Brides & Wedding Traditions From Around the World

#letthemeatcake

June is  wedding season, so…

Catherdral of Toledo-8227

I’ve been married for 16 years, but the romantic in me still gets excited when I see a bride, and for some reason even more so when I’m traveling! Maybe because someone once told me it’s good luck to see a bride? Or because I still remember how happy I was on my wedding day and I’m reminded of those feelings? Or maybe because I know what’s coming… ha ha!

#stlouiscathedral

Wedding traditions vary from country to country, but apparently the lure of the white dress is universal, as I’ve seen them everywhere from New Orleans, Louisiana to Tokyo, Japan!

#sunsettoledospain

I always try to snap a photo when I see brides, and the following photos are collected from the past few years of travel. Please do keep in mind that these photos are usually taken from a distance, a moving car, or a hotel window, as I wasn’t actually invited to any of these weddings. Along with the photos I’ve included some fun facts and wedding traditions from around the globe. Of course I’m including my own wedding photo… Let’s hope all these lovely couples are still as happily married as I am!

Toledo, Spain

This photo was taken in 2015 at Ayuntamiento Plaza just outside the Catherdral of Toledo, one of the more beautiful cathedrals I’ve ever visited. Toledo is known as the City of Three Cultures, which includes Muslims, Christians and Jews.

#toldeobride

Popular in many parts of the world Spanish brides also throw their boquets with the idea that the one to catch it will be the next to marry.  A Spanish variation on the same theme is to pin an upsidedown corsage on unmarried female guests. If the corsage is lost during the festivities that lucky lady will be the next to marry!

Tokyo, Japan

This photo was taken in 2014 during breakfast in lobby of the Tokyo Penninsula Hotel. It was quite early in the morning, so I was somewhat surprised to hear wedding music and then see a bride appear, but I got this picture just as she was almost out of sight!

#penninsulahoteltokyo

Quick Change

In Japan the bride will often wear multiple outfits during the ceremony and reception, as many as four, sometimes ending with a western style party gown, which signifies her return to everyday life. Guests at a Japanese wedding will give gifts of money to the bride and groom in small paper packets called mizuhiki.

London, England

I took this photo in 2013 during one of our many visits to London. We had just finished the Tower Bridge Experience, which by the way is a fascinating attraction! This seems like a lovely, although crowded, place for wedding photos.

#towerbridgebride

Royal Icing

Many of today’s most popular white wedding traditions can be attributed to Queen Victoria. It was Queen Victoria’s wedding cake, that first used the icing known today as “royal” icing. Hence the name royal… I love that!

Paris, France

This shot was taken in 2016 outside Notre Dame de Paris just after we climbed to the top!

Paris France

After our 2016 visit to La Madeleine, a beautiful church commissioned by Napoleon, I decided to take a quick lap around the building, and came upon this lovely bridal couple!

#lamadeleine

Wedding Cake

A croquembouche is a tower of delicious cream filled pastries held together with delicate strings of caramel. These delicious towers are often served at a French wedding. I read that the idea originates from guests bringing small cakes and other treats to wedding celebrations and piling them high on the table.

Amsterdam, Holland, The Netherlands

Having only just arrived in Amsterdam during our 2016 Europe trip, we were on our way to the hotel when I looked out and saw this bridal party! Our taxi was speeding past and I stuck my camera out the window!

#amsterdambride

Bridal Showers

A popular tradition in the United States, the bridal shower originated in Holland. When a Dutch bride’s family was too poor to provide a dowry, or if the father did not approve of the match her friends would “shower” her with gifts that were often included in the dowry.

#dutchweddingclogs
Traditional Dutch Wedding Clogs

Belfast, Northern Ireland

This photo was taken during our 2016 visit to Belfast, from inside the Titanic Belfast Museum, which is apparently a popular wedding venue. We loved our visit to this museum, and what an amazing backdrop!

Belfast Northern Ireland

A traditional Irish wedding toast:

“Friends and relatives, so fond and dear, ’tis our greatest pleasure to have you here. When many years this day has passed, fondest memories will always last. So we drink a cup of Irish mead and ask God’s blessing in your hour of need.”

The guests respond: “On this special day, our wish to you, the goodness of the old, the best of the new. God bless you both who drink this mead, may it always fill your every need.“

New Orleans, Lousiana

This photo of a Second Line Parade was taken from my hotel window in 2016 at the Omni Royal Hotel on Royal Street in the French Quarter!

#nolabride

Weddings in New Orleans have a special added flare, especially weddings in the French Quarter! The Bride and groom might arrive at their reception via horse drawn carriage, or by leading a second line parade preceded by a jazz band! Now that’s making an entrance!

Second Line Parade

Staying the French Quarter is always interesting, and no matter night or day, you never know what you might see when you look out your window!

#secondlineparadenola

While second line parades stem from African American jazz funerals they have evolved to become part of many celebrations in New Orleans. The second line parade at a wedding signifies the befinning of the new life between the bride and groom. Don’t be surprised if you see one these cheerful wedding parades leading the entire wedding, guests and all, from the church to the reception.

This photo was taken during our 2015 visit from my hotel window at the Hyatt French Quarter in 2015.

#nolawedding

Ribbon Pulling

While I haven’t seen the ribbon pulling tradition in action, I find the idea fascinating. Similar in tradition to the bride tossing her boquet the cake’s frosting has “meaningful” charms hidden within, each one attached to a ribbon. Female guests pull the ribbons to find out their future fate. You might pull out the heart signifying true love, but then again you may get the button, symbolic for old maid…

Costa Mesa, California

This photo was taken just the other day while the boys and I were running errands and enjoying treats from Susie Cakes at the South Coast Plaza Mall. While I don’t think I would chose this location for my wedding photos, I always enjoy seeing a happy wedding party!

#southcoastplazamall

Did you know?

Los Angeles is the most popular city in California to get married? Popular wedding trends in the Golden State include eco-friendly ideas, rustic chic, farm fresh to table fare, and free form flower boquets.

Speaking of flowers… fellow blogger, Katy from Untold Morsels, had her wedding flowers wrapped up and gifted to her guests at the end of the reception! That’s a wedding favor I’d like to have, and eco-friendly too!

Seattle

This is a picture of my wedding photo because apparently I didn’t see the future of digital, and I turned down a cd with my wedding photos on it… hindsight is truly 20/20.

#seattlebride

If I had to do it over again, I’m only talking about the wedding folks, I might like to have a destination wedding! Maybe in one of these amazing places, or maybe I’d do everything exactly the same… Anyway… if you’re wondering, our wedding and reception took place in Downtown Seattle in the atrium of one of Tim’s favorite buildings, what can I say he’s an architect. Some of the traditions we included: Something old, new, borrowed and blue, a first dance, and cutting and eating the cake together.

#seattlebride


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#weddingtraditions

Highlights… & Hindsights Making The Case for Repeat Destinations

I’m currently, ok always, considering my next vacation destination, and with so many amazing places in the world it’s hard to decide. Should we commit those precious vacation days to repeat destinations, digging deeper into what a city has to offer? If we do, what about all those wonderful new places just waiting to be discovered?

#jardindestuileries
Sailing ships! A highlight of our Paris visit!

When traveling, I’m torn between wanting to wing it and not wanting to miss anything, which definitely helps makes the case for repeat visits to certain destinations. For example, our recent trips to Paris, London, and Edinburgh were all repeat visits, we’d already checked off many of the main attractions, which enabled us to explore more freely. One point for repeat visits!

#bigben
Our tour of the Houses of Parliament was a definite highlight!

That said, one of my favorite things about traveling is the discovery of the new. The surprise and delight you feel when discovering something wonderful in a new place simply can’t be beat! These moments are one of the reasons I love to travel, the highlights of our adventures! One point for new destinations!

#arthursseat
We missed out on Arthur’s Seat during our first visit to Edinburgh.

However, being new to a place can at times be a hindrance. No matter how much research I’ve done, there are times when things don’t go quite as planned. Whether it’s accommodations, location, food, or timing, these are what I like to refer to as the hindsights of our adventure. These are things one can only know after time spent and often it’s too late… Another point for repeat destinations.

#brugge
This view from our hotel window in Bruges was a highlight!

Of course not everywhere has a hindsight and some places are just plain full of surprise and delight. I love surprise and delight! Looks like another point for new destinations!

Northern Ireland Antrim Coast
Flying to Glasgow from Belfast we were treated to this fabulous view!

So, it looks like a tie between old and new, which means I’m no closer to working out where in the world, we’ll go next, but in the meantime, here are some of the highlights and hindsights from our summer 2016 adventures in Europe!

Highlights & Hindsights

Dublin, Ireland

Highlight: Guinness Factory Tour

There were many wonderful moments during our visit to Dublin, however it was our visit to the Guinness Storehouse that came out as number one! Which speaks volumes, since I don’t even drink beer. All four of us absolutely loved this experience and if you should find yourself in Dublin I highly recommend you go.

#guinnessstorehouse

Hindsight: Popular attractions require advance planning

Our planned a visit to the  Kilmainham Gaol Museum went awry when we couldn’t print our tickets and unfortunately we missed out. We ended up visiting Malahide Castle instead, which was delightful, but lesson learned.

Cork, Ireland

Highlight:  The Blarney Stone

For more than 200 years people have been kissing the Blarney Stone and after some debate (it is the world’s germiest attraction) Simon and I decided to join the club!

Cork Blarney Castle
The Blarney Stone

Hindsight: Touristy doesn’t always equal bad

If only we’d known how much we were going to enjoy exploring Blarney Castle, we would have given ourselves more time.

Killarney, Ireland

Highlight: Killarney National Park

We spent three nights in Killarney, the gateway to the Ring of Kerry and the perfect little Irish town! Quaint, friendly and picturesque, it was exactly what I had pictured an Irish town to look like!

Killarney Ireland
Ross Castle is located inside Killarney National Park

Hindsights: Whoops, attention to detail is key!

Putting the wrong fuel in our rental car meant a drastic change in our plans. Instead of a visit to the Dingle Peninsula and Skellig Michal we spent a lovely day wandering in  Killarney National Park. If I ever find my way back to the west of Ireland a trip to the Skellig Islands will be my first order of business!

Limerick, Ireland

Highlight: King John’s Castle

We weren’t sure what to expect at King Johns’ Castle, but I do love a good castle and we had to stop for lunch anyway so why not just eat lunch at the castle?

#kingjohnscastle
King John’s Castle

Hindsight: There was none!

This was a bonus stop on our way to Galway, and we were delighted with the way this midday stop turned out!

Galway, Ireland

Highlight: The Cliffs of Moher

The spectacular Cliffs of Moher are a definite must-see if you’re visiting the West Coast of the Emerald Isle.

ireland cliffs of moher
The Cliffs of Moher

Hindsight: Allow time for unexpected adventures

There is a walk along the cliff tops , but we were running out of daylight and weren’t really dressed for a hike, so we satisfied ourselves with a good long look over the edge.

Belfast, Northern Ireland

Highlight: Everything about the entire visit

Our visit to the Antrim Coast in Northern Ireland was by far the best day of our 12 day tour of the Emerald Isle, if not our entire summer abroad!

#dark Hedges

Hindsight: We should have stayed longer.

Having no idea how much we would enjoy our visit we only booked three nights, but easily could have spent twice that many exploring Belfast as well as the amazing natural beauty along the Northern Coast.

Glasgow, Scotland

Highlight: Mural Trail

A very happy accident, we discovered Glasgow’s Mural trail on our way to another destination!

#hiphopmarionettes

Hindsight: Glasgow deserves more time!

Two days just wasn’t enough in this walk friendly city brimming with architecture, art, music, and shopping!

Inverness, Scotland

Highlight: Urquhart Castle on the Shores of Loch Ness

Having missed out on a visit to Loch Ness on our previous trip to the Highlands, we decided to make it a priority. A highlight was exploring the ancient ruins of Urquhart Castle, located on the shores of the lake.

#urquhartcastle

Hindsight: So much more than a monster!

Our visit here was wonderful and exceeded our expectations in every way.

The Highlands of Scotland

Highlight: Eileen Donan Castle

A last minute decision to see Eileen Donan Castle did not disappoint. It’s no wonder that Eilean Donan is the most photographed castle in Scotland, it’s setting in the middle of three lochs is stunning!

#eileandonanbagpiper

Hindsight: The Isle of Skye

There is never enough time in this magical country. We got a small taste of what the Isle of Skye has to offer and I’m definitely going back for more!

Edinburgh, Scotland

Highlight: Everything

Have you ever visited a place that felt so right, so special that it was almost painful to leave? Love at first sight? That’s exactly how I felt about Edinburgh from the very first moment.

#edinburgh

Hindsight: I’ve realized my Edinburgh list will never be completed

Although we didn’t have time to go inside the Writers Museum, we did spend time in the courtyard reading the tiles, which are inscribed with lovely quotes written by some of the city’s most famous writers. All of them about Edinburgh of course!

Hadrian’s Wall

Highlight: A dream come true

I know that for some, what basically amounts to a crumbling brick wall in the middle of nowhere England might not be interesting, but for me, a history loving anglophile, this was an absolute dream come true!

#hadrianswall

Hindsight: Walk the Wall Hike

It’s quite popular to “walk” the Wall and I would have liked to, at least for a little while, but serious rain was threatening and after a few minutes the boys abandoned me for the shelter of the Housestead’s Museum.

York, England

Highlight: York Minster

It made sense that the center piece of York, York Minster, the largest medieval Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe, would be our first stop. We were not disappointed!

#yorkminster

Hindsight: There wasn’t one!

The rain fell hard and steadily during our visit, but thankfully we still managed to enjoyed this lovely city.

Nottingham, England

Highlight: THE Nottingham!

Yes, that Nottingham, home of Robin Hood and his band of Merry Men!

#robinhoodnottingham

Hindsight: Sometimes the weather wins

Sadly, extremely heavy rain put us off from a visit to Sherwood Forest.

London, England

Highlight: Camden Market

My highlight is also a hindsight!  I can’t believe the Camden Market wasn’t already on my radar, It’s right up my alley and reminds me a lot of Venice Beach, California. Fun & quirky!

#camdenlock

Hindsight: Top of the Shard

With my love of photography, I regret that I didn’t take the time to visit the observation deck at the Shard. Greenwich is also high on my list for next time…

Brugge, Belgium

Highlight: Beautiful Medieval Town

I was delighted by the incredible beauty of Brugge, a quaint little medieval town. I immediately fell in love and spent the better part of my three days there taking endless photos.

Bruges Canal

Hindsight: Why didn’t we eat more chocolate?

The question is: With endless chocolate shops around every corner, why didn’t we visit more of them? I’m afraid that’s a question, I’ll never know the answer to.

Ghent, Belgium

Highlight: Graffiti Street

Wanting to see something a bit off the beaten path and big fans of street art, we were excited to learn that Ghent has a dedicated graffiti street called Werregaren straat. We really enjoyed this and loved the idea of a dedicated place where anyone can express themselves freely.

#wergeranstraat

Hindsight: Maybe next time…

Elliot really wished we’d had a can of spray paint or two, so he could contribute.

Amsterdam, Holland The Netherlands

Highlight: Everything about our visit!

A lovely and walkable city with no shortage of interesting sights and streets to wander we made the most of every minute of our visit in Amsterdam.

#nightcanal

Hindsight: We visited Amsterdam and didn’t ride a boat or a bike, what?!

We made the most of every moment while visiting this fabulous city, but still ran out of time before ever stepping onto a boat, or peddling a bike. We did see some windmills though! If I had to do it over again I would stay on a houseboat!

Zaans Schans, Holland

Highlight: Windmills

I felt I couldn’t visit Holland without seeing at least one windmill up close and personal! I know, I know, that’s a very touristy thing to do, but hey, sometimes I’m a tourist!

#zaanseschans

Hindsight: Why didn’t we rent bikes here?

If we ever find our way back to this wonderful place we will be sure to rent bikes. The wide pathways and lovely scenery would make for a perfect bike ride!

Paris, France

Highlight: Sainte Chapelle

As I emerged from the doorway into the main part of the chapel my mouth literally fell open. I was completely surrounded by jaw dropping beauty. How did I not know about this amazing place?

#saintechapelle

Hindsight: Accommodations

While there wasn’t really anything wrong with our hotel, I’ve yet to really hit the nail on the head as far as Paris lodgings go… hopefully next time!

Versailles, France

Highlight: Marie Antoinette’s Gardens

My favorite part of the day was our visit to the Petit Trianon, the home away from home of Marie Antoinette, who apparently wasn’t so enamored with the main Palace and preferred to spend her time elsewhere.

#petittrianon

Hindsight: An evening visit might have been better

We should have considered going later in the afternoon for the musical fountains show and evening fireworks. We might have been able to beat the crowds, and the heat.

London, England

Highlight: Hyde Park

London’s parks are the perfect way to spend a sunny afternoon just like the locals do! They are beautiful, vast and filled with activities for every interest.

#serpentinepavilion2016

Hindsight: Do we really have to go home?

Even after six weeks of travel, I wasn’t ready to go home.

Nothing makes me happier than discovering new places with my family and sharing them with all of you!


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A Photo Tour of Amsterdam

#loveamsterdam

I loved our visit to Amsterdam so much, I broke my 1000 words max rule by 700+ words, and still, I was unable to fit everything in. The more I wrote, the more I had to say, and not just about the amazing museums and food and where to stay, but about the street art and bike bell shops, the everyday people, the city at night, and so much more. Rather than more talk I thought I would try and show you some of the sights and moments that cemented my love of this wonderful city!

Sunset over I Amsterdam

#iamsterdam

Trying for that perfect pic…

#iamsterdam

Walking through town the clouds were amazing!

#amsterdam

The architecture both on land and in the water was so lovely!

#amsterdamhouseboat

Next time we visit I hope to stay on a houseboat!

#amsterdamhouseboat

The fuzzy warm glow of the lights at night. On the streets…

#iheartamsterdam

the canals…

SAMSUNG CSC

the water, and

#amsterdamnightcanal

in the windows!

#miffythebunny

There were flowers…

#amsterdamcanal

and boats…

#amsterdam

and bikes, everywhere! Sometimes all at once!

#nightcanal

Not to mention the art, both inside…

#vangogh

and out, was superb!

#amsterdamstreetart

I hear seeing a bride is good luck! No wonder we had such a great visit!

#amsterdambride

Until next time Amsterdam…


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#amsterdamphototour

I Amsterdam

#amsterdam

I apologize in advance for the length of this post, but after years of hearing what an amazing city Amsterdam is, I am happy to finally be able to say I wholeheartedly agree! A lovely and walkable city with no shortage of interesting sights and streets to wander we made the most of every minute. With it’s Seattle meets Europe vibe, I felt right at home and I would even go so far as to say, “I would live there,” a distinction I’ve saved for only the most special of places. Needless to say, I hope to return one day.

I Amsterdam

i-amsterdam-5910
I Amsterdam is located behind the Rijksmuseum

Always looking for a fun photo opportunity I was excited to visit the I Amsterdam sign! You can’t miss it as the red and white sign is 2 meters tall and crawling with people. The city’s catch phrase, I Amsterdam, represents not just the city itself, but a state of mind and is a symbol of inclusion. It’s hard not to fall in love with such a positive message and it was clear from the crowds swarming on, in and around it that I wasn’t alone in my feelings. There are four I Amsterdam signs throughout the city!

#iamsterdam

Of course we joined the masses and posed in, on and around the sign doing our best to get that perfect shot!

#iamsterdam

I Arrive

Training from Bruges and arriving in the early afternoon we grabbed a taxi to the Hotel Sebastian in the Jordaan District, dropped our bags, and immediately set out to see what the city had to offer.

#dewaag
Meeting up with friends was a highlight of our stay!

Lucky for us, we had personal tour guides as some dear (Dutch) friends from the States were also in town. We met them for dinner and a walking tour through the city.

I Giggle

The Red Light District

One can’t write about a visit to Amsterdam and not mention the infamous Red Light District, so let’s just get it out of the way…

#redlightdistrict
The Oude Kerk in the Red Light District

I’ll start by saying, It wasn’t a place I had on “my list” and definitely not with the kids in tow, but we did end up walking through. Talking and walking, and not paying attention we looked around and… Oops! Suddenly instead of retail shops, many of the windows had red curtains hanging in them, but only the occasional few had someone standing inside. The younger boys were oblivious (thankfully), and the older boys did a great job of pretending they were.

#redlightdistrict
Many of the windows were empty

Funny enough it was the window displays in the “toy” shops, that brought out the giggles in the adults… thankfully the boys, too busy eating ice cream, didn’t notice. However, they did notice the “coffee shops”. The general consensus was: “Why would anyone go in there? It smells so bad!”

I Feel

Anne Frank’s House

#annefrankhuis

As soon as we decided upon a visit to Amsterdam I knew I’d be visiting Anne Frank’s House. My experience visiting this special place was so profound, that I’ve given it a completely separate post. Keep in mind that getting tickets can be somewhat complicated, as the timed Tickets are only available from the official website exactly two months in advance.

I Wander

Walk or Bike Everywhere

#amsterdamhouseboat

A highlight of our visit were the many walks we took. In fact, we walked as many places as we could, rarely using any public transportation. I know you’re wondering why not bike?  Unfortunately, Elliot just wasn’t confident enough to ride a bike in such a big city.

Culture

Museumplein

#museumplein

The Van Gogh Museum

#vangoghmuseum

I loved this museum, which you might be surprised to learn was a surprise to me! Not only will you see the largest collection of Van Gogh works in the world, but you’ll learn Van Gogh’s fascinating life story along the way. Especially touching to me was the close relationship he shared with his brother and sister-in-law who were instrumental in his success and eventual world wide fame.

#potatoeaters

The museum’s layout was easy to navigate and the children’s activities were superb. This museum is incredibly popular, and I highly suggest booking your tickets in advance online as you’ll be able to skip the lines!

The Rijksmuseum

#rijksmuseum

The Rijksmuseum is a Dutch National art and history museum. The museum is vast, so if like us, you’re traveling with a large group, or with children it might be a good idea to choose some highlights rather then try to see it all.

#nightwatch
Studying Rembrandt’s famous Night Watch

On our can’t miss list were paintings by the Dutch Masters Rembrandt and Vermeer a painting of William of Orange, who I learned quite a bit about while in Belfast, the modernist exhibit from 1900 to 1950, a Van Gogh (of course), and the largest painting in the museum, Waterloo.

#rijksmuseum
I loved this ship model

The MOCO

#mocoamsterdam

The MOCO (Modern Contemporary) is a brand new, privately funded, museum featuring what they themselves refer to as the “rock stars” of the art world. On display during our visit were works by two internationally famous artists: Bansky, a London based graffiti artist, and Andy Warhol, an American pop artist. If you’re interested in either of these two artists, you’d better hurry, the exhibits close January 31, 2017.

Keep in mind this is a very small museum. A visit here could easily be tacked on to either of the above mentioned museums. If you enjoy street, graffiti and pop art than this museum is definitely worth a look around.

I Shop

The 9 Streets

#de9straatjes

If you like to shop, then I you might like The 9 Streets. Located in the Jordaan Neighborhood The 9 Streets are home to galleries, cafes, restaurants and more than 200 retailers, many of them one of a kind, selling everything from modern design to vintage clothing. I especially enjoyed, Pluck, an adorable cafe/shop selling a bit of this and that. An added bonus they had a nice bathroom. If you’re a fan of whimsy then make sure to stop by the Amsterdam Rubber Duck shop, where you’re sure to find a rubber ducky that suits everyone in your party!

Bloom

#floatingflowermarket

Founded in 1862, when flowers were still delivered daily by boat, the Bloemenmarkt is the world’s only floating flower market. Beyond the expected tulips you’ll find the bulbs and seeds of many other flowers as well as marijuana seedlings and starter kits. Before you’re tempted to purchase anything make sure the items your after can be imported into your home country.

This area is also home to many souvenir and cheese shops, so even if you can’t purchase that rare flower or starter kit (wink wink), you’ll be sure to find something else to remember your visit by.

Local

A Day in The life

#ilocal
View from Harriet’s balcony

Invited to join our friends at a local friend’s home we were excited to go inside a traditional Dutch house. The owner, a children’s book writer and amazing artist, was kind enough to give us a tour of her in-home art studio. I was so excited when I got to try-out her printing press!

#bitterballen

A visit to The Vondelpark gave the kids a chance to run free while the adults enjoyed conversation, bitterballen and beer. We had such a lovely afternoon and felt very much like we’d just experienced a day in the life.

Walking back to our hotel through the park we came across this neat little art exhibit, findfence. Where art meets the lost and found!

Holland

Day trip to Zaanse Schans

het-jonge-schaap-sawmill-windmill-6037We spent the majority of our time in Holland exploring Amsterdam, but I felt I couldn’t visit Holland without seeing at least one windmill up close and personal! I know, I know, that’s a very touristy thing to do, but hey, sometimes I’m a tourist!

#zaanseschans

Located just a 30 minute ride from the city, Zaanse Schans was quintessential Holland! There are many things to see and do while visiting Zaanse Schans, the demonstrations of  windmills, clogs, and cheese of course, but also walking and biking trails, boating and of course shopping.

Eat 

De Waag

#dewaag

Dinner on our first night in town, was at the lovely De Waag a restaurant cafe located in the Nieuwmarkt. De Waag (the weigh house) was built in 1488 and was originally one of Amsterdam’s City gates. We were lucky to find a table outside, but a reservation is a good idea!

Cafe Hegeraad

#cafehegeraad

A neighborhood favorite for over 100 years and well known for their delicious apple pie, we made it a point to visit Cafe Hegeraad (Tim lOVES pie). The pie was fine, especially if you’re a fan of pie (which I admit I’m not), but I couldn’t get past the restaurant’s strange decor. Their were RUGS on the table tops. Actual rugs complete with fringe, which I found incredibly weird. I couldn’t get past the idea that rugs are for floors, not table tops.

De Belhamel

#debelhamel

De Belhamel, is a lovely and potentially romantic restaurant (we brought our kids) at edge of the Jordaan quarter. Located on a corner where two canals meet the restaurant’s outdoor dining area has a fabulous view of both canals. Unfortunately it was too windy for outdoor dining during our visit, thankfully the interiors are equally as wonderful and the food was delicious.

De Reiger

#iheartamsterdam

Also in the Jordaan Quarter was the restaurant De Reiger. I enjoyed everything about this meal, the atmosphere inside and out, the service and the food. You can’t ask for more than that!

The Pancake Bakery

#thepancakebakery

Hearing they had the best pancakes in town, we had to go to The Pancake Bakery. The table line was long, but moved fast. I’ve decided I’m not a fan of Dutch pancakes (sorry), but everyone else in the group enjoyed them. Elliot’s car pancake actually came with a giant toy car. Who knew!?

I Sleep

#hotelsebastians

I highly recommend the Hotel Sebastians as both the location and service were perfect. The rooms and ensuite bathrooms were also lovely and spacious, but I admit the having the toilet inside the shower stall was a bit strange. If I wasn’t considering a houseboat stay on my next visit I would absolutely stay here again!

We Love

#nightcanal

Can you tell by the length of this post, that We ALL loved our visit in this amazing city?


I Amsterdam Things to do in Amsterdam

Would you like directions to all these fabulous places? Why not take me with you! you can download this and other fun hilarystyle articles using the GPSmyCity app!

#gpsmycityhilarystyle

The Windmills of Holland

#windmill

We spent the majority of our time in Holland exploring Amsterdam, but I felt I couldn’t visit Holland without seeing at least one windmill up close and personal! I know, I know, that’s a very touristy thing to do, but hey, sometimes I’m a tourist!

#zaanseschans

Located just a 30 minute ride from the city, Zaanse Schans, is quintessential Holland!  Beautiful meadows filled with grazing cows, fluffy white clouds and windmills, their sails slowly turning, in the distance.

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There are many things to see and do while visiting Zaanse Schans, demonstrations inside the  windmills, a wooden clog museum, and tasting cheese of course, but also museums, walking and biking trails, boating and of course shopping. We arrived later in the day, but made the most of our limited time. We all loved this experience which offered something for everyone and was a great taste of Holland.

The Windmills

#zaanseschans

There are eight windmills onsite, all of them are centuries old, and all are still operational. Although from a distance they look peaceful, it’s a different story on the inside where they are hard at work sawing, grinding and pounding. The noise is unbelievable!

#hetjongeschaap

The Zaanse Schans windmills produce, mustard, lumber, dye, and oil. We visited Het Jonge Schaap which is a sawmill and De Bonte Hen an oil mill. During our visit we learned about the processes from start to finish, but also about the lives of the people living in and operating them. I found this entire experience fascinating and incredibly worthwhile. Imagine living inside the mill all year long, the constant loud noise, the cold winters, your livelihood dependent on the wind.

#debontehen

The Wooden Clog Workshop

#zaanseschans

Located inside the Wooden Clog Workshop is the Wooden Clog Museum and I really got a kick out of all the different types of clogs on display. There were wedding clogs, ice clogs, carved, painted and art clogs to name just a few. It’s hard to imagine actually walking around in any of them, as I do best on a flat shoe!

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The boys weren’t as interested in viewing the already made clogs, but enjoyed the how to demonstration, while I browsed the gift shop, filled with you guessed it: clogs! In every size and color they lined the walls making quite a pretty picture! For me the highlight was the large statue of Miffy the Bunny, a favorite of mine.

#miffythebunny

The Catharina Hoeve Cheese Farm

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Of course you can’t be in Holland and not eat cheese. The Catharina Hove Cheese shop is a replica of a cheese farm. Inside you’ll find the shopkeepers, dressed in traditional costumes, ready and willing to tell you all about the different types of cheese. There are samples available and of course you can purchase some to take with you. We happily picked up a few different varieties in anticipation of our upcoming train ride to Paris.

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We had a wonderful time during our visit to Zaanse Schans. It was a perfect afternoon!


#windmill

 

Visiting The Anne Frank House

#annefrankhuis

Anne Frank’s house was my first destination upon arriving in Amsterdam. Entering would have to wait as my tickets were for another day, but something in me just needed to see it. Standing outside this important place in history, which I’d read about my entire life, and that seemed to be just any other ordinary building, was surreal. I suddenly felt as if I were in a fog, I could see and hear the other people around me, but felt strangely outside myself. Sorrow, incredulity, anger rolled over me like a wave. In that moment, right there on that regular sidewalk the joy was sucked right out of me. Simultaneously I was grateful to be standing there. Outside. Grateful that I could be, and that no one was telling me otherwise.

Amsterdam Holland The Netherlands

Maybe you’re reading the above and thinking, why would anyone willingly put themselves through emotions like that if they didn’t have to? I don’t blame you, but I strongly believe that in order to protect future generations we must step outside our comfort zone. Keeping these memories alive, no matter how unpleasant, is paramount.

 ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’ – George Santayana

#annefrankshouse
The Anne Frank House is on the left side of the Canal

The next morning I got up early and knowing my family needed their rest, I wrote them a note and then went out for a walk around the neighborhood. I wandered back over to the Anne Frank House as I wanted time for a little introspection. I found a cup of coffee and a bench and watched the people go by.

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Surprising to me, many of them posed happily by the front door, smiling and laughing while acting goofy. Some seemed to be making a show of being dramatic, a caricature of sorts.  Somehow this felt wrong to me. Strange I thought… is this a happy place?

#amsterdamcanal
Canal across the way from the Anne Frank House

A short while later standing across the canal I listened in on a bike tour. Although the guide did mention the Nazi occupation, the secret annex and that their had been people hiding inside for over two years it was very perfunctory and felt quite shallow.

What you need to know before visiting

#annefrankhouse

As soon as we decided upon a visit to Amsterdam I knew I’d be visiting Anne Frank’s house and with that knowledge immediately researched making it happen. As it turned out it can be somewhat complicated. Tickets are required, timed and are only available from the official website exactly two months in advance. Due to the museum’s popularity they will sell out, so I highly recommend setting a reminder on your calendar. Hopefully, you’ll have some flexibility, as even armed with this knowledge I was only able to secure two tickets during the entire duration of our five night stay. This worked out for our family as my little one wasn’t quite old enough for this experience.

Here are some other things to keep in mind when planning a visit:

  • The Anne Frank House is located in the center of Amsterdam at Prinsengracht 263-267
  • Visitors between the hours of 9:00 am and 3:30 pm must purchase their tickets in advance online.
  • You can show your ticket directly from your smart phone.
  • From 3:30 PM until closing time you can buy a ticket at the museum entrance. I don’t recommend this as the lines are extremely long and you won’t be guaranteed entrance.
  • Last entry to the museum is 30 minutes before closing time, but the queue for the Anne Frank House closes earlier. Depending on how busy it is, this can be as much as 2 hours before closing time.
  • No photographs are allowed inside the museum.
  • Strollers and large bags aren’t allowed inside the museum.

Thoughts on our visit:

Our timed entry was 2:15 pm, so after a morning exploring the city, Simon and I went to the Museum. Here are some of my thoughts as I wrote them directly after the visit:

It was simply heartbreaking, but so worth while. I silently cried my way through the entire thing.

Though Simon recently studied Anne Frank in school, and even after we stood in the very places Anne and her family stood, I’m not sure it really got through to him that her and her family only died because they were jews. That prior to going to hiding they weren’t allowed to swim at the beach, go to school, visit friends or really do anything at all just because they were jews.

Seeing the rooms, staircases and the bookcase, which hid the entrance to their secret annex was incredibly surreal. After reading and hearing about Anne my entire life and then to actually stand in the place where they hid for over two years is very difficult to put into words.

Peeking out the window onto the street below. Knowing that on the rare occasion that Anne herself could look out that she looked out these same windows. She saw the same things we saw, people freely walking by, laughing, playing, boats on the canal, heard the nearby church bells, only unlike us, she couldn’t leave.

The visit to the Anne Frank house is self guided, though Anne’s words are written on the walls throughout. You’ll walk through the office below the secret annex, the annex and have an opportunity to see Anne’s diaries. There are many.

The video interviews of Otto Frank, her father, and other people who knew her are fascinating and really help bring her to life.

With the exception of a few items on display most of the rooms are empty. This is deliberate as Otto Frank specifically requested they be kept this way as a symbol of all the people who never came back.

Surprisingly, even after this moving and educational experience I could tell that it was hard for Simon to grasp when he saw during our visit. How could he? Thankfully, he’s only known acceptance and tolerance. However, all the more reason why this visit was so important.


Visiting The Anne Frank House