Hello! Hope you're having a lovely spring.
The three of us just returned from a week in the Netherlands and I'm feeling homesick, yet again, for a home that isn't my own. My heart strings pull at that part of the world. How fantastic would it be to live over there? For a little while, at least.
For now, I'll fill my cup with the memories of our trip and settle in with them for awhile.
The husband and I love to travel (love being an understatement) and Crew always seems up for an adventure too. We took him to Stockholm, Sweden when he was about 18 months old (which my post for, I'm now realizing, is still in its draft form. I'm dying to share about all the coffee and cardamom buns we had while there, so next time perhaps?) I won't say that traveling with young children is easy, but often the most rewarding things aren't. To us, it was and continues to be vivid with memories, an opportunity for growth, and decidedly worth it.
Indeed, the 10 hour plane ride from Seattle to Amsterdam was as long as it sounds, and it would have been nice to chill out with back-to-back romantic comedies and a big glass of wine like the lady across the aisle. But then I wouldn't have the memory of Crew scribbling pictures and using stickers to tape them up all over the back of the seats in front of us like his own personal refrigerator art display. And yes, the 9 hour time change felt a little brutal when we were up for hours in the middle of the night with a little one ready to play. But we became quite good at finding just about all the coffee the city had to offer (and with that coffee came pastries! and cake!), rest when we needed it, and thrive on the adrenaline of being in a new and exciting city across the world.
It wasn't always as simple as perhaps I'm making it sound, but particularly as time goes on, we tend to remember more of what made it joyful and less of what made it hard. We kept our expectations in flux and adjusted when we needed to. The 2:1 parent to child ratio didn't hurt either - ha! Ask me again if we have another.
Our first afternoon there, just after arriving and settling into our flat on Willemsparkweg, the sun was out and so was all of Amsterdam it seemed. From our front window, just behind the sofa, we perched on our knees and watched as the patio of the brasserie across the street came alive. Small tables and chairs clanged about as they were dragged from inside and set up, some spread with tablecloths, others left to be. Guests sat facing the street, waving to friends as they pedaled by on bikes, carrying their children on seats just behind. Plates of pasta were twirled and oysters were slurped. Everyone was ordering rosé. The husband and I couldn't help but announce our thirst too as dozens of rosy pink bottles were dunked into coolers of ice. Crew could sit in the sill of his bedroom window and watch from there too.
In no time, we were gathering our shoes and coats and walking over to get in on one of those bottles of rosé. We set to work curing our jet lag with croque madames slathered with grainy mustard and glorious, GLORIOUS! salty frites.
We've found that staying in the neighborhoods of a city and outside the hustle and bustle can be one of the best way to get to know it. We were charmed by the butcher down the road, who handed Crew a slice of bologna when we stopped in to pick up some charcuterie for dinner. We watched where the locals got their coffee in the morning and a drink or two after work. And, perhaps best of all, we set out to get a little lost, exploring the quiet side streets that bumped into cobblestone alleys, each one a vision of white-silled windows, potted plants, and bicycles waiting for their next ride.
Our week was spent doing all the things we've always dreamed of doing in Amsterdam in the springtime - marveling at the flowers that overwhelmed the city, taking in their heady scent and picking out our favorites; a bicycle ride in the park, Crew buckled just behind the handlebars and delighted over the bell he had the good fortune to ring repeatedly; a boat tour through the canals, waving to people on the bridges above as we passed by.
We stopped into café after café for the things Europe does best: slices of carrot cake topped with fresh whipped cream, croissants laden with soft buttery layers and blissful flaky bits, muffins studded with crunchy little poppy seeds that wedged their way into the cracks of our teeth, and sticky stroopwafel cookies stuffed with syrupy caramel that oozed onto our fingertips with each bite.
Just before we left, we dashed off to the farmers market on Noordermarkt, steadfast to squeeze it in before catching our ride to the airport (albeit making the husband a bit feisty with his watch checking). European markets leave me in rapture, and this one was no exception.
Stand after stand boasted cheeses from Holland and Belgium, packaged in wheels and stacked on top of each other like thick layers of cake. There were fresh eggs and fish, dense brown breads baked with seeds and yeasty sourdough ones too. There were little slices of tea cake wrapped in parchment paper and tied with twine, spices and herbs and honey spooned into jars, mushrooms in wicker baskets, and fresh frites in paper cones. I lingered over a collection of handmade journals and picked one out with a mustardy cover and leather tie to take along home.
I used to think that such trips would satiate me. Surely after this trip, I can stay put for awhile. Oh, but it only gets more fierce. Each trip leaves me eager, grateful to have had a glimpse of another way of life, refreshed with new ideas about this world and inspired to see more.
Here, a little guide to Amsterdam.
Hotel Pulitzer / A boutique hotel with 25 unique and restored canal houses built in the 17th and 18th centuries, this place was an absolute gem. We spent two nights here at the end of our trip. Find it in the Jordan neighborhood, a more bustling part of town, with the charm of The Nine Streets all around.
to eat + drink
BUFFET van Odette / So, so lovely! This was likely our favorite spot in Amsterdam. We sat at the bar for a lunch of baked eggs and salad and the best roasted vegetables while Crew slept off some jetlag on the husband's back. To his delight, he woke up just in time for a slice of carrot cake with fresh whipped cream.
Ree7 / The perfect little spot for breakfast or lunch. I couldn't help but dash across the street from our hotel and grab one last piece of their carrot cake piled high with cream cheese frosting for the plane ride back home. More carrot cake? Yes! It was everywhere during our visit.
Jansz / If you're looking for a nicer spot for dinner, but nothing too fancy, this is a good one. Their vegetable salad was out of the ordinary and exquisite.
Cottoncake / A little café + store in one spot. I loved the look and design here - minimalistic and white everything. We sat upstairs in the loft for breakfast, having simple things like toast and yogurt and swooned over their freshly baked tea cakes.
Berry / A cute little café in the Old West neighborhood. We popped in here to warm up with mugs of coffee and hot toast on a rainy afternoon.
Lotti's at The Hoxton / A buzzy spot with a roof that opens up into the courtyard of a stylish, laid-back hotel.
George W.P.A. / A brasserie just across the street from our flat. See above for more about this favorite of ours, but do be sure to get a croque madame, some salty frites, and a good bottle of rosé to wash it all down.
Lot Sixty One Coffee Roasters / Excellent coffee. And, the best cookies in town.
Bocca / A beautiful tasting room + coffee bar in an unassuming garage on a quiet street. If you're a speciality coffee lover, this one is not to miss! Spend a good amount of time here, trying several types of beans and different brewing methods. Oh, and prepare to leave a bit jittery.
Back to Black / Coffee bar + roastery perched on a charming corner spot. We got cortados and croissants to go and sat on the stoop out front, watching the boats on the canal go by.
Vanroselen / Pop in here for some fine handmade chocolates, best eaten just after leaving because who can wait longer than that?
The Nine Streets / "De negen straatjes" are among Amsterdam's most-loved places to linger. Located in the quaint and picturesque canal district, these streets are filled with boutique shops, galleries, cozy cafés, and funky independent stores.
Canal Belt / Built around the city center in the 17th century during the Dutch Golden Age, the architecture and charm of the canal houses along the grachten (canals) are a delight. The three main canals - Herengracht, Prinsengracht, and Keizersgracht - form concentric belts around the city, known as the Grachtengordel. During our visit, perhaps what we enjoyed the very most was walking along the canals and finding little side streets to veer off to, marveling at the houses, shops, and charming cafés. We took a boat ride with a local guide too, which of course, Crew loved.
Vondelpark / The largest city park in Amsterdam. We spent quite a bit of time here, seeing as it was just a block away from the flat where we stayed for most our trip. Rent bicycles from a shop nearby (there are quite a few) and take a leisurely ride through the park. Or have a nice walk and pack a picnic lunch.
Noordermarkt / A Saturday morning farmers market, lively with vendors selling all sorts of goods - from fresh bread, cheeses, and frites sold in a paper cone to vintage clothing and handmade crafts.
Bloemenmarkt / The only floating flower market in the world, which has been around since 1862. Flower stalls are set up on houseboats, reminiscent of a time when the market was supplied daily by boat.
Keukenhof Gardens / The world's largest garden, open from late-March through mid-May and located about an hour outside Amsterdam. This was definitely the most "touristy" thing we did, but I have to say, it was stunning.
Gathershop / Positively dreamy. My favorite shop in Amsterdam, I'm certain. I'd take one of everything home if I could.
Wildernis / An urban plant + garden store. They hold workshops too!
AP Bloem / The cutest little flower shop. We stopped in one afternoon to buy a bouquet of tiny pink roses for our flat.
Cottoncake / See "to eat + drink" above since this one is also good for a visit to its charming café.
De Weldaad / A haven for antiques, furniture, and items to decorate your home. Stop into the Noordermarkt location after visiting the farmer's market on Saturday morning.