While my parents were here visiting in March, we took a trip to Amsterdam!
I had always wanted to go to Amsterdam and it seemed like this year was the year that everyone and their mothers (and literally my mother) went to visit Amsterdam. I swear I knew so many people and friends that visited Amsterdam this year, it seemed to be the ‘place to go.’
TRAVELING (AIRPLANE). We were supposed to fly out of Dublin airport in the afternoon, but unfortunately our plane got quite delayed at the airport. We ended up sitting in the airport, with that lovely view to the left, for quite some time. The morning we flew was also the unfortunate morning of the big shooting in the Brussels airport, while it didn’t impact our journey, it still made me a little nervous to fly.
AIR BNB. Once we arrived in the Amsterdam, we figured out which bus to take from the airport and made our way to the city, specifically the Jordaan district of Amsterdam where our Air BNB was. The bus dropped us off almost directly across from our Air BNB, BUT on the opposite side of the canal… So we walked to the closest bridge and made our way there. We had to get the keys from the pub next door, and then entered into a super cute, tiny, old apartment. It was the type of place you image in old films, which is almost like one long room that just goes back for ages, with only a bit of wall and huge windows dividing all the rooms (which allows for light to reach the whole place). It’s obvious that the place is old, but it was kept well and a lovely place to stay in!
CANALS. Once we settled in we went to explore the city. The canals are gorgeous! Honestly one of the most beautiful cities I have seen so far (but I also have many, many more places left to visit). I knew that the city was filled with canals, but it’s hard to imagine the vast array of canals along almost every street until you actually walk through the city and see it for yourself… Truly astonishing! And as most tourists do (it almost feels like a requirement if you visit Amsterdam), we went on a stereotypical canal boat ride!
ANNE FRANK HOUSE. While I didn’t get any pictures of this, a place my parents and I went to was the Anne Frank House. The queue was about two or three hours long in the cold, rainy weather, but it was worth it once we got inside. It’s a self-guided tour with a variation of pictures, videos, and scripts to lead the audience through each room. All of the furniture has been removed from the house, but pictures help the audience image what it would of looked like when Anne Frank and her family were hiding out. While most know the story of Anne Frank, it is put on a whole new level when you are able to walk through the house… Imagining what it must of been like to not be able to make a noise or even see daylight for years on end.
While the Anne Frank house touched me on a deep level, there are still parts of it that are hard to relate to. I won’t pretend that I know, or can know, exactly what Anne Frank or her family went through, or that I will ever really understand, but one specific part of the tour struck me on a deep level…
There was a video clip towards the end of the tour of Anne’s father, Otto Frank, talking about reading Anne’s diary for the first time.(Link to video clip: Otto Frank talks about Anne’s Diary). He comments on how, even though he thought he was close to Anne, he didn’t know her as well as he thought he did. He never truly knew her inner thoughts, feelings, or self-criticisms until he read her diary. I believe this is the case for many people.
Being an introvert, I have always found that most people never get to know me very well. A thing I have struggled with my whole life is the fact that I want to live an open, honest life, yet I can’t seem to let my guard down. Unless a person could open a door into my mind (into my inner thoughts and dialog), then most people tend to only know the surface. But there is a whole multitude of layers in my life and in my head that most people will never know.
MARKETS. One of the markets we went to was the Albert Cuyp Markt (and yes it is Markt, and not Market). The market encompasses many blocks on one long street, full of food, flowers, clothes, and all things you may fancy (including stroopwafels… Mmmmm).
While at the market I was on the look out for sunglasses… while there were many booths with sunglasses, I found a booth that had the exact one’s I wanted. I got two pairs of round/circular sunglasses and another pair which is sort of cat-eyed sunglasses, all which are more retro/alternative (and all three pairs for only 12 euros… what a steal considering I wear the sunglasses quite often!)
There were grandma’s with their children (which I accidentally took an adorable photo of while just taking a picture of the market), birds sitting by the fresh fish and seafood vendors, and beautiful flower and fruit stands… If only I lived by the market, I would buy all my fruit and flowers from it weekly!!
After walking through the market my parents and I were needing a break and some food, so we popped into a pub right off of the market and got some food, and I also ordered a tea. When ordering a tea in Ireland, they automatically just bring black tea and some milk and sugar, but here the typically thing that “tea” refers to seems to be fresh mint tea (pictured below). It was so refreshing and light, I would love to drink it all the time!
VONDELPARK. The Vondelpark is the largest park in Amsterdam, full of families, joggers, people walking their dogs, and just full of bikers. And when I say full of bikers, I really mean it. The whole city is just filled with bikers everywhere, weaving down streets and in-between people, cars, and other bikes. I also love how in Europe it is more the norm to not have dogs on leashes, but instead dogs are just trained really well and just run around and follow their owners. I’ve always been one that is semi-terrified of dogs, but after living in Ireland and traveling to other parts of Europe and seeing dogs so well behaved, it makes me feel much more comfortable around them.
An interesting aspect of the park is the ‘Findfence’, which is the green circular fence on the right below. Essentially it is supposed to be a connection between art and community, where people can go to find lost items found in the park.
(HOMO)MONUMENT. On September 5, 1987, the worlds first tribute to the multitude of gay and lesbian people who were persecuted during WWII was created in the center of Amsterdam. To this day, it is also a monument for all LGBTQ+ people who have been oppressed or persecuted for their sexuality. While I have personally been very lucky, and have never been the victim of harassment or oppression due to my sexuality, I know many people have. Equal rights and understanding of different sexualities and genders still has a longer way to go, so little things like this, that try and bring awareness of these issues is nice to see. Hopefully one day people can all just be themselves and it won’t cause issues.
RED LIGHT DISTRICT & LEGAL WEED? The red light district is mainly one street which is composed of sex shops and prostitutes who sit behind glass doors waiting to be given money in exchange for sex. It’s bizarre walking down the street and seeing women, half naked, just sitting there. Most of the women don’t look happy at all, which may not be surprising, but it’s different seeing it just put out there, instead of being behind closed doors and hidden like it is basically everywhere else.
The other thing that most people think of when they think of visiting Amsterdam is legal weed. These ‘coffee shops’ (aka places to smoke weed, buy weed brownies, etc.), are dispersed all throughout Amsterdam, with the recognized one’s having a a half white/half green ‘Coffee Shop’ sticker in the window. Another thing that I loved about Amsterdam is the many sweet and food shops open late at night, which I can only think of being partially due to the amount of people with late night ‘munchies.’
While I walked around the red light district and past many ‘coffee shops,’ I did not engage with any of those places. For two reason… ONE, I am not interested in having sex with a prostitute (which shouldn’t be surprising), and TWO, I’m not highly interested in the weed cafés, at least not enough to want to go solo and I knew that smoking weed is not something my parents had on their to do list while traveling. If I was to go back with friends I may go to one in the future, but it is not “high” on my bucket list.
ENJOYING THE CITY. And of course one of the best ways to discover a new city is by walking around. Discovering things by first getting lost… Walking up and down streets and stumbling upon things you never even knew existed. Travel books are great, but I find within travel you also need to wonder off the guided path and just walk. Discover what is down the street and around the corner, find the tiny (but amazing) local cafes and shops, and strike up conversation with other travelers, as well as with many locals. Find an even balance between being a tourist and a traveler. If you step out of museums and tour books, and try to discover how locals in the area may live and what their life looks like, this will give you a much deeper and rewarding experience.
I hope you enjoyed this first blog on Amsterdam, I am beyond grateful to my parents for taking me with them on vacation and getting to explore the city with them!
Keep an eye out for part two of my Amsterdam blogs… Food Stories & Pub Cats. ❤
**(All Pictures were Taken by Me)**