Amsterdam was the last major European city on my must-see list (don't worry, I am sure I will come up with more for a new. People would often say, “I can’t believe you haven’t been to Amsterdam!” While I didn’t get a lot of time in this amazing city over this past weekend, I managed to spend two and a half jam-packed days there.
I love exploring new cities. It is exciting and there is just so much to see and do. I am sure the way I travel would stress out most people, but my cousin is very much on the same page and we were both looking forward to seeing as much as possible during our short stay.
We arrived Friday afternoon after a quick, but rather bumpy, flight from Pisa. We grabbed a cab and immediately checked into our adorable hotel just southwest of the city center, near the museumplein (this turned out to be the perfect location). We immediately headed down the main street Leidsestraat to explore. We hit our first canal and that was it, I was in love with Amsterdam. We were tired from traveling so we just wondered a bit and grabbed some fries, because... when in Amsterdam. After a couple hours of exploring, we decided to get some rest for our big day of museums the following day.
The next day we work up early and started with the Van Gogh Museum followed by the Rijksmuseum and the Anne Frank House. You should absolutely pre-book all of these before visiting so that you don’t waste your day waiting in line (I felt bad for the poor chaps we bypassed). I plan on returning to Amsterdam to spend some quality time inside the Rijksmuseum. When you travel with someone you always have to conscientious of their time and interests, which is why I wasn’t going to torture my cousin with 4 hours in the Rijksmuseum (while I love traveling with friends and family this is why there are times that I also like to travel alone).
After a full morning of museums, and before the Anne Frank House, we stopped by the Pancake Bakery to refuel (a special thanks to Pheobe on Instagram for the recommendation). It was delicious! I am a huge fan of the savory concoctions and I never knew pancakes were so versatile (they are more crepe like). Following the Anne Frank House we decided to just wander a bit more and absorb the beauty of the city. But fair warning – there are so many types of transportation trying to run you over in Amsterdam. Beware of cars, trams, AND bikes. But more on biking in Amsterdam tomorrow because that was definitely a highlight of the trip.
One of the best parts about Amsterdam was the vast and varied selection of cuisine. I really miss this living in Florence (it is basically all Italian food, all the time). We found a great Thai place (Thai Corner on Kerkstraat) and gorged ourselves on tofu panang and pad thai.
That evening curiosity got the better of us and we decided to explore the Red Light District. Let’s just say that it was a disturbing, yet engrossing, experience. I would love to convince myself that these ladies are empowered fourth wave feminists, choosing to use sex and their sexuality to subvert patriarchal power dynamics (interesting articles which argue empowerment here, and exploitment here), but the sad reality is that many of these women are probably trapped, manipulated, or forced into this. Watching (mostly British) men gawk and approach these women as they displayed themselves in red-lit windows left me feeling uneasy. I felt bad that I was participating in their exploitation, but it was like bad reality TV, I couldn’t look away.
You are also probably wondering if I took part in Amsterdam’s other famously-legal activity, smoking pot. While I am not morally against marijuana or its legalization (I wonder how it is worse than tobacco or alcohol?), it is personally not something I enjoy. But I did at least visit a coffee shop (aka where people can smoke and consume marijuana), the one Brad Pitt and George Clooney filmed in for Ocean’s 13, naturally. Don’t worry if smoking and sex aren’t your thing, Amsterdam has so much more to offer!
Stay tuned for part two tomorrow!