We recently visited Esther and Family in Amsterdam, and it was a such a great trip! So great, that the whole train carriage on the way home had to listen to my kids’ lamentations about how Amsterdam is so great and Paris is not!
I know what they mean– it is so nice discovering a new city and, as a tourist, you have the luck to only see the good sides of a city and Amsterdam has many, many good sides. It is beautiful and small, and super accessible with kids. You can rent bicycles all over the city and the choice of different bicycle types is incredible.
We stayed for four days during which time Esther and I put the world to rights, crafted and dreamt up some serious crafting projects for sometime in the future, the children got on famously and we visited some of Amsterdam’s sites. We visited the Artis Zoo and saw some lions, giraffes, wallabes, zebras and seals basking in the spring sunlight. We took a boat ride around the canals and learned all about the history of Amsterdam. We went to play in the Vondel Park which has some great play structures. We ate little pancakes and waffles fresh from a market stall. We did not even make it to the Nemo Science Museum, but check out Esther’s Amsterdam tips as she has some great ideas.
Above, the Vondel Park. And below, the giraffes at the zoo, which we stayed looking at for ages! I don’t think I have ever seen a giraffe as up close before.
Such a great trip and if you ask my daughters,(and 20 other people on our train), it’s the only place to be!
Ice-skating is something of a national sport in the Netherlands, especially in winters where we’re lucky enough to have temperatures so low the many natural waterways in the city and countryside are frozen. Last week was such a lucky week, and children and parents alike put on their skates and hit the ice. Even the canals in the city centre here in Amsterdam were frozen, which is pretty rare! After some initial hesitation on whether or not to get the kids their own skates (after all, you never know how much they will be put to use) we did give in to the temptation. Especially after I found out that skates these days are expandable! Sara’s pair for instance is size 32-36, which means she will be able to wear them for years to come. (We got their skates at Decathlon.) It’s amazing how fast they pick up the skill, and how they love the activity. Fun, fun, fun!
PS Photo of Pim (4) skating on the Keizersgracht in Amsterdam over the weekend.
I did already tell you about Broer&Zus, one of my favourite children’s boutiques in Amsterdam, and I have already raved about their fantastic own label as well. But I recently stepped into the store again, and just have to tell you yet AGAIN how lovely the store is and how I like their own label! Take these girlie dresses… how can one resist? Made of cool cotton in an array of bright, fun colours and with the perfect A-line tunic shape — they are SO fun! Sweet for hot days, but equally cute for colder days, paired with leggings.
I also picked up one of these super cute starred onesies for the new baby. Can’t wait to try it on…
In addition to their own label, they also showcase a great collection of superb brands. If you’re not in Amsterdam any time soon to check out the shop, please don’t worry — they have a great webshop and ship internationally.
Last weekend we did something unexpectedly fabulous: we took the children to Rembrandt’s House. Rembrandt, as you might know, was a very famous Dutch painter who lived from 1607 till 1669. From 1625 onwards he lived in Amsterdam. For a big part of his live he was very rich, already well known in his time, and he lived in a beautiful house that is amazingly well conserved and restored and can be visited today.
I didn’t really know what to expect with two little children, but they were SO impressed. Our daughter (4 yrs) listened to her own audio tour, aimed especially at kids, and I can say that at the end of our visit she could give me specific information that I didn’t pick up myself.
If you’re in Amsterdam and want to combine some culture with history and a fun family activity, the Rembrandthuis comes recommended. There’s no restaurant, but walking down to the Staalstraat takes less than 5 minutes and you’ll find Pucinni, with great coffee, good sandwiches and amazing cakes. In the same street you’ll find cute kids gift shop Beestenwinkel, my favourite grown-up gift shop Klevering (that happens to stock some really lovely kids items as well), and a bit up the road there’s Droog Design, a showcase of the famous Dutch design group.
Thanks to its flat (meaning not hilly) landscape, the Netherlands is the perfect place for getting around on bike. It’s also quite safe: bike lanes are virtually everywhere, and drivers are so used to the many bikes around that they take them in careful consideration. So the ‘fiets’ is the preferred means of transportation for most, if not all Dutchmen. We cycle to work, we cycle to school, we cycle to the shops and we also grab the bike if we go out at night (this will also conveniently save us the money for a parking ticket or a taxi).
Kids? No problem. We just take them in front with us when they are little, in a special seat hanging from the steer. When they grow bigger, they get a seat on the back of the bike, if necessary combined with the pre-mentioned seat on the front for a little sibling.
If you have three or more children though, it’s probably time to get a bakfiets. A bakfiets is kind of a cross between a bike and a beach wagon, and you can conveniently fit in as many as 4 children (although I’ve seen people squeeze in even more!). If you’ve ever been in Amsterdam, chances are high that you’ve noticed them around. (more…)
Don’t you love these wall decals? I mean, even if you don’t live in Amsterdam, you surely must like them!?!
These supercool stickers are made by Zuuz, and besides the fact that I really like the images of the typical Dutch canal houses, I love the fact that they are so big — my daughter can draw on them even when she’s standing up! We have a long hallway in our current apartment so we could fit both the crayon sticker set and the outlined houses set next to each other, and it really looks fantastic.
I never knew crayon stickers were so much fun for the kids — my daughter really loves drawing in the windows, the doors, and the people… Brilliant!
I can’t believe I only just discovered this shop! The only excuse I have is that it’s located on the other side of town…
Broer&Zus stocks a great selection of fantastic brands, which makes it irresistible to start with. But the best part for me is their own label! They have some great pieces for babies and little people, of great quality and lovely colours.
Their knitted wear is made of the softest alpaca wool, which is anti-allergic, doesn’t itch (I can still remember the worst itchy clothes from when I was a kid!) and is nice, warm and wonderful. The pieces are all made by hand in Peru in a workshop run just by women! I especially love the cardigans — they’re perfect for this time of year and have nice, vibrant colours.
The shirts, skirts and dresses are made of soft poplin cotton, so there’s no need to iron and they stay in excellent shape, and the cotton jersey pieces are lovely in their detailing, like stitching on the outside and little pockets.
Truly a brand to keep coming back to for great staples in your kids’ wardrobe! (more…)
Look how lovely this pendant lampshade is… I just love having some typical ‘Amsterdam’ toys and decorations in my house now that we live in this special city! Have you ever been to Amsterdam?? It’s very typical with its canals and canal houses; I don’t think there’s another city quite like it in the world! The scene you see on this lamp is called ‘Jordaan’, named after the picturesque neighbourhood in the centre of Amsterdam with its narrow streets, small houses and cute bridges.
Hylkia, the creative brain behind ‘Hartendief‘, originally studied fashion design but after the birth of her daughter started creating accessories for children’s rooms, eventually resulting in a series of these wonderful silhouette lamps. They are very stylish in their simplicity — plain when switched off, but when switched on the silver (or gold) silhouette on the inside of the shade creates a magical shadow world on the outside…
If you’re not so much into the Amsterdam theme like I am, there are three more sweet designs to choose from, and in a large selection of colours. You can order these lamps through the Hartendief store, but if your Dutch is not so polished these days you can just email Hylkia with your questions and wishes in English.
I’ve had my eyes on a pair for years now and since they were on sale AND available in my size and in an amazing colour… Hey, what can a girl do.
Shabbies were originally designed in the seventies by Dutch shoe designer Fred de la Bretoniere and are comfortable, fashionable, beautiful, and the perfect mix between nonchalant and chic. Shabby chic!
The colours of the natural leather are seriously amazing, and I really like the fact that they look equally cool with skinny trousers, a skirt or a mini dress. And of course they are much easier to chase kids with than 3 inch high heels!
If you’re interested in a pair of Shabbies, I suggest emailing this shop to ask if they would ship to your country. Or, of course, come to visit the Netherlands soon!
If you happen to be in Amsterdam and have a few hours to spare for some coffee and shopping, Utrechtsestraat is a good place to go.
The Koffiesalon, a lovely coffee-shop (in the true meaning of the word), has good seating, great espresso, yummy cakes and sandwiches and you can help yourself to as much water as you like. I brought my daughter here for some mummy and daughter time before and we both greatly enjoyed it. It’s also a good place to meet friends or even have an informal meeting (there’s free wireless).
Not far up the road, at number 74, you’ll find one of my favourite shops in Amsterdam, Jan. The shop owner, Janna, who obviously has great taste, has gathered a fantastic selection of products. Lamps, cushions, dinnerware and cutlery are amongst the stock, but the shop also features fashion accessories such as bags, belts, jewelery and watches, and some lovely toys and kiddie books. If you need a present or want to treat your own family (= yourself), don’t miss it.
Next door you’ll find Bellerose (they have good kids’ clothes). Funky ladies fashion can be found at Jan Lensen, beautiful French and Italian ceramics at Kom, great interior pieces at Mobilia, and there are many, many more great shops and restaurants. Maybe you’ll need more than a few hours!
Holland will be dressed in orange today! Because of the origins of our queen (she’s from the House of Orange), our national colour is orange. Not the deep terra cotta kind of orange, but just plain, nice and bright orange! And once a year, in honour of the queen, we celebrate Queensday. We take the day off, dress in the appropriate color (ALL of us!), and hit the streets to find treasures at the many flee-markets on the streets. Amsterdam’s biggest park, the Vondelpark, is dedicated to kids today.
Even Dutchmen abroad will wear something orange today, so see if you can spot them on the streets!
I must say that even though I love cooking (I just wish I had more time for it), I possibly love eating out in restaurants even more (I just wish I had more money for it). Last weekend our in-laws came to visit us in Amsterdam and after we treated our children to some indoor playtime at Tun-Fun, we spontaneously decided to go for a late and lazy Dim Sum lunch. It was very nice. We had four children with us, ages 2 to 11, and they kept themselves busy enough with eating, checking out the fish in the aquarium, watching Chinese television and drawing on the paper table-cloths. There were four grown-ups as well, and they loved the variety of steamed, fried and roasted seafood, beef, chicken, pork and vegetarian dishes that kept filling our table.
It’s so nice to sit around a table, chat, eat, drink tea and turn the Lazy Susan around for yet another delicious dish. No wonder the literal meaning of Dim Sum is ‘to touch the heart’!
I find the staff at Chinese restaurants to be very tolerant and sweet toward children, and Dim Sum lunch is definitely something you should try with your children, if you haven’t done so already.
A very good Dim Sum restaurant here in Amsterdam is Oriental City (Dim Sum is served daily from 11.30 to 17.00).
ONE YEAR AGO WE WROTE ABOUT:• They don’t make them like they used to
Can’t believe how excited and proud we are. It was a full-term, healthy pregnancy, and after a long but painless delivery we have finally given birth to four wonderful, beautiful city guides!!!
Their names are Amsterdam, London, Milan and Paris and even though they are still tiny, all the features are present. So with a lot of love and nurture from their mummies, they will soon grow up to become big, complete travel guides!
No kidding. Visiting cities with kids in tow doesn’t mean you have to spend your days in the swimming pool of the hotel (if it even has one) feeling guilty about disturbing the other hotel guests who, without a doubt, are hoping to spend their first romantic weekend-away-from-kids in 15 years.
Or… ending up in the local Rainforest Café or McDonald’s restaurant because you’re hungry and frustrated and all those fancy-looking local restaurants didn’t look very kid-friendly.
No way. From now on, just check out the Babyccino city guides with inside information of all the cool places we like to visit in our cities, carefully selected and tested and proven to be kid or parent friendly! Discover the coolest kid-friendly restaurants, the cutest kiddie shops, the best parks and playgrounds, the most interesting museums, the best local products and more!
Of course, this is a work in progress so we will keep updating them — and we would love to hear back from you with feedback and tips!
Love, the Babyccino girls
(Phew – time for a beer now!)
There are many rituals in the day of an average human being, and taking care of ourselves is certainly an important one! Dutch home and body cosmetics brand ‘Rituals‘ strives to transform everyday routines into more meaningful rituals: feeling good about ourselves and caring about others and the environment.
I very much like the Rituals products. They look good, feel good, and best of all: they smell very good too! No chemical smells, but nice and natural ones. In fact, all Rituals products are made using natural, renewable, and preferably organic ingredients wherever possible. The products are not overly expensive, and last a very long time! We have the Sereni-tea foaming shower gel in our shower and love it. A little bit of gel transforms to a lathering foam. I think we’ve had the same bottle for over five months now, and we both use it daily! (more…)
ONE YEAR AGO WE WROTE ABOUT:• Red and yellow and pink and green…
HEMA is one of those shops (or concepts really), that is almost impossible to describe. If you’ve ever set foot in a HEMA, you understand. In fact, you get the concept immediately, and you’re a fan instantly – no denial possible! And you just understand why we, Dutchmen, are all raving about it, and why this chain of shops is what we miss most when we move abroad…
So, what is HEMA?
HEMA is a Dutch chain of shops that only sells HEMA-brand products. No luxury products, but products that are meant for daily use and that are functional yet fun. The assortment is wide and prices are low (we like that in the Netherlands), designs are trendy and fresh, simple and colourful. The quality is good, and overall the products are seriously so much fun that you can’t help bringing home yet another cool tea-towel, notebook or cute cookie-cutter set for the kids! (more…)
I’m sure I’m telling the food-concious Amsterdam inhabitant nothing new when I say the word ‘Marqt‘. Because Marqt came and conquered, almost a year ago!
The concept behind Marqt (not a supermarket but a ‘fresh market’) is fresh food, mostly organic, coming from local farms in the neighbourhood of Amsterdam and of very high quality. Everything is presented in a sublime and spacious interior (think wood, brick and stainless steel).
For people living in NY or London, where fancy food experiences (we don’t call them supermarkets any more) such as Whole Foods are around your corner, this concept might be nothing new. But to us here in provincial Amsterdam, organic shopping used to be limited to a couple of over-prized, sexless bio-shops where the shop assistants were as slow and un-enthusiastic as the food they were selling. But with Marqt in town, Amsterdam is back on the organic map!
P.S. When you go shopping at Marqt (BTW the bread is divine), you can leave your cash at home, because they only accept cards.
ONE YEAR AGO WE WROTE ABOUT:• Only in France
Cookie Magazine’s Going Places blog is featuring a week of last-minute getaway ideas, perfect for the holiday time. All their ideas are for easy-to-plan and relatively affordable holidays with kids.
The four of us have written about a quick, last-minute getaway from each of our cities. Check it out here, and also make sure to check out their other ideas… like, how about a sunny trip to Mauritius?!! Oh, how I’m craving some sunshine…
ONE YEAR AGO WE WROTE ABOUT:• Fun for kids in Paris
I love soap. And, much to my husband’s chagrin, I love soap shops! A beautiful soap shop here in Amsterdam is La Savonnerie, where soap is being made by hand, the traditional way – all with natural ingredients and all hand-stamped!
Many, many, many beautiful bars of soap can be found here, in the most gorgeous shapes, colours and scents. And, if you are you looking for a cute give-away for a birthday or other festive occasion – La Savonnerie can stamp any soap with your own special text!
A visit to this lovely shop is totally worth it (and it is very close to one of my favourite shopping areas in Amsterdam, the Nine Streets). Next to the soaps they also carry a nice selection of lovely bathroom articles and… they have a small collection of the cutest toys imaginable!
ONE YEAR AGO WE WROTE ABOUT:• Tricotti
Ice-skating has a long history in the Netherlands, and there is no child in this country who didn’t grow up learning how to skate! Of course this would happen the old-fashioned way: on ‘botjes’ (double-bladed skates) and holding on to a chair to remain balanced.
Traditionally, children living alongside the many rivers or canals in the Netherlands would be very pleased when they could skate to school instead of walk — it would save a lot of time! (And, of course, not everybody owned a bike like in modern times!) Their parents would strap on their wooden skates with leather thongs and skate for miles to go and see family they hadn’t seen in months.
On weekends big tours would be organized, and alongside the canal one could find little stands selling ‘koek en zopie’ — cookies and hot chocolate (or gin for the dads). After the tour, the family would come home to a big pan of ’snert’, the traditional Dutch pea-soup…
It’s been a while since it has frozen in the Netherlands, at least enough for all the natural waterways to freeze. In fact, the last ‘Elfstedentocht’ (Eleven Cities Tour), an ice-skating race that takes place in the north of the Netherlands and keeps every Dutchmen captivated as soon as the temperature drops under zero, was in 1997!
Thankfully every city in the Netherlands will make sure there is an artificial ice-skating rink in their centre. And in Amsterdam there will be five! (more…)