Sunday, January 4, 2015


Happy 2015, y'all!!  There is just something so exciting about a brand new year, don't you think?!  

We wanted to start the brand new year off right so we headed off to AMSTERDAM!!  Which just so happened to be the place to be for New Years Eve!!!

Dutch writer Eduard Dowes Dekker (pen name Multatuli).

Alright, lets just cut to the chase, shall we?  Lets get to the stuff y'all are really wanting to know about- the stuff that everyone wants to know about Amsterdam.  Let's just go ahead and get it out of the way so I can get to the stuff that my little family actually enjoyed.... 


Eric and I chose to keep Isabelle away from this part of our trip.  We don't shield her from much, we encourage her to see life from as many perspectives as possible, and the only way to do that is to gain life experiences, but this was one experience that we felt did not need an 11 year olds perspective.   

Sex.  Look, I consider myself to be pretty open minded when it comes to sex.  I don't judge, and just feel like 'to each their own' or 'whatever floats your boat' is fine when it comes to that sort of thing (obviously within legal and consensual limits though!!), but even my open minded views would be considered conservative by European standards.  Prostitution is legal in the Netherlands and in Germany.  Prostitutes are self-employed, pay taxes & union dues, and are entitled to the same healthcare benefits of anyone else in their country.  Sex and nudity are more widely accepted here than in America and they don't see any reason to be ashamed of it.  I'm not saying that Americans are ashamed of sex per se, I just think we're a little more private about it all (at least in the world that I live in which I know can be vastly different from everyone else's, but hey, this blog is from my perspective).  As hard as I try to assimilate to the culture of whatever country we are visiting, I just could not purge my American mentality or mother's heart enough to enjoy the Red Light District.  Sorry, not sorry.  Even though I consider myself to be open minded I really just wanted them all to go home to their mama's.

Soooo not to completely disappoint y'all but.... this is the only picture I took of the Red Light District (see the three little red lights in the window?).  You can't take pictures of the girls or you'll risk a severe butt kicking and camera smashing, and pictures just didn't seem to be worth either of those.  

The Red Light District is basically a window shopping area of sorts with women of all different kinds standing in what I thought were windows until I saw them opening & shutting them, teasing the gobs of men, and saw that they were actually doors.  The women were beautiful and wore skimpy lingerie- I did not see any full nudity.  If their red light was on then they were "open for business," if not, then they were busy.  We were literally only separated by a glass door from the girls which seemed to be very intimate in and of itself.  They were on full display and I felt bad that they were not getting paid to be drooled over because what we heard the people saying on our side of the doors was terrible, and didn't seem worth standing in a doorway for. 

Eric and I spent a total of ten minutes walking around the Red Light District. 

The Sex Museum on Damrak Street


Marijuana is legal in the Netherlands and can be purchased at "coffee shops."  Legal age for purchase is 18 and you can only purchase 5 grams per day.  Rick Steves says that marijuana is only legal for Dutch residents so in order to purchase any you have to have a wietpas (weed pass)- we wouldn't know if that is true or not, we did not attempt to purchase any and we did not have coffee in any of their coffee shops.  Isabelle has learned about different drugs and the effects of alcohol in health class and was appalled at the smell of marijuana and that people were even willing to smoke it.  She wanted to give everyone a health lesson!  For a kiddo with asthma this was just not okay to her.  I may have my own opinions about the legalization of marijuana but this was another perspective of life that I chose not to discuss with my 11 year old, and we encourage her to develop her own opinions and convictions.

There was a constant cloud of smoke hanging over this coffee shop that we had to walk past every time we left our apartment.

So yes, these are the parts of Amsterdam that everyone talks about, and admittedly I was curious about them too.  I was there and can tell you that it is all true!!  Amsterdam is a young, vibrant city and my younger self would have fit right in with the shenanigans of Amsterdam, but Eric... not so much.  He's a laid back liberal thinker but this was a little too liberal for his spirit.
But not all of Amsterdam is about the legalization of things you wouldn't find in most of America....we found so much more that we loved and enjoyed together as a family!  We explored to our hearts content and fell in love at every turn!  


We spent a morning walking to the Van Gogh Museum and stopped to take pictures at the I AMsterdam sign.  It was impossible to get a picture without a bunch of people photo bombing it, but Isabelle had fun climbing the letters while I attempted to take pictures anyway.  I had my wide angle lens on my camera but to get the entire sign in the picture I would have had to back up behind the masses of people who blocked any ability to see the letters. 

The cutest photobomber in Amsterdam hid behind the 'I.'

The front of the Rijksmuseum (Rijks rhymes with bikes) 

The back of Rijksmuseum

We had bought tickets ahead of time for the Van Gogh Museum and were glad that we did!  We still had to wait in a good sized line but was hours shorter than the line to get in without tickets.  There was an older couple standing behind us that were from Scotland so we picked their brains for tips on must-see's for a vacation we are planning for this Spring- they were so nice and helped make waiting in line seem not so annoying.
The Van Gogh Museum was INCREDIBLE!  I might not contain a single shred of my Grandma Sue's artistic talent but I do contain a deep love and appreciation for art in all its forms, and the Van Gogh Museum was the best way to spend our morning!!!  Obviously, no photography allowed- we even had to check my camera bag and camera before going into the art exhibits, but the art was magnificent!  His self portraits were amazing and the texture in his paintings was mesmerizing... being so close I could touch his paintings was an absolute thrill!


I am a big reader, my daughter, not so much.  I have a lot of favorites and tend to jump on most bandwagons (Fifty Shades of Gray, Hunger Games, etc...) but my two absolute most favorite books I have ever read, and have read more times than I can count, are 'Charlotte's Web' and 'The Diary of Anne Frank.'

Getting to visit the place that she was forced into hiding was a big deal for me!  Tickets to visit the house sell out quickly and if tickets aren't purchased ahead of time you risk having to wait in a line so ridiculously long that you could wait all day and never get to the front of it.  Because I'm a little anal about planning I was sure to purchase our tickets a few weeks ago and was excited for the opportunity to be able to sit & stand where Anne Frank lived her story and wrote her story!

This is looking up at the windows on the front part of the building where Otto Frank owned two businesses.  Him, his daughter Anne, and the 6 other people hiding here lived in a part of the building that was hidden from these windows.

Sorry to say but no photography was allowed inside here either.  The house is perfectly preserved and had quotes from Anne Frank all throughout the house along with interviews of "the helpers" (the people who helped to hide Anne Frank, her family, the Van Pels' family, and Fritz Pfeffer).  The house was incredibly moving!  Of the 8 people in hiding only Anne's father, Otto, survived; Anne herself passing away at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp only a month before the liberation.  Anne Frank's story is remarkably tragic, and getting to sit where she did as she wrote her story under immense stress and fear was moving.  I could still feel the tension that I imagine existed there 70 years ago.  We got to touch the actual bookcase that hid the stairs to the annexe where the people were hiding and walk up the actual stairs.  The pictures Anne put on her walls to decorate her room were still there!

Isabelle did not inherit my love of reading but even she was moved by the tour.  Knowing that Anne wasn't much older than her when they were forced into hiding helped her to connect to Anne's quotes.  Isabelle has now visited two concentration camps, a Nazi documentation center, and where victims of the Holocaust were forced into hiding and lived for two years before being found and taken to a concentration camp.  I think it's impossible to ever truly understand the horrors of the Holocaust, but visiting these places has at least given her an idea of how absolutely horrific it was.  It's another perspective she's gained in her 11 years on this planet that we hope helps to shape Isabelle into a loving & compassionate woman someday. 


We had to balance out our our trip a little.... we had seen sex, Isabelle had been appalled by the clouds of marijuana every few feet that she had to hold her breath through, and we all had been humbled by the Anne Frank House, it was time to throw in a fun few hours where Isabelle could be her silly normal self!

"Hey Brad!  I'm here now!  Angelina, take a hike!  Brad!  I love you!  I'll marry you and love you and giggle at you and drool over you forever and ever!"


Eric doesn't know how to focus my camera.  That is the Amsterdam Royal Palace in the background.

Isabelle loved the wax museum!  Neither of us had ever been so it was fun for all of us, and we were happy that Isabelle got to do something that was right up her alley.  
So then we wandered around Dam Square, which is in the historical center of Amsterdam, before getting something to eat and heading to the light festival.

The Royal Palace. 

Madame Tussauds 


The Amsterdam Light Festival is a festival of light sculptures all over the city for only 50 days during the winter, and what better way to see the light sculptures than a night time canal cruise?!!  A night time cruise that gave us a sandwich and glühwein (hot chocolate for the kiddo) for the ride inside an enclosed, heated canal boat!  It was the perfect way to ring in the new year!!  

Water butterflys 

This is meant to represent an effervescence. 

The Light Festival lasted about an hour and a half and gave us the chance to see a whole lot more of Amsterdam than our feet would.  Isabelle snuggled between me and Eric, and I went from ohhh'ing & ahhh'ing to getting frustrated every few minutes with taking pictures in the dark.  I think I'm going to have to break down and get a flash for my camera pretty soon here and I'm already feeling overwhelmed with the thought of that, but I think that will help me get better indoor/low light/night time pictures and help me not get so frustrated.  Anyway.... the Light Festival was a blast!


Amsterdam just so happened to be the place to be for New Years Eve!  We had dinner reservations at a Argentina steak house just down the street from the apartment we were staying at and then we hunkered down for the rest of the night.  Our apartment was right in the middle of and overlooked ALL of the action!  It was incredible to watch but we were thankful to be inside, comfy and warm.  Isabelle and I stayed awake until midnight and got to ring in 2015 watching an insane fireworks show- the entire city went bonkers with fireworks!  The next day we ventured out to explore the aftermath.

The street our apartment was on.

Judging by the aftermath I'd say Amsterdam threw one heck of a party!  Amsterdam was a major must-see on our bucket list and we couldn't have picked a better city to spend our New Years Eve in!  I don't have any predictions for 2015- I quit making predictions a few years ago when my heart couldn't muster happy wishes- preferring to be surprised by whatever the Universe has in store instead.  But if our year is anything like the last few days I think we'll have a pretty spectacular year!

"Don't be too assuming, it doesn't get you anywhere." ~The Diary of Anne Frank


  1. Great post! I moved to London from the US about a year ago and somehow stumbled upon your blog, which is great. My husband and I are going to Amsterdam in April so this was helpful - thanks! We will be sure to get muses tickets in advance!

    1. Thanks! I'm so glad you've "found" my blog! Definitely book your tickets in advance, especially for the Van Gogh Museum and the Anne Frank House, but especially especially for the Anne Frank House! Check the website often to see when you can book for the day you'll be there, when you see its open book it. Those tickets sell very fast! Amsterdam was an incredible city :) (But London is my favorite!!)