The prospect of exploring a new city feels like unwrapping a present and Amsterdam did not disappoint. We (me and Mr Me, our youngest son and his BFF) had two days for a whistle-stop tour of the city during February half-term week. Day One began with a canal cruise starting from just outside Centraal Station. Taking about an hour, the cruise is an ideal way to get an overview of the city from a different perspective and to discover lots of interesting facts about its history. Plus it gave us a chance to get a close-up look at the many houseboats complete with their little gardens… Our next stop was the Anne Frank House on Prinsengracht; the house where she went into hiding with her family and where she wrote her diary. The queues are legendary and it’s best to book tickets online in advance to avoid a very long wait. It was a very sobering and moving experience particularly visiting with two teenagers but definitely one not to miss. A useful tip from my brother (thank you P) was to take a little quiet time after leaving the museum before plunging back into sight-seeing.
After lunch we split up and Mr Me and I set off to explore the streets of Jordaan, described by Anne Frank in her diary as the area in which you can hear the bells of Westerkerk. It’s perfect for a stroll along the canals and quiet streets full of quirky shops, cafes and houses.
From Jordaan we walked to Dam Square and the Royal Palace but did not linger long, drawn instead to the Singel canal and Bloemenmarkt, the floating flower market. A cold February afternoon probably is not the best time to see it at its best though there was an amazing array of bulbs and bright tulips. Meeting up again back at Centraal, youngest son was disappointed that I hadn’t gone with his suggestion of ‘afternoon tea with a twist’ – in a coffeeshop rather than tea house, coffee rather than tea and a cake with rather different ingredients to those Mo and me usually indulge in – so boring mother!
We were up and out early again on Day Two for a morning at the Van Gogh Museum (despite Googling we still don’t know how to pronounce it correctly). Apart from the wonderful paintings, his story was beautifully told through letters, sketches, notes and some of his personal artefacts. A definite recommend! The Rijksmueum is close by but we decided we needed fresh air over culture and headed across to Vondelpark, the largest park in Amsterdam. Youngest son and BFF were very keen to hire some bikes to tour the park and I really wanted to have a cup of tea in the middle of the park at Het Blauwe Theehuis (The Blue Tea House), a circular pavilion built in the 1930’s with one of the largest terraces in Europe. The lovely man at A-Bike hire did his level best to persuade us to join the teens, suggesting all sorts of two wheeled options including a tandem. But I was not persuaded – this time anyway. It was so nice to walk in the winter sunshine and to sit on the terrace of the teahouse and watch the world go by while drinking a cup of Earl Grey and sharing a slice of apple pie.
Fortified by fresh air and tea, we caught the tram to Dam Square and walked a couple of minutes to Nine Streets, nine little streets of the old town bordered by the Prinsengracht and Singel canals. It’s beautiful, a quaint and quiet area, perfect for browsing in the stylish little boutiques and small specialist shops and cafes. As evening drew in our feet were sore and tired and it was back to Centraal on the tram. The city was stunning, the Dutch people we met were so friendly and welcoming and the sun shone – what more could you ask?