Now that the new year has started, I am quickly filling up my calendar with weekends in all kinds of cool new places. The first was a trip to Amsterdam! I got to spend three days exploring the city with my friend Nicole, and we really made the most of our limited time. Especially considering the less than ideal weather. I am so grateful for this friendship and the memories we are making! Time is FLYING! How is it already the end of January?? But I digress. Back to Amsterdam.
Starting early Friday morning (and I do mean early. 6:50 flight meant a 4:00 wake-up call!), we were off to Amsterdam! We arrived just after 8:00am, and it was still pitch dark outside. After a quick train ride to Amsterdam Centraal Station and a ferry to our hostel, we dropped our bags off and went to a cute little cafe for breakfast. From there, we started off on a three hour walking tour of the city. We had the best Irish tour guide who gave us all the must-know facts with some good humor thrown in. We really enjoyed getting to orient ourselves with the city, even though we were freezing cold and soaked through our jackets by the time the tour concluded. The rain started as an annoying mist, but picked up off and on throughout the rest of the day (and weekend).
Our tour guide gave us a great local recommendation to a place that serves traditional Dutch cuisine, and Nicole and I both ordered stamppot, a dish made up of a heaping serving of mashed potatoes and vegetables with a meatball on top. It was just the warm comfort food we needed to keep us going.
After lunch, we had reservations to go to the Anne Frank Haus. This is a largely popular museum, and tickets often sell out months in advance. I was happy I was able to secure some so we could see for ourselves what we read about in the Diary of Anne Frank in middle school. Getting to walk around and see this historical place in person was humbling, to say the least. Even though I knew going into it that it would be a really heavy experience, I was not properly prepared for how I would really feel. The museum is in the same building where the real Secret Annex was, where eight people lived in silence for two years, hiding. I saw where they ate breakfast, where they had to use the bathroom and not flush the toilet or use running water during work hours for fear that the people working below would discover them. I saw the wall where Anne glued her favorite photos and magazine clippings on the walls. I was able to envision their lives, the same lives that got so violently taken away from them. It was heartbreaking, and made me even more grateful for my family, my freedom, and my life.
Next on the agenda, we had booked an evening river cruise to take in one of the last nights of the Light Festival that was taking place on and in the river. We had to rush there, since we spent much longer in the Anne Frank museum than we had planned, but we made it just in time. For 5 Euros more, we got to indulge in unlimited Glühwein, which was MUCH needed on the cold evening!
Thanks to the early morning, we were both pretty tired and decided to head back to the hostel to turn in for the night. Our hostel was perfect! Complete with a full bar/mini restaurant, we had all we needed right from the comfort of our pajamas! We tried to stick around after dinner for some karaoke, but a desperate need for sleep got the best of us and we retired to our four-bed girls only dorm room. Boy, did we get lucky with our roommates! They were both so polite and quite when they came in much later than we had gone to sleep, taking extra care with the lights and the slamming of the doors and lockers. We barely even heard them come in!
Saturday morning started much slower, with breakfast around 10:00 am. We found another cute little restaurant and both ordered fried eggs on sourdough bread with bacon. Can you say YUM?? Perfect fuel to star our morning as we headed off to Dam Square to see the set up for National Tulip Day! Set up right in the middle of the square was a massive fake tulip field, complete with approximately 200,000 tulips! Totally free, and each person could take up to 20 tulips. We went to wait in line only to see that it wrapped around too many times to count, and we wouldn’t have been allowed to take the flowers home anyways. Instead, we got close to the barricade, watching the start of the ceremony and the flocks of people run to choose the best flowers. Of course, I wasn’t going to leave Amsterdam without a picture with some tulips, dang it! I ended up asking a girl taking a selfie if she wanted a real picture, and then asked if we could also take a picture with her flowers! She happily said yes, and I got to check ‘tulip pictures’ off my Amsterdam to-do list.
It looked a bit sunnier after we left the tulip festival, but turns out it was just in preparation for some hail. We went to take some pictures by the famous Amsterdam ‘gingerbread houses’, but the sunshine lasted only for 15 minutes before we ran into a McDonalds to get out of the rain and try to order a Stroopwaffle McFlurry (which no longer is on their menu, unfortunately.) We got regular McFlurries instead before heading to the Sex Museum, which was just a few doors down.
For the sake of whoever is reading this, and the fact that it is posted publicly online, I will spare the details and photos of this museum, but we really did have a good laugh. That would typically be the type of place I would avoid visiting, but for 5 euros on a rainy day, we really did have a fun time! It was an incredibly fascinating way to stay out of the rain.
With no more solid plans for the evening, we walked through the town and made our way down all kinds of little streets and alleys, heading pretty far out of the main city center to go find a winter out door ice rink. We were way too cold to skate once we got there, and the food options we thought would be available weren’t what we wanted to eat. So we headed back into the center, in the direction of the Red Light District. On the way, we stopped at an amazing burger place for dinner, and then headed with secret instructions for entry to a traditional 1920s speakesasy!
The speakeasy was truly hidden. John had just visited Amsterdam in December, and was the one who recommended we visit this bar. Without his suggestion, and his good directions, we never would have found this place! Both Nicole and I were really happy we made time to go check it out. It was so cool! When it comes to alcohol, though, I am still very inexperienced. I know what I like, and I am often scared to try new things in case I don’t like it and waste my money! Especially in an expensive place like this. However, thanks to the circumstances, I was feeling very adventurous and ordered some drink called “PS. Thanks But No Thanks”, which is exactly what I said to Nicole after I tried it and hated it! She was generous enough to switch with me since she didn’t mind the taste. I thought it tasted like straight hand sanitizer. Ha! That’s what I get, I guess! She ordered a drink that was similar to a mojito, which I enjoyed much more.
Last thing on our “Must Do in Amsterdam” list was walk through the Red Light District. This was like nothing I have ever seen! By this time, it was around midnight, which our tour guide from the day before had said was “prime time” and the time he recommended we visit during to ensure we could see it in full swing. He was not lying! Again, for obvious reasons, there are no pictures allowed in this area. We walked down the streets and saw the doors with their red lights shining bright, complete with beautiful women standing inside. People knocked on the doors, women let them in, and then the curtains would close. We learned so much on our tour about how the legalization of prostitution in Amsterdam has greatly improved the safety and well being of the workers. He did tell us that this might be the last time we could see the Red Light District fully functioning, as there is a vote taking place in the government to decide whether or not they will be banning it again. I was grateful for the opportunity to see it while I could!
The next morning was our last in Amsterdam. We woke up early enough to walk back into the city to a waffle shop that Nicole had found online. It was AMAZING! I got mine topped with strawberries, bananas, caramel, and whipped cream. Then, on our way back to the hostel to grab our things and head to the airport, we each got a traditional Amsterdam StroopWaffl! I got mine dipped in dark chocolate, which was far too sweet for my liking, but delicious and perfectly photogenic nonetheless.
Thanks to our multiple stops for yummy and instagrammable snacks, we were a bit rushed to get to the airport! Thankfully we got there with about 30 minutes to spare, and were surprised to see we had no gate assigned even though our flight should have been getting ready to board. The security team told us to wait in the lounge, saying a gate would be assigned shortly. When I went to check on the screen 10 or so minutes later, I saw that our original departure time of 1:45 had been pushed back to 6:15! Almost FIVE hours of a delay!! Apparently, the plane had some mechanical issues in Basel and a replacement flight had to come from Geneva, which was going to take some time. We made ourselves comfortable in the lounge, reading books and watching Netflix, to kill the time. We ended up arriving in Basel much later than we had anticipated, but the delay really wasn’t too bad! The airline offered us vouchers for food and information for how to request some kind of reimbursement for the inconvenience. Fast forward just about a week and half later, and we got reimbursed almost THREE TIMES as much as our round trip flights originally cost! All for a minor little flight delay. Thanks to EasyJet, I will be making sure to spend that extra unexpected money on another trip!
Thank you, Nicole, for making these wonderful memories with me! I cherish our friendship and can’t wait to see more of Europe with you!
There is more awesome posts to come! Stay tuned! 🙂
Until next time,