Traveling to Amsterdam and First Impressions
We woke up early on the morning of Sept. 25th to head to Amsterdam. Since we were staying outside of Galway, we had about a three hour drive to get back to the Dublin airport where we could return Paddy Passat and catch our flight. I (Alesha) decided that I needed to redeem myself from my driving misfortunes in Cork, and opted to drive us back to Dublin. I also chose to do this drive because it was almost entirely M road (like I-5), and it would be hard to get into trouble with wide lanes 🙂 We made it back to Dublin with no issues, and said goodbye to Paddy Passat. We also got very lucky because the driver before us had apparently had a similar issue with the mirror I scuffed up, so we got away with it (hehe). We arrived at the airport several hours early (Brandon likes to leave a lot of cushion time), so we had time to have our last pints of Guinness (and Bulmer’s Irish Cider) and some lunch before we caught our plane.
We flew Aer Lingus, which is basically one step up from Allegiant Airlines in the states. They don’t serve any complimentary food or beverages, but you could apparently buy some Pringles and wine if it tickled your fancy (now that’s a combo I can get behind!).
Thankfully, it was only an hour flight, and we touched down in Amsterdam in no time. Once we breezed through immigration and claimed our big backpacks, it was time to figure out Amsterdam public transit to get to our AirBnB. Our host, Kirsten, had given us good directions, so it seemed like it would be easy enough. We hopped on a train that would take us to a stop where we could catch the tram, according to Kirsten’s directions. We managed that easily enough, but when you go to exit the train station you have to use your card again to exit. I breezed through without an issue, but Brandon ended up trapped on the other side of a glass barrier looking out at me. As we tried to read each other’s lips to figure out a plan, a nice woman walking by realized he was trapped and tried to help him with his card. It still wouldn’t work, but she told him to just follow her out. Thankfully the gate stayed open long enough for both of them, and we were reunited. After that, we had to figure out the tram system (separate from the train system we’d just been on). It took us about 20 minutes, but we finally got it sorted out and caught the tram down to our new place. It was about a 5 min walk from the tram stop to get there, and we were met by Kirsten and someone who was learning the check-in process. She showed us to our very cool suite, and then took her leave.
The building we stayed in was built in 1882, and had a number of original finishes including a (non-working) fireplace and hardwood floors. It was a traditional dutch style building with the most narrow staircase I have ever seen in my life. Guys, really, this thing was no joke. We made a mental note to not get too intoxicated or else we wouldn’t be able to get up or down the stairs.
After we’d gotten settled, we set off to explore our neighborhood and find some grub. Brandon and I had two first impressions of Amsterdam:
1. SO. MANY. BIKES. Like more bikes than either of us had ever seen in our lives. They have separate bike lanes, and not like the little teeny line on the road you get in the U.S. These bike lanes are actual large lanes that are offset from the car traffic and everyone uses them. We saw people of all ages riding bikes, including parents with little kids with various bike setups (buckets in the front full of kids, seats on the back for kids….you name it). I also noticed people riding together in stride, having conversations just as you would if you were sitting next to each other in a car.
2. Dutch people are EXTREMELY attractive as a whole. Because they all bike everywhere, there are literally no fat people. I have never felt so simultaneously out of shape and unattractive all at once, so I made a mental note to start cycling more when we get home (that’s got to be the secret right?)
We came across a place that seemed very busy from the outside seating, and decided to follow the crowd and eat there too. After we’d wandered in and taken a seat we took a look at the menu and realized the entire thing was in Dutch. Thankfully, all of the waitstaff spoke English and offered to help with the menu if we needed it. We decided we’d brave it since we could pick out a few words here and there, and after some pretty intense Google Translating, we decided to get a steak salad and a “Spaanse Plank,” which included Spanish components like cured ham, a tasty garlic aioli and some Manchego cheese. We also saw on the menu that they had Drew’s favorite beer from his time in Europe called “Le Chouffe” so we ordered a couple of those…they were delicious (thanks, Drewby!).
As we were heading back to the apartment, we were still getting the hang of the separate bike lanes for car traffic and cycling traffic, and also lanes for tram traffic. We came to a crosswalk, and the little man was blinking green indicating that it was safe to walk, so of course I just proceeded out into the intersection without a second thought. BAD idea, y’all….I first almost got taken out by a cyclist, and I had only just finished apologizing to him (thankfully he was super nice) and headed into the next lane of traffic when I almost got taken out by a car. At this point I was like WHAT THE HELL and just flat out started running trying to get across the street, and – I kid you not – almost got run over by the tram. Thankfully, I made it alive to the other side, and Brandon joined me, and we vowed to pay closer attention to the traffic flow.
We were both super tired, and headed to bed early in our giant, cozy king bed where we hibernated for 10 hours.
We woke up relatively late the next morning and got a game plan together for which museums we wanted to see and realized that the best value for our money was to buy a Museumkaart. The Museumkaart is valid throughout the Netherlands, and at like 30 museums in Amsterdam alone. We’ll also be able to use it while we travel in the Southern part of the country, so that will be nice.
In order to get to museum square where all of the museums are situated, we got to take a shortcut through Vondelpark. Vondelpark is a huge park in the middle of Amsterdam that houses lots of pretty scenery, food vendors, and little lakes.
The first museum up on the docket was the Rijksmuseum. The building alone is a work of art, made entirely of brick and spanning a large area. The museum is dedicated to arts and history in Amsterdam, and houses a massive amount of art spanning all the way from Medieval times through the 20th Century. We spent 3 hours on one floor of the museum alone before hitting our art quota, and then we headed out to find some lunch.
We settled on a bargain eats restaurant called B & B Lunchroom, which served us up a couple of tasty sandwiches. After that we headed in the direction of the Amsterdam Pipe Museum, and stopped off for a beer next door. Their menu was impressive, so we refueled with a couple of brews before heading over to the Pipe Museum.
The Pipe Museum is housed above a small pipe shop, and the proprietor was a grumpy man who was not pleased about having to scan in our Museumkaarts. But once we were done dealing with him, we met our tour guide – a nice guy, probably in his early 30s who had an impressive knowledge of pipes. The pipes on display spanned hundreds of years of history, and boasted intricate carvings from diverse locales.
After our short tour, we headed toward one of the main squares and saw a sign that read “Frosty Pints” for 3 euro…of course we had to go in. After going in and ordering a couple of pints, we noticed a sign inside that read “4x Fireball” for 6. This seemed to good to be true if the “6” was the cost, so we asked the bartender. He confirmed that yes, the shots were 4 for 6 euro, and proudly proclaimed “Welcome to Hell!” as he poured them for us. We chatted him up for awhile, and when we were cashing out to leave he brought us each a shot of Jaeger on the house to welcome us to Amsterdam and to “keep us warm” 🙂
We wandered around the city for a few more hours, saw a few of the famed “coffeeshops” (aka weed store/smoking spots) and took in the sights of the canals, grabbed some cheap dinner at a noodle restaurant (Wok to Walk), and headed back to tuck in for the night.
We made an effort to wake up earlier so we could get some more sightseeing in, and then headed toward the Van Gogh Museum. The Van Gogh Museum was dedicated to all of Van Gogh’s art and personal history, as well as those other artists who he was influenced by or went on to influence. We saw a couple of famous paintings of his: Almond Blossom and one of his Sunflower series. Overall the museum was very cool and informative.
After the Van Gogh Museum, we decided to hit up the Stedelijk, which is Amsterdam’s modern art museum. We saw some pretty wacky stuff in this museum that kind of left us wondering if we had just seen art or trash…but I suppose that’s the way modern art rolls.
After we were done at the Stedelijk, we were both pretty beat so we headed back to our AirBnB to take a nap and regroup. Post nap, we rounded up some Tex-Mex from down the street and then called it an early night.
We woke up early to get packed up and squeeze in a little more sightseeing. Our host graciously offered to let us store our things past checkout time so that was really helpful. Once we’d gotten our things packed and moved out of our room, we headed back to the Rijsmuseum to fit in the remaining three floors before leaving town. This time, we went in armed with the Rijsmuseum app that contained guided audio tours for each respective floor, and they were super awesome. One of the highlights of the day was seeing the special collection on display which included large wooden ship models, old school guns and swords, jewelry, and musical instruments.
After we knocked out the rest of the floors at the Rijksmuseum, it was time to hit the road again. We returned to the house to grab our packs, and then set off to catch the train to The Hague, our next stop!