The first stop on our trip was the fabulous city of Amsterdam. Our plane left June 10th, and we landed in Amsterdam early on the morning of June 11th. Our first priority was to get to our hotel. After trying to figure out what to and where to go to actually arrive at our hotel- we realized that we'd have to take a subway from the airport to a stop to get to our hotel. Not as easy as it sounds. After taking 3 different subway trains, we finally got to the right stop. Our hotel was not far from the main station in Amsterdam, and so we had a very short walk (in the rain... fyi).
We checked into our hotel and quickly set out to explore this new place that we were in. My friend Val, from ACU, (see photo of the two of us in slide show below) now lives in Amsterdam because she married a very nice Dutch guy, and so before we left she and I emailed back and forth and she made some recommendations to me. So, Lantz and I were on a mission to find a pancake house that Val recommended for us to eat at. We finally arrived at Pancakes!Amsterdam. It was a great first meal. We had Dutch style pancakes called poffertijes and a thin crepe style pancake with bacon. (See photos of our first restaurant in slide show.)
We then went to the Van Gogh museum, Vondel Park, and then we walked through the fashion and museum district. All very entertaining and eye opening. We also saw an old timey wooden draw bridge in the middle of the city- pretty cool.
At 8:30 we met Val and her husband Florece (spelling?) at the Amstel Hotel (very classy) and walked over to a small social restaurant for some "coffee" (no one got coffee- tea and hot chocolate). It was so good to catch up with Val and to meet her husband. He was very nice, and I was extremely impressed with both of them. They are both so talented and well- traveled and totally tons of fun to be around. We chatted away with them for awhile. When we were walking back to our hotel I thought maybe it might have been like 9:30, but it was like 10:45. So weird. It didn't get dark in Amsterdam until after 11:00 at night.
After our drink with Val and Florece, we walked through the Red Light District. That was so stupid. People told us to do it because we just needed to see it... that we wouldn't believe it. Well, it was sick. We took a few steps into that part of town, and got out as quickly as possible. My heart broke over what took place in that part of town. Satan definitely has a tight grip there. Lantz and I both prayed over that area and the girls working there and the people "visiting" the girls. One piece of advice if you ever travel to Amsterdam- skip the Red Light District. Even if people tell you you need to see it for cultural reasons- no you don't. It was sad, pathetic, and sinful.
The next day we got up early and walked across town for a bike tour. We took the country-side tour through Mike's Bike tour. We had so much fun! Each of our bikes had names. Lantz's bike was "Indian Larry" and my bike was "The Magic Carpet." (Side note, all the bike tours we did in Europe named their bikes- funny stuff.) We rode through part of town, along the Amstel River and then out to a country farm where they make fresh cheese and wooden clogs. The cheese was amazing! We got to sample all the flavors, and my favorite was the smoked gouda. Talk about the best cheese I've ever had in my whole life... awesome! The flavor of it was just incredible. We didn't buy any, although I wish we would have. (It was our second day and we were traveling with back packs and I didn't want to be a major tourist carrying around a load of souvenirs.) The whole trip all I could think about was the amazing smoked gouda. (Side note- I found some Dutch smoked gouda at Trader Joe's today. I'm going to try it later tonight or tomorrow. I'll let you know if it is as good. I hope it is, otherwise I am going to be mad that I didn't get some there.) We then finished off our bike tour by riding on some old country roads and back through town and through 2 parks- one being Vondel Park.
Our bike tour was so much fun, and I felt like we really got to experience so much. We got to see alot of things outside of the city which was really neat. After that we went to the Anne Frank House. That was such a neat experience for me. As most of you know I teach a huge Holocaust unit, and so it was a very moving experience for me to be able to actually be in the place where the Franks were in hiding. I think the coolest part was walking through the bookshelf and up the stairs. It was all so tiny. It was amazing to touch and see the things that Anne did. It was also cool to see the attic area where Anne sat and stared out at the birds and the trees. All very moving. I can't wait to share my experience with my students next year. It was very cool too that the day that we visited the Anne Frank House actually would have been Anne's 80th birthday if she would have survived- June 12th- this day was also Lantz and my six year anniversary to the day we met.
Amsterdam is a very cool city and very different than all of the other places we visited. It is very trendy and fashionable. Everyone travels by way of bicycles. Bicycles always have the right away. You'd see girls in skirts and heals just pedaling away on their bikes. I loved the cities architecture and how there are rivers all throughout the whole city. I loved that you can ride your bike everywhere, and how the whole city is super bike friendly and easy to travel.
This was a great stop and I would recommend it to anyone and everyone.
P.S. Most people associate Amsterdam with partying, but there is so much more to this city. Don's stereotype it.