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Spring Break Part III: Amsterdam

Amsterdam is one of those places that I’ve wanted to visit for years. All three of us (us being Morgan, Karen, and myself) went into this part of our trip with a pretty good idea of what we wanted to do and see. We landed in the afternoon, and after buying an overpriced bus ticket, we got to the Van Gogh Hostel, a hostel/hotel near Museumplein, which, you guessed it, is where the major museums in Amsterdam are located. As always, the first order of business was getting oriented and then hunting down food of some kind. We took the map the receptionist had given us and headed out with no real plans, ending up at a pizza place near Leidseplein. The rest of the evening was spent simply wandering and taking in the city. Amsterdam was kind of exactly how I pictured it with its breathtaking canals and cobblestone streets. However there were way more bikes than I could’ve imagined. Like there was an overwhelming number of them. I knew it was a biking city but there were significantly more bikes than any other kind of transportation. We then had another early night, going back to the hostel to get some rest before an early start the next day.

Since we had opted out of the hostel breakfast, we started the day by going to the grocery store to get OJ and croissants and had a quick breakfast on a bench in Museumplein. Then we got in line for the Van Gogh Museum, which was a long and confusing process, but we did eventually make it into the gallery. We had each invested in the iAmsterdam card, which gave us free access to most museums (including the Van Gogh Museum), free public transportation, a free canal tour, and various discounts. Van Gogh is one of my favorite artists, so it was such a cool experience to go through the museum, seeing the paintings in person and watching how his art progressed throughout his tragically short life. Then we went back to the grocery store (it was probably our most frequented place in Amsterdam) to get supplies for a picnic in Vondelpark. We sat on the grass near a pond in the park and shared bread, cheese, hummus, fruit, and green tea. I love Edinburgh, but the weather sometimes leaves something to be desired, so it was lovely to just sit in a park and take in the sun. Eventually we made our way back towards the canal to make use of our free canal tour. The tour was completely worth it – the three of us sat in the very back of the boat in the sun and were able to see Amsterdam from another perspective. And I know I’ve said this about pretty much every aspect of this trip, but it was so beautiful. After the canal tour we went to Foodhallen, an overwhelmingly large indoor food market, for dinner before walking back towards the hostel.

The next day we decided to take advantage of the fact that the iAmsterdam card also gave us free entrance to the zoo. It was one of those attractions I probably wouldn’t have thought to visit on my own, but it ended up being so much fun. And as someone who loves animals, it was kind of impossible to go wrong, especially since the zoo was so nice and took great care of its inhabitants. We saw everything elephants, giraffes, lions, gorillas, various monkeys, and dozens of other flora and fauna. After several hours, it was back into the city for lunch at Singel 404, a cafe with the most amazing sandwiches and lemonade. We were able to eat outside along the canal, which only enhanced an already great experience. The rest of our afternoon was spent in the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam’s modern art museum, where we saw a lot of Matisse and a lot of performance art. We then went towards the Red Light District (which honestly isn’t as sketchy as people tend to say) for dinner at Getto, a gay bar with a drag queen show and burgers named after the stars. For some reason we hadn’t realized that it’s primarily a bar and thus was pretty empty on a Thursday night at like 6PM. However, the food was delicious, the host was really nice, and there was a cat roaming around so it was pretty much an entirely positive experience. The night ended with a walk around the canals and dessert at a small cafe.

Our last day in Amsterdam got off to an early start as we went to wait in line at the Anne Frank House. All in all, we probably spent about two hours in line, but it was entirely worth it. The museum is really well done and it was kind of surreal to be in a place that I’ve read about and studied so many times and that’s imbued with such heartbreaking history. After the Anne Frank House, we went to have Dutch pancakes for a late breakfast. Our flight wasn’t until around 7PM, so we killed the next few hours by going to various markets – particularly the Albert Cuyp Market (which reminded me of Camden Market in London) and the flower market) and wandering the city for one last time. Traveling with Morgan and Karen was probably the best trip I’ve ever taken, and at the very least, the best Spring Break I’ve ever experienced. It’s nice traveling with people who have very similar ideas about what they want to do, and I really liked the fact that we chose to spend more time in two cities rather than try to squeeze in as many cities as possible without really getting to know any of them. I fell in love with every city we visited (though Edinburgh is forever my favorite place in the world) and only wish I had more time to see more places. Honestly, my only regret from studying abroad is that I chose to only spend one semester here – this has, without a doubt, been the best experience of my life and I’m so grateful that I’ve had this opportunity.

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