Amsterdam was the eighth city on our Eurotour last year. (I know, we have a lot of catching up to do, and yes, we’re sharing out of order!) We arrived in the afternoon via train from Berlin, and as soon as we exited Centraal Station, we were in the heart of the city. Just a short walk and we were at the hip INK Hotel to drop our bags and refresh. This was one of the spots on our trip where we splurged a little on our hotel stay and it was worth it. (The building was the former home of the newspaper, De Tijd (‘The Times’), and was renovated by concrete, an architecture firm out of the Netherlands that happens to have a great project going up in Jersey City right now.) That first afternoon, there was just enough time left in the day to make it to one of the top spots in Amsterdam—the Anne Frank House. We arrived an hour before closing to a pretty short line. But the experience was worth every moment of the short wait, and worth every ounce of touristy love.
It was so easy to assimilate into Amsterdam’s culture. We felt so at home that when we stumbled across a Mexican restaurant that first night, we couldn’t resist. It was like we were at home and it was a normal Sunday night in our routine. Once Los Pilones’ margs and tacos filled our bellies, we were off to check out De Wallen, the red light district, while the warm glow of the evening was still hanging in the summer air. We strolled the district—looked, blinked, giggled, and gasped at the canal-side urinals more than anything—and turned in for the night, chattering about how incredibly tolerant this city truly is.
The next few days were the perfect blend of must-see and choose-your-own adventures. The Van Gogh Museum early one morning; the next, we beat the commuting cyclists out into the early light for Dutch pancakes at the Happy Pig. The Heineken Experience led to mouthwatering burgers at Lombardo’s to soak up the beer. (Go to Lombardo’s and get the Pork-a-licious. You won’t regret it.) Afternoon naps at the hotel, after examining every inch of the hand-drawn wallpaper in the room, pulled straight from Jan Rothuizen’s The Soft Atlas of Amsterdam. A mellow evening at the Abraxas Coffeeshop, and then pizza in a tiny alley around the corner.
Our last morning we had just a bit of time to kill before our mid-day train departure. We made a final stop at the Rijksmuseum, the Dutch national museum. We toured through rather quickly, having to prioritize certain exhibits; the Rembrandt’s were a must, the modern furniture and architecture of Gerrit Rietveld were an extra treat. When we were done, we sat outside in the gardens, and watched children and adults play Russian roulette with a surface fountain, timed to allow passersby every so often, while we enjoyed what was probably our hundredth cappuccino of the trip.
When I look back at the photos, I have hazy memories of these moments, and not for the reasons you might imagine; mostly because they just feel ethereal, at the risk of sounding cliché. Amsterdam welcomed us to experience it’s unprecedented culture, and offered us great light for capturing the experience—two things we’re pretty big fans of. We did all the things you’re supposed to do in this city, but when we go back, it will be just to “leef en laat liven”—live and let live.