The train ride in had been a bit stressful, but Amsterdam quickly helped us put that in the back of our heads. When we got off the train, it was a nice day out; the sun was shining, there was only a gentle breeze and the temperature was just right. Looking around, we saw mostly people our age. Even better: there wasn’t a toddler or little kid in sight. Catching a more mindful breath of air, we remembered why.
We stayed at the Eden Hotel, which was pretty fantastic as a centric starting point to go around Amsterdam. Everything was close, and the glorious buffet breakfast gave us plenty of energy to walk to all sorts of places. There was one minor annoyance, that affected Kelly much more than me; our room was the first room on the very first floor, so we were close to the elevator and its engine room. A high-pitched screeching noise seeped the walls and into our room non-stop. However, the noise didn’t vary on volume or tone. That might make you wonder why I’m sharing this strange detail, but we spent many hours talking about how to fade a sound into the background of the curtain of noises that feed into our ears. While on the subject, we somehow deviated into spiritual chat about bodies being vessels of our true selves, and all sorts of really deep stuff that there’s no way I’m blogging about them. What’s important is that some of my favorite moments of our entire trip took place in our hotel room in Amsterdam; reinforcing my beliefs that it’s not where or why that matters most, but who.
On the note of being shmoopy and romantic, I must say that I found Amsterdam much more romantic than Paris -the City of Love. You know, having been to both those places now, I don’t feel entitled to saying snobby things like this, but I think it’s worth explaining. In Paris, the fear of a gypsy stealing your soul, the masses of people everywhere, the shitty traffic and the sheer smell of piss everywhere, make it a bit difficult to feel all the love. We certainly tried, having candle-light dinners and
making out smooching at the Eiffel Tower for hours.
Amsterdam’s vibe of “be and let be” was much more conducive to romance for us. Walking everywhere hand in hand or hugged together wasnot a problem; there weren’t dozens of people trying to rush past you. We felt like sitting by a canal and let our feet dangle together; no one gave us a dirty look, tried to sell us a souvenir or came to sit right next to along with fifty other people crammed in a river bank. Not even! It was easy to feel like it was just the two of us.
We rode bikes and it was great. Although it was with a tour company, it was probably for the best. There are so many bike paths that you could get lost without a guide! Mike’s countryside bike tour was a ton of fun. We went from being downtown and an actual part of bike traffic (they really are everywhere!) to the countryside in less than 20 minutes. Suddenly, farms, lakes and windmills are all you can see. The tour took 4 hours, and it taught us a bit about Amsterdam, Holland and The Netherlands (not the same thing!), cheese (a cheese farm was the lunch stop of the tour) and those crazy and fun-loving dutch people.
We did go by the red light district. A quick walk-by of De Wallen gave us enough to talk about back home: the professionals are definitely better looking than any we’d ever seen before in real life and we saw a satisfied customer paying and saying goodbye.
Out of all cities, Amsterdam was my favorite. It felt like a little big city, with tons of things to see and do. There is a lot of interesting and entertaining history to it. There are weirdos around, lots of them. It’s easy to get around, but big enough that you need a map to know how to get somewhere. We liked that talking to the locals was super easy, because everyone spoke perfect English. But what I liked the most had to do with the same topic as our hotel room chats: noise. Or rather, the lack of it. Partly because most people are on super comfortable and silent bicycles, and because the few cars that there are, are not ridiculous SUVs, being in the middle of the city felt nothing like it to our ears. Such a nice feeling, being able to talk to the person next to you without having to yell or get a mouthful of smog.
To summarize: I’d go back to Amsterdam. One thing’s for sure: don’t take your kids there, I wouldn’t!
All our pictures are here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nicoyogui/sets/72157627398685778