The Netherlands

Christmas Ornaments 2016

I meant to have this post come out yesterday on Christmas, but I totally forgot all about finishing it until this morning. Anyways as we have a tradition of buying an ornament from each of our trips (or each country if we visit more than one on a vacation), here is our round up of 2016 Christmas ornaments.

EuroTrip 2016: Klomp shoes from Amsterdam, Beer mug from Belgium, and an Eiffel Tower from Paris

EuroTrip 2016 ornaments

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Amsterdam: Wrap Up

When we realized we were going to be taking a spring trip in 2016, The Netherlands was the first place we thought to visit. We had thought about visiting in the fall back in 2012, but decided to put it off until we could visit in the spring for the tulips. April 2016 rolled around and we were headed to Amsterdam. Spring is a gorgeous time to visit there, regardless of if you time it just right for the tulips. The trees lining the canal are just coming into bloom making it a very picturesque place to walk around. We debated on whether to make it a Netherlands only trip or add in another country. While I have plenty of sights I would like to see in The Netherlands that we didn’t visit, we had a greater desire to visit parts of Belgium so we added on Brussels and Bruges instead of more places within The Netherlands.

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Dutch Cuisine

I’m going to do a separate post for Amsterdam and Belgium cuisine as they are quite different even though we hit both places on the same trip. Before deciding to visit Amsterdam, I really didn’t know much about Dutch cuisine. It’s not something commonly eaten or advertised in the States, so I was intrigued to learn about it.

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Keukenhof (EuroTrip Day 3)

Keukenhof is the famous flower garden in The Netherlands. It is only open for a short time each year, typically from late March to late May. You can check their website for the exact dates each year. While the name Keukenhof was given to the area in the 15th century, the garden as we know it today has been open to the public since 1950. Within the gardens each year, there is a theme around which over 7 million spring flowering bulbs are arranged! Keukenhof is commonly referred to as The Garden of Europe, and after visiting it, I understand why.

Hyachinth in Keukenof

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Riding Bikes around the Tulip Fields (EuroTrip Day 3)

We had saved the majority of our last day in Amsterdam for our main reason for visiting in April. The famous tulip fields of Holland. Everyone has seen the gorgeous pictures of row after row of tulips, and while we didn’t exactly get that, we still had an amazing afternoon viewing the tulip fields. It’s easy to time your visit for prime tulip season if you live closer in Europe, but planning a trip to The Netherlands from the USA for tulip season is a bit more of a gamble. The tulips can bloom anywhere from early April to the middle of May. However, on average the best chance of seeing the tulips in peak bloom is the end of April and beginning of May. It varies so much due to how cold or mild the winter is. With that in mind, we chose the third week in April.

We chose the third week of April even though we knew it might be just before peak bloom time because it looked like almost every year in recent past, at least some tulips were in bloom that week. There were a couple years where peak bloom did fall on the third week in April. Even after we booked our plane tickets, we kept an eye on it via the Tulips in Holland website. Early on it looked like the tulips were going to bloom early due to a very mild winter, but then a couple weeks of colder spring weather came through and held off the tulips blooming again. In the end we ended up arriving just before peak blooming season, but we did get to see a good amount of the tulips in the fields and also saw a lot of other flowers as well at the tail end of their blooming season.

The most famous place to see flowers is at the Keukenhof Gardens (post will be coming soon), but surrounding the gardens are a good amount of tulip fields. The best way to see those fields is to rent a bicycle and ride around. You can technically rent a bike elsewhere and transport it via train to the gardens, but it was easier to just rent from the company, Rent a Bike van Dam, in the parking lot of the gardens themselves.

I will detail how to travel to Keukenhof in that post, but to get to the bike rental place from the bus drop off at Keukenhof, we had to walk to the complete other end of the parking lot. Luckily we had seen the bikes from the bus as we passed the gardens or we might have been wandering around lost through the parking lot.

Rent a Bike Van Dam

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Extra Amsterdam Sights (Eurotrip Day 2 & 3)

A small post on a couple more districts in Amsterdam, the Southeast district and the Red Light District. We didn’t end up with enough time to really visit either district in depth hence the short combined post here. We visited the southeast district after the Albert Cuyp Market on Day 2 and visited the Red Light District briefly on Day 3 between the Van Gogh Museum and heading to Keukenhof. Both districts definitely deserve more than a brief visit, but that was the sacrifice we made when we opted to split our time between Amsterdam and Brussels. As always, it’s good to leave something to see on a return visit.

Southeast Amsterdam

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Amsterdam Canal Cruise (EuroTrip Day 2)

One of the major things to do while in Amsterdam is to go on a canal cruise. And you won’t be short a variety of options on how to experience the canals via boat. You can take a private smaller boat cruise or the more popular larger canal boat cruise. The smaller boats have the ability to go down smaller canals obviously. You can also take a cruise during the daytime or nighttime, though we could only find larger boats doing nighttime cruises (unless you want to fork over a bunch of money for a dinner cruise). In addition to just a plain canal cruise, you can add on extras like cheese & wine on board, pizza cruise, ice cream cruise, drinks cruise, and the options are endless.

A benefit of a evening/nighttime cruise is they are a bit longer and can go through a small portion of the Red Light District. We decided to go with a cruise that started about 1 hour before sunset which would allow us to get decent pictures before it got too dark, but would also provide the opportunity to experience the canals by streetlights. It was a perfect combination for us and I highly recommend it. We weighed the options of the different “extra” canal cruise possibilities, but in the end we opted for just the regular canal cruise. We booked ahead of time, but in reality there’s no need to do that unless you want one of those extra cruises.

I won’t have a lot of written commentary on this post because we opted to just sit outside and the running audio on what we were passing was only available inside. But we enjoyed the back of the boat and it allowed us a 360 degree unobstructed view of the canals. Lots of other people came and went from inside, but most didn’t linger too long surprisingly.

Amsterdam Canals

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Albert Cuyp Market (EuroTrip Day 2)

The Albert Cuyp Market is located in the De Pijp district of Amsterdam. We made the short walk to the famous street market for lunch after spending the morning visiting the Rijksmuseum and Stedelijk museum. The Albert Cuyp Market has been around since 1905, but has expanded to included over 200 stalls with multiple restaurants lining the street and surrounding area making it the largest street market in Europe. You can find everything from spices, bread, and local Dutch snacks to clothes, shoes, and souvenirs.

We first walked the length of Albert Cuypstreet then made our way back stopping at the stalls that caught our eye (and armed with the knowledge of which were can’t miss stalls). Our first food stop was at Chris Kip where we tried some chicken kebabs of sorts with satay (peanut sauce). They were warm and delicious on a windy afternoon. The place was pretty busy but we were able to snag one of the stand up tables to enjoy our chicken.

Albert Cuyp Market

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Museumplein (EuroTrip Day 2 & 3)

I’m going to do something I don’t typically do and that’s combine two different mornings and 1 afternoon into one post on the Museumplein area within Amsterdam. The main reason I’m doing this is because we made three separate trips to Museumplein but I don’t have a lot of pictures (or any really) within the museums themselves so it seemed better to just do one combined post on the area combining all the information. We visited the Rijksmuseum and Stedelijk in the morning on Day 2 in Amsterdam and we went back later that afternoon to visit the House of Bols. We went back the following morning to visit the Van Gogh Museum. While you could conceivably visit all three major museums in one day, I am so glad that we broke it up into two different mornings. We didn’t get museum fatigue this way and were able to better appreciate the art in all the museums.

Museumplein is on the southern side of the city and is lined with different museums. In addition to the museums we visited, you can also find the Concertgebouw (concert hall), the Diamond Museum, Coster Diamond’s (a diamond polisher), and the Moco Museum (recently opened in March 2016 and I hadn’t read anything about until researching this post).

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Jordaan District (EuroTrip Day 1)

The Jordaan District in Amsterdam is located next to the main central area of the city and is currently one of the most popular districts for tourists to visit. The district is jam packed with galleries, shops, cafes, and other tourist attractions including the Anne Frank Huis. We made our way over to the area after our tour of the Royal Palace in the Central District.

Jordaan District

 

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