Previous posts: Amsterdam houseboat rental, vegetarian food in Amsterdam, and the cat museum
Overland travel to Amsterdam
Amsterdam trams, the Van Gogh museum for kids and the Vondelpark
Amsterdam flea market
Cat Boat and Hema
Amsterdam science museum and library
Amesterdam swimming pools and Miffy shop
Family day in Amsterdam
The Friday was not necessarily something you'll want to know about if you came here researching Amsterdam holidays, but for my own sense of completion, I'm going to include it. It was a family day.
My mother's maiden name is Van Rest, and as that might lead you to guess, we have Dutch roots. It also so happens that my uncle's partner is Dutch, and they spend part of the year in her home town of Haarlem. When I mentioned that we'd be holidaying in Amsterdam, my uncle told us that one of my cousins would be in the Netherlands with his family at a Dutch Centerparcs that week. And another of my cousins lives and works in Amsterdam. So how about we all meet up?
There were thirteen of us in total, including one baby, one toddler, and three kids. Item was delighted, after a week with only our company, to have some younger people to mix with. As for me, my only worry was whether the houseboat would sink under the weight of so many people.
I was really excited to see my cousins: it made me feel six years old again, with that peculiar sensation that none of you has changed a bit, despite marriage and (in some cases really quite impressively numerous instances of) childbearing. Unfortunately, I was a little *too* excited, and forgot to set my camera properly, so none of the family pictures came out without blurring. Very frustrating, because I knew for a fact that my mum would be sitting at home, checking on the time difference, and imaging us all together, while wondering what we were up to. It would have been nice to have been able to send some better pictures to her.
Here's the advice that might be useful to others: 13 people may have difficulties in finding a table at a restaurant in central Amsterdam. No matter, we tried two, then ended up at a pub on Prinsengracht which had the bonus of being so low-lit that the baby fell asleep.
Amsterdam canal trip
After a decent pub meal (toasted cheese etc), we took a canal boat ride past the main sights of the city. This would have been absolutely lovely, but Item was unfortunately unimpressed and started agitating to get out after half an hour. Ah well, it was excellent to see family while it lasted, and Item and the first cousin closest to her age have promised to become pen friends.
Seeing the sights of Amsterdam... or rather the sights up two girls' noses.
Last day in Amsterdam
We had to leave the houseboat by 11.00, and the ferry wasn't until evening. I had thought that we'd be hanging around trying to kill time, but oddly enough, this last day turned out to be one of the most memorable.
First of all, we had to leave all our
Our first plan was to revisit Papabubble, which you may remember was the shop where you can see sweets being made - it doesn't do displays on Mondays, which was when we'd first popped in. It was an easy walk from the station back to Haarlemmerdijk: when we re-entered they told us it'd be 20 minutes before anything "dramatic" would happen, so we went to a 'Bagels and Beans' (a chain of coffee shops which we'd seen branches of on many a corner).
Unfortunately, we'd already had our breakfast, because they had some beguiling offerings, including "bagel tapas", and a plate of cakes for two, which we saw a couple at the next table ordering. It looked good, but possibly had enough calories in it for the whole day, each.
Back at Papabubble:
Two young and energetic shop workers were kneading huge lumps of "dough" (is there a proper word for it?). Item sat and watched the whole thing, and they were kind enough to explain what they were doing at every step. We watched the sweet mixture change colour as they twisted it to get air into it, and then the most magical part, as they formed it into a long heart-shaped sausage and stretched it until it was only a few millimetres across, chopping it up to make tiny little multi-coloured heart shaped candies. Item was *very* impressed (and she got to eat a sample).
Hint: they sell huge baroque-shaped offcuts of swirly candy just next to where Item is sitting in this picture, for only a couple of Euros. Definitely the most economical way to buy their sweets.
Our next plan was to seek out a small urban farm not far from Haarlemmerdijk, under the railway tracks and in a quiet residential area close to an island formed by the canals: Bickersgracht farm (Bickersgracht boerderij). Here's the insanely attractive Google Streetview of it:
It was really our first foray into an entirely residential area, and it was so peaceful while obviously being a true community. We had a few moments fantasising about what it would be like to live there as we walked along this deserted street with gardens and the canal on one side, looking for signs of the farm.
Well, we found it:
On the right there? A boar I accidentally let through the gate: the woman in charge had to lead him back to his pen with a carrot. It's a small farm indeed, but Item enjoyed seeing the rabbits and chickens and goats, and there was a tiny garden/playground next door - unfortunately it was a bit too wet to fully enjoy it, but in more clement weather it would have been a lovely place for a picnic.
At this point, I looked at the map and saw it was only a short walk to Westerparc, a large thin park made from land reclaimed from an old gasworks, if I remember correctly. At the end nearest town, it's kept up like and conventional park...
...and then, as you go further in, first you find a corridor of old brick factory buildings, all converted into trendy bars, theatres, arts/craft workshops and restaurants, and then it is all reedy marshland and jogging trails with outdoor gym equipment.
We walked quite a long way in, looking for a cafe, and kept trying places that only had coffee and cake. Eventually, at a large theatre bar only offering crisps, a kindly server said that if we wanted something healthy, to walk five minutes back towards town and round the corner. And blimey, there it was, restaurant nirvana. Exactly the kind of place we would have conjured up ourselves if we'd been asked to describe our ideal eatery (unfortunately, we were so fractious by then that it took us a good 20 minutes to fully realise our good fortune and enjoy ourselves - and like so much of Amsterdam, you had to queue for the good stuff, so we were waiting for a seat for ten of those minutes).
What was this place? It is a bakery with an attached restaurant "De Bakkers Winkel" [no winkle jokes at the back], serving a lot of veggie options (as well as plenty for carnivores), and what's more, there was a highly strokable cat in the basement next to where you went in to the loos.
Joy. Especially once we discovered they also had English-language menus (just ask).
These are two rolls, baked on the premises, and filled with the fillings of your choice from a list, and served with salad. We both went for courgette, walnut and ricotta.
After we'd eaten, we took a bus back to the public library and spent a relaxed hour there (me drawing and Item 'reading' Dutch picturebooks).
And then, it was back to the station, a brief worry when platform 1 appeared not to exist, a new route on the (double-decker!) train since there was engineering on the line, in the dark and rain, until eventually the impressive sight of the lit-up ferry as big as a city skyline appeared, and the holiday was over but for the long journey back to Brighton, in part by coach thanks to engineering on this side of the sea as well.