We took a train from Brussels to Amsterdam, fairly inexpensive if I remember right. The train companies/sites I use most are Rail Europe, Rome to Rio, and I just found a new one The Train Line- Europe which had much better rates. I almost booked a train through Rail Europe for 118 and checked The Train Line last minute, it was 58, so definitely worth it to spend time checking every option. Also, were considered youths until we are 26, so I always make sure to mark that as well, the youth tickets are much less expensive if available.
Arriving in Amsterdam the skies were blue, surprisingly, and I had no idea the central station was going to be so beautiful! Everywhere else we have been quickly trying to get out of the part of town where the airport or train station is because it is usually a more rundown part of the city. In other cities we have been to I’ve noticed there is one area where everyone goes, the places you see on pinterest, the center or the old town. I don’t want to make too many generalizations because I have only seen a handful of European cities, but my point it this was not the case with Amsterdam. In the first two days here Mikel and I walked around the entire city, north south, east, and west. Through parks, modern areas, historic areas, flower markets, food markets, over bridges, canals and through grocery stores (yes, my feet hurt). The recurring theme was that it was ALL beautiful, even by the airport wasn’t bad. The modern houses kept the classic designs of the older ones, the streets were being cleaned daily, 90% of people were riding their bike everywhere and looking genuinely happy to be in a freezing cold rainy city. I can’t even imagine how pretty it would be here when all the flowers bloom! (dreaming).
I thought Portland had a lot of bike riders. Amsterdam is Portland cycling on crack, it’s more common than driving by far. Oh and while I’m talking about crack, there are these huge digital signs all over town that say in bold letters: “WHITE HEROIN BEING SOLD AS COCAINE, IGNORE STREET DEALERS, 3 TOURISTS HAVE DIED.” Yeah, wow…heavy, such a nice “Welcome to Amsterdam” greeting. Despite that, this city feels very safe to me. Even wandering through the red light district at night, there are people out late and the streets are well-lit. Not saying I’d wander down an alley by myself, but there isn’t a city in which I would feel like doing that anyway.
We checked in Cocomama, “Amsterdams first boutique hostel.” A girl at the hostel in Barcelona told us it was the nicest one she had ever stayed at, so we gave it a try. It’s adorable, and most importantly the beds are extremely cozy and comfortable. Unique décor and themed rooms on the first 3 floors, the basement is a lounge area and kitchen…a very nice kitchen that I couldn’t wait to cook in. Seriously, I could live in this hostel for weeks. There is a hostel cat named Joop (pronounced yope) and for those that know my cat obsession this made me very happy.
One of the staff took a group of us to a pub at the bottom of the only windmill in the city. It was cute inside but crowded so we had to sit outside in the cold. I enjoyed getting to know some of the girls from Scotland. One of my favorite stops was the Cheese Museum. It’s basically a glorified dutch cheese shop with free samples and in the basement there is a small informational area where you can take your own picture and email it to yourself (ha! I did this of course…see photo above). We probably tried close to 25 different varieties and we were in cheese heaven. Everything from pesto cheese, truffle, wasabi, to traditional dutch.
The rest of the time we spent wandering the city and parks like Vondelpark and the Jordaan area which has more of the picturesque canals and boutiques. I later went shopping for a warmer sweater and jacket, knowing we would be in for some colder weather soon in the UK. Well, so I thought.
To come: “How NOT to get into the UK” followed by an unexpected “Amsterdam Part II.”