exploring the netherlands – part 1

I’m really excited to begin recapping our time in the Netherlands today! After our time in Ireland, we took a quick flight from Dublin to Amsterdam. I’ll admit, exploring Amsterdam made me a little nervous! With preconceived ideas about the Red Light District (rumored to be home to many Bachelor parties and wild nights) and the language difference, I was intimidated. Everything looked as if it was going to be so foreign. Thorough research though eased my concerns and ultimately led to a wonderful experience that completely surpassed my expectations!

Amsterdam Canals

After our early flight, we arrived and took a cab to our hotel. Driving into the heart of the city we were immediately blown away by the number of canals that laced through the city. I expected it to be a few canals but the city is truly built on water with 62 miles of canals and over 1,500 bridges. Our hotel was centrally located near Dam Square which was wonderful, however, the hotel itself was a bit dingy and we wouldn’t recommend.

Our first order of business was walking around to explore, starting first in Dam Square. The city immediately felt rich with authenticity, history, with an artistic culture. The beautiful architecture was unlike anything I’d ever seen with the brown and earthlike tones carried throughout the city. I purchased some beautiful art from street artists as we explored.

Ready for a meal by early evening, we grabbed dinner near the hotel at Royal 98. Despite knowing nothing about the restaurant before coming, it was a pleasant surprise with the most delicious salad and mozzarella sandwiches ever. After getting fueled up, we visited the prettiest shopping mall I’ve ever seen to buy a few trinkets and souvenirs. As the sun settled turning to dusk, we walked back to the room to rest up for our next day.

Day two in Amsterdam started at the Anne Frank House, an absolute must-do on my list and something that should be a must-do if you visit Amsterdam. Located directly on the Prinsengracht canal in Central Amsterdam, it was the actual home that Anne and her family hid in during WWII.  It was deeply profound seeing how tragically normal Anne and her siblings were, with photographs of celebrities and pretty pictures glued to their bedroom wall. The audio tour shares how excruciatingly quiet the family had to remain while in hiding however the inspiration that Anne is, still writing and dreaming with childlike wonder while in hiding, was sobering.

After our eye-opening morning, we headed across town to bike around Amsterdam for our Mike’s Bike Tour reservation. Amsterdam is home to a big biking culture with locals using bikes as an extremely popular method of transportation. It was a rainy day and a bit cold but with the limited time we had in the city, a little weather wasn’t going to stop us! Apparently, we were the only ones that felt that way though as we were the only ones to show up for our tour. Mike’s Bike Tour was wonderful though and graciously took just the two of us out for what ended up being a private tour.

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Dutch Windmill

We went out into the countryside spotting authentic windmills with an incredible stop at a local cheese farmer. We got a tour and sampled the fresh Gouda cheese which remains to this day, the best cheese I’ve ever eaten in my life. They also showed us how to make the traditional Dutch wooden shoes.

After biking for many miles around the city, we grabbed a beer with our tour guide before heading back near our hotel. We had worked up quite an appetite and grabbed pizzas for dinner at Royal 98 again because the food was THAT good the first night. After dinner we walked around, admired street performers playing music and walked on the cobblestone streets while the moon hung in the air, reflecting off the canal veins of the city.

Amsterdam Streets

I’ll be recapping our final day in Amsterdam next Wednesday where we went to the Rijksmuseum and took a boat canal tour.

Have you been to Amsterdam before? If so, is there anywhere we missed visiting?

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