Amsterdam Ups and Downs

Our second day in Amsterdam started off rough as Peter felt cranky and didn’t want to leave “our little compartment” as he calls our studio rental apartment.  We went for a walk over the Amstel River on the famed Magere Brug or “Skinny Bridge” to the Waterlooplein.  Here is located TunFun, a children’s play park located in a former highway underpass.  Peter had been longing to go to the “underground playground” since he first heard about it a few weeks ago and asked about it all day on Monday.  Unfortunately, he was still subdued and a bit overwhelmed so while he played with little cows and pigs and did a little bit of climbing he was not his usual active self.

We walked back by way of Rembrandtplein where Peter climbed up a jagged rock.  For lunch we went to a pancake restaurant called De Carousel.  The pancakes were yummy and Peter enjoyed climbing on the carousel horses with another American boy named Owen.  It’s pretty evident that Peter misses his friends from child care.  Nearby the carousel was a free, outdoor playground which proved to be much more enjoyable than TunFun.  There were little red tricycles, a teeter-totter, a trampoline, and all sorts of things to climb on.  We’ve made a mental note to return here every day.

After nap we rented a canal bike – what they call pedal boats here – and pedaled through the picturesque canals of Amsterdam.  Steering proved hard, although I eventually got the hang of it, but it seemed at any moment the canal bike would veer off toward a houseboat or a bridge.  We pedaled around for about an hour singing “Two fools and a toddler on a pedal boat down a canal.”  We docked by the Westerkerk and then stopped in a brown cafe (aka pub) for beers for the grownups and a hot chocolate for Peter.  I believe it was his first hot chocolate and he loved as much as siting on the big bar stools.  Then we strolled back down the Prinsengracht to our apartment for dinner and bed.

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Amsterdam By Foot

After a tiring day of travel we enjoyed our first full day in Amsterdam today by going a long walk through the city center.

Highlights of the day:

  • We started the day by stocking up on food from the Albert Heijn grocery store where they seem to specialize in various forms of yogurt.  It’s fun to shop in a different language.
  • We took a tram to Centraal Station and began a walk down the Damrak, the historic central canal now lined with cheezy tourist shops.
  • Peter’s hands were cold so we stopped to buy mittens.  Peter chased a kitten around the souvenir shop.
  • We discovered how the clean the windows on those tall skinny buildings.  With a very long pole.
  • Peter was impressed by the ponies (large draft horses, really) pulling a Heineken wagon around the city and wanted to see more.
  • At Dam Square we had a coffee break.  The barista wisely prevented me from accidentally buying a hot chocolate with coffee for Peter and got him plain hot chocolate.  Later, when Peter knocked over my cappucinno, she helped us clean up and gave me a free refill.
  • Peter enjoyed chasing pigeons on the Dam Square but then was terrified by “performance artists” wearing spooky masks.  We talked about the silly people in costumes for a long time afterwards.
  • In the courtyard by the Amsterdam History Museum, Peter likes exploring the archways and discovers a little garden of tulips.
  • We walked through the Civic Guard Gallery, a collection of stylized group portraits from the Dutch Golden Age.  Peter surprises us by enjoying the paintings and saying “It’s Rembrandt!”  (It wasn’t Rembrandt but close enough).
  • The Begijnoff is a lovely collection of house around an enclosed courtyard originally a built as a community of lay women dedicated to religious life and service.  It also contains the small English Church where the Pilgrims worshipped while in Amsterdam prior to going to Massachusetts.  A friendly woman showed Peter where her children liked to play, in the Burgomasters’ Pew.
  • We ate lunch at an Indonesian restaurant called Kantjil & de Tijger.  I enjoyed a yummy Paksoi Tofu and green beans.  Susan had a pumpkin soup.  A sleepy Peter fell asleep in his high chair.
  • On the way back to our apartment for a nap, I discover ducklings swimming in a canal and the house where John Adams lived when he was ambassador to the Netherlands.
  • Resuming our walk post-nap, we walk along the Bloemenmarkt admiring all the beautiful flowers for sale.
  • At Metz and Co, Amsterdam’s classic department store, we take the elevator to the top floor cafe and enjoy rooftop views of the city and some yummy cake.
  • Amused by a store that specializes in food from the U.S. – including Marshmallow Fluff, Pop Tarts, Fruit Loops, Concord grape jelly and all sorts of other processed junk.
  • Peter discovers that the circle on the ground in the middle of the Leidseplein is a fun place to run and spin until you get dizzy.
  • We run around in part of Vondelpark until our little boy got tired and cranky.
  • Back to the apartment for supper and early to bed for all.

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Book Review: The Book of Everything by Guus Kuijer

Author: Guus Kuijer
Title: The Book of Everything
Publication Info: Arthur A. Levine Books (2006)
ISBN: 0439749182


This short book is a brutally honest work of young adult literature set in Amsterdam a few years after the liberation and end of World War II.  Thomas only wishes to be happy but has to deal with his fundamentalist and abusive father.  The book is colored by magical realism and a touch of surrealism as Thomas is aided by witches, calls down the plagues of Egypt, and converses with a lonely Jesus.  A powerful and touching book that touches on a lot of issues: childhood, family, religion, community, and kindness.

Recommended books: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon, Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha by Roddy Doyle and Wise Blood: A Novel by Flannery O’Connor
Rating: ***

Book Review: Amsterdam by Geert Mak

Author:Geert Mak
Title: Amsterdam
Publication Info: Harvard University Press (1999)
ISBN: 0674003314


This is a highly-readable history of eight centuries of the history of Amsterdam.  Dutch journalist Mak makes great use of hooks upon which to build each chapter of Amsterdam’s history such as an archaeological artifact, a sketch by Rembrandt, primary source writings, paintings and photographs.   I get the sense that the translation is a bit off in places and the place names are hard for an Anglophone out-of-towner to keep up, but these things largely do not impede my reading or enjoyment of this work.  This is a good introduction to the city I hope to visit next month.

For other reviews check out The Hieroglyphic Streets.

Recommended books: Dr. Johnson’s London: Coffee-Houses and Climbing Boys, Medicine, Toothpaste and Gin, Poverty and Press-Gangs, Freakshows by Liza Picard
Rating: ****