08 Apr A long weekend in Amsterdam – mini Easter break!
For quite a long time I have been planning to go back to Amsterdam… It has been years and years since I last came and it was time to come back.
We thought it would be a good opportunity to spend the Easter break and explore the city… Kids were excited to go around by bike…
I always wanted to come and see the tulip fields… As Easter 2018 was quite early, it would be a good opportunity for it… The blossoming is at around end of March and the fields remain beautiful to see until mid May.
When planning for the trip, I noted it was not easy to find 5 star hotels with family rooms…. I don’t like to separate from my kids and husband when travelling. On the contrary, I like the mess of being all sleeping together… I don’t lack privacy, as I have it every day.
I found a nice family room at the Marriot Hotel…. Prices in Amsterdam can be extremely expensive but this seemed affordable (not cheap at all) and had the family room I wanted.
Well… I am not going to say the hotel was a total disappointment because it wasn’t but it definitely wasn’t a 5 stars.
The location was just great, central and 200 meters from the museum area of Amsterdam.
It had the family room, but the room was tiny, especially the toilet. For me to shower my kids I nearly had to stay outside the bathroom.
Beds were comfortable and the room was quiet!
The hotel did not have a very large breakfast room which was packed for the whole period… Having a table was quite an accomplishment….
Staff was kind and tried to be helpful but the hotel does not deserve a 5 stars rating… A 4 stars would already be good enough.
We had a great time… We were quite lucky to be next to a bike rental shop where they had the cargo bikes, which we would sit the kids and just bike around… what a great means of transportation!!! … Amsterdam is quite flat so cycling around is easy and the city offers the necessary infrastructure. Would you believe that there 600,000 bikes in town?
We did not have specific plans apart from driving outside town through the tulip fields. So, if you wish to do the same, rent a car and drive to Haarlem. It is a very pretty city about 30 km outside Amsterdam. We took the opportunity to visit the city and to have lunch at the Spaarne 66. Great cafe type of place with a varied menu of tapas overlooking the canals and the Mill!
From Haarlem, do program the GPS to drive south in the N208 in the direction of Lisse. The road goes down through farms where we can see the sea of the tulip colours. At Lisse there is the amazing super haba haba Keukenhof farm, which is open for only 8 weeks during the year…
I did not go in… the parking lot of the place was packed and it was raining… as I have two small kids, a walk in the rain can be request for trouble… so, we decided we would try to visit it in another trip…. Nevertheless, if you go there, you must visit… this is not my opinion, but 10 out of 10 people that visit Holland, visit this farm / park and love it.
As far as I know it is acres and acres of flowered manicured gardens with ponds and bridges that take your breath away.
Driving back to Amsterdam, we rented the bikes and went on a tour around the city… by the time we were back it was no longer raining… What a pleasant bike ride we had… Amsterdam as I said is flat, so it is not a huge physical effort to go around… the canals, the bridges, the cafes are super charming…. if you have kids, you must rent the cargo bike… you can place two kids at the front, with very safe seatbelts and enjoy the ride..
The town was packed, as you would expect, so we made sure we avoided the most crowded streets and just discovered the city without a fixed destination or agenda… one nice tip I can give you is to ride through the back of the zoo… the animals can be seen, and my kids felt like in a safari as they could spot elephants, zebras, giraffes and lions as we ride along the fence.
My trips revolve a lot around food… In Amsterdam you must eat the meat croquettes which are called Bitterballen… crusty outside and soft inside, they are just delicious… There is a kind of bakery / fast food place which has several little boxes where you place a coin and collect your snack… not for everyday but super delicious to try..
Also, if you have the opportunity, you must try the fries with Mayonnaise…. there is a particular place called VleminckX…in the very center of Amsterdam… we went there and wow… the fries were more than excellent… they were divine… I could never do fries like that… just perfectly crunchy…
Amsterdam is also the siege of the Heineken beer… if you have time to spare and can take the wait, as the queues are quite long, you must try the visit to the Heineken Brewery… It is called Heineken experience… I unfortunately did not go… 2 small kids, and a husband that is not patiente to wait at the queue means that I am a minority vote… maybe a need a friend to visit Amsterdam with me so that I can do some adult stuff….
Well, going back to food… we had two major restaurant experiences… First night we went to the magnificent Sushi Samba… a sushi place with Peruvian, and Latin American influence…. Not a cheap place to go eating and also super crowded… but worth it… so, book in advance… I was super lucky… we just waked in and they had a cancelation which meant place for us, but as we looked around we realised how luck we had been because the there was no other table available.
We ordered several dishes to share and the Moqueca, which is a Brazilian sea food dish, was divine…
All the sushis were somewhat signature ones… not the simple plain vanilla stuff… we ordered a couple of main ones and had to re-order because they were of another world.
Another gastronomic experience we had was the Easter Brunch at the Bridges Restaurant at the Sofitel Le Grand Hotel. This experience will be subject to a separate post, part of my brunches series… so stay tuned not to miss it… Very gastronomic and fun… although I could suggest some improvements, as you will learn when you read the post.
A trip to Amsterdam would not be complete without a boat trip thorough the canals… It takes 1 1/2 hours, it is very touristy but again, worth it… you learn a lot about the details and you also has the opportunity to explore some parts and canals that you would not explore otherwise… You see many important places of town and learn where personalities of the past lived and died.
We did not do much shopping apart from the usual souvenirs… A nice thing to buy when in Amsterdam is the cheese… there are several cheese boutiques in town and the Dutch explore very well the cheese collection and the presentation makes you want to take them all…. The major Dutch cheese is the Gouda and there are several variations from it… the one with black truffles is to die for…
A no no place to visit is the Coster Diamonds museum… it is not a museum at all… actually it is a scam to make you enter and sell you overpriced jewelry… absolutely awful… I went there because I expected to show my daughter the rough diamond transformation into the beautiful lapidated stone…
As soon as the “guide” noted that we were not interested in buying anything we were left behind and no explanation was given… actually there was not much to see anyway but vitrines full of stuff to sell… the place is a labyrinthe and as you walk along the corridors more and more vitrines of suggested items, which decrease value finishing in cheap souvenir… I hope you never have to experience that… just dont go there…
Amsterdam is a city for many different tribes… I am a mother with a family, so I did not go anywhere close to the Red light district or to the coffee shops that sell smoking herbs. Actually this has never been my vibe and not even when I was single and younger…just not for me, I am too boring…. but well, if that is the kind of entertainment you may be looking for, there it is legal and there are marijuana products everywhere, from T-shirts, to lollipops, to the actual herb….
This is probably one of the most liberal cities one can ever visit… so… enjoy yourself…