Hello! It is so good to be back and writing a new blog. After over a year of anticipation and literally months and months of planning, I spent the last week and a half of October traveling throughout Europe! It was everything I’d hoped it would be and more.
A great thing about this trip is that I gained so many new experiences to share on my blog, Facebook and Instagram accounts. One of the bad things about this is that I have so much new content, it makes my mind race and ask the question “Where in the world do I start?” After much debate, I decided to write a trip summary for each of the countries I recently visited. I will caveat this by saying that it is not a comprehensive trip summary by any means but rather a very high-level, these were my favorite and least favorite things sort of summary.
One of the main questions I have been asked since being back is – what was your favorite place? Hopefully the below will help explain why I’ve struggled to answer that question. Also, I’m including a lowlights portion. I’m not doing this to bring out my inner Eeyore (yes – we all have an inner Eeyore). Rather, I strongly believe many times blogs and the internet in general sugar coat things, making them magical beyond belief. Yes, there were magical moments. Lots of them. But I also want to be honest. It is always important to know that international travel is not all glamorous. That way if you go to plan a trip with a similar experience, you will be prepared. Here are my main highlights and lowlights of my recent trip to Amsterdam.
#1 – Anne Frank House
The Anne Frank House was probably the most emotionally moving place I encountered all trip. I’d recently re-read her diary this past summer. I had been a young girl the first time (closer to Anne’s age when she wrote the diary) I read it and wanted it to be more vivid in my mind. If you go visit, I’d strongly suggest you do the same. To be able to walk through the same rooms she had spent years of her life hiding was quite impactful. I walked through the dining room where her and her family had many meals and conversations, I walked behind the very bookcase that hid her family from the dangers of the outside world, and I walked through her very bedroom. It was crazy to imagine her writing the beautiful words and thoughts she put into her diary at her desk in the corner of such a small and dingy bedroom. It made her diary all the more powerful. No pictures were allowed to be taken inside, so I took lots outside to make up for it.
The church bells Anne could hear from her bedroom are from this very church.
#2 – Jordaan Area
If you pick one area to walk the streets of in Amsterdam, head to Jordaan. It is quaint, quiet and filled with unique places to eat and shop. It is the way I pictured Amsterdam to be. My nose enjoyed a mix of the best smells it has ever smelled at the Amsterdam Cheese Museum. I got to enjoy samples until my heart was content. I tried so many unique types of cheese including cumin, pesto, and truffle. If you visit, try the special one. It is just like the name describes. My taste buds also got to enjoy one of the best pieces of apple pie at Winkel 43. I had read many, many suggestions to try this pie and I was not disappointed. It wasn’t even on their menu (an example of why it pays to research ahead of time), but half of the tables seems to have ordered it. For lunch, I devoured a bowl of chicken lemongrass ramen from Fou Fow Ramen. I also got to enjoy some shopping, picking myself up a neat sweater and locally-made leather wallet. One of my highlights of Amsterdam was walking early Sunday morning along the Jordaan area canals before the crowds came out. We stayed within a mile walk of this area, but if we went back I’d consider staying at a hotel in this area.
#3 – Canals
It may be extremely obvious for me to point out that Amsterdam has neat canals, but I’m going to do just that. I very much underestimated how much I’d want to spend time near the canals. A canal cruise with Blue Boat Company is a great way to start visiting the canals, as it will give you a great overview of all the different areas around town. That way you’ll know where you want to go explore more on foot. It was fairly easy to go off the beaten path here to find less populated canals. Just head off the main roads a few blocks, and you’ll come across these less populated areas. Definitely take some time to sit and enjoy the scenery. There is no other city like it. We were so fortunate that the sun came out for much of the time in Amsterdam. I know that isn’t very common and it made the canals all the more beautiful.
#1 – Jet Lag
Jet leg is real. I repeat – jet lag is real, especially if you are someone like me who can’t sleep on planes. We definitely ended up chopping off the bulk of our plans on our first day in Amsterdam due to the need to sleep. When planning a trip in a different time zone, make sure you give yourself a day of nothing but relaxing/sleeping. Luckily we were able to make up the bulk of what we had planned, but I would suggest not setting yourself up to get behind. Pictured below is the amazing cup of tea the hotel gave me as we waited for our room.
#2 – Be Alert at All Times
I underestimated how busy the main streets would be in Amsterdam. We quickly learned (as it was not well labeled) that there are certain parts of each sidewalk that are for walkers and certain parts that are for bikes and mopeds, based on the color shadings. And there is very little space in between the two. Whether you are crossing main streets, side streets, different areas of the sidewalk, or just walking in general – stay alert. Tons of bikes and mopeds will zoom in and out of traffic with the expectation that you will not be in their way within the same second they are going through. They will also come out of nowhere within a split second; so even if it appears to be clear, it may not be a second later. Along with the bikes and mopeds, you also had to watch for cars and even the metro, as Amsterdam’s metro system is above ground. Metro tracks and cars go on the same areas, which makes things even more confusing. All that to say, walking was stressful!
#3 – Metro Issue
On the second day of our time in Amsterdam, we decided we should learn how to use the metro system in order to be able to go visit areas more quickly that were farther away. We carefully did our research online and figured out what we needed to do. We spent some frustrating minutes trying to figure out the metro machine that splits out your tickets. After several times of it charging my credit card without providing us with tickets and not being able to find anyone to help us (minus another couple who came up and also stressed their frustrations to us), we went into an information center for tours. It was there we learned from a worker that “oh that machine has been not working and has been eating people’s money all day.” Whereas we thought we were in the wrong and not able to figure it out, it was unfortunately just broken. She was able to sell us some tickets and we were soon on our way.