After skillfully maneuvering and strapping my FULLY packed bags to my body, I took one last glance into my little apartment completing an incredibly surreal experience. The only thing preventing me from having a tearful breakdown was Rachel’s encouragement to think “I’ll be back someday,” this is “NOT goodbye forever.” Attempting to take her advice, I didn’t even take a last scan of Rue de Rivoli before plummeting myself, and my excessively heavy belongings, deep into the metro.
As I sit here in Gare du Nord watching the departure board frantically flip numbers and letters, tears fall from my face as I realize that my Paris trip that I’d waited so long for is all done, all over. I loved EVERY second of my time in this city and will hopefully always carry a piece of Paris with me everywhere I go…
After a three hour train ride and nap that was abruptly cut short, we arrived in Amsterdam just as the morning rush began. Now when I say rush I should mention that I am not referring to automobiles. Traffic jams in this city equal up to massive amounts of bikes crowding the sidewalks, the streets, the alleys, and ever other crevice of space occupying this city. There are bikes EVERYWHERE! There are big bikes, little bikes, red bikes, yellow bikes, flower bikes, bikes with seats on the front AND the back, bikes with baskets, bikes with horns, and every other bike you can even imagine!
Along with bikes, one of the things that intrigued me the most about Amsterdam is the canals. Canals weave their way between tall, skinny, anything but “cookie-cutter” appearing little houses, while quaint little bridges run over the tops of the canals to allow passer-bys to cross over. There are also paddles of large white swans that swim up and down the canals, giving the city an even more “fairytale like” appearance. Along with bikes and canals, I also didn’t have the slightest clue before arriving just how big Amsterdam actually is! In the 3 days we were here I feel like we only saw a small glimpse of how amazingly intricate, beautiful and full of character this city actually is.
On our first day in Amsterdam we settled in on our boat hostel. Yes, you heard me correctly…a boat hostel! Cool right?! Rach and I jammed all our belongings and our bodies into a room the size of the queen bed back in Paris. Super tiny!!! Good thing Rach and I are comfortable enough with each other, because it was like a game of Twister trying to maneuver around each other to sort our bags, and rest for a moment before heading out for the day.
After chuckling over our hostel on water, we set out to explore Amsterdam. Despite the hostel guy marking big X’s through the areas of town we should avoid, Rachel and I ended up smack dab in the middle of the Red Light District within about 5 minutes. Clueless, frantic to escape, and in complete shock of what we were witnessing, we did everything in our power to haul ass outta there. It didn’t help matters that every street in this city ends with a gracht or straat, and is at least 20 letters long. So confusing!
After finally escaping the rows of red lights, we landed in a charming coffee shop (a real one) that reminded us of our favorite coffee shops in Seattle. Ignited by our ease in speaking English with the locals, we sat comfortably in the café while flipping through fashion magazines, which were dropped in our laps by the adorable kid behind the counter. We spent the rest of our afternoon snapping photos and aimlessly wandering the streets of Amsterdam before settling into bed at 7:45pm…don’t ask.
Our quarters on water…Vita Nova.
Another view of Vita Nova with Amsterdam in the background.
Amsterdam in all its beauty.
The entrances in this city were impeccable! So gorgeous!
Reinforced my love for the color yellow…
See the swans! Beautiful!
Red Light District…
One of many pancake houses.
The red bike.
Just a stunning place.
The last of the leaves clinging to the trees.
On Day 43 we woke for breakfast on the boat complete with cheese, cold deli meats, cucumbers, tomatoes, yogurt, museli, a variety of cereals, various juices, and bread for toast including icing and sprinkles for toppings! We lazily ate our breakfast while planning out our day.
I suggested that we head to Amsterdam Central first to attempt to get our train tickets out of Amsterdam all settled. What was supposed to be a “quick trip” to the train station turned into 3 hours of me trying to obtain a ticket that didn’t cost be 200 buckaroos. Destined to save a few bucks by using the internet to purchase my ticket, I ran from the train station, to the library, back to the train station, to the boat hostel, to the train station, and back to the library in my ballet flats all while juggling my purse and camera bag.
Feeling horrible that I had wasted so much of our morning with my train ticket fiasco, I vowed to Rachel that the rest of the day was all hers. We contemplated taking a bike tour, but instead decided to wander around Amsterdam, including a visit to Dam Square, and the Anne Frank Museum. After an incredibly moving and surreal experience in the hiding place of the Frank and Van Pels families, we settled down for a cozy dinner (mushroom soup, a goat cheese Panini, and pancakes soaked in syrup for dessert) quite stunned by what we had just experienced. Having read The Diary of Anne Frank as a young girl, it was quite unimaginable to see such a monumental and gut wrenching piece of history right in front of my very own eyes…
More fries! But these ones are covered in mayonnaise and you eat them with a little fork. So cool and super yummy!
What one of those “coffeshops” will do to ya!
For whatever reason I couldn’t escape the protests on this trip. This one on our walk around town…we literally had to run to move out of the way of this one. Here’s Rach just steps ahead.
One of my favorite pics of my time in Amsterdam. This was a quiet little corner that I would have missed if I hadn’t stop to take a breath and take in the moment…
I’m obsessed with doors after this trip!
Outdoor seating area at a little bar on a random street corner…so cute.
Another one of my favorites…just quintessential Amsterdam.
The Anne Frank House.
Nighttime in Holland.
Rach as Santa. It was just a tad cold.
A little pub we found for dinner. So yummy.
My hot chocolate.
The holiday decorations did not help my homesickness. They were everywhere! So pretty : )
On Thursday, our final day in Amsterdam, we set our sights on a full day’s agenda. We started with a trip to the Bloomenmarket – a floating market full of bulbs for every flower you could ever imagine. We gathered little knickknacks to take home as souvenirs, while soaking in all of the bright colors of the tulips (tulips are ingrained in Netherlands culture). After absorbing all the bright colors of the market, we less than gracefully found our way (I’m not kidding you…it is practically impossible to find your way around this place!) to the Museum of Bags and Purses. Okay. Okay. It may not sound like the most intellectually stimulating place on the planet, but this place was AMAZING! It was incredibly interesting to see how the bag/purse has evolved from the early 16th century to now. It also helped that the glitzy little cupcake bag that Carrie Bradshaw carried in the Sex and the City movie was also on display…too cool!
Being a wee bit exhausted from our busy morning, I decided to chill at a coffee shop and attempt to make contact with Adam, while Rachel headed on to the Rembrandt House. One of the things that I have struggled with most during my time in Amsterdam is the sporadic internet service. It doesn’t matter if I’m on the boat, at the library, or in a wifi-connected coffeshop, I have the worst time getting a good connection (hence, why these posts are being published many days behind). Having ten, 30 second conversations with your hubby is quite frustrating I tell you.
Rachel returned to pick me up, and after a quick bite we set off to explore the Van Gogh Museum before dark. Van Gogh is probably my favorite artist in the whole world. I have knockoffs of his beautiful oil paintings all over our home, and I was all too excited to see more of his works of art in person. I almost fell over when I got the chance to see his real Almond Blossom painting (a bright turquoise, ivory and light pink painting that Van Gogh painted in 1890 as a gift to his nephew). Despite my burning desire to snap a picture of the real thing, I was scowled for attempting to take a picture, and had to settle for a postcard from the gift shop before leaving the building : (
After Van Gogh and in search of our last meal in Amsterdam, we gravitated towards some brightly lit Christmas bulbs hanging above the streets, in what appeared to be a swanky area of town. Rachel, having known that I had eaten Indian food on my last night in London and in Paris, suggested that we eat Indian for our last night in Amsterdam as well. It took us only a few minutes to begin nibbling on some delicious servings of chicken curry and spicy chickpea goodness, after finding a little Indian restaurant tucked under a fantastic old building.
As I guided us home in the dark, I felt a pang of sorrow that we didn’t have more time in Amsterdam. It is such a splendidly gorgeous city, and even with our jam packed days, our trip to Holland felt cut short. Nonetheless, I had a total blast and wickedly wild time with Rachel. We ended the night with Dutch cookies in our room, while packing our bags, and all the while toppling over each other in our tiny quarters.
Trying to navigate our way around Amsterdam.
There were the most amazing window displays for the holidays…this one a little bear village…everything moved! So neat!
Bloomenmarket. Floating on water.
There were so many bulbs!
Cheese!!! The pesto cheese was AMAZING!
Taking a break.
Museum of Bags and Purses.
Even the bathroom had purses! This one behind the toilet in the stall!
Adorable chocolates with purses on them!
More hot chocolate…I should seriously become a “hot chocolate spokesperson!”
How I spent my afternoon. Not too shabby I might add.
The only pic I could snag in the museum…Van Gogh himself.