Hello and welcome back after an exciting National Park Week! Hopefully you all enjoyed your outdoor public lands, wherever you may be, and found a new park along the way!
Last week’s posts focused on the various parks Clinton and I visited during our European travels, but I am now going to back up and start from the beginning of our trip – landing in Amsterdam at 9 a.m. after an overnight 7 hour flight (with a connection that started at 5 p.m.) the night before. Whew! We slept a little on the plane, but honestly we were so excited that we strapped on our backpacks and started walking around the town! No exhaustion here! Our first stop was a really small coffee shop to get a little breakfast and coffee. The place was right in the thick of the tourist area (basically where you get off the train, which we took from the airport) and is called Naked Espresso. After stretching out on their benches and relaxing for a little bit, we decided that our plan was to drop off our bags and then head back into the city. Our Airbnb hosts were very gracious to let us access the place early, and we were very happy to have our bags off our back. (Note: we each brought ONE backpack, and that was it. So when I mention our backpacks, I’m talking about all our clothes, toiletries, and anything else we may have brought or bought throughout our trip!) Our Airbnb was a little bit outside the city, about an hour walk or a quick train ride in. We walked mostly everywhere- I’m in a 100 mile fitness contest for the Spring season! The apartment was near two wonderful parks – Rembrandt Park and Vondel Park. I highly recommend you do Airbnb wherever you feel comfortable – it’s the best way to see a city outside of the tourist part. Plus, it’s usually less expensive.
We planned to be in Amsterdam for 3 nights and 4 days to really get a good feel of the entire city. We planned our days based on the area of the city we wanted to focus on. After we dropped off our bags, we headed back into the city just to walk around and get that “tourist” feel. We came back to the apartment and close by was a cafe called Frits. Really great food and drinks! We were happy to have a low key night in such a great town.
Amsterdam is known for many things, but one of the best things I love about the city is the beautiful architecture and the amazing history. Our second day was spent walking around the main city center to take in the architecture and history. The Netherlands, like most of Europe, was conquered early on by the Romans. The major difference is that the Romans didn’t build or really influence the city of Amsterdam much. This allowed the people of the city to build a city-state that focused more on their own necessities – mainly, manipulation of the seas! The Dutch are well known for their triumphant nautical history, and this does not disappoint in Amsterdam. With major powers leaving them “alone” for the most part, and no Church-sanctioned feudal relationships or distinction between upper or lower class, Amsterdam was able to thrive as a society on individualism and a free, open, progressive attitude. By 1600 the Dutch controlled the sea trade between England, France, Spain, and the Baltic. This was the height of Dutch control and influence and gave rise to the Dutch East India Company. Half of the sailing between Europe and Asia was managed by the Dutch, and Amsterdam’s residence enjoyed many of the exotic products that were imported. The Dutch, and subsequently Amsterdam’s, power would fall when the British began to increase their maritime capacity, but the great history and beautiful architectural buildings are still around the city to remind us of their powerful past. Fun fact – the 17th century canal ring in Amsterdam is part of the UNESCO World Heritage List!
Amsterdam has a thriving “museum district” that we visited for a day. Taking the non-traditional route of visiting the House of Bols was an exciting twist to our usual museum/archive route. The House of Bols is a family named liqueur company that specialized in the production of Jenever, or “Dutch gin” for lack of a better word (please note it is not actually “gin”). This predecessor to the gin we know today, which is usually from England, is (in my opinion) MUCH better! Lucas Bols, the grandson of the founder, was a major shareholder with the Dutch East Indian Company, and therefore had exclusive access to many of the exotic herbs and spices that were imported from around the world. This allowed him, and his product, to flourish. Today, there are over 300 liqueur and spirit recipes through the House of Bols, and we were able to try some of them! It is really important to note that there is a special way to drink Jenever from the tulip glasses with which they are served. The shape of the glass prevents you from grabbing it to take the shot – you need to sip the top part off first! It was a lot of fun learning about the history of this alcoholic beverage and to try it for ourselves!
One of my main goals when visiting Amsterdam (and subsequently, throughout the entirety of our trip) was to get out on the water as much as possible. When we visited Amsterdam eight years ago we were unable (based on the vastness of our trip and the amount of time we actually spent in one city) to get into the canals. I was determined to remedy this during our trip! Amsterdam has a diverse fleet of about 200 or more tour boats throughout the year. While the first canals were logically dug for water management and defense, today you can enjoy a pleasure tour throughout the year! I highly recommend you take time and go on a boat trip. Through the House of Bols we were able to add on an hour canal tour, and I know you can do the same with various other museums throughout the city. Learn some history, take in the sights, and travel on the canals!
Amsterdam was a very exciting city that we were happy to visit again after so many years. Below you can view the many other photos we took during our trip. Next blog post will be about our visit with our friends around Utrecht! Until next time!