Ashley takes on Europe 2012: AMSTERDAM

Well, many of you have asked how my trip was, I covered a lot of ground, was gone for three weeks and frankly it felt good to get back in the swing of things. Some of you thought I’d never return, but alas, here I am and here are my tails from Europe, what I learned, saw, experienced–the good, the bad, the ugly.

Stop #1 Amsterdam.
Every time I hear the word Amsterdam I think of this song.

Anyway, last year I blogged my New Year’s resolution for 2012 was to go to Europe, as well as drink more water. Well, the water thing hasn’t caught on just yet, but I purchased my plane ticket after chats with people, clients, strangers in bars and anyone and everyone who has traveled that I could get my hands on and  eventually decided: Fly into Amsterdam, Out of Barcelona. Step 1 complete. Round trip tickets purchased. Then I used the next 7 months to plan where to go in between and how to get there.

(The backpack I borrowed, thanks Jill! 3wks of clothing, travel necessities and cameras-yes plural,all on my back! It was the first time ever I wore everything I packed, ha!) This is an Osprey 50L by the way.

I was lucky enough to have clients that lived there for seven years prior who happened to relocate from North Carolina and as we chatted about traveling, he put me in touch with a fantastic host! I stayed with Patricia for a few days, and here are some of my overall thoughts on Amsterdam–I decided putting them in bullets may just be an easier read.

(the sweet clients that hooked me up with a place to stay in Amsterdam-The Watkins Family)

(And off I go, direct flight to Amsterdam from DFW. Thank you Andree, Philip and Charli for letting me crash the night prior, feeding me and a ride to the airport, much appreciated. I was pretty giddy here).

Pulling into the Netherlands. So pretty. Why I decided to take a 3pm flight, not sleep and arrive at 8am is beyond me and bad idea jeans, by the way.

KLM is an affiliate with Delta, I was quite impressed. Had a few seats to myself and wine and Heineken were free! Food wasn’t bad either and the service was great. We even got hot towels-which at first I didn’t know what the heck to do with. On the way I caught up on Breaking Bad and Modern Family and watched those on my iPad. (I do recommend bringing one if you have it, def came in handy!)

  • First off–Amsterdam is NOT as crazy as everyone says–maybe at some point in the past drugs and prostitution used to be a big problem, but I never felt like my life was in danger or threatened when there and a bunch of people were running around stoned out of their mind. (Actually they probably were but they were so chill I didn’t even notice).

 

  • The streets are almost U-shaped centered around the main train station, surrounded by water and tons of canals, you think it would be easy to not get lost, but several times I ended up where I was starting (and frustrated as all get out).

 

  • Yes, you really can just walk around the Red Light District and see women in their scantily clad underwear soliciting to sell their bodies. I came upon it on accident actually so it was funny when I walked down an alley and looked to my left and saw a girl dancing in a window. PS Prostitutes pay taxes in Amsterdam. It is a totally legal business to run, crazy huh?

  • No, I didn’t smoke pot while I was there–yes everyone does though. Smell of weed definitely fills the streets more so in the Red Light district (or so I noticed). But because I am not an avid smoker or drug user AND the fact I was ALONE and already out of my element I decided to save the recreational drug use for another time??

This doesn’t even begin to describe how many bikes are in this town. So awesome.

Places and Things I really Enjoyed in Amsterdam:

  1. Anne Frank House (I mean  you can’t really go to Europe and not get some WWI and WWII history, and this is a must stop. It’s had some renovations, but there’s still a lot of original artifacts, wall paper, photos of how the home once was and you walk through where they hid above the warehouse/workers. They also show documentaries and interviews of some of the people that helped and fed Otto Frank and his family hide-it was very touching. Made me want to read the book (Diary of Anne Frank) again.

(Tip-see that line? Yeah I didn’t wait in that. I bought online, walked up to a door, pressed the button, showed her my stuff and was in like Flynn! I felt super cool even though I read it on Trip Advisor-can’t believe all these people didn’t).

 

2. Van Gogh museum. I am not going to lie, this one was a little disappointing for me. I suppose because a lot of his work is dispersed in other museums, AND the museum is moving, so part of the exhibit was closed. I had expected to see some more of his works, BUT because of my fabulous host and her museum card I got in for free–so really cannot complain. If you are an avid museum go-er and you visit Amsterdam I recommend the card, definitely will save you some coin.

3. Canal Boat Ride. The second night (I think–hell all the days blend together at this point). I did a nice evening-night boat ride on the canals. The host spoke English (in fact everyone in Amsterdam speaks English!) and it was cool to ride around and see so much of Amsterdam, I feel like I had learned all these amazing facts, which have disappeared, but here is one for you: Amsterdam has over 4,000km of navigable rivers/canals! The boat ride was quite romantic solo, ha, as I sipped red wine and ate peanuts and took some cool photos (night photos not my strong suit, as you will see below, but still fun).

So many bridges. So many canals. I was so turned around on the boat ride.

Yes these are leaning. Our guide talked about how they’ve all gradually started to lean and the foundation has actually been fixed to stabilize them this way at this point.

3. Vondelburg Park. If you are a park person. Or outdoorsy or like to jog then I recommend this park. It reminded me of my NYC Central Park days and jogs after work. So peaceful, right in the midst of the city, tall trees, ponds, playgrounds, strollers, joggers, walkers, yoga masters…loved it. Again it rained while I was running, but it was actually kind of nice, and didn’t last long. I took a lot of photos on my phone while I listened to my music and ran, so not the best quality, but  you get the idea…

A little collage after my jog, how cute is that kid? And yes it rained a little.

4. Went to the flower market or (Bloemenmarkt), it rained off and on the day I did this, which I knew was going to happen, but honestly wasn’t too affected by the rain (perhaps because I was prepared and everyone told me it rains a ton there and was going to be cold. Another fun fact: 75% of the world’s flower bulb production comes from the Netherlands.

Now, instead of boring you with more text, I will go ahead and post some Amsterdam pics. I really enjoyed walking (and biking) around in the city. Note–the faster you can get lost (hence riding a bicycle) the faster you WILL (and most likely be farther away from your destination).

(On the left we have a cute bicycle-what Amsterdam is notorious for, Vondel Park that I explored and me inscribing “Amsterdam” when I woke up a rainy/foggy morning. The photo on the right is the first flight I took to get upstairs. They were so steep–man, the dutch are small, if I moved in here, you’d bet I’d say a while just to avoid the move.)

(I had an app on my phone that let me make collages, so I’d snap a bunch of photos and then sum it up and post on facebook to let my parents know I was still alive. It was fun and since I couldn’t sleep the first few nights, this is what I’d do-play with the app, I believe it was picture stitch but there are a ton).

The green coffee cup has this wafer with a thin caramel center my host told me I had to try. You but it over hot tea and get it soft, it was so tasty! The sammich is a toasti I believe is what they called them-mozzarella and tomato).

A typical Amsterdam view crossing over the bridges.

Exploring the city, I believe day 2. It was fairly cold, but bearable and a nice break from the Tx humidity.

Dam Square. Looks classic with the horse drawn carriage.

That little speck with green is me holding a green umbrella. There are two of these signs in Amsterdam. I highly recommend this one by Hermitage Museum (out back) because no one is there. My first photo of me with this sign was by Van Gogh museum and there’s 30 other people in the photo.

One stylin’ bicycle.

Nemo Museum, shot this photo from their new (and very modern/cool) library-below.

Library. Awesome views. Modern and a must see.

FOOD! Clockwise: Choc covered waffle, warm goat cheese salad, Dutch style pancake (think omelette, but thinner) and I can’t remember my first dinner but I know it had peanut sauce-they were big on that there. Oh, and of course I had the fries they are also notorious for.

Seriously-how unpractical is this toilet? haha

A few more photos from around town. The one on the bottom of the double rainbow was actually taken right outside my window. I am usually so annoyed by rain, but probably because I am never prepared here like I was there-always had an umbrella on my bag with me.

All in all, very nice people, English everywhere so I didn’t feel too out of my element, friendly, architecturally speaking-old and charming and thanks Patricia for hosting me, taking me to the nice little cafe and earring shop and the kind hospitality!

Off to Berlin by train.