Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Amsterdam - Surprisingly Kid Friendly

In my last post you heard about our time with The Travelling Shus. They were just one part of what made Amsterdam so much fun for us. The fact is, Amsterdam is really fantastic. Though it's infamous for it's red light district and relaxed drug laws, there are a lot of family-friendly activities, and it's mostly easy to avoid the notorious bits.

I say mostly easy because the red light district has creeped out into the mainstream. Fortunately for us, kids see what they know. When Eamon saw the woman hanging out in her window spot wearing her bra he was firstly glad she wasn't naked. Then he began to wonder why she was in her bathing suit. His train of thought ended by announcing there must be a swimming pool in her building somewhere. How lucky is she.

When we passed by the bondage shop with a partially-clad male mannequin, Eamon thought the thing covering the mannequin's penis was quite interesting. He did express some concern about the tiny bit of leather holding the thing up, because you sure wouldn't want that falling off.

Meaghan never heard Eamon's comments, and she remained quite expressionless and quiet. I'm going to continue to think it's because she didn't notice anything amiss.

But, as for the rest of Amsterdam, it did not disappoint.

The Art

We visited two art museums: the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum.

For the Rijksmuseum we booked a tour. It was pricey, but we thought it would be a good way to get through some of the museum while maintaining the kids' interest. We were all a bit disappointed in the tour, though everything we heard about the Night Watch made the visit enjoyable. The kids soaked up everything the guide said about the painting and in the few weeks since our visit, I've heard both of the kids mention different bits about what the guide said about the Night Watch.

The Van Gogh Museum was so kid-friendly. They had a scavenger hunt (Eamon's choice activity) where you had to follow the clues to find certain paintings. He was all over it, and seemed to actually enjoy looking for the paintings.

The other option was Vincent's Suitcase (Meaghan's choice). You get a suitcase full of activities that relate to art appreciation, the use of colour, thinking about why you like a certain painting and then articulating why, etc. It didn't get Meaghan looking as closely as Eamon did to as many paintings, but she did spend time looking at the art and deciding what she liked and then talking about why she liked it.

Meaghan with Vincent's Suitcase

I'm happy to say that both kids left the museum with a favourite painting or two.

The Second World War

We decided to visit the Anne Frank House while Meaghan was reading Anne's diary. The museum complex has grown since I was first there in 1989, and the number of visitors is crazy. But it was worth the stop, and the wait. It still astounds me that two families lived in such secrecy in such a tight space for so long. It's one thing to imagine the tight quarters. It's quite another to cram into it with dozens of other tourists.

Meaghan with Anne Frank

There were also some good displays beyond the rooms about Anne, the diary, and the deportation of the Jews.

However, probably the best museum we've seen this year is The Dutch Resistance Museum. There's a special area for kids that was so terrific and easy to spend a lot of time in, that we never did see much of the main part of the museum.

The kids area focuses on four real children during the war: the resister, the collaborator, the adapter, and the Jew. There is a little house for each kid's family with a bunch of interactive displays in each one. We saw the spy and code-breaking tools in the resister's house, the hiding spot for the Jewish family, all the cool war bits and bobs the adapter had picked up and collected, and the propaganda from the house of the collaborator. We learned how each child was affected during the war, and what life held for each of them after war.

Each of the four is still alive today and the exhibit ended with videos of them reflecting on the war, it's impact, and lessons learned.

Eamon enjoyed it, but Meaghan soaked up every little thing she could. She was utterly transfixed by it all. She went into every little house, played most of the interactive games, read most of the exhibits and thoroughly enjoyed it all. She was most taken with the collaborator who saw the end of the war as something sad and who never celebrates the Dutch liberation because for her, there's nothing to celebrate. Her message was most powerful and was a warning to not blindly follow leaders.

The Food

The food wasn't the healthiest, but it sure was delicious.

Just one bit of goodness.

The stroopwafels were a favourite of the kids. They are cookies with a waffle top and bottom and sugary syrup in the middle. So sweet. Apparently at markets they make them fresh by slicing a waffle in half and adding the syrup. While it would have been great to find these fresh things, I'm not certain our systems could have handled even more sugar!

Four yummy stroopwafels.

But by far the best, twice fried fries with mayonnaise that is spectacular. I'm definitely going to start making my own mayonnaise; so much better than store bought.

The kid that's not a big fan of fries.

The Bikes

Yes, there are a lot.

The House

We found a house in North Amsterdam that had a small playground across the street. And it was a quiet street so the kids could just head on out and play! And there were other kids!! I don't think any further explanation of the awesomeness of this is needed.

The view from our living room window.

The house was also very close to a bus that took us to Centraal Station, but even better, there was a wonderful walk to the free ferry that took us to Centraal Station. The ferry runs nonstop back and forth from Centraal Station. It's for pedestrians, cyclists, and the wee cars intended for handicapped drivers (the red car below). Such a fantastic service!

The ferry with pedestrians, cyclists, and wee cars.

And I have to mention the house itself. Ever watched House Hunters International? Every time they have a house in the Netherlands, the couple complains/comments upon the steep staircase. We had two of them!! They were space saving wonders. By the end of our five days, they barely seemed steep at all.

Stairs to the attic room.

The Trams

The trams are fun and make it so easy to get around. They run fairly frequently, and you just hop on right from the street. There are also buses which we used to get home, but frankly, the trams are more fun. A day pass for the trams and buses for adults is €7.50, but for kids it's only €2.50. The only problem is that you can't buy the kids' passes at machines, you need to find a ticket seller. Fortunately, it's easy to find one at Centraal Station.

The Return

Everyone had a great time and we were all disappointed we didn't stay longer. I have no doubt that many of our fond memories are thanks to Brian and Erica, The Travelling Shus. Two days of seeing other people giving us different things to talk about was a good break for us from us.

But whatever it was, we all left Amsterdam wishing we could have stayed longer, and hoping to return someday.

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