We're Getting Smarter (Week 11 Recap - Dec 10, 2018)
Week two in Amsterdam, and we managed to start seeing some sights. We each went separately to the Van Gogh Museum (get timed entry tickets in advance). It was amazing! I don’t think I’ve been to a museum like that before, dedicated to one person’s art. It was interesting to see his progression. Also, they have Sunflowers. I really thought that was a very nice piece of art when I have seen it in photographs, but laying eyes on it in person was a whole different experience. It basically glows. The brush strokes are intense. It’s hung on this dark blue wall that perfectly compliments and offsets it. It really was a memorable trip to the museum.
I also went to the Rijks, which is in the most beautiful building, and when I was feeling spontaneous visited the Tulip Museum (worth 5€ and 15min just for the videos explaining how the tulip came to be associated with Amsterdam and how the bulbs are harvested, then 10min more in the beautiful gift shop) and the Houseboat Museum (skip). I went to a cheese shop and tried 10 different types of gouda with paired spreads (all delicious). I ate delicious apple pie at Winkel 43 that was sort of like a cross between a pie and a brown butter cookie. I bought a new winter coat from a Dutch brand (Welter Shelter) that believes you should be warm enough if you put your coat over a t-shirt. I appreciate this belief but I’m still wearing sweaters. I bought three sweaters.
I took WP to music class entirely in Dutch. She stared, baffled and fascinated, at the woman playing the ukulele the entire time while I tried to imitate the other moms’ hand gestures a beat too late. No one seemed interested in the fact that we had no clue what was going on.
Which is actually an interesting aside. After being in Italy for so long, Amsterdam feels REALLY diverse and very accessible. There are brown people all around and many of them are Dutch. There’s none of the feeling in Italy I got when I realized the only black people in Parma proper I saw were young, male African immigrants begging (they were all around the same age and incongruously well dressed, which made me suspect a more complicated backstory).
When I walk into a shop here, the shopkeeper starts speaking to me in Dutch. The other parents I encounter seem to switch back and forth effortlessly between Dutch and English. And if you meet someone in English at a kindercafe, they may address you in Dutch ten minutes later, or assume you understand when their child says something to you in Dutch. I keep having to clarify that I only speak English.
It’s really interesting after being in a place where I *did* speak the language a little and always felt completely like I was seen as the foreigner that I was. Here I have no clue what people are saying to me but they assume I may live just down the street.
And in the vein of settling in, we took advantage of the fact that we were in Amsterdam for so long to figure out babysitters. We adults used one of our babysitter evenings and took an evening canal cruise under the light installations up around the city for the month of December. We’d seen many of them from the bridges and sidewalks, so I was surprised how cool it was to see them from below.
We went out to a couple of child free dinners, and had a beer in a very picturesque pub (Cafe de Tuin) with a cat curled up at the end of the bar near some Christmas lights just to complete the picture.
For most of the week we took it easy though because we knew that Saturday began a super intense two week phase of travel. Jonathan (my brother) and Alison (his gf) arrived Saturday! We meet my parents in Paris in a few days with Belgium in between. So there’s lots of moving around over the next couple weeks.
This is the kind of travel that wouldn’t have fazed me pre-kid. Pack light, be nimble, maximize your time. But with a kid, and with all the extra stuff we’re carrying for her (crib, stroller, car seat not to mention clothes and the like -- also not only does she not carry any of her own stuff, you also have to carry her), and with all the added stress of getting her resettled in a new place every couple days, Mike and I definitely spent 45 minutes the other day staring at each other across the dining table wondering what we were thinking when we planned this next set of legs and what we could possibly do to make it more relaxing.
Of course I am SO excited to see everyone and spend time together. But we also know how to settle into a rhythm the three of us, and that’s not possible when you’re in a large group. So between the group travel and the location changes we know this will be one of the most memorable and joyful parts of our trip and one of the toughest at the same time.
We recently decided that a week should be the minimum for staying in a single place (one apartment, no moves) on this trip for all the stuff we’re planning moving forward. We won’t hit that all the time (there are just some places that you want to see but that don’t justify that length of stay) but whenever possible, 7 nights it is. So it is daunting to look at this next stretch: 3 nights in the new Amsterdam apartment with my brother, 2 nights in Bruges, 2 in Antwerp, 5 in Paris, 1 in London, sleeper train to Skye. Thankfully on 12/29 we finally settle in for a two week stretch.
Speaking of all those changes, we booked our train tickets this week for the next legs of our journey and I’d just like to share a pro tip - do not wait until last minute to book inter-country train travel during Christmas week… we are traveling first class not by choice but because every second class train ticket requiring less than two changes on our travel day from Antwerp to Paris was sold out...oops. This should have been obvious but oh well.
Oh but you know what did put me in a good mood? In our new Airbnb we moved from a place that’s clearly rental-only with no personal effects, to a place our host left that same morning, probably carrying an overnight bag and going to stay with friends. While this has its downsides (so many breakable things, also there is a photo with a group of people in costume and one of them is dressed as… a black person) it also has its upsides - THERE IS A CHRISTMAS TREE! With lights. Joy of joys.
I am staring at it now, waiting for WP to wake up so we can have some lunch (egg and her absolute favorite, clementines) and then strike out in the cold drizzle to check out the neighborhood petting zoo.
Update: the rain stopped and the petting zoo was free, and rad. The goat and sheep came up to us to be pet. The chickens were the hilarious-looking kind. A+, recommend!