A lovely day in Amsterdam
I spent a wonderful Friday morning in Amsterdam, with a 9 am reservation to enter the Van Gogh museum and an internal clock that woke me up at 6 am. Please note, I did purchase my ticket on the museum website a few months in advance when I knew I’d have some time in Amsterdam. I paid about $18 for adult admission into the museum. After taking my time getting ready, packing up my stuff for the train ride to Paris later that day, and checking my luggage with the bell stand, I set off in the direction of the Van Gogh museum with plans to stop for breakfast and/or coffee along the way. I was out the hotel door by 7:30 am and the city was already bustling with the activity of the Friday morning commute, early-rising tourists (like me!), and people taking their children to school.
I wanted to find the Dutch waffles I’d seen everywhere but hunger was getting to me and I stopped at the first sit-down cafe I could find. I had a chocolate croissant and a coffee at a quiet cafe that had a resident cat who ran right up to me for head scratches when I was finished eating my pastry. I left early enough to continue on slowly and walk down some canal streets and take some photos of the street scenes.
I really loved observing the flow of bicycle, car, scooter, and pedestrian traffic in the city during the morning rush. It all flowed so well. I have a bicycle in Chicago and I am pretty hesitant to ride it on busy streets and even in bicycle lanes because there are rules but they’re not strictly followed. In Amsterdam, and I’m assuming in the rest of the Netherlands, the traffic laws were strictly followed. It was so orderly and civilized and I am sure that there is an occasional accident between bicycles or car and bicycle, but probably far less common than in Chicago where bicycles and cars do not coexist peacefully.
After walking by the gorgeous Rijksmuseum building and coming upon the “I Amsterdam” sign that everyone takes a picture of, I realized I had about 20 minutes before the Van Gogh museum opened at 9. I found a little Dutch waffle stand, sat under one of their umbrellas to avoid the rain, and devoured breakfast number two.
After I finished I started walking towards the museum only to see that a long line had already formed, for those who already had tickets like me. It moved quickly and I didn’t have to stand in the rain for long. Once I was inside, I was a bit disappointed to see that photography was not allowed inside, but I quickly got over that because then I could just focus on observing the artwork and reading all of the placards. Van Gogh has always been one of my favorite artists and I enjoyed the museum immensely. I saw quite a few paintings that I had never seen before so that was a treat! I spent all of 2 hours in the galleries and then browsed two of the gift shops. I ended up purchasing a mug with one of his older works on it, this one.
The rest of my time in drizzly and quiet Amsterdam was spent exploring beautiful Vondelpark - I am insanely jealous of the locals and the beautiful running park they have in Vondelpark. The city is a gorgeous and flat running paradise in itself but the park was my favorite! I slowly made my way back towards the direction of the Park Plaza Victoria and shopped for some Delft blue china as souvenirs, took photos, and bought some lavender Edam cheese and Stroopwaffels for my friends in Paris as host gifts.
I stopped for lunch in a quiet bar called Cafe Het Bruine Paard (Brown Horse Cafe) that had outdoor seating along one of the canals, but they also had a completely open and empty bar and I wanted to talk to people - and it was a bit chilly outside. I chose correctly because both bartenders were very friendly. One of them had family in Brazil but grew up in a small town in the Netherlands, so we chatted about all the places we’d been. I love talking travel, while I am traveling.
I had two local Dutch beers - it was a vacation after all - and an open faced sandwich. I thought open-faced sandwiches were a Danish thing, but I’m glad I had that option since I’d been eating waffles and croissants that morning and didn’t necessarily need any more bread. It was the slowest lunch of my trip since I had not planned anything else for Amsterdam. I thought about visiting the Anne Frank House on this trip but a few weeks before I decided that I would see enough historical and quite frankly, rather depressing museums in the Baltics. I wanted to save the historical sites and such for another trip to the Netherlands. I will most certainly be back.
After lunch, I had about 25 minutes to kill when I’d reached the hotel. I went to St. Nicholas church, walked by some very rough-looking prostitutes near the Oude Kerk, and just enjoyed the last few minutes there. Once I collected my bags and walked literally across the street to Amsterdam Centraal, I easily found the Thalys train’s track to Paris. The train had not yet arrived but I was happy to be early. I booked that ticket in advance on www.thalys.com. I paid about $35 for the one-way. It was cheaper than Rail Europe’s site, just sayin’.
The train ride was about 3.5 hours of quiet and excellent people watching. I was a little envious of the people traveling to Paris for the weekend together. I read my Kindle, chatted with a Dutch girl sitting next to me, and eventually ate more Stroopwaffels before exiting the train at Gare du Nord in Paris.
Next up, Paris, and I will recap my very brief time in Reykjavik, which was only a layover but fantastic. My trip in October will be here before I know it and I am traveling with a friend, so we have done a lot of planning and I have quite a bit of advice about that. I also have a short trip to Los Angeles in September that I think I will still be able to make. Then, San Francisco again in November for work. Throw a move into that mix and it is going to be a very busy 6 months. The end of 2016 will be here before I know it, so far it has been great, but I have big plans for 2017.