As you know, I went on another two-week vacation around Europe, as part of my “paid vacation days” that I so generously receive from working in France, especially under its school system. Known as les vacances des Pâques (Easter holidays), or more commonly les vacances d’avril, it was my final break before my contract ends, and before I return to the United States (which is coming up very, very soon!). :O
Any case, this two-week holiday was *slightly* different for me, as I was not traveling on my own the entire time; while I did travel solo in Amsterdam, I later met up with my parents in Germany, as they actually came to see me all the way from the States! Considering that they’re close to retirement (and the fact that they miss me dearly), 😛 they wanted to travel and see me at the same time, as we haven’t physically been together since September- a long time!
But I’ll save my parents’ meet-up story for another post. For now, let’s get to my adventures in the wild, beautiful city of Amsterdam! It had been on my bucket list for a long time, and I was super glad to *finally* go. 🙂
*side note* My trip to Amsterdam will be divided into three parts, since so much had happened in the brief three nights that I was there. Be prepared: there will be some drama!
Getting to Amsterdam was not too different from other times that I’ve traveled: as soon as I finished my last class on Friday, I booked myself all the way to Paris via three buses. The only difference that time was that I was bringing along one of my two big luggage that I had brought with me when I first moved to France. Why did I bring that huge bulk of a suitcase, anyway? Basically, I was cutting down the burden of bringing back stuff to the States when I move out of my flat in France; I have my parents to thank, as they offered to take it back with them once they finished traveling Europe. But a side note, nevertheless…let’s continue with Amsterdam…
From Paris, I took an overnight bus all the way to Amsterdam. Didn’t get much sleep (or that of quality, anyway), as it’s never comfortable on the bus- really, sleeping upright in a seat is a challenge! Eventually arrived in Amsterdam during the wee hours of morning, around 6h30. Took the train, then the metro to the city center, and found my hostel where I dropped my belongings off before heading out to explore the city in my *rather sleep-deprived* state. 😛
Despite the overcast skies for most of the trip, Amsterdam is still a gorgeous city. As a friend once told me, Amsterdam is “devastatingly beautiful.” And I have to agree! Everywhere you turn, you see canals, as well as the iconic views of the bikes and simple, but ornate railings along each bridge. The houses and buildings on the sides of the river seem to lean forward, as if welcoming the water, the people, to the city. Really, the views are what postcards are made of. 🙂
First thing upon arriving in Amsterdam was going to the Anne Frank House, not only for being the most popular attraction in the city, but also notorious for its lines to get in (then again, it’s popular for that reason!). I have heard that it’s natural to wait for at least an hour, and as long as three hours, to enter the museum. Crazy, isn’t it? I even took a photo of the line, as it was a touristy thing in itself!
Helps to arrive early, as I went around 8h15. By then, there was already a notable queue, but having been in many of them throughout my time in Europe, I didn’t mind it so much. Didn’t get in until 10h00, but the one-hour visit inside was definitely worth it.
Now, the house itself looks very unassuming, even unattractive, but inside was quite rich with the Frank family’s story, as well as background on Jews and their situation during WWII. Couldn’t take photos inside, which I respect, and also allowed the heaviness of the photos, the interviews, the excerpts from Anne’s diary, to sink in. I admit, I teared up a bit walking through the cramped rooms, in which all of its furnishings (chairs, tables, beds) have been removed. Nothing is left of the original layout of the house, as Otto Frank (who survived the war) wanted to represent the bareness that many other Jews had to leave behind when they were caught. It’s tragic, indeed. 😦
Afterwards, I headed over to the Jordaan district, known for being an upscale and rich neighborhood, although it was once a working-class area. Along the way, I stopped by a cheese shop, where one could sample just about every single type of cheese there- I’m not kidding! It was around lunchtime when I went, and so I was quite hungry. Basically ate my way throughout the shop, without any pressure to buy anything! Had some good ol’ smooth Gouda, as well as some smoked cheese with meat pieces and truffled cheese (to die for). Yum yum. 😛
Wandered around the Jordaan district, and stumbled upon a crowd in front of a café called Winkel. Apparently, it’s known for serving one of the best Dutch apple pies in town. I decided to try it. Bought my pie, and although I’m not a huge fan of apple-filled pastries, that Dutch apple pie was thick, crusty, and definitely made with love. ❤
That pie, along with the cheese sampling, were essentially lunch for me (but filling enough!). Walked back towards the Anne Frank House, passing by the Westerkerk Church and the Homomonument, which commemorates gay and lesbian individuals who have been condemned for their sexuality. Although small and easy to miss, I found the gesture very touching.
Heading back in the direction of my hostel, I moved towards the city’s south end (Anne Frank House and all of the places I visited during the morning were located west). Passed by the Flower Market, which is essentially a long street of stands selling flowers. Tulip season was just beginning at that time (early April), and so there were tons of them everywhere, also all over the city.
Additionally, I wanted to see the “I Am sterdam” sign, a big tourist draw. Located right in front of the Rijksmuseum (the Netherland’s national museum), it was packed with tourists, who wanted their photo opportunity with the famed sign that afternoon. I tried taking a photo of it by itself, but there were so many people that it got swallowed up by the numerous bodies!
Went back towards my hostel, but before then bought “dinner” in the form of fries, Belgian-style. Hadn’t had them since I was in Belgium back in October, of course, but the Dutch eat them as well, and I was happy to see them again. Ordered mine with onions and curry sauce, which I hadn’t had before, and it was mind-blowingly good. I’m addicted. 😛
By then, the sun was just beginning to set (at 19h00, for heaven’s sake! Daylight savings sure does have its benefits). Took a quick gander in the infamous Red Light District (located north of the city, adjacent to the Jordaan neighborhood), where yes, I saw the girls in their bikinis at the windows, as well as many peep show theaters, sex shops, and bars. All cool and everything, but definitely a touristy vibe, which didn’t work for me.
I was pretty tired, after a long, exhausting overnight ride over and being out and about all day in the city. Returned to my hostel, had a couple of drinks at the bar to relax, and turned in for the night. There happened to be a bunch of British girls in the same room as mine, and they were hardcore pre-gaming with shots (lots of booze everywhere in the dorm room) and truth-or-dare card games as I was trying to sleep. They were probably nice girls if I had talked to them, but man, I thought that I was done dealing with stereotypical sorority girls back in college! Guess not… Eventually, they went out (and didn’t return until 6h00!) and I finally got some shut-eye for the night.
Whew! That was a whirlwind of activity in Amsterdam, and for only the first day that I was there! More *even* wild adventures to come in the next post- stay tuned!
— The Finicky Cynic
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