Amsterdam with the Grandsons

October 24 - 28 2016

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 How appropriate to stay in a houseboat on a canal in Amsterdam! The TGV train from Paris took us straight to Amsterdam in just three hours. We followed the directions and took a bus that stopped just a block away from our home for the next four nights. The houseboat was moored permanently on Singlegracht canal, about a 15 min walk to the center of town. It took no time at all for the boys to explore the boat and chose their room. There were 2 small bedrooms, one at either end of the boat, with the living area, kitchen in between. The one bathroom with shower was next to our bedroom. The boat was clean and comfortable for the 4 of us. We found the grocery store and bought food for breakfast and dinner that night, which we ate in the houseboat. I had borrowed Erica’s copy of Anne Frank’s Diary and read enough to have time on the train and the evening before visiting Anne’s house to give the boys the basics of why were visiting the house and why her family was hidden for several years before being discovered and sent to a concentration camp where all died except for Anne’s father. 

The next morning we walked to the Anne Frank house for which I had ordered tickets to visit at 10:30 AM. We found out everyone already in the long lineup had early time slots than we did. We were early, so we walked around the area ensuring that we arrived back no earlier than 15 minutes before our designated time. There was still a long lineup but it moved efficiently and we made our way inside. It was a bit crowded at first but we weren’t rushed, so we all had time to see as much as we wanted. They seemed to understand well and were not frightened about the story. The exhibit is in the exact rooms used by the family and included additional videos and displays promoting acceptance of people with different religions and ideas. 

Roman had requested that we go biking in Amsterdam. It was a nice day to go cycling as it was rapidly warming up in the afternoon after a cool start. Ray was concerned that the boys were not experienced enough to handle the bike traffic on the streets. He suggested we go to Vondelpark where there were lots of roads to ride safely. We headed to a bike rental shop right next to the park, stopping for lunch at an Italian restaurant on the way. It was still early and the restaurant looked somewhat upscale but they had pizza to satisfy the boys and pasta for Ray and me. The pizza was on a very thin crust and was proclaimed to be the best they had ever eaten. Our pasta was good too.  

The bike shop had bikes for each of us although the regular size was too big for Roman and the smaller one was a bit small. Regardless, he rode it well and everyone had a great time in the park. The park had three children’s play areas that were challenging enough to suit both of them.  Our first stop was at the southern end of the park, where the boys spied wooden structures with two long tubes protruding from one side. The boys parked the bikes and ran over to climb inside one wooden tower to get to the slide entrance. The first slide was taken a bit gingerly but they quickly adapted. Back on the bikes we approached a large open area with a water play area that was closed for the season, but had a collection of swings to try out. There were single swings, a double one and a big rubber ring with a net seating area that one or more could share. They did it all. As we were getting ready to leave on the bikes again, a local woman recommended another play area. We followed her instructions past a dog obedience class area and found several raised wooden structures, each connected by netted walkways or wooden ladders, in a wooded area. It was another hit. The excursion was such a hit that we went back for a second trip two days later, with equal success. 

The next day we walked to the Dam, where the Royal Palace, large churches, Madam Tussauds and other tourist delights were located. Roman was invited to a sleep-over on Halloween evening, the day we were to return to Paris and he wanted to get a mask for his costume. Halloween is not very popular in Holland and we didn’t pass any stores advertising costumes. Finally, I saw a toy store where we were directed to one area that still had a few masks. Roman had the choice of a monster mask or The Scream, from the painting by Edvard Munch. He chose the Scream and was thrilled. 

We were on our way to lunch on the Pannenkoekenboot. It was a tour boat that travels around the harbour, not the canals, and offers a buffet meal of all you can eat pancakes, just up the boys’ alley. We took a free ferry from behind the train station to the mooring place on the other side of the harbour. On board we were directed to a table for four next to the window. The boys didn’t pay much attention to the scenery, they concentrated on the pancakes. There was a choice of pancakes with bacon, or apples or plain. The toppings and syrups were mostly super sweet but I managed to eat 2. The boys were on their third pancake when it was announced that the ballroom (similar to IKEA) was open below deck. They had a grand time jumping into the pile and tossing balls at each other. 

When the tour was over, we took the ferry back to the train station and persuaded the boys to walk over NEMO, the science museum aimed at kids. It didn’t take much to get them involved. We made our way to the top floor and sampled as many of the interactive displays as possible. It was after 2 PM when we arrived and the museum closed at 5:30 PM. That seemed like plenty of time but we were almost the last to leave and we still hadn’t seen everything. We walked back to the station, missing the first bus stop but finally getting the right number to ride back to the boat. It did save another 1.5 km of walking. 

Our last day started a bit late so we got to the Van Gogh museum right when everyone else did. We had to line up for more than 20 minutes just to buy tickets, then line up again to go in, but there were no complaints from the boys. It was free admission for the boys and we intended to get kid-oriented audio guides for them. They had a family rate so we all got the guides. That was a good move. We all enjoyed the exhibits, especially with the extra commentary.  

I could have stayed even longer than the others but the boys were ready to go. They persuaded us it was time to rent bikes again and return to Vondelpark, which we did. They had an equally good time in the park but Atticus declared he was ready to try biking on the street bike paths next time. 

Read Bruges Oct 2016

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