My favorite way to travel has always been to pretend to live in a new place. To stay in an apartment where I can cook, in a neighborhood where I can walk and shop and generally do the everyday things I do at home. It sounds boring, sure, but it’s actually a great way to refresh and refocus. You get the a real sense of what it might be like to live in a new place, and I’m always amazed at how somewhat subtle differences in cities can have such a huge impact on how it feels to live out a day there.
That has long been our travel philosophy, which is convenient, because it’s really the only way to travel when you have kids. Slow paced exploring – parks rather than museums, markets instead of fancy dining, locals instead of tourists.
Going back to Amsterdam was good for the soul of our little family. It’s a place Chuck once called home and was the best part of our first international travel adventure together. Our trip this time definitely fit the bill of “pretend we live here” – mostly because Chuck was working Monday through Friday so it was the kids and I on our own, exploring at our usual glacial pace.
We started our days in the early morning by having breakfast with Chuck in the cafe around the corner (big cappuccinos abounding as we recovered from the time change) and then we were off on our way to Sarphatipark, waving ‘byebye to daddy’ as he took off on a tram for his commute.
Sarphatipark was a nice walk through the bicycle lined streets of the neighborhood we stayed in – De Pijp – which I absolutely adored. We’d cross through the Albert Cuyp outdoor market and pass by sweet smelling bakeries and cafes before finding ourselves in the green serenity of the park. And then it was hours and hours of feeding ducks and riding bicycles.
Truly that’s how we passed most of the week. Nora played with little Dutch children, and I’m pretty sure she fell in love with a little British ex-pat boy named Billy (they shared a love for feeding ducks though neither I nor Billy’s mother had brought bread, so the two of them paired up and begged other parents for spare pieces like two little little beggar children straight from Oliver Twist). After dragging Nora away from the wildlife each day, we’d grab some lunch and treats from the bakery and buy a few things for dinner near the market. And on a good day, Nora and Henry would nap in the stroller while I covered some serious ground, seeing as much of the city as I could while they dozed.
Before we knew it, it was the weekend, and Chuck joined in our adventures. And that was the best part of the whole trip. Of course I have the fewest pictures from then, because we were all too busy soaking in this city we love so much, but I have a few and I love them so because it was just such a special adventure for the four of us.
It was a weekend of strolling, eating, and Christmas market-ing, and all the while Nora pulled Chuck around by the hand and constantly exclaimed in her excited gibberish about who knows what (well mostly boats, really).
We even met a little Dutch girl named Noor, and between that and all the parents at the park telling me how big my kids are (the Netherlands is the tallest country in the world) we decided that Amsterdam is a pretty easy place for us to blend in.
(Waffles and Poffertjes kind of became a theme on this trip)
Sooo much coffee. Jet lag + two small kids meant extra caffeine for us!
I swear Henry was with us the whole time, he was just mostly snoozing in the stroller. ‘Tis the life of a nine week old babe!
We laughed at ourselves a lot on this trip, reflecting on how we were essentially just living our everyday lives but with the added complication of foreign languages, unfamiliar streets, jet lag, and a whole host of other factors. So at first glance it seems almost silly to travel this way, but the change of pace is so refreshing. To see other families doing the same basic things we are but different in so many ways. Kids on bikes through city centers, playgrounds with not an inch of safety padding, kinderconcept cafes designed with families in mind. A slower pace of living, a focus on communal space and a general respect for all things shared are a simple reminder that there are other ways of going about our lives, and in that way we always come home from these trips with a new perspective. So goodnight, Amsterdam, we’ll see you again soon.