Amsterdam, Netherlands

It might be because I'm writing this post AFTER we have moved from London, but looking at these pictures and remembering our time in Amsterdam is making me feel all sorts of happy and sad.  Happy that we got to visit such a gorgeous and unique place, and sad that I can't just jump on a train and go there.  Either way, Amsterdam was a slow start and then by the end of our few days there, we absolutely loved this amazing place.  One of my favorite things about each European city we got to visit was the architecture that was unique to each place, and these Amsterdam homes and buildings sort of blew my mind with their design.  Plus, the fact that they were all built on a canal with a pretty interesting history just added to their appeal.  See below for some awesome evidence.

With 60 miles of canals, 90 islands and 1,200 bridges, there are endless things to see and do.  After riding the Eurostar from London to Brussels and then hopping on a Thalys train to Amsterdam, we then walked to our hotel (everything in the city is easy walking, or even easier public transit).  We spent most of our time in the most popular canals, the Prinsengracht (where our hotel was), Herengracht, and Keizersgracht because these areas were so gorgeous. Lined with cafes, coffee shops, and cute shops and, of course, lots of houseboats, motor boats, homes, and thousands of bikes chained to the bridges, the canals provide unending eye candy.  We also spent a considerable amount of time letting the kids play at the local playgrounds while we relaxed.  The weather was gorgeous, so whatever we ended up doing, we did it outside! 

We spent most of Saturday, our first full day, walking along the canals and exploring as much as possible.  We snuck a few good meals in too, that is if stroopwafels constitute a meal? :)  We walked into a Tulip museum followed by a cheese museum, where we all tried some pizza flavored cheese (there were tons of flavors!).  Brian and I let the girls play for hours while we planned out our next couple of days here.

Pictured above: The Famous "I amsterdam" sign in front of the Rijks Museum.  

On Sunday, we were able to find a meetinghouse for our church right in Amsterdam (well, about a 15 minute drive away) and really loved the meeting.  As always, we loved hearing everything in Dutch, while occasionally tuning into the translation headphones.  After church, we had to scramble back to the city center to catch a boat tour- which I cannot recommend highly enough.  We loved it.  It was 2 hours long, and even though we were all moving on empty stomachs, it was interesting enough to make us forget about our missed lunch.  We were able to see so much of the canals from this new vantage point, and the gorgeous weather didn't hurt either. We learned some really interesting tidbits, like how the Dutch used to be taxed according to how many windows or steps they had on their home, so in order to exhibit wealth, many homes were outfitted with many more windows and an abundance of steps leading up to them.  Crazy! 

From our boat ride, we literally had to RUN to get to our scheduled bike tour.  But, a trip to Amsterdam isn't complete until you've ridden bikes there and that wasn't going to happen without some local knowledge and supervision, so off we went!  We saw a lot of the same things that we had just been to on our boat ride, so we tried our best to enjoy just riding around in this gorgeous place (and ignore our seriously rumbling tummies!).  Our kids were such troopers to go this long without food- I don't think we even ate anything until 7 PM that day.  And, we were all so much nicer after we ate.  ;)

Because the weather was so nice, there were TONS of boats out this day.  

 On our last day, Brian really wanted to take the girls to see one of his favorite painters and paintings, "The Night Watch" by Rembrandt, which was in the Rijks Museum.  The Rijks is pretty amazing...its gorgeous interior and thoughtful planning were obvious, especially when it came to their famous works.  Each one was accompanied by big information sheets that pointed out significant facts about the art, which I loved to read.  The girls totally loved learning about Rembrandt's famous and massive painting (below) and each said that this was their favorite part of the day.

On our last day, Brian really wanted to take the girls to see one of his favorite painters and paintings, "The Night Watch" by Rembrandt, which was in the Rijks Museum.  The Rijks is pretty amazing...its gorgeous interior and thoughtful planning were obvious, especially when it came to their famous works.  Each one was accompanied by big information sheets that pointed out significant facts about the art, which I loved to read.  The girls totally loved learning about Rembrandt's famous and massive painting (below) and each said that this was their favorite part of the day.

Our friends from London, the Larsons, recommended we stop and get their favorite cookies while we were in Amsterdam.  And I'm never one to turn down a cookie...so we made sure that we made it over to Van Stapele Koekmakerij- which was pretty much the cutest and most fancy cookie shop I've ever seen- and ordered up enough to make up for the lack of food the day before.  Tessa thoroughly enjoyed hers, as you can see...

I don't know if I'll ever get over how gorgeous these homes are.  The best part was at night when the owners would turn on their lights and you could see right into their stunning living spaces.  In an effort to symbolize how tolerant and open their city is, most homeowners don't have window treatments, so that you can see right inside at night.  Seriously gorgeous stuff.  

Lauren is obsessed with gymnastics lately.  She wants to move to Ohio so she can train at the same gym that Gabby Douglas trains at. There are not a lot of moments when she's not jumping around or doing flips all over the place.  

We did a lot of this...people and boat watching.  

Kate and I were able to get away one night and see the Anne Frank Museum as well.  During WWII, Anne, her family, and 4 other people hid in rooms at the rear of this canal house in a secret annex, to avoid Nazi persecution.  The home, which was built in 1635, was able to escape demolition due to the brave story of Anne Frank and her famous diary.  Its a sacred place and an incredibly touching museum that perfectly tells the tale of the courage of Anne, her family, and the people who hid them.  Definitely a must-see.

Amsterdam was full of so many good things- it was a totally unique city and we loved that we were able to see it!