What’s up my lovely people! I hope you had a good start to the new year! Let there be a lot of travel, happiness, and success in Y2020 for all of us!
For our winter holiday this time, we took trips to 2 beautiful cities: Amsterdam and Brussels.
This was NOT my first visit to Amsterdam, the city had impressed and scandalized me back in the summer of 2015 😉 when I made a pit stop here en route Lisbon for a work affair. However, our winter vacation was with the family, was longer, hence what you will find below is the perfect recipe for first-time travelers to the windmill city.
Day 1: Arrival and Night Cruise
Within EU, easy jet provides you with the best options possible, I do recommend the no-frill airline with a pinch of salt – recent instances have featured regular delays and an indifferent staff.
To quote an example: For both of our inward and onward journeys, the flight was delayed by an hour each – this hurts most when you are on your return. FACT. For the past couple of weeks, I have been suffering from a dry mouth, for which, I need to constantly drink water – unless you buy the water from them, your requests are ignored!
Moving on, we reached our hotel in the afternoon and were starving! We stayed in the NH hotel Schiller, the one which is right in the city center. Everything was close by (which was refreshing), and right in the front of our hotel was the Christmas market, a ton of restaurants, shopping districts and public transport. So, if you are the one who cares immensely about the location of your stay, I would recommend this option. The rooms are average, but I had no complaints. A heater in the bathroom was surely amiss!
Places to Eat and Things to Do
Our first lunch was at this beautiful Irish pub called “The Old Bell”, the ambiance was as festive as it could get, the food was delish and the service was great, with a smile (unlike what we are now accustomed to). During this time of the year, be wary of the weather – carry warm, water-proof jackets along with umbrellas.
We took a quick break at the hotel before heading for the night cruise which covers the Amsterdam Light Festival during this time of the year! The cruise we took was from “a-forgettable-operator”, and as luck would have it – they goofed up, they goofed up big time! We had to wait amidst the cold winds on the departure point to board their godforsaken boat for around 45 minutes – after which NOTHING could make us feel “warm”! To be fair, the tour is quite delightful – they serve drinks and a special Christmas bread during this 75-minute tour! The light installations were quite beautiful with the canals and generic city architecture in the background.
I would recommend the tour for sure, just with a different operator! (there are tons…) Worth mentioning is the restaurant we ran into to save ourselves – cold makes you do crazy things! 😉 Do yourselves a favor, dress well and eat at the Eastwood Beer & Grill at the DoubleTree by Hilton.
Day 2: City Attractions and the Van Gogh Museum
If you are a regular reader here, then you know that I am strong on city tours/big bus tours with offer multiple hops! This gives you a good perspective of a new city – during the winter months, it is advisable to dress in layers and to take a seat in the closed portion of the bus!
Van Gogh Museum
I absolutely loved the Van Gogh Museum, spread across 3 floors: you get to know the person, his art, his life, and his inspiration. As my daughter is a creative soul, it was the best thing plugged into our itinerary. What we loved the most – the treasure hunt for kids which got us super engaged as a family! At the end of the hunt, she received a “specialist badge” and a couple of postcards with the artist’s famous works. To me, this was a family highlight – for single-child families (like ours), a highly recommended activity.
Another thing that we tried to squeeze in was the cat café called “Kattencafe Kopjes“, as our daughter had agreed to come for the trip only on one condition – and the condition was a visit to the cat café. Unfortunately, it was closed due to the holidays, but we managed one on our next stop. (Whew!) So If you have some cat lovers in the family, this could be a good place for coffee in the evening.
Day 3: Wrap Up with Windmills
25th December is always an ironical date to be on a vacation if you are in the EU – there are limitations and tons of them! So, for us finding a place for breakfast that turned into brunch was rather magical, it was our little Christmas miracle. Again, an Irish-sort-of-a-bar-café called O’donnell’s with fantastic coffee and the most perfect breakfast. This is where I took our yearly “social-media-Christmas greeting”, our little tradition. 😊
Post our brunch, we walked around the dam square, went into the cathedral, clicked pictures by the canals and returned to the hotel. We had a taxi booked for us for our next destination, but before heading there we had a pit stop – we couldn’t have left Amsterdam without a view of the beautiful windmills.
“Windmills are an iconic part of the Dutch landscape, and a visit to one is a must for visitors to the Netherlands. And with eight windmills located in and around Amsterdam, windmill spotting is a great way to see the city.” Be sure to include this on your list of things to do!” We visited the Zaanse Schans windmills.
If you’re with your family (especially in the winter months), I wouldn’t advise loading up your itinerary over and above this. However, since summer trips or more particularly the months from April to October are more comfortable, a few more activities such as – Anne Frank House, Rijksmuseum, Royal Palace Amsterdam (among others) can be squeezed into the plan.
Stay tuned, Brussels is next!
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