Although we were on the verge of exhaustion after spending the work week in London, we hopped in the car at 6am on Saturday morning for a four hour scenic drive to Amsterdam. We chuckled together, thinking about how many times we drove the parallel route from Cleveland to Oxford. Amsterdam is now our Oxford.
Amsterdam's walkable neighbourhood streets, consistently lined with buildings dating back to the 1600's, exude gritty, authentic coolness. Amsterdam is nautical. It's grungy and aloof. Upon first arriving, it feels like it will take a while for the city to warm up to you.
We began our short, one-night trip by walking in looping circles to gain our bearings and establish our orientation. We passed the Heineken Experience, Opera House, Cathedral and Anne Frank Museum. After walking for a couple of hours and admiring the architecture, we worked up a sufficient appetite for pancakes. The building that houses Pannenkoekenhuis was built in 1539. The restaurant only has three tables and is on the second floor, so to enter, you have to scale stairs so steep they are flirting with ladder status. The traditional Dutch Apple pancakes were totally worth the climb.
The canals in Amsterdam beg you to walk in slow-motion. There are so many exquisite details to soak in. Erin especially admired the buildings with leaning foundations where the windows were all at different angles and adjacent structures lean on each other like dominoes.
Although the tourist-centric area was crowded, it was easy to find cobblestone streets with absolutely no foot traffic and not a sound besides the seagulls. There are bicycles everywhere, and cyclists rule the streets. The city is so compact that you could walk or bike everywhere.
We made two visits to the Red Light District. Our pass through in the morning was partially traumatising. Rather than standing at attention in their curtained glass doorways, the workers were going about their morning routines, eating their oatmeal and preening in their scantily clad costumes. Later on at night, the RLD became a crowded scene. The alleyways were barely narrow enough for two people to walk down together. Lines formed. Johns entered publicly. Groups of college kids peer-pressured each other into participating. It was all very comical and fascinating to observe.
The next morning, Dave dropped in for a Muay Thai class at Mejiro Gym which is known as the birthplace of Dutch Kickboxing. The class was taught entirely in Dutch and the atmosphere was gravely serious.
Amsterdam has been floating on our to-do list for quite some time and we're happy to check it off. We will be back in the spring for tulip season. Next stop Venice!
Expat Adventure Blog