About 3 weeks after having my daughter I began to talk about holidays. The novelty of nighttime feeds had worn off and I recall feeling somewhat trapped in our 2 bedroom rented apartment in the centre of Birmingham. My husband was working long hours and there were stretches of time when I’d see nobody other than my newborn daughter and the occasional shop assistant in the supermarket. My first task was to persuade my husband (he’s definitely my grounding influence). He was remarkably willing. I found myself googling child friendly holiday destinations during the seemingly endless nighttime feeds. Despite craving some sun (we’re talking early January at this point) I was understandably cautious about taking a newborn away. I had a number of practical concerns – how was I supposed to lug all the stuff? Besides the obvious like a travel cot, nappies, enough clothes for at least 4 outfit changes a day, I was also bottle feeding at this point so I’d need a steriliser, bottles, milk powder etc. It seemed an insurmountable task. Despite ambitious plans I bailed and settled for driving to Amsterdam with my parents in tow for additional support. We settled on early March to coincide with my husband’s birthday. This, at least in theory, also gave us plenty of time to sort a passport for our daughter (I’ll say more about this!). We were also moving house so I had enough to be keeping me busy.
My first task was to sort some accommodation. I’ve always preferred staying somewhere a little bit different – quirky perhaps. When I think of Amsterdam I think of house boats so for me this was my ideal accommodation. I turned first to Trip advisor (this was before the days of AirBandB – where I’d probably start now). After much searching and reading I settled on the Amster River Design Houseboat. The review I wrote on Trip Advisor at the time can be seen here.
The drive over was actually remarkably easy. We took an early morning channel tunnel crossing (4 adults and a baby!) and took the drive over to Amsterdam slow and steady. We stopped every few hours to feed our daughter and spent most the journey waving a Lamaze toy! Once we arrived in Amsterdam we quickly found the accommodation and parking was immediately outside (handy when you’re carrying all you need for a baby!).
So what exactly did we pack for our daughter? As we were only staying for a few days and travelling by car we took enough nappies for the stay. We took our electric steriliser and our perfect prep machine (we had the space so why not use it!). Thankfully we took our own powder milk. A quick browse of the local supermarkets and I didn’t notice Aptamil (although it may go by another name). We hadn’t invested in a travel cot at this stage so we decided to make do with the carry cot part of our Joolz pram system. This worked well and had the added advantage that we could use it when out and about. We also had a folding Stokke Flexi bath – highly recommend these. We also found a baby bjorn carrier invaluable. Again, because we had the car, we were able to take a small selection of toys which made relaxing post sight seeing with a glass of wine a whole lot easier. The one thing we were missing was some sort of high chair. At home we are huge fans of the Stokke Tripp Trapp and the newborn seat. We certainly missed this during our stay and ended up with the car seat on the table so that we could eat and entertain!
We had a wonderful few days. The weather was kind and we did plenty of walking (which felt great post baby and must have helped with shifting the post baby weight!). Amsterdam is easy to navigate with a pram and everyone we encountered was friendly and welcoming. The only downside was the very limited baby changing facilities – most places didn’t have any facilities – cue changing the baby on a travel changing mat (we had the Jo Jo one) on the floor of the ladies loo’s.
We spent a large part of our 4 days just soaking up the atmosphere – eating in lovely restaurants and drinking local beer (we even took our daughter to a few outside bars in the evening – felt quite rebellious by English standards but the Dutch didn’t bat an eyelid!). We did manage to squeeze in some of the key sights. I was particularly keen to visit Anne Frank’s house (a trip to Amsterdam wouldn’t feel complete without seeing this) but was anxious about taking a 3 month old into what is a fairly sombre museum. The staff were incredible – showed us the baby changing facilities (which were beautifully clean, by the way), and said not to worry about noise and any tears! It’s worth booking your tickets in advance. It will safe you having to join the queue. You’ll need to opt for a certain time slot.
The highlight of the trip was probably the Heineken brewery (http://www.heineken.com/Heineken-Experience/Heineken-Experience). Definitely baby sling territory…prams wouldn’t really work. They reckoned our daughter was one of the youngest visitors. It was certainly a sensory experience for her – she loved the lights, the water trickling and no doubt the smells of hops.
Another landmark moment was our first post-baby date night. My parents kindly agreed to baby sit whilst my husband and I went out for dinner and drinks. I was predictably emotional about leaving her but had a wonderful night – great to feel like me again. Not satisfied with a local restaurant we traipsed across the city on a tram to a restaurant that was rated highly on Trip advisor. We were certainly not disappointed. Three courses later we decided to walk back via the Red Light district (a must see when visiting Amsterdam). We can’t have looked as old as we thought -we were offered cocaine. We decided we didn’t narcotics – we had a three month old at home! We got home just after 11pm – mum had done the dream feed and our daughter slept through for the first time! Amazing!
So this was our first city break with our daughter. A lovely break and a real achievement!