Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam

I was particularly excited for this trip because it was the first time I have ever taken a trip completely independently, from booking to planning to actually going. It was a huge step and, though I am still reflecting from the trip, it was a great way to end the school year and kick off the summer with some quality alone time.

Day 1

It was a long flight from BWI to Iceland, but we finally arrived at the Keflavik airport, only to find that the Amsterdam flight was delayed! I took the extra hour to get a much-needed coffee, nutella croissant (Ah! The true sign of Europe) and Icelandic yogurt before the flight. The flight to Amsterdam was only about two hours, but combine jet lag with a child kicking your seat and it feels like forever. After the flight, I picked up my suitcase and got an iAmsterdam card, which gave me unlimited access to public transport for 72 hours, as well as some freebies and discounts to attractions around the city. I took a taxi to my hotel, where I checked in to a lovely and spacious (by European standards) room. After a quick shower (with the most delicious-smelling shampoo from Mauritius) and a granola bar, I was off again. I hopped on the tram (since I was not staying in the city center), and took it all the way to Centraal Station because, hey, why not? Next up, a free 1-hour canal cruise courtesy of that snazzy card I referenced earlier. I normally tend to shy away from the typical touristy things, but this girl is not turning down free activities! The cruise was mediocre, but it was still nice to see the canals and houseboats. I learned a bit about the architecture and its history in Amsterdam. It was a bit chilly, but in a brisk, motivating sort of way. So, feeling motivated, I walked on a main road for the next 2-3 hours, following the tram track so I’d have the option to hop back on it if I wanted. I scoped out a few of the things I have on my agenda this week and got my bearings. I also went exploring in a grocery store (one of my favorite travel traditions) and came out with toothpaste (nothing exotic, I’d just forgotten) and stroopwafels, the crunchy Dutch waffle cracker. This is my tasty treat for the week. I also peeped in on a lovely souvenir shop, just to see what I would be dealing with. In all of my years of traveling, I can confidently say that Amsterdam has the highest quality of souvenirs. I also saw a couple of Indonesian restaurants, and made a mental note, since this particular cuisine was highly recommended to me by multiple people. I made it all the way to the Rijksmuseum and the museum square and enjoyed a brie and tomato baguette and hot chocolate for dinner. Sitting on the edge of a fountain, I did some serious people-watching before getting on the tram so that I could go back to the hotel by dark.

Loneliness: 0

Frustration: 0

Thus far, Amsterdam is treating me well and the Dutch are lovely. Tomorrow, I’ll wake up looking forward to a leisurely morning spent in the Anne Frank Huis and the Tulip Museum. This will be followed by a relaxing afternoon in the Bloemenmarkt. Now, back to my stroopwafels…

Day 2

What an exhausting day! It was a packed day, starting with a hotel breakfast of beans, eggs, tomatoes, Dutch pancakes with chocolate syrup, coffee, feta cheese, fruit, olives and brie on baguette. Then a quick stop in my room to grab my belongings and I was off! I made it to the Anne Frank Huis and proceeded to stand in line for 3 hours. Luckily, there were two lovely English girls and a mother-daughter duo from Ohio behind me, and we ended up chatting for a couple of hours (because conversation is inevitable in lines that long). The Anne Frank Huis was wonderful. It has been one of my bucket list items for years to see the Secret Annex, and it was as real and powerful as I’d imagined. Obviously I couldn’t leave without goodies, so armed with souvenirs, I headed to a café I’d had my eye on while in line. It turns out it was one of the oldest cafes in Amsterdam! I treated myself to a light lunch of tomato soup and a cheese and tomato “toastie” (it’s a good thing I’m working on my tomato tolerance – they are everywhere here!). I wanted to save room for a nice gouter (French for an afternoon snack) later. Then it was off to the Tulip Museum (free admission with that iAmsterdam card!). Did you know that the word “turban” is derived from the word tulband, which means tulip? There was lots of information about the tulip’s popularization in Turkey – how ironic! Turkey is what brought both me and the tulip to the Netherlands, so hats off to you, former Constantinople!

Then it was off to Dam Square and the Scheltema bookstore – a five story bookstore. Yes, to answer your question – I was in heaven. Leaving cold, rainy, brisk weather to step into a warm, cozy bookstore was just where I needed to spend a long time before exiting with – of course – books. With directions from someone at the bookstore, I headed to the Bloemenmarkt, the outdoor flower market. Rain or shine, the tulip sales will prevail! Upon browsing each stall carefully, I chose the USA-certified bulbs to bring back and was off on a mission again – this time in need of a warm beverage and snack. A cup of hot chocolate and a Belgian waffle with ice cream and chocolate sauce were soon in my possession (the Belgian waffles I had in Amsterdam were not like the ones in the United States – they are crunchier and chewier, with a sugary coating).

Freshly fueled, I headed off in search of a souvenir shop I saw yesterday and loved. I got a few more souvenirs and stopped at an Indonesian restaurant I had also seen the day before. It was a tapas-style restaurant, and I ate at the bar. The waiter was very kind and brought me a lunch portion of assorted tapas with vegetarian dishes. It was tasty, but Indonesian food would not, as it turns out, make my list of top 5 favorite ethnic cuisines.

The Dutch are incredibly kind and I’m continuing to enjoy myself thoroughly! I got back to the hotel at 9:15 and it still wasn’t dark outside!

Loneliness: 0

Frustration: 0

I’m looking forward to a visit to the AMI Headquarters tomorrow, as well as the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum. No stroopwafels today – that gouter and filling dinner did me in!

Note: There is a lovely type of blue-printed porcelain in Holland called Delft blue. This pattern on porcelain is on various things (dishes, clocks, teapots, etc.) and is a pattern that was introduced to the Dutch by the Chinese.

Day 3

I woke up a little later today and had breakfast before heading out around 9:30 for the AMI headquarters. I got there a little bit early and wandered. When I rang the doorbell, a woman named Nina (who works on fundraising for the AMI headquarters expansion, and helps with office administration) answered the door. She and I had a coffee and chatted about my experience in Amsterdam and with the Montessori world. She gave me a tour, even showing me the elevator that Maria Montessori used since she was so old when she lived in Amsterdam. I also got to see Maria’s study and desk!* We then headed to the library and Nina told me about the expansion of the headquarters. I spent some more time in the area before hopping on the tram again to go to the Rijksmuseum. It was enormous! It reminded me of the Biltmore Estate. There was a fashion magazine exhibit called “New for Now.” I truly did get lost a few times. By the time I found my way out, I was famished and enjoyed a veggie dog (with the works – cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, etc.) on the fountain. It was an absolutely beautiful day outside! I then wandered over to the Rijksmusem Garden that Nina had mentioned to me earlier that day. After relaxing and enjoying the sun, I wandered through an open grassy area, past the Concert/Opera House, then back around to the Van Gogh Museum. I love Van Gogh and impressionism, as well as art movements around and based on impressionism, so it was a lovely visit. After that, I headed back to the Rijksmuseum Garden to bask on a bench in the alternately cooling and heating of the soft sun and gentle breeze. After enjoying the beautiful weather some more, I headed off to a falafel and French fry street restaurant I’d seen a few days earlier (notice a trend with my food choices here?). If there’s anything Anthony Bourdain, Andrew Zimmern and years of travel and eating taught me, it’s this – always air on the side of street food. I had a huge falafel sandwich and some fries with curry sauce, mayonnaise and onions. No room for dessert today! After a short walk around the block, I got back on the tram and headed for the hotel around 6:40 to have some time to read and drink a cup of tea.

Tomorrow will be a relaxing day as I explore the Jordaan area (another recommendation from Nina) and Vondelpark to picnic, people-watch and journal.

*Did you know that many of the sandpaper letters are based on Maria Montessori’s handwriting? Cursive was so much more beautiful back then!

Day 4

My final day in Amsterdam was spent wandering. After a late start, I explored the Jordaan area and Dam Square. I had Indonesian food again for lunch (Kintijl de tijger): potato, pickled cucumber, tofu, cabbage, fish/shrimp dumplings in peanut soy sauce – this meal was much more enjoyable than the first Indonesian meal I enjoyed!

I then headed toward Vondelpark and stopped in the Magnum ice cream shop. They had a create-your-own-Magnum ice cream bar. Mine was meringue, caramelized hazelnuts and freeze-dried raspberries with a classic chocolate shell and a white chocolate drizzle. I finally understood what I always thought was over-the-top, excessively sensual Magnum commercials – it really is that good! I ate my ice cream in Vondelpark and am writing this as I enjoy some sun in the park.

I strolled over to Museumplein and had a brie sandwich for dinner, then took some pictures and hopped on the tram to go back to the hotel to prepare for my departure tomorrow!

Noteworthy words/mentions:

-kaas – cheese

-takk – bye

-stroopwafel – syrup waffle that can be placed on top of a cup of tea or coffee so that the syrup inside melts and the eater is treated to a delectable snack

-when crossing the street in Amsterdam – beware of the bicyclists!

-one Dutch food is hering (herring), which is eaten by holding the tail, holding the fish up, and starting at the head

Thanks for a lovely stay, Amsterdam! What a great city to explore all by myself.

“When she was a child,
my love carried a road map in her hand
the way other girls carried handkerchiefs.”
― Roman PayneThe Wanderess

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