The Netherlands! Day 1

Well, what would a month be without flying somewhere? School breaks are a bit different here, and with my week-long half-term break in February, it was apt time for a getaway. The previous week (only days before, in fact) we had a home invasion.  I won’t get into it. Long story short: we’re safe. Nothing was stolen. We have since learned how to properly lock double locks in England.  Aaaaaaand: it was going to be my FIRST time travelling alone.  Ever.  I’m happy to report that I wasn’t nervous though; I was still really excited for my trip.

I arrived in Amsterdam and caught a bus into the museum district, where I was staying.  My hotel was perfectly located just around the corner from Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, and the IAmsterdam sign.  It was a tiny room in a boutique style hotel with fun decor (note the pink kettle and basketball hoop).  There were 2 single beds, so I pushed them together and made the perfect little place for me to starfish 🙂

I settled in, and then went exploring.  First, I needed to fuel up, and I found the perfect spot: Bagels and Beans.  With a focus on sustainable and organic food, fresh juices, and gluten free options, I was set.  And the menu has an entire page titled “Peace & Friendship.” So great. 

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Organic smoked chicken, avocado, toasted pine nuts and homemade pesto on a gluten free bagel, alongside fresh squeezed juice! Mmmm

Then I walked across Mesumplein and passed through the tunnel that divides Rijksmuseum and leads to the city.  From there, I took in the beauty of the city as I walked across and along canals, weaving my way toward Spui.

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My first view of Rijksmuseum and the IAmsterdam sign (the central archway is what I walked through… it’s much larger than it appears here at roughly 2 stories high)

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Every canal has a unique personality

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Note the angled walls and gables

A quick note on the gables and hooks on the front of the houses.  You may already know that buildings in Amsterdam have VERY steep, narrow stairs.  As you might imagine, getting even a small chair or single bed up stairs like that would be impossible, and so furniture can be attached to a rope strung over the hook and be hoisted up to the appropriate floor and brought in through the windows.  Why would they do this, you ask?  Well, many years ago (as the hotel staff told me), property values were determined by width, and not length.  As a result, both properties and houses were extremely narrow.

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Golden hour light

My first discovery about travelling alone? I could spend 2 hours in a bookstore. YES! It was awesome.  My afternoon revolved around two things: book stores and cheese shops.  I went to a few stores, finding new varieties to bring home for T (and to make up for travelling on Valentine’s day! lol).  After 2 hours in bookstore number 1, I found another local shop with higher prices but also more personality, and picked up another book.  I also quickly realized how travelling alone both forced me to be brave, asking directions and for recommendations, and also allowed me to enjoy solitude as I shopped and ate alone.  One book I found was After Auschwitz, by Eva Schloss.  Her story is a fascinating story that stands on its own merit, but it is interesting to know that Eva became the stepdaughter of Otto Frank, Anne Frank’s father.  Eva’s mother lost her husband and son in the Holocaust while Otto had lost his wife and both daughters.  Schloss writes that Otto came to be a dedicated grandfather to her children, but her story is so much more.  I won’t go on about it- but if you’re interested in this troubling but important part of history, I highly recommend it!

For dinner, I went to a seafood restaurant (aptly named The Seafood Bar) which had been recommended to me by a young woman who worked in one of the cheese shops. Hilariously, two girls sat at the table next to me- also Canadian!  

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Crab cakes, anyone?

After dinner, I enjoyed a quiet wander through the city, taking in the quality of light on the buildings and reflecting off the canals.

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Spui by evening light

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Beautiful, isn’t it?  I enjoyed my walk back to the hotel and then tucked in for an early night.

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