“I am in love with cities I have never been to and people I have never met.” ~John Green, Paper Towns
That is one of my favourite quotes, because it is true. I have always been a dreamer seeking out a new adventure. I haven’t lived in many cities, but I knew there were ones out there I wanted to be part of. For the first time in my life, I can say I am in love with a city I have been to, Amsterdam.
Many people see Amsterdam as a city of sin. This is only one small part of the city, and not the part I fell in love with. During the day, Amsterdam is alive. Everyone there is moving. In just the short time I was there I used 9 forms of transportation. The whole system is incredible. There are two sets of roads. One of bicycles (complete with stop-lights and road signs) and one for cars. There are also ferries, an underground system, a tram system, and rail-roads. We will get back to that later. The city doesn’t feel like London or New York City (never been but I am assuming) where everyone is rapidly traversing the streets in a frantic state to meet their destination. In Amsterdam, they slowly wind their way through the city, mostly on bicycles, looking as if they didn’t care where they ended up. While sitting in the park, drinking organic fresh squeezed juice that is sold everywhere, one might see hundreds of people on bicycles. Its obvious that everyone in this dynamic city is healthy and happy. There are so many different types of bicycles too! Ones with baby seats in the front, ones with baskets in the back or front or sides, and more commonly with a second passenger riding side-saddle on the back, just over the rear tire. It is easy to see why I fell in love with Amsterdam, with just a few days there.
Now, I will describe my days in Amsterdam.
I left Bradford on a Wednesday. I had to take a bus (coach) to the airport (a 2 1/2 hour trip) then wait for 3 hours in the airport. We boarded the plane just as the sunset. It was spectacular to watch the sunset painted clouds through my window. As we approached Amsterdam the clouds slowly cleared just past twilight to let sneak peaks of a city glowing orange interrupted every so often by the sea.
When I arrived in Amsterdam, I took a train to the centre of Amsterdam to meet my brother-in-law Joe. Walking out of the central station was my first view of Amsterdam. We were on a road that ran parallel with one of the rivers. Ferries were coming in and out bringing people back and forth across the river. On the other side, were new creatively designed buildings lighting up the skyline. We waited on the dock for Joe’s friends (and our hosts) Terry and her boyfriend, to arrive on bicycles. From the station the four of us walked to an Italian restaurant for dinner. The food was incredible. Everything is made with fresh ingredients right in front of you-a common theme I found in Amsterdam. On each of the tables are potted herbs that the customers pick and add to their dishes.
After dinner Joe and I took the underground to meet Terry and Patrick at a cocktail bar. It was a great relaxing end to a long day of travel. By the time we left, the underground had stopped running. For my fifth form of transportation (in just one day!) I hopped on the back of bike as Joe pedalled and Terry hopped on the back of Patrick’s bike. We rode through the lit up streets and canals to their apartment and settled in for the night. The view from her living room was breath-taking. That’s when I fell in love with Amsterdam.
The next day we started off the day by riding the bicycles to the ferry. On the other side of the river we visited the Eye. This is a media museum, cafe, and cinema hosted in a brilliant building. The building was built so not a single wall was straight. Another spectacular concept of the architecture is that the building looks completely different from every viewpoint. The museum wasn’t very interesting, but the cafe served a delicious cappuccino.
It was the perfect start to the perfect day. Continuing on perfection we rode the bicycles, me on the back of Joe’s, to see the Anne Frank house and Westerkerk (the church mentioned in Anne’s diary). Instead of touring either place, we borrowed paddle boats from Terry’s work and toured the city by canal. Our trip was just over an hour of paddling through rows and rows of narrow houses built centuries ago.
Below are some photos from the canal paddle boat ride. Just to brag a bit, I paddled the whole hour of the canal ride :D.
By the end of our canal tour we were ready for lunch. Rather than sitting confined in a restaurant, we found a grocery store and bought fresh squeezed juice, fresh bread and cold salad, then took our meal to go. We enjoyed our meal in the Dam Square on the steps of the National Monument looking across the square of tourists to the Royal Palace. It was the type of moment you read about in books that make you add adventures to your bucket list.
After lunch we met up with Joe’s girlfriend for coffee at local “hipster” cafe. It was quiet in the kind of way that makes you realize you have been around tourists all day. The caffeine from my second cappuccino prepared me for more tourists as we made our way to an outdoor market around the corner from the Amsterdam Opera. The tents and tents of random stuff was interesting but not tempting enough to buy anything. Eventually we made our way to the Opera house. Outside the building is the I amsterdam monument. Joining in the tourist appeal we stopped to take some photos. Just after we walked to the canal to see the “Little Bridge.” This bridge is said to bring forever luck to any couple that kisses while going under the bridge. I added kissing my someday-maybe-future husband under the bridge to my bucket list.
It wasn’t long before darkness began to fall on the city and we made our way to another bar/cafe that the tourists didn’t know about. We relaxed and sipped on a couple drinks. I tried a refreshing cucumber and ginger drink. The cafe was also a gallery of pop art that was highly overpriced. It was a great atmosphere though, again pretty hipster. I loved it.
After drinks we headed to Terry’s and made dinner, carrot and coriander soup. This was another first for me and quite enjoyable. If I would make it, I might try it with anise rather that coriander. Oh right, my internal thoughts on soup are probably not very interesting. Anyway, we finished dinner pretty late and were all exhausted. We let it be an early night for us. Also my bed at Terry’s is the most comfortable bed I have slept in since I moved here. I have decided England does not understand comfort.
The next morning I woke up early and walked to the tram station. The tram took me to the train station which took me to the airport. After arriving in Manchester I waited an hour for my bus and slept the 2 hour ride back to Bradford. I’ve decided being a tourist is exhausting, but I will probably have great legs from so much walking/biking by the time I come home.
I will be going back to Amsterdam as part of my spring break trip, keep watching for my second post on my favourite city. Below are some more photos.