I’ve been meaning to get around and post pictures of our Europe trip; but with Thanksgiving and jet lag and other things, I’m barely getting to it now. Europe was absolutely wonderful; and we only saw a bit of it. It really gave me a thirst to explore it more. The weather was very different than the Southern California weather we are used to. It was a feat to dress in all the layers but it was so worth not standing in lines and and walking in crowds.
Declan did amazing. He was better than the adults! I’ll save tips and such for traveling with a toddler for another post.
To sum up, our trip was 16 days. The countries we visited were The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany. We flew in and out of Amsterdam and had a Eurail pass to travel to the other countries. The only downside of our trip was the attacks in Paris; but it didn’t effect our traveling plans. We were out of Belgium before they closed that border and our soccer match in Amsterdam wasn’t cancelled. Everyone was just on high alert, but everything continued as normal.
I’ll start with our photos of Amsterdam. We were there at the beginning and at the end of the trip for a total of 8 days. Before we went I had 3 random people tell me that Amsterdam was like Disneyland but for adults. Let me just say that I now totally know what they mean and could not agree more. There was so much to do there that we barely scratched the surface. I definitely want to go back and explore that magical city more. From the bicycle culture to the cafes and people; everything was wonderful.
The major attractions we visited were the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, Anne Frank House, Waterlooplein Flea Market, a tour of the canals, the Red Light District (I just had to take a peek!), a walk through Vondelpark and some more. A big plus was a special Edvard Munch exhibition at the Van Gogh Museum – so I had the opportunity to see The Scream! We also attended an Ajax soccer game at the Amsterdam Arena – a bucket list item for the hubby.
The only picture at the Anne Frank House that I took before being scolded.
Two notable favorite things in Amsterdam (actually in Belgium also): they serve all types of coffee drinks in bars and they make fresh squeezed orange juice just about everywhere you eat. And it comes with your coffee standard. I loved that.
Some Dutch food favorites were all their baked goods, Dutch apple pancakes, Dutch sandwiches, Dutch cheese (SO good), and oliebols (Dutch doughnuts). We tried Indonesian food in Amsterdam since there a lot of Indonesian immigrants there – very good food. Waffles and fries are a big thing in Amsterdam and Belgium. Try them whenever you see them – they’re all good. Especially the different ketchup and mayonnaise sauces.
At just about every corner in Amsterdam you’ll find cafes and bars and bar/cafes. We never went to a bad one. One of my favorites was Cafe Hoppe – founded in 1670; Mr. Heineken himself was a regular there.
Where we stayed:
- Hotel Hegra – I highly recommend this little hotel. It was perfectly central in the 9 Streets district, it was affordable and the owners are really nice. They even let us leave our luggage there before our check-in time.
- Airbnb Apartment – this apartment was very large and nice. It was a little out of the central area so we had to ride in by the tram but the tram station was just a 3 minute walk from the apartment. If trying to save money in hotel/apartment, don’t hesitate to stay a little outside of the central area; the Amsterdam public transportation system is awesome and everything is 10-15 minutes away.
- We used the tram to get around, if not walked. Everything was pretty much walking distance, but the tram is really efficient. There’s an employee in each tram in a little booth that you can purchase a pass from. We did a 48 hour pass for only $12 (euro). We also had the 72 hour I am Amsterdam card for the first 3 days we were there – that works for the tram as well. Kids under 11, I believe, are free in public transportation.
- Eurail Pass – we purchased the Benelux + Germany pass. Actually, that’s how I picked the countries we visited – because of the Eurail pass regional passes. The Benelux pass includes Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg then you can choose to add either Germany or France. We opted for Germany and I’m glad because of the terrorist attacks. Kids under I think 11-years-old travel for free with the Eurail pass; which was a big money saver.
- Train – we only bought individual train tickets to get from the Schipol airport to the Centraal Station and to get to the airport when we were leaving. Those were only about $5 (euro).
Declan looking out the window on the tram.
- Make sure to always have some cash. We went to a lot of bars and cafes that were cash only.
- Watch out for the bikes and scooters! They own the roads. Their lane looks like a sidewalk throughout most of the city so be careful.
- Tipping isn’t standard. If you decide to tip – tip no more than 10%.
- Don’t shy from the grocery stores – they have really affordable and good (organic) food and snacks. I would go every time I had a chance (like a nerd, I know). I even brought some food back with me as souvenirs. Also, they don’t have plastic/paper bags as an option so be prepared to buy one at checkout if you don’t have one. And their checkout lanes are divided by payment type, so read the signs.
- I had previously read that it’s considered rude in Dutch culture to ask what someone does for a living – it’s true. They don’t ask, so don’t ask yourself.
- “Cafes” and “Coffeeshops” are different. Make sure to read the sign of the shop clearly haha.