Saturday, June 30, 2018


The Rijksmusuem is huge - with 80 galleries and over 8,000 pieces on display - we resigned ourselves to only seeing some of the museum's highlights.

Grandma wanted to start with the Rembrants so we headed up to the second floor.

I was immediately struck by the size of some of the pieces. The Night Watch is 14 feet long and 12 feet high. - I had no idea! When you see the paintings in a book, you really don't get a very good idea of the scale.

You could get a small scale version to take home in the gift shop. I loved it that you could purchase a few of the most famous works in the museum as Playmobil people. How fun!

The Milkmaid was there too, smiling as she poured.

Marteen and Oopjen are currently at the Louvre, but we did get to visit with their doubles. No idea who Marteen and Oopjen were? Check out this video, it's hilarious.

S immediately noticed the gentlemen in The Sampling Officials all looked remarkably like the Pilgrims he'd learned about in kindergarten. It was the perfect opportunity for a refresher course on the Puritans and their search for religious freedom that eventually lead them to the new world (including a brief time in the Netherlands.) I know, I  know it's summer - but I just can't pass up a teachable moment.

With other collections to visit, we waved good-bye to the Rembrandts, and moved on; slowly working our way through the museum.

As it got later, we moved more slowly. We knew our day was over when we the kids started to finding the museum's benches more interesting than the art. Grandma and I got the hint and we all headed for the exit.


While out and about yesterday we were lucky enough to stumble across the Friday Antiques Market, or the "Curious Flea Market" according to the sign. I'm not sure, but apparently, this market opens up every Friday during the summer months.

There were tables filled with everything you can imagine:

wooden shoes,

spools of lace,

vintage plates,

and this little fellow. 

I would have loved to know more about this little sewing machine, but sadly it wasn't going to fit into my suitcase.

We also found this lovely lady selling Echte Poffertjes - "Real Pancakes;" available with butter and sugar - yum.

She was making them right there, on her gas cooker. Mmmmmmmmmmmmm. Delicious!

Friday, June 29, 2018

Hidden in Plain Sight (The Little Woodcutter)

The Little Woodcutter is one of those things most people never notice. Unless you know he's there, it's easy to see why most folks stroll right on by. 

He's only about a foot and a half tall, and up in a branch, so it isn't surprising most people miss him. Luckily we knew right where to look; we were on a mission and knew exactly where to go.

No one knows who made this little statue. He just appeared one day, at the end of January in 1989. His park, near the corner of Leidsplein and Singelgracht, is only about a 10 minute walk from the Rijksmuseum. We had to chuckle though, as soon as we started pointing and taking pictures, lots of other folks did, too. A few minutes later, as we were leaving, he had faded into the background - unnoticed once again...

Two Doors Down

The kids and I love sweets. (My mom does too, but she's better at saying no to them than we are.) One of our favorite things to do when we're traveling is to try new things. New sweet things makes us happy. Finding a bakery two doors down from our house made us very happy.

We can tell you their croissants are very good,

as are their waffles,

but the tompouce is delicious! Tompouce is a pastry common in the Netherlands and Belgium. It's a layer of creamy custard in between two layers of  pastry. Typically they're topped with a layer of icing and sometimes whip cream. The hardness of pastry makes them a challenge to eat, because when S tried to take a bite, the custard started oozing out the sides. It didn't matter - it was worth the challenge. It was so good, I think I may have to make some when we get home. 

Bakkerij Kwakman, Leidsestraat 81, 1017 NX Amsterdam

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Surprise Tour

Today we were lucky enough to get to tour a Dutch orthodontist's office.

OK, it wasn't luck; my son just happened to pop a bracket and the orthodontist at home recommended we get it fixed here. Thanks to Google Maps we found a dentist nearby who was able to squeeze us in.

We weren't sure how long the tram ride would be to get to the office, so we gave ourselves lots of time. Even though we were about 15 minutes early, they got S right in. She cut and removed the wire, cleaned the tooth, re-glued the bracket and finally put in a new wire.

All for €27.37, or $31.64 US. Oh yes, and I can't forget to mention S and his sister each got to take a toy from the basket. Icing on the cake.

Actually, the icing on the cake was discovering this bakery right around the corner from the orthodontist's office. (Broodbakker Simon Meijssen  is located at Koninginneweg 135, 1075 CL Amsterdam in case you're curious.) We left with a little apple tart, an almond cookie and a bag of Madeleines to enjoy later.

If you happen to need dental work done while you are in Amsterdam,  contact Lassus Tandartsen at 020 471 3137. Just be aware they only take cash, and you need to have the exact change. Luckily a nice British woman came into the office as I was paying and was able to make change for my €50 note. I paid €28.00 and felt like I got a deal. Now I need to ask our orthodontist at home what he would charge an international tourist for the same service. I bet it's quite a bit more...

Het Scheepvaartmuseum

Try saying that three times fast! Dutch is a hard language to pronounce, so we just refereed to it in English - the National Maritime Museum.

We enjoyed this museum quite a bit. In fact, we would have stayed longer, but they were ready to close up for the night. In addition to the interesting displays about The Netherlands' Golden Age and maritime history, they also have a ship.

A replica of the Amsterdam, a Dutch East Indiaman from the 1840s, is docked right next to the museum. (The original Amsterdam only made one trip before sinking in the English Channel. The wreck was discovered in 1969 and is the best preserved Dutch East India Company shipwreck ever found.) The ship was the kids' favorite part of the museum because they could play with everything. 

In many areas there was picture of a little rat, named Rinus, encouraging the  kids to pull, swing, climb and explore. (The hold of the ship is essentially one gigantic play area.) After looking in the Captain's privy they discovered the secret. If they opened a specific chest they were given a clue to the location of a treasure. All they had to do was whisper the Captain's name into the ear of a worker in the Museum Store to claim their reward.

They didn't have to be told twice - they almost ran to the store, got their trinket and were thrilled to find out that very few kids find the hidden clue. The museum was recently redone and we were quite pleased with the displays. All the signs were in Dutch and English, and all the video programs had English subtitles. If you are in Amsterdam, this museum is definitely worth a visit.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

From the Water

Yesterday was bright and sunny and seemed like a perfect time to explore Amsterdam by boat. The hour long cruise with Flagship boarded right behind the Ann Frank House  and was very reasonably priced. (We opted for a less expensive cruise where the price didn't include beverages - with teens along, we wouldn't have sampled the  Captain Morgan's anyway...)

Viewing the city from the canals was fun. It was delightful to sit in the sun and ride for a while.  I loved the "dancing houses." See how they look a little off? Hundreds of years ago the buildings were built on wooden piles driven down into swampy soil. Over the years they've settled and now they all lean at slightly different angles. Sometimes newer buildings are purposely built to lean so they fit in with the buildings on either side.

This is one of the narrowest canal houses in Amsterdam. At just about two meters (about six feet) wide it saved the owner quite a bit in taxes. Back when these buildings were built, the taxes were based, in part, on the width of the building. Typical canal houses are about five to seven meters wide (about 15 to 20 feet.) Since the taxes were based on the width of the building on the canal, they often get wider in the back. 

The Wadorf-Astoria hotel is in the high-rent part of Amsterdam. See how much wider the buildings are? These people weren't too worried about taxes, and could show off their wealth. Actually, the hotel is the entire block of buildings - they've been connected on the inside. They can't alter the facade of the buildings since the canal district is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

One of the neatest things we saw was along the Reguliersgracht (gracht is Dutch for canal.) It's a special spot because if you line up your camera just right, you can see seven bridges. There is another spot, where you can supposedly see 15 different bridges while standing atop one of them. Maybe we'll try to find that spot another day...

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Delft Blue

I just love blue and white Delft pottery. OK, maybe not the cats and chickens, but I think the plates, vases and boxes are beautiful. A bit grandmotherly perhaps, but I'll be a grandma someday, right? Every time I've see a Delft shop, I've wanted to go in, just to take a peek at the lovely things inside.

Peeking was a good thing today because we happened on a gentleman demonstrating how these hand painted-items are made.

He was incredibly friendly and answered every one of my gazillion questions. (Anyone who knows me, knows that isn't an understatement.) He explained that he could never work in the factory because he can't paint fast enough. He walked us through the entire process - from transferring the design (with a pencil because the graphite burns away during firing,)
to painting (it turns blue during firing due to cobalt,)

to signing each piece (each artist's has their own mark,)

to the finished product; which, of course, I had to have. I felt like Varuca Salt as I walked over to the shelf thinking, "I want it... NOW." My little piece of the Netherlands, safely wrapped in layers of tissue and bubble wrap, is tucked away in the corner of my suitcase...


It's fun to wander the streets of Amsterdam. As a first time visitor, there's always something new to see.

And of course, we can't walk past a pair of giant wooden shoes without taking the obligatory tourist photo.

The buildings in the Canal District are lovely.

While we were out yesterday we discovered this CAR2GO. They are little electric cars you can rent by the minute, the hour, or the day. Just after we walked by a man hopped in and drove away. Apparently, you rent the car through an app; just get a code to  unlock  the car, drive it to where you want to go and park it in a CAR2GO spot (or in any other public parking space.)

In Amsterdam there are bicycles everywhere. Just like on Mackinac, people personalize them. Though this particular person may have gone a little overboard. I wonder what Allen would think if  I did that to my bike?

Monday, June 25, 2018

Anne Frank House

"It's sweltering. Everyone is huffing and puffing, and in this heat I have to walk everywhere. Only now do I realize how pleasant a streetcar is, but we Jews are no longer allowed to make use of this luxury; our own two feet are good enough for us." - Anne Frank, June 24, 1942

Anne Frank wrote those words in her diary 76 years before, to the day, we visited. It hit home with us since we've been riding the trams all over the city. Though the weather this year isn't "sweltering." So far the high has been 70 degrees and we've been wearing long pants and sweaters.

My mom got us tickets for the museum as well as a pre-visit presentation. The 30 minute presentation was well worth our time and taught us about the Frank family, their immigration to the Netherlands, as well as what happened to them after they were taken by the Gestapo.

Visiting the Ann Frank House was an experience I will not soon forget.  As we passed the bookcase and entered the secret annex, I was overwhelmed with emotion. Despite the crowds, everyone was somber in this special place.

Otto Frank (Anne's dad) was heavily involved in the creation of the museum and he specifically requested the annex be left empty, and it remains so today. But in Anne's room, the pictures she she mentions gluing to the wall are still there:

"Our little room looked very bare at first with nothing on the walls; but thanks to Daddy who had brought my film-star collection and picture postcards on beforehand, and with the aid of a paste pot and brush, I have transformed the walls into one gigantic picture. This makes it look much more cheerful…" July 11, 1942

It was one of the parts of the diary I clearly remember; I was once a teenage girl who taped pictures to my wall. Although my pictures were all of Harrison Ford, I remember feeling a connection to her as I read her words in high school. To see the pictures she herself glued up on that wall, it was almost haunting. I can't really explain it, other than to say touring the Anne Frank Huis and seeing her original diaries touched my soul in a way few things have.

All four of us read (or reread) Anne's diary before we came and we were glad we did. It made our visit much more meaningful.  If you come to Amsterdam, put the Anne Frank Huis on your list -  now. Tickets are only available on-line, and they sell out quickly; they go on sale two months prior to a visit, so it is a good idea to book as early as possible. The rest is painless - you arrive just a few minutes before your ticket time, get in line, and then head inside. Be sure to put a couple pieces of Kleenex in your pocket. I was glad I did.

No photography is allowed in the museum (other than in inside the pre-visit program room.) All the photos above, from within the museum, are the property of Anne Frank Huis.