Gram (Jon's Mom) has been staying with us for the last couple of weeks, so we decided to take a few days of vacation in Amsterdam. Although it was a little chilly, we all had a great time and wanted to share a few of the pictures. If you ever have a chance to go, we highly recommend it.
The drive to Amsterdam is about 6 hours, so we stopped for lunch in Cologne to see the cathedral and stretch our legs. The cathedral has one of the most ornate exteriors in Europe. We had a great lunch in the courtyard out front and then went inside for a brief look around.
The church's prised relic is pictured above, on the right ... the crypt said to contain the remains of the three wisemen who visited Jesus.
The church contains beautiful stained glass windows that cast amazing colors all over the floor. Gram was dancing around with the kids watching. Kate joined in too. Then we were on our way to Amsterdam.
The next morning we went to Keukenhof gardens just south of Amsterdam. It's about the most ornate flower garden in the world, dominated by an amazing variety of tulips. This is a view from inside one of the pavilions, where dozens of varieties were in bloom. Unfortunately, due to an unexpectedly harsh winter, most of the outdoor tulips had yet to bloom.
Here's an example of one of the many beautiful tulip varieties.
This section of tulips was starting to bloom. They were arranged, of course, in the shape of a tulip.
The gardens also included playground and a 6-foot tall maze. Let's face it, kids are only interested in flowers for so long. Here's Kate on a common component of larger European playgrounds ... a zipline.
Later that afternoon we took a trip to an area north of Amsterdam that has several functioning windmills and little shops that still make things like wooden shoes and cheese. Was it touristy? Yes ... but it was still fun. Ellie was particularly fascinated watching the making of wooden shoes.
Here are two of the windmills along the banks of the waterway. As you might imagine, water was everywhere. And while driving around we had to wait several times while drawbridges were raised and lowered.
The next morning we went into Amsterdam itself. The city was full of bikes, bridges, and beautiful old buildings. While Jen, Gram and Miranda, toured the Anne Frank house, Jon took Kate and Ellie for a walk to a Dutch pancake house, passing along may streets just like this. The Anne Frank house was great, but you definitely want to have reservations. It saved us more than a hour waiting to get inside.
Moving around the city we made frequent use of the tram system. Miranda was amazing. Here she's taking the only nap she got all day ... for about 20 minutes. Other that that she was bright and smiling most of the time. Amsterdam must be really interesting to 7-month olds too.
While Jen, Gram and the girls went to a local park for a couple of hours. Jon snuck away to the Rijks museum that had just reopened after a 10-year renovation. Here's the entrance to the museum with the famous "I amsterdam" sign that everyone loves climbing all over.
Here's a self portrait of Van Gogh from the Rijk's museum. Earlier that day, we'd all spend a couple of hours touring the Van Gogh museum, which was an amazing experience, but pictures weren't allowed. Jen did some homework before our trip and put together a scavenger hunt for the girls based on the paintings we knew we'd be seeing. It was a great way to get them to enjoy the museum. In the Rijk's museum, Jon was by himself, viewing not only this Van Gogh, but also the best of Rembrandt, Vermeer, etc. It was a great treat to be able to wander sans-kinder for an hour or two.
The next morning it we headed home ... another 6-hour drive, and another stop for lunch in a cathedral. This one was is Aachen where Charlemagne is buried. Here's a picture from inside the cathedral treasury. The golden sculpture in the foreground is holding his thigh bone (!) while a golden bust is visible in the background. (The rest of him was in the cathedral itself, except for his radius and ulna, which were displayed in another reliquary).
While most cathedrals here have stone interiors, this one was covered with mosaics. It was stunning. We also toured right after Sunday mass, so the whole place was filled with incense, adding to the effect.
It was a great trip for everyone. Now we just need to figure out how we're going survive our upcoming two week road trip through Italy without bringing a "Gram" along.