Thursday, May 30, 2019

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

The kids and Mat are off for the next few days because of the Ascencion holiday, so we planned a trip to Amsterdam.  We decided to drive because it is only about 7 hours by car and for the 5 of us - this was $800 cheaper than flying (the holiday weekend was making flights very expensive).  We drove through Germany, France, Luxembourg, Belgium and into The Netherlands.  It was a really beautiful drive, and very easy. We arrived last night and settled into our airbnb (which was really beautiful and one of the nicest we ever stayed in).  We are staying in Wassenar, right outside of The Hague.  It was much cheaper to stay outside of Amsterdam as well, and it is a quick drive toward the city, so it was worth the savings.

 This morning we got up and drove into Amsterdam.  I had looked at our options ahead of time of the best way to get into the city.  I looked at the train -which was a good option, but we still would have had to pay to park at the train station, and then pay for the train tickets.  It would have been fine, but wasn't the cheapest option (Which I am always on the search for).  The second option was to look for a parking garage in the city.  Some you can reserve ahead of time, but most you just take a chance.  And it was about 60 Euros a day to park, which is steep.  The Third option was a park N ride right outside the city.  Cheapest option, but seemed a bit complicated and I was worried about timing it right. Fourth was an option called WeParc.  They meet you whever in the city you want to meet them, and then they pick up your car (valet) and take it and park it for you.  Then return it at your desired time in the evening.  It was perfect.  It was 40Euros for the first day and 20Euros for the second, so that was a win.  And since we had tickets for a certain time at a certian place, this ensured that we would make it without problems.

I write all this in case someone reads the blog that is looking at this for their trip to Amsterdam.  Driving in any city can be daunting, but Amsterdam is on a tourist explosion route right now, so the city is jammed with people.  It is good to have a plan if you need to drive into the city for any reason

We had a great day. Started the day at the Anne Frank House (we got to see the diary!). Humbling experience.  Seeing the Anne Frank house requires advanced tickets.  You can get them 2 months ahead of your scheduled date(and time), and it is like buying tickets for a rock concert.  I had to be at the computer when the tickets when on sale because within a few hours, they were all gone.  Amazing.  We were told they see 3000-4000 people a DAY at the Anne Frank house. 

The House was amazing. (you are not allowed to take pictures inside, so just take my word for it) We listened to a talk about the timeline before going in and then walked through the actual place she was hidden.  If you have never read the book, you should.  But the hidding place is not an attic, as a few people have asked me about.  It is 3 floors - there were 8 people hidden there.  The house was located in the back of Otto Frank's (Anne dad) business and so it was perfect.  For awhile.  They hid there for 2 years before they were betrayed.  They never knew who betrayed them (and they still don't).  Otto was the only one who survived the concentration camp.

We did get to see the diary.  That has been on my bucket list for a long time.  I have read the book 4 times - once myself, and then with each of my children.  So it was amazing to see it in person.

Then we went to a library that had very old books.  It was an okay experience.  It is called The Embassy of the Mind, and from the fact that it was on the "things to do" list, I expected more.  It was very small and we were only there for about 15 minutes and we saw the whole thing.  It isn't free, so that was a disappointment.

We did some walking around the city enjoying the sites.  Amsterdam is very very busy.  Before we came here, we had seen an article on how Amsterdam is working on ways to reduce the number of tourist that come to the city.  People are destrying the place with their instragram photos.  And we got to witness first hand the massive amount of people that are in this city.  This was a Thursday in May, and it was wall to wall people.  WE couldn't move freely on the sidewalks because there were so many, and the bikes!!  So.many.bikes.

We went to the cheese museum and tasted a ton of cheeses.  It is just a free little museum below a cheese shop, but we did learn some history about cheese in The Netherlands.  And the cheeses were AMAZING.  We ended up buying a few to bring back home with us.

We had lunch in a 600 year old castle, called de Waag.  It was formally called St. Anthony's gate and was built in 1488.  It was part of the original wall of Amsterdam.  IT is the oldest remaining non religious building in Amsterdam.  It is actually in one of Rembrandt's paintings (The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolas Tulp).  It is now a restaurant.  The food was really good and it was neat to eat in there.  They have candle chandaliers all over the restaurant (with actual candels still) which were cool.

After lunch we toured Rembrandt’s house.  This is where he lived and worked until he stopped being able to pay to live here.  The house was HUGE, and he stopped paying his mortgage, so he had to move out.  He lived poor until the end of his life.  The house is still set up how it was when he lived there, and ran his art studio.

We went into the oldest church in Amsterdam.  It is actually not used as a church any more, but just a place for concerts.  The organ is still being used.  

We rounded the evening off with Amsterdam’s famous Apple pie.  It is delicous.  Rows and rows of apples plus cinnamon sauce in a thin crust.  Delicious.

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