Well, we made it! We arrived in Amsterdam Friday morning after a 7 hour flight from Toronto. The kids did a great job on the plane, thanks to the on demand entertainment system. (One thing about having your kids not watch too much tv-- when they get the opportunity they are riveted!)
When we arrived our homestay partners picked us up at the airport, and brought us to their beautiful apartment in Central Amsterdam. (We can see the outermost canal of the old town from our front stoop.) Here it is, below. So pretty!
Although Audrey proudly told anyone who would listen that she only slept for an hour and a half on the plane, they both soon crashed:
Later in the day we had dinner and drinks with our hosts, bringing a little table outside in front of the red bench to enjoy the weather and people watching opportunities. Audrey and their youngest daughter, Jade, bonded in about 15 minutes and held hands most of the evening. They left around 10, and we all crashed.
The next morning we had to wake the girls around nine. They were not impressed, to say the least, but once we got them up and moving about, we set about just enjoying our first day. My goal with this trip is just to live in the cities we are in. I want to do activities, and see some sights-- but more important is to just experience each city as a part of day to day life. So we get up, have breakfast, make a plan, go wandering, go to the park, head home, have quiet time, dinner and bed. Sometimes, we just walk out the door and pick a direction. We call it "having an adventure", and even if it only lasts 30 minutes we see something new. Since they sometimes whine when I mention going out for a wander, I usually ask them to list the fun things we saw on our walk that we never would've found if we had stayed home. My favourite has been finding this wall mural and pretending to be a part of it:
I love that Audrey has the exact same expression as the silhouette-- and that Lily is holding hands with the bear. Lily would be the one in our family to just reach out and hold hands with a bear.
Amsterdam is experiencing a heat wave at the moment. I'm told that the last time the weather was this hot for this long was 2006! We sit in the back in the morning, and out front in the afternoon, following the shade. Yesterday we wandered toward the centre and saw lots of people on the canals in boats. (Almost none of them had hats on, which of course blew my mind. They're all blond and fair-skinned! They're not used to such strong sun!) Anyway, we got some fries, sat down at a boat launch, and watched them glide past.
The apartment we have borrowed is stunning. It's exactly what I was hoping to find when I signed up on HomeExchange.com. It has high ceilings, lots of windows, and a beautiful kitchen. I didn't want to stay somewhere that could be around the corner from us in Toronto. I wanted something that felt European, and this apartment has that in spades. It's also within walking distance of everything we need, which is ideal. One interesting thing the owners told is not to worry if we hear a woman screaming in the middle of the night. Apparently there is a natural childbirth clinic, of sorts, two doors down, and sometimes you can hear a woman in labour! They said the only thing to do is close the windows and hope for a quick birth. I have yet to hear labour screams, (I'm familiar...), but I can hear a newborn crying right now. I remember that sound well.
On with the tour! (Click the photos to enlarge.)
Dining room/kitchen/Q's office
The vertiginous yellow staircase to the second level. These would not meet code in Toronto-- not by a long shot. Apparently they just recently had the second railing (on the right) installed, which is interesting because it's only on that far right side that the treads are almost wide enough for your feet. I can't imagine how it was before!
The girls each have their own room here, which they haven't had since Lily was a baby. Very quickly they have adjusted, and they are playing with the dolls and books left behind by the owners. Somehow other people's toys are always more interesting.