So… Amsterdam. I know what you’re thinking. How does that city apply to adventure? Correct? Well, when you travel with me, anything can turn into an adventure. Even something as simple as catching the tube in London to the airport. I’ll start at the beginning.
We almost missed our flight. My friend and I met at Victoria Station and took the Piccadilly line out to Heathrow Airport. That ran fine. Our problem happened when we arrived at the airport. Computer problems requiring assistance to check-in, an oversized item (an umbrella…) that had to be specially checked at a separate counter… our allotted time for these activities diminished rapidly. To further add to our oncoming tardiness, we were stuck in the security queue behind a group of the most lovely elderly ladies. Who were required to untie every sort of belt and accessory imaginable before proceeding through the checkpoint at snail’s pace…
By the time we made it through, we didn’t even bother to put our boots back on. We grabbed our stuff, and started sprinting (in socks). Our gate was at the furthest part of the terminal, and then all the way back down the longest hall… naturally. It was like a movie – us weaving in and out of people, running at top speed… me falling behind, out of breath. My friend vowed he would have them hold the plane for me. Of course the crisis was averted when he arrived at the gate, the first one in fact, and announced that it wasn’t even boarding yet… we had time to walk laps to cool down. Make our flight we did though, and we were off to Amsterdam!
Amsterdam is famous for its canals. Much like Venice, although with a decidedly “darker” atmosphere. As in less sun. It’s not a huge city, having roughly 800,000 inhabitants (give or take one or two) in the city center. It has that small feel too, although you really must watch out for yourself on the roads. Pedestrians must share the routes through this city with cars, trams, other pedestrians, and the all important bicycles. Those are the ones to watch out for most. They ring they’re bell in warning, but they will not stop. Nor bother “parking” correctly.
We arrived after an uneventful actual flight, and headed into town. Another friend had taken an earlier flight, so we met up with her and booked into our hotel near Leidseplein. This is one of the most lively (and touristy) parts of town, but it’s central and therefore would serve us quite well. We dropped our stuff, and headed into the square to see what this city was all about!
Now again, I know what you are thinking… there’s only one reason three Americans would go to Amsterdam. The Indonesian food!! But seriously, the coffee shops are a big draw (laws have since changed, so they’re not as available to tourists as they once were). I am not a smoker, in any form, so I actually drank coffee in the coffee shops. And pints at night. It was a very interesting culture to be exposed to, especially coming from the States where everything is so strict. The coffee shops are littered across the city, so you can’t help but run into at least a dozen every time you’re out and about.
The other famous aspect, or infamous depending on how you look at it, is the red light district. Many cities have a red light district. But the one in Amsterdam is one of the most well-known. Even if it’s not your thing, it’s worth at least a stroll down the canal. It’s just unlike any other place you will ever see, anywhere.
The three of wandered the entire city pretty much, winding up and down the canals. Popping into various shops, and cafes and such. We went to the Anne Frank House, the Rembrandt House Museum, and Rembrandtplein – another of the major squares in the city. We even found time to squeeze in some ice skating on the temporary rink set up for the winter in Leidseplein. And watch the other skaters as they attempted, and fell, on the slick ice. I could sympathize.
We only had the weekend, but we covered some ground. And yes, we did eat some pretty amazing Indonesian food. I wish I could tell you where, but honestly I have no idea. I can tell you where we stayed: the Hotel de Lantaerne. And my favorite coffee shop: Rookie’s. They have pool tables, and really good hot chocolates. Can’t lose there.
Do your research before you go! Check out the Netherlands Tourism website for more about Amsterdam*.
*Sponsored link brought to you by Netherlands Tourism. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own, based on my own experiences.