Travel Diaries – Amsterdam

Gap Year Days 14 – 16

We arrived in Amsterdam mid afternoon and endured the usual battle to orientate ourselves. It’s always challenging to get off an international flight, make our way through the airport, get our bags and find our way to the local transport. We need to buy a ticket and find the right train, all while loaded up with our packs. In Amsterdam, as with many other places, the train only got us so far. We then had to start the process over again to transfer to a tram to our hotel. We are always relieved to get where we are staying.

On this day we had barely eaten and unfortunately right near our hotel was a McDonalds sign. Bailey had been craving chips (fries) for days, so we gave in to her. Little did we know the McDonalds was 2 km away. It was a nice walk though, and it helped get our head around some unique Dutch things, such as bike lanes. Not only are they for bikes, but scooters and motorbikes, and also tiny little two seater cars. Our first impression was that Amsterdam was so green!

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Amsterdam
Amsterdam is so green. We were standing on a bridge on a main road when I took this photo

After a good sleep Kings Day awaited. I discovered well after I had planned our itinerary that we would be in The Netherlands on the King’s birthday. This is a day of celebration and partying. Everyone dresses in orange and they are all out on the streets. This is the one day of the year the locals can set a stall up in front of their house and sell their brick-a-brack. Many are more enterprising and sell food, drinks or even the use of their bathroom, to take advantage of the huge crowds milling around.

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Kings Day crowds
Amsterdam
The crowded canals on Kings Day
Kings Day
Selling on the streets.

Most areas have music playing and it is rare to find yourself out of earshot of something. Party boats cruise up and down the canals, with more music and revelry. I would love to know how many people end up in the canals. Even at lunchtime the drinking was in full swing. Alcohol was plentiful on the streets, with beer as low as €1.25 per can, and wine €1 per small plastic glass.

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Dancing in the streets
Amsterdam
The sign might say no music, but I don’t think that applies on Kings Day
Canals
This was a recipe for disaster! A boatload of revellers unloaded then reloaded at this unlikely location. How long before one of them would end up in the canal?

Bailey was again able to indulge in some chips by trying the frites sold by the locals drowned in mayonnaise. Yum.

Amsterdam
Frites!

The day after King’s Day we chose to go to the Rijksmuseum. There were many other museums in the area so we figured we could go to others afterwards if we chose.

Out the front of the Rijksmuseum is the well known IAMSTERDAM sign. We stopped to get the obligatory photo with it – and fifty of our closest friends! It is so popular now that it’s impossible to get a good photo.

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IAmsterdam with the crowds.

On the way to the front door of the museum we wandered through the gardens to discover a water feature. We stood watching for a few minutes as the jets rose and fell. People took their chances when the jets went down and ran into the middle. They would take some selfies and wait there until the jets went back down to jump out again.

There were a couple of people that weren’t very smart though. There were two patterns of jets, one a circle, the other a square. They randomly changed from one to the other.  We saw disaster approaching as one girl stood over the square jets taking selfies while the round ones (like below) were spouting water. Sure enough, the pattern changed, and she was quickly soaked – and wondering why! It was really cold too, so she would have been freezing!

Rijksmuseum
Water feature in the gardens of the Rijksmuseum

The Rijksmuseum is very impressive. Not only does it contain famous artworks such as Van Gogh’s self portrait and many Rembrandt paintings, the building is a work of art in itself. Now I have to admit, I am not at all knowledgeable about art. I was therefore a little bit naughty while we were here. After looking at some of the art, I started to play with my Facebook filters, and had a great time putting dog faces on what were apparently very famous artworks. I was thoroughly told off by Bailey (who does know about art) for “defacing” Van Gogh’s self-portrait. Anyway, it was my way to enjoy something I would otherwise have lost interest in more quickly!

Rijksmuseum
The Rijksmuseum building itself is really impressive.
Rijksmuseum
The Rembrandt room was crowded. “Night Watch” was the most popular.

For lunch we hunted down the Amsterdam Avocado Restaurant. We had read about this on line, and just had to check it out. We did, and saw the line out the door and down the street, and decided we were too hungry to wait! No avocado for lunch for us.

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The streets of Amsterdam

We were feeling all museumed out, so after lunch decided to just go for a walk through Vondelpark. It was a fantastic escape from the city around us. It was refreshing to see so many people using the park, even when it was only about 6 degrees Celsius and threatening to rain.

Vondelpark
The fancy gates of VondelPark
Vondelpark
The rotunda in Vondelpark
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Vondelpark is a lovely escape from the city

We visited a supermarket on the way back to our hotel to stock up on some dutch essentials. Cheese of course, with some bikkies made up dinner for me, with stroopwaffles for dessert! Maybe not the healthiest I have ever eaten, but it was good!

Our flight to Paris was early the next morning, so after a lot of walking, an early night saw the end of our whirlwind Amsterdam visit.

Tulip
I couldn’t do a post about Amsterdam without any tulips!

The Verdict?

I almost feel like we were not in Amsterdam long enough to make a real judgement. There are just so many things we didn’t get to, from Anne Frank’s House, the red light district, or even a look at one of those special coffee shops! We didn’t get to go to the tulip fields even though we were there during tulip season. I definitely liked the vibe of Kings Day, and the whole city feels relaxed.

Public transport was easy to work out and ran frequently. We were a little confused as to why there were trains, then a metro, then trams, some of which ran on the same lines, but hey, the more the better for the user! We bought a two day pass for the transport, so that covered us for as many trips as we liked in that time.

Free wifi was plentiful. It was available at the big train stations, airport, museums and restaurants. Getting around only speaking English was easy. Everyone we had to deal with knew enough to help us. People were friendly and helpful in general – so long as you didn’t walk on the bike paths when they were trying to ride!

Accommodation

Ibis Budget Amsterdam City South
Address:  Prof J H Bavincklaan 1, 1183 AT Amstelveen, Netherlands
€149/night for Quadruple room
Full Review

See where we went next here

Follow along with our gap year. For this leg we are in Amsterdam for King's Day. We also visit the Rijksmuseum and Vondelpark.
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4 thoughts on “Travel Diaries – Amsterdam”

  1. Pity you were too rushed to see the tulips. And great to know that Bailey pulled into line in the Museum Art Gallery 🙂

    • Yes, I would have liked to see the tulips. I am back in Europe next April, maybe I will get to it then.

  2. Wow! Talk about your blink and miss it visit!

    Amsterdam is fantastic. I went for the BookCrossing.com convention a few years back, and returned with my son on our Europe driving tour.

    Public transport is excellent, but watch out – there’s bikes *everywhere*! Loved the paper cones full of chips. and the beer. And, well, everything.

    Gotta have a feed of stroopwaffel. And cheese. And whatever that dairy drink is.

    Museums are fantastic. Loved the Rijksmuseum. So many amazing paintings and displays.

    Make some time for a return visit to see more stuff. Thoroughly worthwhile city.

    Thanks for the pix and the memories.

    • Thanks Pete. Yes, bit of a rookie mistake with the amount of time in Amsterdam. Three nights lulled me into thinking three days! Then I found out it was Kings Day, and lost another day of “proper sightseeing” then too. Will definitely get back there some day.

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