Amsterdam wasn’t the place I thought I’d love the most when I began planning trips. It seemed like a place to touch down for a weekend, scratch the surface and stroll back into London life. I was incorrect.

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The city of bikes stole my heart from the moment my train passed through the vast green fields and into the Amsterdam Central station. The air was fresh and the train system was obscenely easy to figure out. Before exploring, we ventured to our hotel, about a five minute train ride away. The Urban Lodge was cozy upon arrival. With a gas fire pit in the center of the lobby and comfy chairs surrounding it, I knew we were in the right place. The receptionist was smiley and pointed us in the direction we were all searching for: one with food.

IMG_8094Wissenkerke-Sloterdijk is a restaurant with a variety of food choices. Throwing my plant based goals to the wind, I ordered a goat cheese sandwich. It was the best sandwich my tastebuds have ever encountered. It was brown bread covered with mango chutney, creamy goat cheese, arugula, candied walnuts, and pomegranate seeds. It was by-far the best meal I had in Amsterdam and very close to equal to the delicious level of the pasta I had in Genoa. I could have also just been hungry.

On our way into the center of the city, we found ourselves in a market that seemed to be particularly keen on old photographs and books. I picked up a photograph of a model from the 70’s (that’s about all I’ve been able to decipher from the back). It was love at first sight, and finding art in markets is one of my favorite pastimes.

We found ourselves in the Red Light District soon after. I was surprised by how forward the women in the windows were. It was an interesting portion of the city to check out, but it didn’t interest me as much as the shops on the other side of the canals did.

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We booked tickets for the Anne Frank House in advance. I was skeptical because my expectations were so high and I was worried I’d be let down. That visit was the moment I promised never to underestimate a place again. The museum was powerfully moving and put her story into a perspective I wasn’t aware I could reach. After moving through the space, I can only tell you to go see it yourself and hope Anne Frank is able to see how impactful her words have been since they were published. It was really well done.

We sauntered along the canals in search of food, finally settling in at a bar. I had a delicious sweet-potato soup to warm up. Europe gets cold at night, and not the Colorado hoodie kind of cold. It is a wet, bone-chilling cold that settles under your skin. I was grateful for our hotel’s cozy lobby that provided free coffee to keep the cold out and a space to laugh with my friends. It was the perfect end to a travel-filled day.

IMG_8397We were up early the next morning. A bakery kept us busy for the hour we needed to kill before seeing the Van Gogh museum. After hearing about his work all semester during my modern art class, standing in front of Sun Flowers and The Yellow House to see the brushstrokes Van Gogh is so famous for excited every part of my brain. It was much more crowded than the Anne Frank House, but worth squeezing through crowds and waiting a few moments to see the more famous pieces.

 

IMG_8430Back to Black, a coffee house on one of the canals, offered a bit of refuge from the cold as we decided what to do next. We had officially checked off everything on our list. We decided to spend the rest of the day walking through the flower market and exploring the various streets of Amsterdam.

My Columbia Road market in London may be second to the market in Amsterdam. The covered space trapped in all the divine fragrances wafting through the air. Tulip bulbs stuck out from every corner and beautiful pink petals hung from the ceiling. Every space contained some type of plant.

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The market was close to a cheese shop, where we ate our weight in samples. We settled on a sheep cheese to take home with us for dinner. The creaminess made me second-guess my usual vegan habits, but I shortly recalled that cheese doesn’t always taste that wonderful.

From the flower market and our cheese shop, we made our way to Central Station where we boarded a free ferry. It look us, and a couple dozen other bike-riding passengers, across the river. We boarded a pancake cruise there.

The pancake cruise was an experience. I learned two very important things on that cruise: I am no longer sixteen and Dutch pancakes are not what I expected.

I expected Dutch pancakes to be the tiny little pancakes with powdered sugar. They were not. They were crepe-style and I had the option to fill them with whatever I wanted from the topping buffet – my favorite combination was strawberry jam and brie. I, and my friends, realized that “all you can eat” does not mean eat until you’re too stuffed to enjoy the river-boat ride that accompanies the pancakes. I ate until I couldn’t stand to look at anymore pancakes, and that was only half of what I could have eaten four years ago. Growing up just keeps making me sadder and sadder. Soon, I’ll be saying no to cheese all together because I’m old enough to register the consequences before I eat it!

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The cool air woke us from our food coma when we exited the boat, and thank goodness it did. We had 10 seconds to jump onto the next ferry to get back to Central Station. I am not proud of the events that followed my recognition that we had 10 seconds, but we sure did give our fellow passengers a show:

I said “I’m not running.”
Delilah and Zehra agreed.
I saw the 10 second timer, the space between us and the boat, and began to run for the boat.
Delilah followed, Zehra yelled “I’m not running.”
Delilah and I hopped on the boat and turned around.
Zehra continued walking and said “I’ll meet you there, I’m not running.”
Delilah and I jumped off the boat.
Zehra jogged and jumped on the boat.
Delilah screamed, I rolled my ankle. We both jumped on the boat.
The door closed and we all giggled until we got to shore.

It was much funnier in person, or we’re just nuts, and all of that happened within the span of 10 seconds. I will be amazed at the patience of the other passengers and our ability to recreate the Three Stooges in that amount of time.

We went home and drank some coffee by the fire for another night. It was cozy and gave us a chance to rest before we traveled back to our homework in London. It was the best hotel I’ve stayed in yet, and probably amplified the greatness of my Amsterdam experience. I will never be able to completely comprehend the friendliness of the people or the beauty of that city, or why it has a reputation as a party place rather than an “appreciate this gorgeous space because you won’t get it anywhere else” place. From the fresh air to the delicious coffee, Amsterdam stole my heart and I’m worried I may never get it back.