It’s a different experience visiting a new city with a toddler in tow. You see a lot more of the early morning city life than you want to, and very little of the night. You’re more conscious of accessibility everywhere, and of good, healthy menu options. Amsterdam doesn’t rate very highly as a baby or a pedestrian-friendly city when it comes to navigating around. We’re still quite confused about who has right of way on the many streets where trams, cars, bikes, mopeds and pedestrians all compete. In general though, pick the worst part of the road or pavement, and that’s the bit allocated to the pedestrians. If you’re lucky. Sometimes it appears there’s absolutely no pedestrian walkway at all. It doesn’t help that a lot of the city seems to be ‘under construction’ with roads dug up and building fronts scaffolded for a face lift. With more bikes than people, the city is most definitely prejudiced in their favour. It’s a good prejudice, unless you’re constantly almost getting knocked over by speeding bikes that come out of nowhere and blast through with the confidence of someone positive that there’s absolutely nothing that might dare to be in their way. So at every turn it’s not ‘look both ways’, but ‘look 360 degrees, twice at least’ before crossing.
It’s rare to be somewhere that actually has a high chair other than Starbucks. In fact we haven’t seen too much of children or babies in the places we’ve been so far. Either we’re the bad parents that take our child to wholly unsuitable locations, or other parents are staying more firmly on the tourist tracks. I haven’t seen a single sling – apart from my trusty Manduca which has allowed us to wander narrow streets, trip over broken pavements, and squeeze into tiny little cafes. We appear to be a bit of an oddity here judging by the number of double takes when passersby notice the Rascal peering at them from his snuggly position. It’s starting to make me feel like a crazy hippy. Even though my sling is functional and boring, rather than bright and avant-garde to the fashion-conscious baby-wearing mothers of Ireland. Still, it’s much more convenient than bouncing a buggy over bumps and rubble even if it does make us stick out.
Today we walked far for yummy breakfast bagels in Village Bagels where the Rascal flirted shamelessly over my shoulder at anyone whose attention he could attract. We took an early nap on the Rascal’s request and then walked even further for coffee and hot chocolate in the number one rated Moods Coffee Corner. This jaunt took us across the major canals and into the trendy suburban Jordaan neighbourhood. We got apple pie from Windys Cafe on the way back, which the Rascal also got to sample as his pickings had been slim so far, poor thing. Perhaps that’s why he kept chasing after birds with bread in their beaks all day. Or trying to catch the eye of strangers that were enjoying food, so he could smile winningly and imploringly at them.
To finish out our day, we took a canal cruise. It was a nice way to see some of the sights and learn about why so many buildings are drunkenly leaning forwards, or listing to the side. It was great fun up until the epic tired and hungry toddler meltdown of the day at which point we were very keen to disembark. We quickly retreated towards the hotel only for him to doze off, wake up in the room, scream for a feed, then decide he was full of beans after his power nap and super feed. Damnit, cause we were pretty ready for a nap by then. But no, out once more into the scenic night following old style lantern lights along the canal to Cafe Piazza for a tasty Italian dinner that the Rascal could nibble bits and pieces of. Also a good location for him to practise flirting with waiters and throwing unwanted chunks of food at patrons. Dessert was Starbucks takeout tea and chocolate in our room while the Rascal, stripped down to a nappy, bounced in the travel cot and threw books at Daddy’s head for good measure. He very very slowly wound down and finally ran out of juice altogether. Sleepy time for all. Or what passes for sleep with stray kicks and punches emanating from the centre of the bed.