Rotterdam, Holland



If you are looking for a place with amazing architecture and a cool modern vibe in Holland, make sure you stop in Rotterdam. This city was hit especially hard during WWII and very little of the original town built in 1340 was left standing. In its place is some pretty amazing buildings.

We had a really good time exploring there. This was also the first time any of us tried to wash our own laundry in our hotel bathroom. Hah, that's a story for another day...

Hope you enjoy the pictures!








This market was amazing. The Markthal Market is this tubular building with an open market in the middle and apartments around the outside. We snagged a donut or two on our walk through. Definitely a must see!














Thanks also Rotterdam for providing this photo of Elinor, my favorite of her so far!!





Kasteel De Haar



Well, in honor of Game of Thrones this evening, I'll describe the Kasteel De Haar as 3/4 Casterly Rock, and 1/4 Kings Landing. So what does that mean actually? This cute little castle, almost entirely rebuilt from a less grande earlier version was a fun stop, but there wasn't a lot of ancient history involved. 




It was still really enjoyable to wander around the grounds and inside the castle to see what the renovations had done to this castle. The fresh red and white paint made it look extra festive.

Also, these are the faces of happiness from a package of fruit snacks and despair that sister ate all the fruit snacks. Sisters...













Hanging with Uncle Jaime.






Here is my brother-in-law Karl, my mother, and my sister, Jennifer, all resting outside the castle. 



Amsterdam



Just to clarify this early on, there are way too many photos in this post. I know. Even my own computer slows down a bit loading all of these images. However, if you go to Amsterdam, you are obligated to take pictures of canals, boats, houses, family, waffles, and the list continues. 

Our first stop on our family trip was to Amsterdam, Netherlands. We flew into the Amsterdam from various airports around the U.S. and convened at our hotel. We ended up staying at the Times Hotel. I recommend it if you are looking for a centrally located, and well appointed hotel.

Our flight over from the states went pretty well. Chris and I took turns sitting next to the kids (we weren't able to fit all four of us in one row). The kids slept through a lot of the flight and keeping them entertained the rest of the time wasn't too hard either. I'm always pleasantly surprised how awesome my kids are. There were certainly some moments where I just wanted to watch a movie and they were not instantly falling asleep like I would have liked, but all in all, they were really good.

Here were some of the highlights from our trip:

Canal tour! We had a really great time floating along the canals and hearing about the history of the city. It was a good way to see different parts of the city and truly understand how much canals are a part of life there.

Bike tour! In Amsterdam, bikes are king. Pedestrians are begrudgingly given right of way, but expect to be glared at if you step in front of a bike. Everyone rides bikes everywhere. Men in suits biking to work. Mother's with two kids perched both in front and behind heading to the grocery store. Elderly ladies out for some fresh air. Since we didn't have a car during our time in Amsterdam, we used trains and bikes to get everywhere.

We rented some bikes for a day and used them to travel around the city. It was really fun and mildly dangerous. Understanding the traffic signals and unspoken rules was rather nerve-wracking. Plus, I managed to get a bike with brakes that barely functioned. I had to plan my stops well in advance. When all was going well, it was awesome to see the city from a new perspective and experience what a local does on a daily basis.

Bikes are awesome. In truth, you have to have a very compact city to truly utilized bikes effectively, like much of the Netherlands and Belgium do. Our cities are so sprawling in the United States, it's hard for just anyone to ride a bike around town instead of a car. The distances are too great and cars can be very dangerous.

Vondelpark! We spent an afternoon one day playing at this park. The playground was fun for the kids and it was neat to see what regular (non-touristy) people do in the city on the weekends.

Van Gogh Museum! This was a must see on everyone's list, as well as the rest of the city, it seemed. I did learn quite a bit about Van Gogh, but the large crowds made this stop a little less enjoyable than others.

And lastly, we recovered from our jet lag in this city. Let me tell you, that was no easy feat with tired kids and tired parents. I would say the jet lag was definitely worse than the flight. All in all, it probably took us about 2 full days to recover and adjust. It's so worth it, but it's so tiring.




Our only real family photo in Amsterdam. I had grand plans to go early to the Iamsterdam letters while we were there, but early mornings were impossible with our jet lag. Also, the crowds are nuts the rest of the day. 













There were so many cheese shops in Amsterdam! I really wanted to buy some, but I wasn't quite sure how to transport it home, so pictures will have to suffice.




Let's talk about how many bikes are in this photo! This was taken at the Amsterdam Centraal, the main train station for the city. As you can see, most people leave their bikes here since bicycles are not allowed on the trains during peak hours.









My nieces hanging out in front of our hotel. They were such fun on this trip.







Elinor spent lots of time hanging out in this hiking backpack. Link here

Since we walked many, many miles each day, it was important to have somewhere for her to rest. We were hesitant to bring a stroller, since they can be bulky and hard to manage with all the rest of our luggage. This Osprey carrier was convenient for our itinerary and Elinor was comfy. Though I would say Chris and I traded off complaining about how heavy she was. 






Here is a picture of myself and three of my siblings (Jennifer, Jaime, and David). This was just a silly photo my sister took, but I'm grateful she did. We rarely take large trips together, so it's worth documenting it when we do!!