Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Double Dutch

Due to planning problems, I arrived in Amsterdam a full six hours before Mikayla. Since we were staying with a friend of hers I had some time to kill, so I mapped out our day over some freshly squeezed orange juice and explored the city centre.

My favourite part of Amsterdam was the city layout. Marveling over the number of bikes and the canals, I picked my way through the small side streets and spent some money.

Mikayla arrived at four o’clock so Kitty, her friend, met us there to help us lug our bags to her apartment. Located just outside the centre of the city, Kitty’s apartment was a true find. She had a small balcony on the back and it was the perfect distance for getting to and from the city and quiet for sleeping. The evening was spent enjoying some Dutch beer, a delicious meal while watching the boats pass along the canal. At midnight, we hopped on our bikes and explored the city in all its glory from the Red Light district to the city centre, until we were back in her apartment exhausted.

Now, before I explain the next day, I have to talk about the bicycles in Amsterdam. They are all multi coloured and look as if they are about 100 years old. Each bike seems to have its own personality, but they do not have standard breaks on them! In order to stop, pedal backwards which is a lot harder than you'd think because the bikes weigh a ton! Mikayla and I looked less than graceful on our bikes as we toured the city, but by the end of day two we were starting to get the hang of it.

Breakfast was enjoyed on a patio near Kitty’s followed by a tour through Vondel Park. It was beautiful! Great for picnics, the park was filled with people cycling, running, or just enjoying a leisurely walk.

Next on the list was a trip through the Waterloo market, which is one of the biggest flea markets in Amsterdam. While it wasn’t as big as the ones in Paris, it was very cool to see and people watch. After a walk through we hopped back on our bikes and made our way to another part of the city.

We were searching for a restaurant for lunch when we stumbled upon the floating flower market and a nice little restaurant next to it. After some fantastic food, we continued walking along the flower market, and popped into the Gouda store to sample some of the cheese – I had no idea how much I’d love Dutch cheese!

My Dad had told me one of the things I had to see while in Amsterdam was the Rembrandt painting “Night’s Watch”. This was next on the agenda, and we took off for a walk through the famous Rijksmuseum. I couldn’t believe how well organized the museum was! It wasn't as big as the Louvre which I find overwhelming, this museum seemed to be set up so you wouldn't miss anything as you walked through.

When we left the museum we noticed Mikayla’s bike had a flat tire! Let me tell you, walking a bike back to the apartment through the streets of Amsterdam is not nearly as much fun as riding them. I couldn’t get used to watching for cyclists on the streets, and the sidewalks and bike lanes look the same.

All dressed up for a night on the town, Mikayla and I dashed to the dock to hop on a boat for a cruise through the canals at nighttime. We loved seeing all the lights on the canals and learned a lot about the city’s history. I had no idea how much of the city was built around cycling! After the boat cruise, Mikayla and I took off to a club called Paradiso and danced the night away with the most international group I have ever seen.

Running on only a few hours of sleep, we were up bright and early and in line for Anne Frank’s house as soon as it opened. Easily one of the most interesting tours I have done since being in Europe, I was blown away by the stories, the house and seeing the actual diary. Emotions ran high after that tour so we made our way to a pancake house for some comfort food - Dutch pancakes.

Next up was the Heineken Brewry where we not only learned about how the beer is made, we assisted by stirring the ‘mash’ - the mixture of water and grains - and tasting the beer... well, someone has to do it! Feeling slightly buzzed after the beer tasting, we made our way to the Andy Cuypmarket, which is the biggest market in all of Amsterdam. We sampled some of the food from the different vendors before hopping back on a train home.

On the train we discussed our trip and decided three days was not enough. There was so much we missed, but sometimes it is best to leave parts unfinished. It gives you and excuse to come back!  

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