With less than an hour in the air to Amsterdam, we decided to finally take Little London on his first little journey abroad. Really it was more about how we would cope travelling with a child more than anything. So with such a short flight distance we figured it would be pretty easy right?
Turns out we picked the worst days to go away with our Son. After having a prolonged period of not teething, his gums decided to flare up as three new teeth broke through the surface (and possibly molars that we can no longer see). On top of that, after attending his twin cousins’ Birthday party the week before he was also coming down with a horrific cold. His eyes were pussing the day before leaving, but on the morning we left he actually looked and seemed a lot better.
Turned out he wasn’t.
So what was a short hop across the water from London to Amsterdam turned into a fiasco of dealing with a tantruming child. We should have been sponsored by Ashton and Parsons and Calpol. Oh well at least we chose an early day time flight!
The whole trip was tainted with our Son really not feeling his best. The child that loves to run around and be free decided he only wanted to be in his pram and have his dummy at all times.
He refused most food, and we struggled to get him to drink. As for sleep it was almost like being in those newborn days again.
But not to be deterred, we continued and did our best as we took in the sights and sounds of Amsterdam.
If anything we learnt there could be no holiday with our Son that could ever be more challenging than the one we just had!
I suppose having a love affair with his stroller did mean we weren’t confined to just staying in. And actually it meant we could see as much of Amsterdam as we wanted, stopping off in-between to see if he needed a run around or trying to force him to eat again!
We enjoyed walking around the Jordaan area, hopping on one of the tour canal boats and making our way to the Rijksmuseum for a little bit of Van Gogh, Rembrandt and Vermeer for example.
Amsterdam itself is both child friendly and not so child friendly. With bicycles, trams, cars, mopeds all whizzing around, I’m glad in a way that Little London was happy to stay put in his stroller. If I had an older child I would be a bit apprehensive because it does seem pedestrians are bottom of the pile in terms of road rules. However on the flip side, the Dutch are so helpful and welcoming. There are play parks dotted all over the city which you easily stumble across and no one bats an eyelid at a crying child. So we couldn’t have been in a better place given our situation.
Here are my eat, sleep and play tips for Amsterdam:
Bar Spek was recommended to us as it was located near to where we were staying. The staff were so welcoming and helpful, after discussing the variety of local beers on offer we went with the waiter’s recommendation of ‘Man Love.’ We both ordered light lunches from here too, I went with a roast pepper soup while Mr London Mum went for an open sandwich which is very typically Dutch. The food was fresh, tasty and more importantly really well priced! We did mean to go back again for dinner or breakfast but just never found the time. It’s certainly somewhere I’d say you should head to for a great atmosphere, outdoor terrace sitting and a brilliant young vibe.
The only thing our Son would eat in Amsterdam was Bitterballen. Bitterballen are deep fried bread crumb covered balls that are filled with a meaty roux inside. The texture is like deep fried baby food. They are a common Dutch snack and are actually really quite yummy, especially if you dip them into the mustard that is served on the side. The best Bitterballen we had were literally a few steps from the Red Light District next to the canal at a place called Mata Hari. It was atmospheric, friendly and the decor is fab. Plus they had outdoor seating. Just go in the day with a child and not at night for the obvious reasons! (There are still women in windows but it all seems a lot more sedate in the daylight).
(Note the tears from pre-Bitterballen)
If you like pancakes, another must have Dutch treat are Poffertjes. These are small, puffy pancakes made using a Dutch recipe cooked in a special cast iron pan. They’re served with melted butter and sieved powdered sugar. They are heaven. We found the best ones were from De Vier Pillaren (near all the big art museums), which is a pancake house and a big tourist trap- but they certainly have the best Poffertjes around, so worth the extra hiked up prices!
To get more authentic Dutch treats; which were all recommended to me by Travel with Bender, it’s worth a visit to Albert Cuyp, which is an outdoor market and sells a wide variety of goods. The main attraction being traditional Dutch food of course. We both got ourselves some sticky, hot, fresh stroopwafels that oozed caramel and even braved the popular raw herring which has been a delicacy for over 600 years.
We ate our final dinner in Amsterdam at Van T Spit, it was on our way back to our apartment and it was always heaving. So taking that as a good sign we found ourselves some seats outside and ordered a feast. It’s a chicken shop basically, but they serve amazing chicken. In fact they’re so proud of the way their chickens are reared and looked after you can actually see them in their happy (alive) state via webcam on their webpage! Along with the tasty chicken we ordered a few sides, some corn on the cob, coleslaw, apple sauce and chips, obviously washed down with beer! The locals are right, and there’s a reason this place is busy. Happy chickens mean yummy chickens.
Good old Air BnB. We found an amazing apartment to stay in during our stay in the Oud-West neighbourhood. It was light, airy and very homely. Plus it was next door to a children’s play park.
Having the ability to cook while we were away was definitely a plus point with a really angry child! With supermarkets near by, we rustled ourselves up some dinner on the first night and made sure we were stocked with milk, breakfast and anything that might convince our child to eat. Although the apartment was up a flight of stairs, it didn’t pose a problem for us. We brought our lightweight Uppababy G Luxe stroller and it was easy just going up the one flight. Our apartment did have an extra room for Little London but because he was ill and waking up frequently we just had him in our room, so I could keep an eye on him.
The only problem perhaps with our apartment was that the bathroom was very small (only a shower, no bath), personally it’s not a huge issue for us because we try not to spend our time indoors where possible. I’d happily rent the same apartment again as everything was within walking distance.
The one museum that is a must go to is the Anne Frank House. It’s the actual place where she was in hiding with her family and the other individuals she discusses in her diary. Seeing the space they lived in, the darkness of the rooms, the pictures she pasted onto the walls and reading snippets of her diary as we went around the house in silence was moving. By the end I was containing my sobs.
I wouldn’t recommend the Anne Frank House with young children or toddlers though. Personally I’d buy the tickets and perhaps do the experience separately, so someone is looking after the child at all times. It’s not the kind of place you could let a toddler run about in, and there are some really steep steps to climb inside the house- including going up the secret staircase hidden behind the authentic bookcase. Luckily we had our Baby Bjorn We carrier, and I strapped Little London to me. Being naive about the inside of the house, it was too late to turn back. And luckily I managed to get Little London to stop screaming before we started making our way around it (in an orderly queue) and he fell asleep.
The Anne Frank House is the one attraction in Amsterdam that has a consistently long queue to get in. Sometimes it can be over 4 hours long! You can buy tickets a week before your visit online but they aren’t easy to get and they only sell a few tickets at select times. My tip would be to visit around 5pm when the queue is typically only an hour or two long. My bigger tip would be that if you have a baby you can actually skip the queue. There’s a second door at the front of the queue (it’s the door on the left) with a doorbell on it. Ring the bell and say you’ve got a baby and you were sent to the door 😉 We learnt this after queuing for over an hour! Thanks to the lovely lady who passed on that tip to us 🙂
Museum Our Lord in the Attic is another fascinating attraction in Amsterdam as well. Due to the persecution of Catholics in 1663, a secret Catholic church was built into the attic of a typical looking house. It’s a beautiful example of people’s unwavering faith in a belief they had, and continuing to uphold those beliefs when it was made illegal. I didn’t get to enjoy the attraction fully, as Little London was having a full on melt down at the time and so we made a swift exit, but as you can imagine there are some amazing stories that go with this church and there’s a free audio guide that you can use as you go around that explains everything to you. With a screaming child in one ear though I heard absolutely nothing! Randomly this is located in the Red Light District, but again go in the day time and it’s not that seedy at all.