Let me start off by saying that, first and foremost, we are walkers.
With the choice of car, bus, metro, bike, no matter how conveniently set up (hats off to you, Holland), we shall inevitably hoof it. Though it will be to our feet’s discontent, or to the misfortune of frozen noses, and even the peril of breaking backs from carrying a 40 lb sack of potatoes for nigh on two miles, we will succumb to the vice-like pull of the pedestrian route, every. time.
Is it from growing up in the countryside where there were only dirt roads and the idea of a metro was practically Orwellian? Or is it from the dogged inclination to choose the most independent, if not outright most arduous task?
But I like all the ways a city presents itself on foot, the different perspectives. It’s like catching someone in a really good impromptu shot versus a selfie… the little corners, the minor inconveniences of a canal splitting your path or construction cones in your way, or the press of commuters heading off to work…
Suffice it to say, when we arrived late at the Eindhoven airport Friday night, we forwent a bus or taxi and walked the 1.5 km to our hotel. And what a pleasant moonlit stroll it was…
What a worried trek across shadowed bike paths and through the gloom of red and blue streetlamps (the latter, I wonder, a solution to light pollution?) where we strained to see around dark clumps of trees and to the frosted signs. We were admittedly confused when the sidewalk first ended alongside the office building halfway through our journey, but we were committed at that point. In fact, we had been committed since before we stepped on the plane. Having read that booking.com customer review that stated walking was more than doable versus a 30 euro taxi ride, we said, challenge accepted. *This is the way to the hotel* our minds repeated grimly.
The concierge assured us later that it’s acceptable to walk on the bike paths, but meandering at that time of night on a somewhat lonely bit of road lends itself to panic. Would there be an invisible biker whooshing around that turn? Would they be more shocked than we? At least we still had the reflective stickers wrapped up the sides of James’s stroller, and the tiny bit of gloomy light from these mysterious blue and red lamps. But walking under a bridge, beside the water, in the pitch black…. it causes even the most independent pedestrians to take stock of their decisions and wonder if all the 30 euro taxi rides they ever avoided were really worth it?
Luckily, we were reminded that that particular taxi ride wasn’t. On the walk back to the airport the next morning, we observed how patiently the local police sat in their unmarked cars in intersections, waiting to reprimand the crazy foreign drivers. For example, one woman received this cheerily delivered lecture, “You cannot drive like a crazy one.”
Thus begins our three day itinerary to the Netherlands:
Saturday, Day 1
- Drove the 1.25 hours to Delft from Eindhoven.
- Parked at our hotel just outside of an IKEA and walked the 20 minutes under the motorway and through the university neighborhood to the Royal Delft museum, home of a 300+ year old Dutch porcelain company. If, like us, you enjoy the blue and white designs but could never hope to afford the Rolls Royce price tag, stopping at the museum is just right for you.
- Later we strolled along the canals through a more open area and saw the huge de Roos windmill. Then we cut into the old town and to visit the Old Church for an easy 5 euro entry fee. Stood where the painter Vermeer is buried.
- Got drinks and a delicious tray of bread, cheeses, tapenade, and cured meat at this cozy, warm cafe called ‘t Postkantoor. The Dutch do hearty bread right, definitely get some.
- With the deepening cold, we made quick stops into a grocery store, bakery (OMG the APPLE PIE here), and pharmacy for dinner and baby supplies
- Began a beautiful, chilly nighttime walk through the old 14th century gate to the city
- Hung out in our lovely hotel room watching classic ’90’s Simpsons episodes with Dutch subtitles (For anyone caring just howwww classic we’re talking here, the Flamin’ Moe and Germans buy the Power Plant episodes)
Sunday, Day 2
- Had a meandering, lazy start to the day at the hotel and drove the easy hour to Amsterdam in late morning.
- The first Park-and-Ride garage was closed for a football match. We impressed the garage attendant by having a backup and proceeded to the closer to downtown Park-and-Walk location. Very convenient garage close to metro stops.
- Waaaaaaalked a lot from there, 3 km both ways to the Anne Frank House which was our focal point.
- Ate at a pancake house along the way where James made friends.
- Saw some statues and some squares, but most importantly shopped at two-story Flying Tiger to replace busted baby headphones
- Got to Anne Frank museum around 1pm (Like most museums here the tickets have specific entry windows so purchase online and show up a little early to make your spot). There was a steady flow of people through the museum so we skipped the coat check and got our audio guide and prepared mentally for the inevitable. We toured the old living quarters of the families and saw up-close the remains of their 2 year existence in that attic. Prepare yourself also for steep steps as it doesn’t get more real than this.
- On the walk back we stopped for a snack at an icecream/bakery place near Dam square, then did a little touristy trinket shopping
- Having returned to the Park-and-Walk garage, we only paid about $10 for 5ish hours (nice!)
- Back in Delft we drove to the big Albert Heijn grocery store for dinner supplies. They had the BEST, most extensive inventory of fresh, reheat-and-eat type of meals, vegan, vegetarian, sushi, Indian, Dutch soup, etc. Also, they (The Netherlands in general) have the cleanest parking garages I’ve ever seen and so you can bet that when I dropped a glass jar of peanut butter in Albert Heijn’s, we cleaned it up like chastened school children.
- That evening back in the hotel, we relaxed again with more classic Simpsons episodes (the one where Bart becomes a hall monitor and Lisa a bad student and the one How Marge and Homer first got pregnant)
Monday, Day 3
- Paid extra for late 3pm checkout via the “Spoil Me Package”. Traveling with a 22 month old = WORTH EVERY PENNY
- Toured Delft again in some icy morning air. Very peaceful and quiet that Monday morning.
- Visited the New Church as included in our admission fee to the Old Church. If you’re passing through Delft and know nothing about Dutch history, this is a MUST. The New Church of Delft, a.k.a. the church whose construction was started in the 14th century, will be the place you learn alllllll about Dutch royalty, with such captivating tidbits as this man’s face and this queens’ wish to be buried in her wedding gown because, according to her, her life ended the day she got married. What a burn, eh?
- Had lunch at this conveniently located chocolate shop. You must go if only for the simple combination of their chocolate truffle served along side a cup of plain black coffee. Words. Cannot. Express. The. Euphoria. Upon. First. Taste.
- Then, it was a 20 minute drive to The Hague for the Mauritshuis house museum to see, among other masterpieces, Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring painting (swwooooon.)* FYI, this small museum is charming and easy to do and worth it if you only have an hour.
- Finally drove the 1.5 hour to the Eindhoven airport, returned the car, found a comfy open lounge on the second level, and waited for our flight home.
*In case you want to learn more about The Girl with the Pearl Earring, check out this TedEd video on her and this Art Assignment to see what scientists were doing at the Mauritshuis museum recently to learn about Vermeer’s painting process.