Back in NYC after a fun (and rainy) 2 week visit to Amsterdam. My husband was lamenting the two pairs of shorts he packed and didn’t wear, and we all could have used another sweater.
We mainly stayed at my sister’s place near Amsterdam Centraal. We biked (and even found a bakfiets – a bike with a front wooden crate for children to sit in), went to museums, did an escape room, went bowling, ate pancakes all day long and took some day trips.
First up, we went to the historic town of Zaanse Schans about 25 min from Amsterdam where we got to go inside a windmill from the 1800’s. M had severe seasonal allergies while on this jaunt which reaffirmed his affinity for city living.
Another day trip was Efteling: a magical fairytale land for children…the Netherland’s version of Disney. This is not a short trip from Amsterdam- took almost 2 hours via train and then a bus, but we made it and it was incredible. What we did learn is that maybe 4 is too young for a bobsled rollercoaster ride, but there is a lot for pre-K kids to do.
We also visited one of my high school friends who fell in love with a Dutch man while studying abroad in the Netherlands and stayed on. We hung out at her house near Breda, an hour from Amsterdam. We caught up while our kids became fast friends despite a language barrier. M, O and I stayed overnight at an awesome “Glamping” pod near her village. The next morning after breakfast (for €10 you can have breakfast at the camp…no wood stove this time!) my friend picked us up and we hung out some more.
Visiting people who live in the Netherlands vs. being strictly a tourist provides more insight into day-to-day life and the culture of a country. For example, I think most North Americans know that Europeans get at least 6 weeks paid vacation (I think my friend has 10 weeks?), but what I didn’t know is that most people have a 36 hour work week. On top of that, many companies are flexible enough that an employee can work 36 hours in 4 days instead of 5, thus shortening their work week. Imagine always having Thursday off and getting paid for the full week. Not bad.
In addition, parents often take time off to coincide with their kids’ holidays so in some towns schools stagger their summer holidays to ensure there are actually enough parents still in the workforce at a given time.
It was nice seeing that people weren’t always running around all stressed out and still managed to be happy and live a comfortable life. I ended up googling “how to simplify your life” and am trying a few takeaways in the next few months. Wish me luck!
Leaving you with a picture of Greenland from above on our flight back home…