“You were out late last night. I did not think you would be up so early.”
My summer trip was turning into a comedy of B&B’s! In Bruges, Belgium I met an owner who threw a tantrum when I asked about the garden and now in Amsterdam I found myself transported back in time.
I was 18-years-old again and my parents questioning my whereabouts the night before!
Only difference? Well, two differences. I wasn’t 18 and I was paying my “mom” for the questioning.
As you may know, I have been traveling around Belgium and the Netherlands for the last two and a half weeks for my Rock Fever Column.
To start this summer trip, I had flown into Amsterdam, but I decided to wait to experience the Netherlands’ capital when I was joined by my travel buddy a week into my three abroad.
Now with travel buddy in tow and four days left on the continent, it was time to experience the city well known for coffee shops, canals and boisterous pedal bikers! First on my list?Escape my Dutch mother.
Amsterdam is the perfect, little city that is filled with water, quaint houses and with a laid-back atmosphere, that might fool you into thinking you are sitting in St. George’s, Bermuda. That is until you encounter a gang of pedal bikers who play loose with their bells! At least they’re not flying by you on motorbikes!
Which brings me to reason one for visiting this sinking city: there is very little traffic. With the large network of canals and pedestrian streets, the locals appear to take to their boats or bikes or trams to navigate the city. It helps that the city is relatively small, so it takes little time to get from one place to another and made it perfect for the last four days of my trip to Europe with a travel buddy.
My favourite way to “see” Amsterdam, however, is on-foot because the wandering through random little streets and happening across the grand, green expanse of Museumplein offer all sorts of unique finds like an open-air concert or a hole-in-the-wall sumptuous lunch. So here’s reason two: small, Amsterdam may be, but filled with little crevices of finds for you to discover, this city is perfect for the independent traveler. Take the chance to wander through the Jordaan neighbourhood, which has transformed from working class into one of the most sought-after residential neighbourhoods filled with all the necessary restaurants and cafes. After we left “mom”, though, me and my travel buddy found a free, five-stage open-air concert on Museumplein!
Reason three is located next to Museumplein and is one of the busiest locations in Amsterdam: the Van Gogh Museum. Four floors of this colourful artists’ work will keep you entranced for hours and definitely make the entrance fee worth it! A helpful tip: pre-purchase your tickets online otherwise a long line will wait for you!
And really reason four (which really should have been an all-encompassing three) should have been Amsterdam’s museums. Once you finish with Van Gogh, there is a stunning modern art museum with glass walls and the infamous Rijksmuseum that offers architecturally as much as the Dutch art that fills it, nearby. Brace yourself for other museums like the Sex Museum and the Hemp Museum, which are nowhere near Museumplein, but you are likely to pass! The Heineken factory is also based in Amsterdam and a €15 ticket will give you a tour and a free beer at the end!
Finished the museum tour? Then take a chance to stretch those legs and fill your lungs with fresh air with reason five, Vondelpark! This park that dates back to 1864 posses more than 100 species of trees, a rose garden, a bandstand and miles of paths for walking, running or riding. It’s the perfect place to lose those cobwebs.
Following the park-run it was time for reason six, Anne Franks’ house, where we were offered a sobering, historical view of Amsterdam. The house on Prinsengracht is where the Jewish, Frank family hid for two years during the Nazi invasion of the Netherlands. In 1944, betrayed by Dutch collaborator, the Frank family was arrested and sent to concentration camps. Only Otto Frank, Anne’s father, survived and he decided to publish his daughter’s diary, which depicts everyday life during those difficult years. The book and Anne Frank Museum have since turned into symbols of fighting oppression and racism in particular.
It would be hard to walk out of Anne Frank’s house and not feel the weight of what happened during the Holocaust. Her diary and the events that transpired there, however, have provided inspiration for the likes of Nelson Mandela. A tip for visiting, the lines can be intense, but the museum is open until 9 p.m. in summer months and 7 p.m. in the winter, so plan your visit for the evening when the crowds dissipate.
Afterward, walk to the canal edge and jump onto one of the many tour boats for my reason seven to visit Amsterdam. Enjoy the historical tour in French, English and Spanish as you rest your legs from all of the walking and get a chance to see the three main canals: Herengracht, Keizergracht and Prinsengracht, which were dug in the 17th century and are lined with rich merchants’ homes!
Reason eight is then you need to eat! And if Amsterdam knows anything, it’s how to eat, drink and definitely be merry. With everything from Indonesian food to Peruvian and everything in between, this city is filled with choices. One of my favourites was the Cafe De Jaren (Nieuwe Doelenstraat 20, Amsterdam) which is located in an old bank building! With amazing fish, meat and salads as well as a beautiful view over the Amstel Canal, it was a perfect place for dinner.
Of course after dinner it was time for the night life which is reason number nine. I would start at Leidseplein, which used to be the end of the line for those traveling from Leiden. Jammed with bars, jazz cafes and restaurants, Leidesplein is crazy and chaotic, but also Amsterdam’s best. I would be remiss if I did not mention the city’s red light district, which is part of the night life for far too many bachelor parties. For others..well it’s interesting/sad wandering through this seedy part of town, where prostitution, which is legal, is flaunted in windows. Of course the other Amsterdam-draw for some are the coffee shops and no, these are not Starbucks. What you will find behind the counter is a list of hash and grass, but it is illegal to advertise cannabis, so hence “Coffee Shops”.
Taking no part in these activities and after a dinner it was time to head to reason ten: the Heineken Music Hall and one of the best concerts I have ever attended: Arcade Fire. Of course that was just one concert, but this state-of-the-art music hall holds a variety of musicians all year round. Even better? It is only a tram ride away from the centre of Amsterdam! And the Heineken Music Hall is not alone. Amsterdam is filled with music venues and even has two, major orchestras!
Canadian band enjoyed, we returned to mom, spent one last night in Amsterdam and boarded our plane back to Bermuda. Of course I have missed parts of this city that is crammed with markets, more museums and restaurants than I could fit here. So, if you want more information I suggest this website: www.iamsterdam.com/.
Until next week, ciao.
Categories : Amsterdam, Rock Fever Column