Written by Joanna Mazeswki
The last few times I visited the very exciting city of Amsterdam, I was single and childless and well, ready to have a good time (as most college kids do!). Fast forward seven years, two children and one husband later, and while I’m still interested in enjoying the pleasures of a kick-back and relax vacation, it’s not that easy to plan a family-friendly adventure in a city that isn’t considered a top destination for children. Or at least, that’s what I had thought to be right.
On my most recent trip to Amsterdam with Dutch site Booking.com, “Planet Earth’s number one accommodation site,” (for real!), I got to see another side of Amsterdam that I would have otherwise bothered visiting on my own accord. I figured that rather than seeing a handful of museums or doing a bicycle tour of the city (which I would normally do on such a trip), I wanted to see something a little more authentically Dutch and of course, family-friendly enough that I would consider bringing my 5- and 3-year-old children along, too. And oh my, was I surprised with a special treat!
After touring the city upon my arrival with a lovely cocktail reception and boat tour through the canals of the city, I spent a day at the Booking.com offices to see exactly what makes this company tick “beyond the browser.”
I was really impressed to see how much effort is put in to assure the best, top-notch customer service out there with an incredibly dedicated team, which as an American, I’m totally not used to seeing. The next day, I was whisked away from my hotel for a thirty-minute drive outside of the city to a little-known and very quaint area called Overleek to the Theetuin Tea House, which is run by the lovely Deun family, who served as my tour guides. While there I was treated to a silent boat tour through a quintessential village with mint-colored homes while enjoying the best apple pie I’ve had in a very long time along with a nice glass of wine (and as a disclaimer here, while traveling in Europe it’s almost obligatory to drink what might seem like barrels of wine. Over consumption to us, but normal to them, LOL!). While on board, I couldn’t help but think that this was a wonderful activity to enjoy with my family because after all, who doesn’t like boats, right? I got to explore the peat fens of the Waterland region, which is protected by the Laag Holland Nature Reserve. It was the perfect way to start my day and was incredibly relaxing, especially being a good distance away from the hustle-and-bustle that is in Amsterdam.
After my boat tour, I headed to the fishing town of Volendam, which is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the Netherlands and is well known for its old fishing boats and traditional clothing still worn by some of its residents. Although available to tourists, I didn’t get dressed up in traditional Dutch clothing (although it looked like so much fun!) and instead visited the historic Le Pompadeur and Spaander hotels. The Spaander hotel fascinated me with its historic ambiance and vast art collection that included hundreds of paintings that back more than a century ago. It is the perfect setting for someone who is just passing through Volendam and wants to enjoy a little Dutch delicacy (the kroketten and bitterballen are to die for!) while visualizing the artistry and incredible creativity of the minds of those who spent many nights working on their masterpieces inside the hotel’s lounge area.
The highlight of my trip was by far my experience making my own cheese at a cheese farm in nearby BeemsterBeleving. The Messeklever farm is owned and operated by Jan Uitentuis and his family and were incredibly delightful while helping me with my very first experience making cheese from scratch. This is an excellent activity for families to participate in, as children not only get excited about visiting farms (cows and more cows!) but they get to dig their hands and get messy while making their own Gouda cheese. It’s a bit of a process though and a little patience is needed in between steps but the end result is a heavenly taste, especially if you’re a fine cheese fanatic. And of course, don’t forget the wine!
Thanks again to the Booking.com team for showing me a side of Amsterdam and Holland that I would have otherwise not seen and for introducing me to a family-friendly itinerary that I will revisit again. In the meantime, I’ll be dreaming of all that cheese… and wine…
For more on the Theetiun Overleek boat tour, visit www.theetuinoverleek.nl
To reserve your own tour of The Spaander Hotel: www.hotelspaander.nl
To book your own private cheese lesson at The Messeklever Cheese Farm, contact: [email protected]