Here's a post I started writing while traveling, but threw aside with reckless abandon as soon as Nick brought me some much-needed dinner. Better late then never, right?
We've had the best time in The Netherlands. Tess and Jasper were fantastic hosts who not drove us all over the country as our tour guides, but were so happy to accommodate Espen's needs too. Traveling with a toddler can be tough for all involved, so it means so much when someone goes that extra mile for your little one. Thank you!
Well, let me tell you a little about our time in Holland, starting with our day in Amsterdam. Do we need to have a little heart to heart about Amsterdam? Yes, I rather think we do.
When I said "Amsterdam", did your brain come back with "legalized drugs, prostitution and wooden shoes"? If it did, you'd be right on all accounts. However, in our experience (and as with most nastiness), if you're after those things in Amsterdam, you'd have to go looking for them. We weren't looking for them, and so all we saw was a beautiful, unique city brimming with history on every corner.
A few things that stood out to me:
The History. Amsterdam is an old place with lots of stories to tell and sights to see. You quite literally cannot turn a street corner without coming across another beautiful old church, building or statue. The art history geek in me could spend months exploring the city and putting it all together. At the same time I enjoyed seeing how the old and traditional coexisted so peacefully with the new and modern. The photo above is a good example of that: it shows the royal palace in Amsterdam, and although you can't quite see it in the photo, there were school children playing soccer outside in the grounds. A perfect example of how to marry the old with the new, I think.
The Nemo Science Center.
We would have made it too, had our feet not been so tired!
The Architecture. Like I mentioned above, Amsterdam is such an old place where buildings have been allowed to stand pretty much as they are for hundreds of years. That creates a great opportunity to literally see a timeline of Dutch architecture as the period and style changes from building to building. And even if you don't get all nerdy about it, you can still just enjoy the prettiness of it all.
The Churches. They were everywhere! The Netherlands has a long history of religious tolerance, and so it seemed like all kinds of congregations had built their own place of worship. The photos are from a Jesuit church that we happened to step inside.
The flower market. It was fun to see bucket after bucket of tulip bulbs, and I was sorely tempted to bring some home with us to remember our trip. However, in the end my fear of getting in trouble with customs got the better of me, and I left them there. Instead, I took lots of photos of all the little stalls stuffed to the rafters with flowers.
The Rijksmuseum. The Dutch National Museum of Art. My goodness, this place certainly deserves its own post! It was really fun to see some really well-known paintings that I studied in my art history classes in college, like Vermeer's Milk Maid (detail seen on the banner in the photo above) or Rembrandt's Night Watch, but I also enjoyed discovering a few works that were either new to me, or that I didn't know as well. I love this marriage portrait by Frans Hals, they just look so relaxed and happy to be together.
Finally, a shout-out to aunt Tess. We've never had a nanny, nor are we ever really likely to get one, but traveling with Tess definitely showed us why some people choose to go that route. Having worked as a nanny, Tess was confident and happy to just step in and take over Espen so we could enjoy the day and our surroundings. And Espen loved the attention and getting to explore new places with his aunt. In fact, he still talks about her daily after almost two months!
And that was our day out in Amsterdam. I feel like we saw just enough to know that we need to see more! With Tess living there, I am sure we will be back before too long.