Thursday was Ascension Day, a public holiday in Amsterdam. Susan went out to get croissants for breakfast only to find all the patisseries closed. Susan wept. The bagel shop was open but their bagel oven was out of order. So we had yogurt and coffee for breakfast.
We decided to travel around the city like true Amsterdammers and rented bikes from the Mac Bikes outlet near the Leidseplein. The staff were really friendly and Peter was super excited to be riding on a little seat behind Daddy. We toured through Vondelpark, Amsterdam’s largest park where we found not one but two playgrounds. Peter played in both of them, enjoying the type of playground equipment that seems to be no longer allowed in the United States. The second playground was adjacent to a cafe called the Groot Melkhuis where we were able to acquire the desired pastries.
We ventured out of the park for a longer ride around the west of Amsterdam where we saw apartment blocks and schools and other aspects of the day-to-day Amsterdam not geared to tourists. The city is very flat but the bridges can be very steep, especially on a big 3-speed bike. Peter was very encouraging: “You can do it Daddy!” He also kept an eye out for Susan making sure she didn’t fall too far behind.
We returned to Vondelpark for lunch at the Kinderkookkafe, a restaurant where children can cook for themselves. Peter made himself a funny cupcake and then a mini-pizza. Apparently older kids can actually work in the kitchen on projects together. We had a long wait while the pizza was in the oven so we played on yet another playground out back. Too bad we are not entrepreneurs because we think a place like this would be a big hit in Jamaica Plain.
For nap time, we pedaled back to Prinsengracht. When we went back to our bikes we found that all the bike seats in our area had rain covers with an advertisement on them. This is the Amsterdam equivalent of sticking a flyer under the windshield wipers. We took a another nice ride down the narrow lanes of the Jordaan. By serendipity we passed St. Andrew’s Hof, a hidden garden surrounded by small residences. We took turns walking around while the other one watched the bikes. Peter spoke with hushed awe at the beauty of the little garden.
Peter loved the bikes so much he was sad when we had to turn them in at the end of the day. For dinner we had pancakes again (we can’t help ourselves) at the Pancake Corner by Leidseplein. In the evening, Susan took Peter to bed while I went to visit the Anne Frank House. I figured it would be best to go without Peter since his jovial and energetic demeanor would not be appropriate for a cramped and somber place. The house was indeed crowded, with tourists. It’s hard to get a sense of the hidden annex with so many people, plus the transitions from the modern museum space to the actual house were somewhat awkward. Still, it was a very moving site and worth visiting to appreciate the horrors of war and the Holocaust.
I left the Anne Frank House at 9 pm to discover that it was sunny out. It had been overcast all day so it actually felt brighter this late at night than it did during the day time. Because we’d been going to bed early because of Peter I hadn’t realized how late the sun was staying out. I walked around to enjoy the sunshine, and then when it finally got dark, I got peckish and looked for the perfect falafel and vlaamse frites. I found them. Yum!