Scott and Allie had been planning a family trip to Europe for months, with the first portion spanning about five days in Amsterdam. Allie mentioned this to me before Brendan and I moved to Sarajevo and casually asked if I’d like to join them for a few days. Um, let me think. YES.
The timing was perfect – I was in England visiting my friend Elise when they arrived, so after they settled in a bit, I flew over to crash their vacation.
We immediately hit the streets, walking up and down beautiful roads and alleys, wandering over and along the canals, and dodging cyclists who rule the road and mow down lollygagging, photo-taking pedestrians and/or their children without batting an eye. (I am not exaggerating – I watched cars, and even city trains, slam on breaks to give way to texting-while-riding cyclists, breezily blowing through stop signs and intersections without a care in the world. Or a helmet.)
This city has mastered “picturesque”. Every single street was adorable, and I unabashedly stopped every 20 feet to take a photo of almost every home and storefront.
Take the below, for example. What does it mean? Is it symbolic of the pouring out of ourselves into our neighborhoods and communities? Does it represent the selfless giving of our time, energy and resources to make our corners of the world a little bit better? Is it a pressure relief valve, ritualistically turned on every April to drain the building’s flooded attic from winter rain? I will never know.
That evening we embraced our tourist-ness and embarked on an adventure of a lifetime – the Heineken Experience. I had no expectations regarding this experience and was pleasantly surprised – the Heineken company has historically been importantly tied to Amsterdam’s history, from the city’s industrial economy at the turn of the 20th century to advocating workplace reform laws.
Also, they keep us supplied with beer throughout the tour. Two thumbs up.
Now, there is something weirdly contagious about jet lag. Scott and Allie had arrived a couple days earlier and both them and their kids were still adjusting to the time change. I, however, live in the same time zone as Amsterdam. For no reason and with zero excuses, my Monday was spent sleeping until almost 11am, like a champ. Everyone else was doing it too, and it was glorious.
Once we were all actually up, awake, caffeinated and chatting in complete sentences, Allie, the kids and I struck out for the day’s adventure: NEMO Science Museum.
For those of you familiar with OMSI in Portland, Oregon, it’s like that, but on steroids. Five floors of interactive engineering and scientific experiments for kids of all ages, including bubble machines, giant Lego sets, hydraulics, video games spanning entire walls, and an actual lab – complete with lab coats and goggles – to conduct chemistry experiments. Brayden and I tested whether water conducts electricity (only if you add salt), and Allie danced her heart out on Dance Dance Revolution. It was the perfect kid (and, clearly, adult) friendly experience and left us all feeling a bit smarter.
On Tuesday, after another morning of some kick-ass, sleep-in-ery, we made our way to Vondelpark. This place is amazing – a green barrage of jungle-gyms, cafes, ponds, rose gardens, kiddie pools, bike paths, and sports fields – we even found a tree house rivaling that of Swiss Family Robinson. We needed more time! But the next event beckoned – we had tickets for the Anne Frank House at 7pm and still needed to squeeze in dinner and wine beforehand.
Allie and the kids had studied Anne Frank before the trip and everyone was excited about the experience. I have to admit I was way more impacted by it than I anticipated, and I highly recommend it to anyone passing through Amsterdam.
The last morning was a whirlwind of packing, hugs and goodbyes. The trip was quick, but I loved getting to see my people! Thank you so much for letting me crash part of your family vacation, Roths. You make every experience super!
(My only regret? Not booking this for the week.)