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On vacation in Amsterdam

Greetings from the lower countries!

We took our five-year-old on her first trip out of the country for a somewhat spontaneous family vacation to Amsterdam. We spotted a surprisingly cheap flight a couple months ago and bought the tickets on a whim. Now we’re here without much of a plan, which is my favorite way to travel.

Adjusting to jet lag is significantly more difficult with a kid. Where adults might just stay up until nighttime on the day of arrival and adjust to the time change all at once, kids can’t really do that it turns out. So at 3:30 this morning, she was wide awake. But this turned into a wonderful experience because we decided to go on a walk together and were able to see the city from a totally different perspective. It was cool to be the only people walking the usually-busy paths through the Rijksmuseum, and we spent some time making funny sounds and listening to them echo around the space. We ate the Oberto jerky we brought as a plane snack, talked about art, found a playground and looked at the water. I think next time I’ll worry less about making the jet lag adjustment all at once and just enjoy being awake during some odd hours. Kids are great at teaching lessons like these.

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The city has changed a lot since I was last here in 2016. They have mostly completed a massive remake of the area around the Amsterdam Centraal transit station, and it is much less hectic and chaotic than before. It is still hectic, but with a lot more walking space and fewer roads. Buses now serve an elevated area behind the station, so the only transit out front are the trams. They also opened a major new north-south underground metro line that somehow makes getting around even easier, though you do miss out on the city views.

This is something I think about a lot whenever the idea of historic preservation comes up in Seattle. Here’s a city many hundreds of years older than Seattle that is not afraid of constantly evolving. Revisiting past decisions, like building busy roadways in popular areas, is part of running a healthy city.

Also, I did the thing. I visited the city’s new underwater bike parking garage near Amsterdam Centraal. It’s ridiculously cool. This is a wild solution to a problem most cities can only dream of having.

Selfie inside vast indoor space with lots of bikes parked on racks.

Anyway, this trip isn’t a study trip for the blog or anything, but I’m sure you’ll be seeing more over the next week. Take care.

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5 responses to “On vacation in Amsterdam”

  1. Jesse

    Thanks for sharing your experience!

  2. John

    I was there in Almelo for work exactly a year ago, and visited Amsterdam for a weekend. Great experience, I did bike tours both days and then rented a bike for my remaining work week. It is a tourist town, but there is so much to do. Get any museum tickets asap, maybe a hard ask for your 5 year old.
    Just a ferry crossing to “north Amsterdam” and you are in the country!

  3. eddiew

    So, how tall are the Dutch?

  4. Fnarf

    One of my favorite things I got to see was the bike barge, which travels around the canals with a big magnet and scoop, fishing bikes out so boats don’t get snagged. Some fall in, but I gather many are chucked in by drunks coming out of the bars and coffeshops in the wee hours.

    I also really like their red-tagging system – so many bikes just abandoned at the end of the school term or whenever, that the city periodically puts a red tag on every bike in an area, and comes back a month later and scraps or donate all the ones that still have a tag on. If you find a tag on yours, you just rip it off, which shows it’s still being used. There a lot of ramshackle old bikes in Amsterdam; fancy ones get stolen. There’s a sweet spot between good enough to ride but bad enough to not get stolen – though if your bike is stolen, you just buy another, possibly from the same guy who stole it!

  5. Stu Hennessey

    I am sitting at Frankfurt Flughafen, returning to Seattle after 3 months in Europe.
    I did some winter touring from Frankfurt to Eindhoven and Utrecht. I recommend visiting both of these cities to fully understand why the Dutch use their bikes so much.

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