Continuing my European tour, I arrived in Amsterdam yesterday after a delightfully-easy, less-than-two-hours train trip from Brussels, wherein I savoured a takeaway breakfast waffle, and watched the scenery turn from breweries to windmills.
(...ok, that's a lie. I didn't see a single windmill. I looked. I looked. Not a one. The stereotypes proved false!)
Anyway, unlike Brussels, I have been to Amsterdam before, though the last time was over four years ago. But still, having done all the "normal" touristy stuff before (Rijksmuseum, Anne Frank House, Van Gogh Museum, canal boat tour....), I did what any self-respecting repeat visitor would do:
I made a beeline for the red light district.
It's not what you think. While I passed my fair share of ladies of the night, sex shops, and cannabis-infused miscellany (take your pick: lollipops, ice cream, girl scout cookies, etc.), I was actually heading for CHURCH. Yes, church - right in the heart of this neighbourhood of vice, scandal, and sin!
Specifically, I headed for the ancient church of Oude Kerk, Amsterdam's oldest building, because - as far as I remembered - it had been closed during my last trip to the 'Dam, and therefore the only attraction I'd meant to visit and couldn't. I definitely haven't been before, I thought to myself confidently as I strode to the tourist entrance, paid my 10 euro entry fee, and entered. Precisely two seconds later - and with 10 euros I'd never see again - I realized that I had, in fact, been here before. Whoops.
So I decided to visit the crap out of that church, such that there would never be any reason WHATSOEVER for me to visit it a third time. I walked every inch of the place, from the graves underfoot to the winding staircase to the weirdo modern art exhibit of spray-painted silver shoes (...I didn't get it.)
Leaving the church, I visited one cheese shop after another (scoring some truffle Gouda along the way), explored the flower market, and finally ended up at one of the best sushi restaurants I've ever been to, Takara, where I had a wonderful and inspiring catch-up session with my old friend Gabby. One of the benefits about going to an international school like INSEAD is that I've got friends all over the world - and this made for terrific conversation and brainstorming.
I loved the place I stayed in Amsterdam: Ecomama. There being some conference or another in town, hotels in Amsterdam were insanely expensive, beyond what my company allows for. After begrudgingly contemplating an out-of-the-way airport hotel, I was so happy to instead stumble onto the option of a private room with ensuite bathroom at Ecomama, Europe's first eco-friendly boutique hostel. And who ever said hostels can't be comfortable? I had a canal view, a lovely and clean room and bathroom, and the lobby had SWINGS in it! How long has it been since you were on a swing? For me, the answer turned out to be: way too long.
As with Brussels, it was a quick trip to Amsterdam. A big meeting this morning, one more cheese shop visit, and I'm already on my way out. Another quick surface-scratcher, and with bad weather to boot.
But I do so love travel. Time for a little more.