Moscow has been blessed with sunshine and warmer temps as of late. I’m becoming hopeful that spring will soon be on its way.
I had the chance for a unique Russian experience this weekend when my school organized a trip to the Chaika Outdoor Pool. The pool is heated (28C/82F in the water) and within walking distance of my house.
With a beautiful day ahead of us, our small group headed to the pool. After nearly an hour of bureaucracy, paperwork, and a medical check (’tis the Russian way), we found our lockers and quickly made our way towards the pool entrance. The process would have been pretty tricky without a Russian speaker among us, despite the signs in English.
To enter, I had to climb into a small pool and dunk under a carwash-like flap. Popping up outside, the sunshine warmed my face and I made my way into the lap lanes full of swimmers.
Owing to the 5C/40F temperature outside, steam rose off the water and gave the pool a bit of an ethereal feeling. The majority of the swimmers were babushkas, all adorned with swim caps (required), many with black and white flowers sewn on. I made my way into the center lanes and enjoyed the bath water temperatures.
International Women’s Day is a national holiday here in Russia. To celebrate, everyone and their mother evacuates the country for a long weekend. Seemed like the perfect excuse to go meet my own mom in Amsterdam!
Mom, fearlessly traveling solo to a city foreign to her, arrived almost a day before I did. Impressively, she found the airport train easy to navigate (15 minutes into Centraal Station) and hopped the tram to our hotel without issue. When I popped up 12 hours later, she’d perused the neighborhood park, been to the grocery store (bring your own bags here, folks!), and stocked our room with food to guarantee we would not go hungry anytime soon.
In honor of our special Mother/Daughter Trip, I made a few plans ahead of time. Knowing we would want to wander and not knowing how jet lag might affect her (she was a champ!), I’d made just one plan per day.
For our first outing, I booked us a special lunch at the Restaurant De Kas. De Kas is the Netherland’s top biologique restaurant at the moment and it is easy to see why. Located within a greenhouse in the picturesque Frankendael Park, De Kas boasts a localvore menu that cannot be beat. Monkfish, celeriac puree, and beet salad were on the set menu that day. Our meal was truly exquisite, capped off by the restaurant’s knowledgeable and genial wait staff. We were too busy enjoying each dish to take photos but I hope those below entice.
On our second day, we made our way to the northwestern portion of the city, as I had made reservations at the Anne Frank House. Remembering the lines I’d experienced 12 years prior, I had booked ahead online. Turns out you have to as the house is under renovation. Our tour was as solemn as you might imagine. It was quite sobering to realize that Anne was just the same age as my students are right now. If you see nothing else in Amsterdam, this house and its history are not to be missed.
On our last day, we visited the Van Gogh Museum and wandered over 8 miles through the city streets. My advice to future travelers – don’t overbook yourself in Amsterdam as you never know when an adorable little cafe or pub might beckon.
To me, Amsterdam has changed a great deal in the past decade. Once grimy and rough around the edges, it seems to have come into its own. Boasting an awesome foodie scene – especially in the De Pijp neighborhood we stayed in – you can find everything from Vietnamese to BBQ to local Dutch spots. But even with all that good food, the thing Amsterdam does best is to welcome visitors and feed the soul. It might just be my favorite European city.
Amsterdam proved the perfect backdrop for a long weekend meet up. Mom and I certainly enjoyed our time together – even a massive power outage couldn’t dampen our spirits! As much as I enjoy exploring new cities on my own, there’s nothing quite like sharing the experience with someone who knows you well. Very thankful to have had this special time together and already looking forward to our next meet up… Porto, perhaps??