Our second to last city in our Europe Chronicles, Amsterdam, was also one of the most beautiful cities we visited. And I didn’t even visit a coffee shop.
Our hotel was a little out of the way, but the public transportation made sure we didn’t even notice. We walked from the Central station towards Anne Frank’s house. There was a church with an observation tower, and Cristina likes torturing me with visits to high places. Luckily for me, we arrived right after closing and they were actually booked full for the next two day. Shucks. We were hungry so we looked for something to eat with our new found time. It seems that Amsterdam has an ordinance that requires an Italian restaurant and an Argentinean steakhouse every three blocks. We settled on a little mom and pop looking Italian restaurant that had a nice seafood selection. I ordered a lightly fried seafood platter that was very fresh and tasty. Cristina’s pasta was also quite good.
Obviously, we were went to the Anne Frank house next. The house is very tight with steep stairs. Also, you realize how intertwined with the water Amsterdam truly is. You could feel the house sway, almost float, while you were in it. After visiting the World War II sites and memorials in Berlin, the Frank House was a punch in the gut. You can’t get more personal than this. Looking out of the only window she and her family could is both heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time. Seeing the hand written diary really choked us up.
On the way back to the bus stop to get back to the hotel, we saw one of the stranger events in our travels. Amsterdam is a bicycle town. They easily out number cars. This is probably why every resident of Amsterdam seems to young and alive. Unfortunately, for one girl the one car that was parked didn’t see her coming and opened her door right before she got to it. In a reaction, I just put my hands over my now open mouth. Luckily, it didn’t seem as if she was hurt to bad. However, when I get a bicycle, I’m buying a helmet with it. We then headed back to the hotel to watch America play in the World Cup. All of Amsterdam was decked out in orange. The coffee shops, museums, high end stores, and the red light district were all supporting the orange.
The next day was museum day. We started with the Rijksmuseum. One of the best museums we visited on our trip, we saw both the history of the Netherlands through art as well as the works of Dutch masters such as Rembrandt and Vermeer. Everyone was looking for the Girl with a Pearl Earring, but alas she was in The Hague. I really wish we had toured Amsterdam first because I was having trouble enjoying the works after about an hour. I think I was museumed out. We then ate at the Boven Brasserie in a very posh neighborhood full of expensive clothing stores. The club sandwich I had was amazing and perfect for the day. The French fries were just right once they were dipped in mayonnaise. Cristina thought it was a little early for steak but ordered it anyway. The only problem with the meal was that I became a little overheated due to sitting on the non shaded side of the street.
We were off to see the Dutch master I hadn’t named yet: Van Gogh. The Van Gogh Museum, which oddly enough looks like Grace King High School from the outside, was a real treat as well. Plenty of behind the scenes information of each of his paintings. In fact, we bought a copy of the Van Gogh’s cherry blossoms due to reading the place card next to it. Van Gogh gave the painting to his brother who placed it above his fireplace which is exactly where we placed ours.
We then decided to do a canal tour. Amsterdam, which New Orleans needs to study more in-depth, actually has more canals than Venice. The tour had a tour guide, but you could only hear him inside the boat. We preferred to sit in the back and just take Amsterdam in with our eyes.
After the boat ride, we went to the Red Light District. It reminded me of Bourbon in the worst way not because of the prostitutes, honestly some of them were lovely to look at, and the sex shops. It was the tourists, specifically of the frat boy variety. We did visit a museum in the district which I will neither further explain or have pictures of (btw it is in Rick Steves book).
We ended our day, actually it was 9:45 pm and still daylight, by enjoying a meal on a little canal side deck restaurant. We ordered the special which was basically chicken in peanut sauce with fries. The best part was the waiter trying to explain it English and apologizing. I had to remind him he knew a lot more about my language than I did his and then I apologized to him for that.
Exhausted, we returned to the hotel to sleep and then go on to our last stop, Brussels. On the way to the hotel some kids kept saying the bus stop Spaarndammerdijk at every bus stop. It was annoying at first but then it just started to crack us up. Now, we randomly say to make each other laugh.