By Jessie G-Age 14
Over December break, my family traveled to Amsterdam. Amsterdam was a perfect and small city to be in for the holidays. Besides the fact that the city itself is extremely small, all of the houses, streets, buildings, and even the canals were decked with Christmas lights and decorations. Amsterdam was an ideal place to celebrate Christmas. Plus, because of the small size of the city, it was extremely easy to travel throughout the city on our feet. The lengths of our walks were no more than 30 minutes. We did not have to travel in a taxi once, although myself, my dad, and twin brother, Mason, often urged my mom and older brother, Daniel, for a taxi ride. They never obliged!
My family stayed at the Andaz hotel. The hotel was in a ideal location, centered in the city, so it was extremely easy to get all over. The accommodations of the hotel were great; they were quick with service and had a knowledgeable concierge and staff. My family of 5 decided to get two rooms, the rooms being located next to one another. My room was very spacious and had a very “open” feeling. The bathroom was split and scattered throughout the room, which was a little weird, but also very cool! The room also offered complimentary food and drinks, excluding the alcoholic beverages.
The first day, my family arrived in Amsterdam at around 3 pm, so we just stuck with dinner for that day. We ate at Cafe Panache. My mom and I shared a salt crusted white fish. Although it was delicious, many bones were in the fish, which made it a little unenjoyable. However, all of the sides and other meals were great, and the service was very good as well! My family wanted to explore a Christmas market when we were in Amsterdam, so we decided to explore one located near the Rijksmuseum. The market was also located next to a nice and touristy ice skating rink. The market was closed when we arrived, but we were able to see the Amsterdam sign. Unfortunately, the sign was very crowded, so my family was unable to get a picture of the whole sign, but it was still very cool to see the sign!
The next day my family did a private walking tour throughout the city of Amsterdam with a knowledgeable tour guide named Lisa; she has her own company called “Journeys Through Amsterdam.” I would definitely recommend her as a guide for others; she was extremely knowledgeable, interactive, and did not hold any information back. On the tour, my parents told Lisa to not be hesitant of sharing any information with my brothers and I. We started off the tour in Dam square and learned a little information about the national monument, the formation of the city of Amsterdam, and the history of the city. We then made our way to the Red Light District. Lisa was not hesitant of taking us. Because it was the morning of Christmas Eve, there were not many “girls” in the windows. However, we were able to learn about the regulations of the Red Light District (prostitution is legal) and the history of the district. My brothers and I listened attentively, as we were fascinated about what she was telling us about the girls’ jobs. We also learned about a church located next to the Red Light District (weird, right?), and how the church was where people used to go to get forgiveness after spending time with the girls.
Lisa also showed us a few of the coffee shops. Although my family was not able to go inside of them because of age requirements, it was cool to see the “culture” of Amsterdam. For those who are unaware of what a coffee shop is in Amsterdam, it is a shop that only sells marijuana and products with marijuana.
On the tour, we also went into many cute shops. We first explored a duck store, where they only sold rubber duckies. They had some humorous ducks, including a Donald Trump duck. My older brother, Daniel, bought an Amsterdam duck. We also went into a cookie store, where they only sell one type of cookie. The cookie happened to be amazing and is probably one of the best cookies I have ever had. It’s a chocolate cookie, with chewy and melted white chocolate pouring out of the center; it resembled an Oreo. Lastly, we went into a cheese store. Cheese is extremely popular in Amsterdam and many of the stores have many exotic cheeses that are not found in America. In the cheese store we tried many samples. Unfortunately, Daniel does not like cheese and refuses to try it. At the cheese store, we bought a small cheese cutting board. We also saw the skinniest building of all of Amsterdam; it is one window wide! We also saw areas like the Jordaan, which is a district in the center of Amsterdam known for the nice houses, restaurants, shops, and boutiques. It is an area that should be explored by all families traveling to Amsterdam; there are great photo opportunities! Finally, we saw the the Rembrandt house, an art museum containing painter Rembrandt’s paintings and etchings. The house is also where Rembrandt lived and worked.
We then ate at a small cafe in Amsterdam to try traditional Dutch food. Daniel, my mom, and I all tasted Stamppot; a traditional dutch food with potato at its base mixed with seasonal vegetables topped with either sausage or a meatball. I stuck with a meatball on mine. The meal was superb, I wanted to eat every bite of it! But, my dad’s biggest regret of the trip was not ordering it so he kept stealing mine. Daniel and I convinced my mom to make the meal at home!
After the walking tour, my mom and I decided to shop on the 9 streets. The 9 streets are what you think it is; 9 streets. They are filled with many vintage and designer shops, cafes, restaurants, etc. I bought a sweater and my mom bought a scarf, and we explored many hip and interesting shops!
We next did a Christmas/ light festival boat ride down the canal. Truthfully, the canal ride was a disappointment. My family and I were expecting to see many light configurations, however, we only saw a few— less than 5. But, the boat did go through a small tunnel of lights, which was very cool! However, despite the lack of light figures, it was nice and interesting to see and explore the canal, the buildings surrounding the canal, and the houseboats.
After the light festival on the canal, my family ate at Indrapura, my favorite restaurant of the whole trip! It was an Indonesian style restaurant known for their rice tables. Although the menu was quite confusing, the food was spectacular. My parents split one of the large rice tables; it is most certainly too big for one person, even two people. The rice bowls consisted of numerous toppings and add ons, even too many toppings, but Daniel and I helped my parents finish their meal! I got lamb and nibbled on my parents food, but overall we had way too much food! There was pianist at the restaurant, which made the meal nice and calm. The service was great and the food was absolutely amazing!!!
The next day, we ate breakfast at The Pancake Bakery. The Dutch are well known for their pancakes, but their pancakes don’t resemble typical American pancakes. The pancakes have savory toppings on them, like bacon and cheese, rather than sweet toppings like whipped cream and fruit. The pancakes were extremely large and on the table was a larger pot filled of syrup (see my picture up top). I got a pancake with ham, cheese, and tomato. I regret getting the tomato on the pancake, but it was still a delicious combination. The restaurant was very cute as well. It was practically underground and truly represented Dutch culture and food.
After the breakfast, my family went to the Anne Frank house. The Anne Frank house was 100% the favorite part of my trip! The line was fairly long and my mom had to buy tickets 60 days in advance because of the museum’s popularity. In the museum, we were able to learn about and see Anne’s journal entries, the building and annex they hid in, the history of the time, and the experience they went through. It was extremely enjoyable because I am a teenage girl and I was able to resonate with Anne, allowing me to feel connected to her and her story. Plus, the museum was very informational and interactive, giving each visitor a headset with clear and guided directions. The museum was amazing and I recommend it to all!
After the Anne Frank museum, my family went to the Rijksmuseum. We had a hard time deciding whether to go to the van Gogh museum or the Rijksmuseum, but our tour guide Lisa from our walking tour helped us to make our decision. My family learned “The Starry Night,” the most famous painting in the van Gogh museum is actually in New York, so we opted to explore the Rijksmuseum. To be honest, the museum was not too enjoyable. It wasn’t interactive at all and it was very crowded. My family decided to “spice up” the experience and have a scavenger hunt for some of the pieces. Instead of exploring the whole museum, my family looked up highlights of the museum and saw those. Personally, I thought it was boring and not a great experience for kids.
Lastly, to end off on our trip in Amsterdam my family decided to spend dinner with the Dutch, with the company “Dine with the Dutch.” Dine with the Dutch offers a dinner with a Dutch family or group of people at their home. My family wanted to get the full cultural experience of Amsterdam, so my mom decided to book a dinner, which happened to be on Christmas. We had our dinner with a few members from Amsterdam who had a Dutch background. For the Christmas dinner, we had a “Thanksgiving” type of meal with typical Thanksgiving food; turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, stuffing, etc. The food was delicious! Furthermore, my family and I learned plenty from the Dutch members of the dinner. It was a wonderful experience and a great way to end our trip!
Overall, Amsterdam was a perfect place to celebrate the holidays and I’d recommend the trip to many other families! Thumbs up for Amsterdam!!