Amsterdam Part 2 – Red Light District, flea markets and new friends

On our second night in Amsterdam, we wanted to have a little fun. We tried to rally a few of the other hostel guests to come into the city with us but only managed to convince our one new buddy, Corbin.

We planned to go to a bar or club in the city and pass through the Red Light District on the way just to see it, but ended up spending the whole evening there! Corbin had walked through the district several times before, so he acted as our personal tour guide, pointing out all of his favorite…uh…stops.

Honestly, the Red Light District was a little overwhelming for me. I’m slightly prudish, so seeing all of the barley clothed, fake-boobed, make-up caked-on women standing in windows twirling their hair and blowing kisses to summon impressionable, horny tourists into their lairs, was a little much for me. But Sarah and Corbin had fun with it!

After walking around for at least an hour, we decided to forgo the bars and catch the last train back to the hostel. Sarah and I were both tired and I had definitely seen enough for the night. With minutes to spare before the last train departed from Amsterdam Central, we ran (like, actually sprinted) to the train station and bought our tickets just to find that the trains were halted for the night for track maintenance. We then had to find the bus that was running in place of the train, which was two blocks from the train station.

The bus ride to the metro stop near our hostel took about 30 minutes. The hostel was an additional six-ish minutes via highway from the metro, and the hostel shuttle had stopped running by then, so we called a cab. Oh mah gah ya’ll. The cab driver told us the cost was 40 euros to get back to the hostel. SIX MINUTES. We negotiated down to 30 but it was still the most ridiculous cab fare I’ve paid. We got back to the hostel and finally clambered into bed, still huffing and puffing.

On our second and final full day in Amsterdam, we met with some of Sarah’s friends from outside the city. She had been to a convention in Amsterdam two weeks previously and she met some young cool cats from all around the Netherlands. She kept in touch with them and coordinated a meetup in Amsterdam when we were there.

Sarah and I got to the meeting place a little early, so we stopped in a café (which we learned to call a café, not a coffeeshop. Ha.) and got some lattes. Then we perused the neighboring shops to pass more time, and finally made our way to Central Station to meet her friends.

We enjoyed a leisurely day with them walking around the city. One of her friends, Jordi, was a Starbucks barista and knew all the Starbucks locations in town. He gave us a tour (which included free coffee, holla) of a few of his favorite locations. Caffeinated, we then stopped for lunch at an outdoor Irish pub on the canal.

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We later met up with a few more of Sarah’s friends who had been running late and the big group of us continued our tour of the city. I had been itching to go to a market all day, so Jordi showed us to the famed flower market and then the flea market. I bought some gouda from a sketchy-but-probably-fine cheese stand, and finally got my hands on a Dutch waffle! The one I got had strawberries and milk chocolate on it… deeeeelish.

At some point in the day, I also bought a muffin from a coffeeshop but felt no effect. That was my first and last attempt at indulging in the local delicacies.

Sarah’s friends were delightful. They were so funny and had such a similar sense of humor to ours. We had a blast walking around singing, laughing, and making jokes about our different cultures and languages. Apparently, the American pronunciation of “waffle” means “mouth” in Dutch, so everyone had a field day when I offered them a bite of my chocolately waffle. High-larious.

We finally made our way back to Central Station with her friends. We said goodbye, but not before snapping a selfie with my totally-awesome-and-not-cheesy-at-all selfie stick.

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We went to bed early that night, tired from our long day, and ready to take on Norway the next morning.

First look at Amsterdam: Canals, Van Gogh Museum and the Royal Palace

Sarah and I were in Amsterdam for only three nights and two full days. With so much to do and so little time, we did our best to pack as much as we could into our brief stay.

We took different flights to Amsterdam, and she arrived hours before I did and checked us in to the hostel. I arrived at the airport late afternoon and found the train to the stop near our hostel (see my last post about transportation!).

It was late by the time I rolled up to Lucky Lake hostel, so Sarah and I decided to stay in that night and just hang out with the other guests. We made a few friends in the hostel’s lobby — mostly Americans, go figure — and enjoyed the night hanging out with them. At some point we took the metro to the next station over in search of wine, and we came back with pre-mixed mojitos. The rest of the night was spent in one of the lounge cabins at the hostel where a group of us chatted, drank and played music until bed.

We rose Tuesday morning and took the metro into the city after a quick breakfast at our hostel. Our first stop was the Van Gogh Museum. The hostel staff recommended that we book our tickets in advance online so as to avoid the queue at the museum. I’m so happy we did.

We arrived in Amsterdam’s Central Station about an hour before our ticketed museum entrance time, so we enjoyed a leisurely walk along the canals and crowded streets. We even ran into one of Sarah’s friends who she had met at a convention weeks previously. On our way to the museum, we passed one of the IAMSTERDAM signs (there’s another one by the airport, and probably more?) and of course had to snap some photos.

We finally made it to the museum where the line stretched almost all the way around the building. Printed tickets in hand, we strolled right to the front and went in a special side entrance. No waiting!

The Van Gogh Museum (EUR 17) was ah-mazing. He is Sarah’s favorite artist and she therefore had more pre-existing knowledge of Van Gogh than I did, but I was blown away by everything I learned. The museum was oriented such that each floor represented a stage in Van Gogh’s life, from his first painting to his last (though there is controversy over which piece was actually is last). I learned about his conservative up-bringing, his transformation in Paris, his friends and family, and finally his final years spent painting in the insane asylum after he sliced off a bit of his ear. Truly captivating.

Leaving the museum, we headed to a cute café and grabbed a bite as we sat European style (both sitting on the same side of the table, facing the street) and people watched for an more than an hour. We then walked through Dam Square, the main shopping area, and grabbed a few necessities — a new jacket for Sarah and a pair of sunglasses for me. Pleased with our new goodies, we walked around some more, passing the Royal Palace and watching the street performers. We could have taken a tour of the alace but it cost a few euros and we were trying to budget. The outside was pretty though!

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After a little while longer of walking around, we headed back to the hostel. It was a long day full of lots of walking, but we decided that night we would head back into town and visit the Red Light District.

Greetings from the Netherlands!

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I haven´t posted in ages; school became the top priority in the weeks following spring break. But I finally GRADUATED FROM COLLEGE on May 22, and I am now free to roam about the cabin. And by cabin, I mean Europe.

In December, my travel-partner-in crime Sarah and I planned a two-week trip to Amsterdam, Oslo and Stockholm following my graduation. Three days after I walked across the stage and received my diploma, I hopped on a plane to Moscow, with a connecting flight to Amsterdam.

I’m writing from Amsterdam now after a three-day stint in this electrifying city, and let me just tell you…I like it…a lot.

Accomodations (EUR 21/night)

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We’re staying at Lucky Lake hostel, a badass summer-camp styled hostel 30 minutes outside of the city by train. It’s a little out of the way, but I’d recommend this hostel for anyone staying in Amsterdam on a budget. Lucky Lake Hostel consists of 15 or so mini campers, brightly colored and absolutely adorable, situated in a rectangle around the central courtyard. On the exterior are wooden cabins to accommodate larger groups.

In the center of the courtyard are hammocks, picnic tables, an outdoor kitchen covered in a canopy, ping pong tables, a foosball table and the bathhouse. A few campers even act as lounges (one smoking, one non-smoking) and a movie-screening room. The facilities alone make the hostel awesome, but add on the friendly and hilarious staff and free shuttle to the train station, and Lucky Lake makes the top of Sarah and my list of favorite hostels.

Transportation

Arriving in the Netherlands was easier than I thought. I don’t speak a lick of Dutch, but seemingly everyone here speaks English, so it’s easy enough to ask for help. My flight came in to Schiphol Airport, one of the biggest airports in Europe. A train station sits right below the terminal and I found the line that took me right to Holendrecht, the stop near my hostel (I had to change lines once).

To get into Amsterdam and for roaming about the city, Sarah and I found the metro to be particularly helpful, as it took us right from Holendrecht to Amsterdam’s Central Station. From there, the above-ground trams took us anywhere throughout the city. Because the trams are so open, Sarah and I used riding the tram as a quasi-guided tour of the city. Haha, clever, right?

My First Impressions of Amsterdam

What a captivating city. The dark, narrow cobblestone streets and tall, thin buildings made it feel like each street gives you a tight hug. The canals were freaking beautiful, and we took several breaks to sit on benches and watch the boats pass through. Bikes lined every walkway and canal; I’m pretty sure there were more bikes in Amsterdam than people. Every road had a bike path between the sidewalk and the street.

The coffeshops gave the the city a potent, uh, herby smell, though it didn’t permeate through all parts of the city. (Confused? Coffeeshops = cannabis stores). I can’t describe how weird it was to see people sitting outside these shops smoking casually. In the U.S., this behavior would land you a one-way ticket to the slammer.

The people. Damn. I’m a street style kind of gal and I was obsessed with what the Dutch wore: lots of sleek, black clothing, sunglasses, dresses with black tights, and funky, chunky shoes. The Dutch are some of the tallest people in the world, and that was evident. Everyone looked like models! And they were nice for the most part! Friendly waiters and store clerks, helpful authorities…. The only thing I wasn’t so jazzed about was that people don’t say excuse me when they pass by or bump into you. Being a person who says sorry to chairs when I bump into them, I was a little taken aback by the rudeness, but I’ll attribute it to a simple cultural difference.

Overall I was feeling such incredible vibes from Amsterdam. The city has character and depth, kind of brooding and enchanting. I wish we were there for longer, but I’ll be back in a few days to explore on my own after Sarah flies home. In my next post, I’ll share all the cool schtuff we did in Amsterdam!

Ta ta for now!

Top 15 Destinations on My Travel Bucket List

From Rio to Zurich, I am drawn toward cities with beautiful, colorful architecture and waterfront cityscapes. The following are 15 places on my before-I-turn-30 bucket list, apart from the ones I get to check off my list this summer — Rome, Paris, Barcelona, London and Montecarlo.

1. Prague, Czech Republic

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2. Berlin, Germany

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3. Amsterdam, Holland

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4. Venice, Italy

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5. Dubai,  United Arab Emirates

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6. Stockholm, Sweden

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7. Zurich, Switzerland

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8. Cape Town, South Africa

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9. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

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10. Tokyo, Japan

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11.  Positano, Amalfi Coast, Italy

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12. Edinburgh, Scotland

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13. Dublin, Ireland

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14.  Jungfraujoch, Swiss Alps, Switzerland

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15. Istanbul, Turkey

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