Toddler On Tour - Amsterdam

6/08/2016

As we arrived in Amsterdam, I abandoned my bags in line at passport control and prayed that the guy behind wasn’t a thief who wanted to steal my identity, money, and cheese puffs. I sweatily bounded after Reuben who was climbing UP the downward escalator and screaming ‘NO BAD MUMMY GO AWAY’. The security guard greeted us and told me it would be greatly appreciated if I could keep my child under control, to which I replied ‘yeah that would be lovely, wouldn’t it?'

We finally got to the front of the queue after a 45 minute wait in line. And as the immigration officer turned to me and asked his very first question, 'Where is the dad?'.......... I did begin wonder why I do this to myself.

After recomposing, and repeatedly chanting in my head, 'Grace. Show him grace', I made it through to get my luggage without headbutting the officer. And as soon as we got into the taxi and Reuben hung his head out the window like a dog and squealed down the motorway (with the driver telling us off in dutch), I remembered why I do this to myself;

It's an adventure. Exploring a new place through Reuben's little hyperactive eyes is the perfect recipe for valuable memories. Of course he's still the same violent toddler no matter where we are, but it is so freeing to check out of life for a few days and have quality time together. Sometimes at home I can be spending time with Reuben but in my head I'm figuring out how C.S. Lewis portrays temptation in Perelandra and wondering if I have time to write a paragraph whilst simultaneously hoovering every surface of my house (for the record, the answer is no). But when we go away there's no excuse; I can be all Reuben's. Travelling with a 2 year old boy isn't for everyone. If it's a relaxing beach holiday you're after then wait a few years... 25 years to be exact. Then you can leave them behind and know for sure that they can feed themselves.

I've been asked by a few people to write a post about Amsterdam and how to do it with a child. And being the 3am Pinterester that I am, I can tell you aaaaallll of the best places for kids. But I can also tell you that I did not go to any of those places. Instead, we ate lots of pancakes, wondered aimlessly, and then ate some more pancakes. I've professed my love for to-do lists more than you probably care for, but I want you to know that it has massively pained me in the past when I haven't been able to see everything on my to-do list when I'm away with Reubs. So I decided to just go with the flow - Reuben's flow. I mean, we got lost multiple times, but we were getting lost somewhere other than Belfast and that's the main thing.

So here's what we got up, what I wish we got up to, and probably what we shouldn't have got up to:

Day 1

2 minutes after this photo was taken and I reassured my mum that we'd be safe. I pranced off with my head held high like the strong independent woman I pretend to be... Only to accidentally catch the pram sticking out of the trolley on a pole and send Reuben flying onto the ground. At this point I decided to abandon the trolley, putting my trust in Reubs to wheel his own suitcase whilst I wheeled mine. If he wheeled/ran off in the opposite direction to catch a flight to Malia then I'd just have to deal with it. 

If you're looking at my bounce-off-the-walls-crazy-child and questioning how I take him through an airport (and also questioning my sanity) then you should check out an article I wrote for Closer recently (N.B. this isn't a shameless plug. Okay it's a little bit of a shameless plug. But I just can't be bothered to write about it again). Everyone seems to think that it's harder to fly with a baby, but I've found that once they can run, that's when the real trouble begins. But if you are prepared and aren't easily embarrassed then it's totally doable. 


The last time we flew, Reuben's plane obsession was only beginning. But this time it was in full swing, with him torturing every poor soul who walked past us at the airport and shouting "PLANE. MUMMY AND WEUBEN PLANE. ABIMSTERDAM. PLANE". I was worried that he'd have heart failure when we went outside to board, but he was simply stunned into silence. I'm considering saving up for a plane. 

Amsterdam is a very short flight (more parent brownie points) and I have to give credit where credit is due, Reuben was an absolute delight. Of course I booked the cheapest deal possible, and I mean cheap. Reubs spent most of it with his legs on the lady beside us and I'm pretty sure he dribbled down the neck of the guy in front with his cheese and onion Pringle breath. Thankfully we were blessed to have seats beside some extremely tolerant flyers. Reuben repeatedly showed everyone his special 'plane bag' and shared his collection of cars, dinosaurs, snacks, juice, stickers, and Calpol. I was just glad that the eyesore of a bag, which comes everywhere with us, was being used for something other than popping out to get milk. 

We stayed in the Hotel Kooyk on Leidseplein, really close to the Rijkmuseum, Heineken Experience, and Van Gogh Museum - none of which we went to... but we went to a playpark right beside the Heineken Experience and we used the toilets in the Van Gogh Museum, so I don't think we missed out on anything. Leideplein is a good place to sit down and just soak up the atmosphere. It's a little bit touristy but when chicken nuggets and chips are the only food on your child's palette, then it's your best bet for a family restaurant. 

I had been a little worried about our hotel/hostel/I'm not quite sure what it was, as I usually am when I book the cheapest place going. But the service was amazing, and they made Reuben so welcome. I'm starting to realise that little family-run places are the best. Our only issue was on the last night when Reubs couldn't get to sleep because someone was vomitting outside our window. But had it been a few years earlier, I probably would have been that person outside, and to be honest there's just as much chance of that happening outside our house in Belfast... so I can't complain. 

One last thing, if you aren't trying to save every penny then I'd recommend not getting the shared bathroom. It was unbelievably clean but a little cramped. I obviously had to bring Reuben every time I went to the toilet (you know what my bladder is like) and, well, it looked like this...


We spent day 1 getting lost in the pouring rain and going from one pancake shop to the next, trying to figure out fun things to do INDOORS. This caused a bit of an issue with Reubs who was ready to combust if he didn't get running around.

Note the rain outside. It looks like we never left South Belfast
After having to take him into one too many toilets to have a 'stern word' for throwing cutlery at me, I decided enough was enough (again beginning to wonder why I had done this). Our options were a boat tour or the NEMO museum. NEMO is a big science centre where kids can set up experiments and probably set each other on fire. Reuben seemed a little young and quite frankly, the thought of hundreds of kids in a confined-sciency-space on a rainy day was my worst nightmare. So we opted for the boat tour, and strategically chose a boat with a roof. It's a fabulous way to see the city if you aren't there for long. It's also fascinating for kids who are well behaved. Mine, on the other hand, tried to repeatedly climb out the window. But hey, we all bring something different to the table, don't we?


The tour guide told me that if Reuben didn't sit down on his seat then I'd be asked
to get off the boat. By this stage I was ready to jump into the canal with him anyways. 
When we eventually got off the boat, the rain had subsided, so I grabbed the opportunity to head to the Vondel Park where they had the mother of all kids parks. We could easily have spent the full three days here. It seemed to have something for everyone, whether you are there to explore, have a picnic, work out, or smoke weed. I guess it depends what type of person you are. In my case, it involved coffee and pastries in between slide races and roly polys on the grass. Outside the park there's a great cafe called the Kinderkookkafe where the kids are the chefs. I regret more than anything that we didn't go. But considering Reuben climbs inside our oven at home, I was in no hurry to allow him to start cooking meals.



That evening we had a romantic dinner at the Wagamamas near our hotel. Reubs gave me a full run down of his day. There were stories of the plane, the boat, the alarm that he set off on a motorbike, his run from the police (there were no police), the ducks that ate his hand at the park (there were no ducks), the tram that nearly ran us over (that actually happened), and how the guy at the table next to us eating with chopsticks was the 'bad guy' (he was a perfectly lovely man). We went all out and had ice cream for dessert, and made friends with the waitress who helped us when said ice cream went all down my dress. You can always count Reubs to be a conversation starter. That dinner date was the perfect end to a very unperfect day. 

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