We have had nothing but amazing experiences in Amsterdam, which is why when we saw there was a direct flight from Shanghai to Amsterdam we knew we had to go visit on our way to visit our friends in Brussels, Belgium.
Departure and Flight
Our flight to Amsterdam from Shanghai was relatively uneventful as we timed it to leave immediately at the beginning of the Chinese New Year holiday. The lines for all the domestic flights were crazy with the mass exodus back to everyone’s “Lao Jia” (old home) for the holiday. However, because of this expectation to be home on the actual holiday it means that many local Chinese don’t start an international vacation for the holiday until after the Chinese New Year. Thus our check-in process was super smooth and we managed to get a suitable bulkhead seat with a bassinet for little Charlie, who actually slept for part of the flight to our surprise!
Unfortunately, while our flight was quite comfortable, we were in for a rather shocking discovery upon our arrival in Amsterdam. One of the benefits of a direct flight is the virtual elimination of the risk that your bag will not arrive with you at your destination, which is why we have recently tried to restrict our travel to locations that can be reached via a non-stop flight with the help of our destination finder. And while our bags did arrive, unfortunately our stroller arrived in a very different condition than we gate-checked it in. It seems that somewhere in the handling process our stroller was thrown or dropped with sufficient force to completely break off a critical anchor attachment necessary for any seat to be secured affixed to the main stroller base. While we managed to use tape to hold the car seat in place on the stroller, it felt very precarious and was definitely not safe for Charlie but we didn’t have any choice. While the KLM staff at the baggage claim section were very apologetic and helpful in submitting our claim, there was nothing they could do at the time and we have actually never heard any response back from KLM regarding the claim.
Where KLM let us down, we were pleasantly surprised that Uppababy went above and beyond our expectations. We reached out to their customer service to understand if we could by the part that was broken and fix the stroller ourselves. They asked for pictures to help determine if this was possible and confirmed that unfortunately the part that broke is an integral part of the base stroller. However, since our stroller was within the warranty period they offered to replace the base! While technically they may not have had to do this since it was damaged during our travels, they did us a solid and shipped us a new one. We did have to wait until Lauren’s mother came to visit to get it but we were relieved not to have to buy another. Although they are expensive, we absolutely love our Uppababy Vista and would have definitely replaced the base had they not come through.
Luckily our frustration with KLM was quickly forgotten as we hopped into a Tesla Model X (my dream car) in the taxi queue and Lauren was amazed by the smoothness, quietness and futuristic means by which we were transported into the city. Our driver was extremely friendly and even pointed out some interesting facts about neighborhoods as we headed to our accommodations, the Hotel Pulitzer. (here our dedicated review of the hotel) We stayed here the last time we visited Amsterdam and had such a lovely time that we just had to return. Hotel Pulitzer didn’t disappoint as we had a quaint little room that was perfectly appointed, the restaurants were great for both breakfast and dinner, the bar had a super comfortable ambiance and the service was all around on point.
Our favorite thing to do in Amsterdam is to walk the canals and soak in the architecture. We absolutely love that the central part of the city is a spiderweb of canals where every corner you turn has another beautiful view of a bridge, a historic building, or a houseboat. Compared to Shanghai, or most anywhere for that matter, there are very few cars as most people here ride bicycles or take public transportation. The other wonderful thing about the canals is that they radiate in all directions making any journey to a destination on the itinerary fun in and of itself. You just have to watch out and give yourself more time than Google Maps might say you need since you’ll inevitably stop along the way.
While we do love walking through Center City and stopping to sip Heinekens along the way, we also love Amsterdam’s amazing museums scene. With a baby in tow this time, we weren’t sure how much time we would be able to spend looking at art. We chose to visit the MOCO Museum for the Banksy and Lichtenstein exhibit since it’s smaller than other museums. We were enjoying the museum when it became clear that it was time for Charlie to eat. Since Lauren was still breastfeeding Charlie we assumed that this small museum didn’t have a space for breastfeeding and asked the staff if either the Rijksmuseum or Van Gogh Museum might have a nursing room. When we asked that question the staff immediately offered a solution, and took us up to a locked room on the top floor that they opened up for us. It was the perfect place for Charlie to nurse and had an amazing view of the Museumplein – very thankful for the amazing staff.
Van Gogh Museum
The Van Gogh Museum was also on our agenda for our “art day” To visit the museum it’s mandatory to book tickets online for a specific time so we planned an early afternoon visit that could also include a lunch break for each parent in the cafe. We began our visit exploring as a trio, but then we took turns in the really great cafe with Charlie while the other parent went off to enjoy the Van Gogh paintings. Lauren had previously visited the museum a few times, so she let me take more time to explore. It’s a great museum and had an impressive amount of Van Gogh’s work, but even with timed and limited entry it was still pretty crowded, so we spent less time in the museum that we had anticipated.
One of the best changes of traveling with a kid is that it forces us to slow down and go with the flow a bit more. On our last visit to Amsterdam we started each morning with a run through the amazing Vondelpark so while we weren’t doing that in the January cold, we did have a beautiful blue-sky day that took the opportunity for a nice long walk with Charlie. It’s a great part full of bike riders, people walking, jogging, having 1:1 personal training sessions and just enjoying the space. We looked for some play areas for Charlie but they were all made for bigger kids, so we’ll just have to wait for our next trip. One of the downsides to Shanghai life is the air pollution, so it was nice to get Charlies outside for a long walk and some truly fresh air. Definitely a must-visit for all!
With the cold weather we decided to get tickets to one of those “hop-on, hop-off” boats so that we could explore more of the canals from the comfort & warmth of a boat. It was a great way to spend the afternoon; we were picked up just a few meters away from the Anne Frank house & hopped off 2 times to explore neighborhoods, take a frites break and stretch our legs. The boats also had free earphones that shared a bit of canal history, which was interesting. Eventually we made it back to our original stop and walked the few minutes back to the Hotel Pulitzer.
Train to Brussels
After a few days in Amsterdam it was time to head to Brussels to visit our dear friend Kate (the main reason we chose to visit Europe during Chinese New Year). Brussels is just a short train ride away from Amsterdam and the concierge at the Pulitzer helped us book our train tickets so that made it pretty easy. After a late check out we headed to the train station for our afternoon departure. The train was nice but not as nice as the new high-speed Chinese trains) but a bit challenging as we didn’t have seats next to one another and the car was full of business travelers. Luckily Charlie was a tripper and we made it through the quick trip arriving in Brussels in the early evening. Kate was finishing up a work meeting, so we headed across the street for our first Belgian beers of the trip before she met us and we headed back to her house for dinner. Our visit to Amsterdam while quick was a good one and full of some of our favorite Dutch experiences.