My first adventure outside of Spain was to the beautiful city of Amsterdam, Netherlands. It was awesome to explore the culture and get back to my Dutch roots. We flew in to the Amsterdam Schiphol airport from Barcelona which was about a 2.5 hour direct flight. It was about $150 for a roundtrip international ticket which is still hard for me to wrap my head around...I can't even fly from Albany to DC with that! Regardless, the budget airline wasn't too bad and the entire journey was relatively quick and easy.
Nevertheless, my Barcelona roommate and I flew together and met my GW roommate upon arrival to our hostel -- two worlds meet! For my first hostel experience, I was impressed with how clean, big, and quiet it was. Modern building, clean showers (#TG), comfortable beds, and all-in-all a good experience for $30 a night. The location was also great as it was a few hundred feet from the ferry that took us directly to the Centraal station...no complaints there! That night we went out for some Thai food as we were all craving some different flavors after our weeks and weeks of potatoes, chicken, soup, and salad. It was a nice change of pace. Later, we decided to venture through the Red Light District, so we could cross it off the Abroad Bucket List. I'm not really sure what to say other than it was an interesting experience/bit of a culture shock. Prostitution is legal in the Netherlands -- as is marijuana, drinking alcohol at a younger age, and riding a bike without a helmet, clearly a very liberal city. This being said, it is incredibly refreshing to be in a city that is so accepting of each and every person, especially in recent times when politics at home often leave a pit-like feeling in my stomach.
The next day began with AMAZING Dutch pancakes which are thin, crepe-like battered goodness. I got mine with powdered sugar and whipped cream with a hot chocolate and needless to say, it was the best way to start my day. Our first activity was a three-hour bike tour around the city. It was decided that one could not come to Holland and not ride a bike and so, we peddled around the windy streets and canals which was quite enjoyable, even though my quads and calves may say otherwise. Later that day Alex and I met up with her godparents at the Amstel Hotel for a lovely afternoon of teas from around the world and yummy food. My favorite course was a massive bread bowl/tube filled with little sandwiches -- so cool! That night we met up with Patrick and his Dublin abroad friends at a quaint Dutch restaurant called "The Pantry". I had my favorite Amsterdam meal here which was goat cheese croquettes with a honey dijon salad and leek soup. Dare I say, it was life-changing. After, we headed to explore the Dutch nightlife at a club called Jimmy Woo which was two stories with ceilings full of lightbulbs. An awesome experience!
Morning came pretty early after a late night out, but we got up and ready to go to the Rijksmuseum! It is a Dutch national arts and history museum which houses pieces from the Dutch Golden Age including major artists such as Vermeer and Rembrandt. After we had worked up an appetite, we headed to the Albert Cuyp Market which is an open air market in the De Pijp neighborhood. Here, I enjoyed amazing Dutch street food including friet (french fries), some kind of chicken sandwich, and waffle with milk chocolate and sprinkles. Yes, I am living large! So, so good.
Now that we were (more than) full, we got to walk around the Nine Streets for some retail therapy and walk by the Anne Frank House. Unfortunately, the line was too long for us to go in, but standing outside was arguably just as meaningful. I remember reading her diary in middle school and being confused at how such an extreme human rights violation had occurred. I think that even back in middle school, I began being interested in international affairs and peace studies. I hope that one day I can contribute (even in the smallest way) to help move our world towards greater peace and acceptance. Again, recent politics has only given me more fuel and motivation.
Our last night in Amsterdam was spent at Drake's Boy Meets World Tour which happened to be his first stop on the Euro tour. This meant Drake was fired up and the crowd was pumped. The energy was unforgettable and getting General Admission tickets was definitely the move. We were right in the middle of everything, amidst all the excitement and got close enough to see the likeness of his beard. Drake didn't disappoint and as a huge Drake fan, I was super happy I got to see him abroad.
I will always remember my trip to Amsterdam and would love to return someday to explore more of the great Netherlands.
Realization of the week: Cyclists are treated like cars on the street which made for an interesting bike tour. Between the speeding cars, native cyclists, and trams that seemingly came out of nowhere (giving a few scares) -- a consensus was made that bikes should have a "proceed with caution" sign...especially when there are no helmets!! Regardless, biking around Amsterdam is one of my favorite Dutch memories and a must when in the Netherlands where there are statistically more bikes than people!
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<p>Wanderlust enthusiast, seeker of all things sweet, and lover of exploration.</p>