travel around the country a bit more.