Why not Amsterdam?
Those of you who know me in the real world, have by now heard that I’ve decided to spend an unprecedented five weeks in Amsterdam this summer with my two kids (who are now a fairly travel-ready 12 and 14). My son is at an age where he’s not interested in summer camps, and I was afraid he would play video games all summer if we stayed home. An extreme solution, but there you go.
Friends reacted in one of two ways to the news: they either expressed profound jealousy or scrunched their noses and said, “Why Amsterdam?”
Yes, five whole, entire weeks in Amsterdam (though we’ll probably do lots of day trips by train and one longer mini-vacation by car down the Rhine River Valley to Strasbourg and/or Colmar). Here’s why:
1. This video!
Okay, I didn’t actually see this video before I booked our trip. But I did watch it multiple times with the kids to get them pumped up for our trip. Lots of credit to the people at Visit Holland for the entire “Holland. The Original Cool.” video series. It’s fun and funny.
2. I’ve never been to Amsterdam
Oh how I love traveling in Europe! Who doesn’t? But there’s one problem: because we lived in England for two years when the kids were young, I’ve seen most of it. So have my kids, though they are quick to point out that places they don’t remember don’t really count. Whatever.
Other big cities like London and Paris would have made great home bases for this trip, but I’ve visited both lots and lots and LOTS of times. Amsterdam was new territory, and I was definitely craving new territory.
3. It’s a cool, human-scale city
After much trial and error, I have discovered that I am happiest in medium-sized cities. Big cities are exciting, but exhausting. There are So Many Important Things To Do and See that sometimes it doesn’t even feel like a vacation. Picturesque villages, on the other hand, can be pretty to look at…for about 20 minutes. In between are those Goldilocks destinations that are charming, but without too much crime, congestion, and traffic. I think Amsterdam is one of those places. I’ll report back on whether I’m right.
4. Awesome transportation connections
Another criteria for this trip was awesome transportation connections, and you can get to lots of great destinations from Amsterdam’s easy-to-navigate Central Station. Let’s say the weather here gets a little iffy. We can hop on a train to Paris, Berlin, Bruges, or Maastricht. I may wind up renting a car for part of our trip (since train tickets for three people aren’t always cheaper than a rental car), but if I don’t, we can still cover a lot of ground. Or not. We’re still deciding.
5. Iedereen spreekt Engels (everyone speaks English)
I speak English and Spanish well, and understand French well enough not to cause an international incident. The advantage of the Netherlands over places like Italy, the Czech Republic, and Croatia is that 85% of people here speak English. I don’t always shrink from language barriers, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t relaxing to know that pretty much anyone I ask for help can help me.
So, what are your favorite things to see and do in and around Amsterdam and the Netherlands? We landed yesterday and are open to suggestions!
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June 3rd, 2014 | by Jamie Pearson