For Geert, the 7 year old trip was to be to the land of his namesake Dutch (I mean, come on, his name is GEERT). And, in complete opposition to Leva’s trip, I elected to do a tour. This was actually a really hard decision. We totally got away with Leva’s trip: minimal planning, maximum fun and flexibility, and an amazing, hard to beat trip. We saw sites that she still talks about, met friends, took beautiful pictures and really did feel like we experienced Paris. Why mess with perfection? Because Geert can’t walk all day and stare into space and be happy (like Leva can). I found a tour on the internet that sounded too good to be true – a family tour where you stay on a riverboat, ride bikes all day on bike paths, and see some typical Dutch things like windmills and canals. As Geert is still enamored with all things transportation, it seemed a good fit! Ride a plane. Ride a train. Ride a boat. Ride a bike. Check check check check. And a windmill. Sold.

Signing up for the trip was nerve wracking. We found the site in Dutch and elected to buy tickets this way, so we could pay in Euros (which had just tanked and would give us a really good deal). But they don’t have any on-line security and i ended up just sending them an email with my credit card number on it for the deposit. For the whole world to use. Then they didn’t respond right away. Then the messages back and forth got a little cryptic. Ultimately, I took the plunge, sent in the balance, and bought airfare, actually prepared in case it was all an elaborate scam. We got a weird brochure for the company that wasn’t specifically for our tour. We never got an email confirming us. I really might show up in Amsterdam for the week without plans.

We took off on a Thursday afternoon. No one cried this time, although Geert was still visibly nervous. Knowing how well wi-fi communication went and that I could keep in easy contact with Brad made it much easier. Knowing what a 7yo can really do made it much easier. But still a step into the unknown.

Obligatory airport picture – we’re off!

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We arrived in Boston with six hours to kill. I had considered taking a water taxi to the waterfront, just to get out of the airport, but with boarding times and the confusion for how to make that work, we just stayed put. Ate an egg sandwich (a completely inconsequential detail that Geert remembers) and rode all of the people movers backwards. For hours.

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Ate a shrimp basket (I had lobster stew – it’s Boston! and it was terrible!)

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Played in the airport playground for toddlers

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and FINALLY got on the plane to cross the big pool. Naturally, Geert was a button man and picked out a movie (Home).

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He watched the movie, ate a bit of dinner, and slept for about 3 hours. But like last year’s trip to Europe, the flight was relatively short and he woke up when the breakfast lights came on. He didn’t really want to eat anything, which was a bad sign, but seemed to be holding it together. We landed at Schipol, and headed straight for the trains.

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Learning from last year, I bought a ticket at the counter (to avoid wacky credit card malfunction), fed Geert cookies I’d saved from the plane and had in my purse, and we were at Centraal in 20 short minutes. First thing we saw and took pictures of for dad was the bike parking.

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Expectedly, Geert was tired and not impressed. Our hotel (to which I had detailed directions – another lesson learned) was a 10 minute walk away, and we arrived quickly and without trouble. We got settled into a VERY nice room, dropped off the bags and headed out for our walk-to-keep-Geert-awake. We decided to head towards Vondel Park, as I had read that it had a lot of kid-friendly things to do (a cafe, playgrounds, etc). Our walk was long. I took the most direct route to try to maximize park time, but it was rather ugly to walk down Damrak street. We saw Dam Square with the Royal Palace

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and De Nieuwe Kerk

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and stopped to watch the street artists for a while. But kept on pluggin’ on. By the time we got to the historic flower market, G was spent and tired. Brad’s advice was to keep a steady stream of strong sugar into the kid, so we stopped for Nutella topped Dutch pancakes and apple juice. About as straight up sugar as you can get. And predictably, it made a HUGE difference. His color came back, he smiled and was ready to go.

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But not to look at flowers with mom (I could have spent HOURS here). This is Geert’s pose, at his own suggestion, to show dad just how excited he was (not) to be at the flower market. Sugar = sense of humor.

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The walk to the park seemed to take FOREVER. And when we finally got there, it was not so impressive. And the park is really really long. And we both wondered if we could find a playground that G didn’t really feel like playing on anyway. So we took a few pictures and turned back, saving it for another day.

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We passed the Rijksmuseum (and didn’t stop in – only the second time I’ve walked right past this building – again, saved for another day)

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and soon approached a stop for paddle boats. Geert really wanted to try. I was worried that it would be hard to steer and we’d get rolled over by a canal cruise. But again, this is his trip, and what the heck, how hard can it be? We got a boat for an hour and set off on the “short track”, hoping we could get it done in that amount of time.

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I must clarify here, that I am not an expert paddle boat-ist. We got pushed into the canal to go on our way. Geert could barely reach the pedals and had to sit on the “floor” of the boat to even get his feet on them (an inconvenient spot for him, since then he lost his view of the canal, down there in the bellows of the boat). And I couldn’t really figure out which way to push the rudder to get us to turn in the right direction, because there was always a delay before we’d actually turn. This meant that we traveled in a zig-zag drunken line down the canal, running into several bridges. BAM, i’d hit a bridge. Then, unable to figure out how to back up and redirect, we’d do a full circle and try to go through again. BAM! We’d hit again. Geert is laughing at me. I’m laughing too. It was ridiculous. It indeed took us the whole hour to get to our drop-off site (even though I really did get the hang of it by the end).

Now G is losing steam again and we decide to head back. We wandered a bit through sidestreets, trying to avoid the red-light district which lay directly inland of our hotel, and made it back (our hotel is the brick building on the right, behind the trees)

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We went for a swim in the hotel pool at G’s request, which was warm and relaxing, and just the thing.

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And settled in for the night, at the crazy early hour of 4:00pm. Geert would sleep 16 hours.

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