The third leg of our trip took us to the city of Amsterdam. And before I go into details I just want to say that I loved, loved, LOVED Amsterdam! It was by far my favorite city (other than London of course) for so many reasons.
We arrived in Amsterdam after our high speed train ride from Paris. Most of the train ride was spent napping because we had gotten in late the night before but I did wake up long enough to see a bit of Belgium. We travelled through a few cities in Belgium before we got to Amsterdam. I can't quite remember what time we got into the city, but I believe it was around 10:30am or so.
As soon as we arrived we knew this city was going to be completely different than Paris. And it was! First of all the smell in the train station was delightful, a mix of freshly baked bread and other foods. Whereas the train station in Paris smelled like urine and body oder. And the weather was AH-MAZING from the moment we stepped outside to the moment we got on the bus to head to Germany.
We immediately started our tour of the city after hopping onto our chartered bus. Our local tour guide met us at the train station and off we went. The countryside was gorgeous. Especially once we turned off the highway and started making our way to the city itself. Here was our first views:
We got a nice little surprise once we were on our way. Our tour director told us our first stop would be at an authentic cheese and clog making farm! It was SO neat! I highly recommend getting out of the city if you're ever in Amsterdam and checking out one of these farms.
We got a little tour of the farm. First we had a small cheese making demonstration and mini-tasting. Then we were taken into another room for a clog making demonstration. The cheese was DE-LICIOUS and the man who gave us the clog making demonstration was completely personable and so funny.
I ended up buying my parents some of the cheese and my best friend Monica's little girl Charley her very own pair of clogs. Monica's husband's family is from Holland and so I knew they would make the perfect gift for my first niece! :)
See for yourself how adorable this little farm is:
AH! So cute!
Our next stop was an active windmill for a quick photo op. Apparently you can buy one of these windmills for as low as 1 Euro, the catch is you have be willing to completely restore the windmill to its original state and be willing to get it running properly again. Which could take millions of Euros to do. She also said that family actually live inside the windmill.
We then had another guided bus tour of the rest of the city. I could not get over how clean and neat everything was inside the city. I also learned that the Netherlands (aka Holland) has a royal family! I had no clue this was the case. We passed by all of the major sites and were given a very nice little lesson on the history of the city itself, as well as the country.
After the tour ended we were dropped off at our hotel, which was in the Rembrandt Square area of the city. This turned out to be a perfect location because it was within walking distance of a ton of the places we wanted to visit and had plenty of places to eat and explore around it. And that is exactly what we set out to do once we were all settled into our hotel, the Eden Hotel Amsterdam, we set off to eat dinner first and then do a little exploring!
Heads up: This was NOT a "coffeeshop". If you want coffee in Amsterdam you go to a koffee shop, not a "coffeeshop". If you want a little canibus, weed, marijuana, or however you choose to call it, you go to a "coffeeshop." It can be very misleading until you're standing right outside and you breath in nice and deep. That's when you KNOW you will not be serve coffee if you go in there. And there were at least 2 or 3 on more major streets! So weird.
Alrighty so the next morning we got up bright and early and set off for our one and only completely free day on the tour. We did not have anything scheduled or planned with the group this day so we were free to explore the city at our leisure. And boy did we!!
The first thing we did was rent ourselves some bicycles for getting around the city. This made traveling around so much easier. TRAVEL TIP: Whenever it is you're in Amsterdam, do yourself a favor and rent yourself a bike! It will literally cut your travel time in half and give you so much more time to explore the city than walking would. There are a ton of bicycle renting places around (some will even give you a guided tour of the city, a few of the people in our group did this). And we were lucky enough to have a rental place right next door to our hotel.
We had to put down a 50 Euro deposit and then we ended up paying 13.50 Euro for the whole day. We has the bikes from about 9am until 5:45pm. Jenny led the way because her phone had the GPS and because she's the more experienced rider. It had literally been like 15 years since I had been on a bike. I had a few rough moments throughout the day but I'm pleased to report I did not fall once! :)
Our first stop of the day was going to be the Van Gogh Muesum and to get there we had to ride through the Rijksmuseum, and the I AMSTERDAM sign. So obviously we had to stop for a photo op. Since we were out there so early we didn't have as many people to deal with as we would have later in the day, which was nice.
TRAVEL TIP: Get up early and start exploring. Things are way less crowded and it's easier to get your bearings and the hang of things if there are less people to worry about.
When we got to the Van Gogh Museum we waited in line for about 15 minutes (the perk of getting there just after it opened) to buy our tickets. You can buy your tickets in advance if you want too but we did not on this one because we had already bought tickets to the Anne Frank Hues in advance. We wandered around the museum for about and hour and half and by the time we left the line was wrapped around another building. See another perk of getting there early.
Following that we rode back over toward our hotel to explore the flower market. It was probably one of my favorite things in the city and that is why I am dedicating a whole post to it. I got some amazing picture of the flowers and they deserve their own post! :) I did give you a little taste below though.
We then made our way to the other side of the city to the Anne Frank House. On the way we stopped by the Royal Palace, where I took another jumping picture with this guy.
We had about an hour or so before our "fast pass" time to the Anne Frank house so we just wandered the area and took in all the gorgeous sights the city had to offer. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.
Our "fast pass" time was for 4:00pm at the Anne Frank Huis. And I am so glad I thought to get tickets in advance because the line was at least 5 hours long by the time we were heading over there. Some others in our groups waited for about 4 hours. So if the Anne Frank Huis is on your to-see list in Amsterdam (which is should be) buy your tickets in advance.
We literally walked right into the house and started touring. The tour itself is completely self given and self paced. But they provide a moving and very beautiful exhibit that makes needing an actual guide completely unnecessary.
This was by far one of my favorite museums EVER. It was a little surreal being a space where actual people had to hide from the Nazi's persecution during WWII. There were several times as we were moving throughout the attic that I got chills reading through the placards and listening to the voice overs they provide. They museum has done a phenomenal job with the tribute to the Frank family and I am so glad to have been given the opportunity to see it first hand.
Sadly this is where my pictures stop. After the Anne Frank Huis we took the bikes back to the shop, grabbed ourselves some french fries and mayo, explored Rembrandt Square and then headed our for a guided walking tour of the Red Light District!
I decided not to bring my Canon while in the district. Which was quite the experience. I have never seen so much flesh out in the open in my life (except for maybe during Halloween in college) nor heard so many crazy stories as I did from our tour guide. We got to see a tad bit of action while strolling through the alleyways of the Red Light District. Be warned you are NOT allowed to take photos of the prostitutes or they WILL get very angry and violent with you. Also, did you know they have to pay taxes? Cuz they do. OH and there are live sex shows in theaters that can be found along the main street too. Weird and gross. The best moment was when this old man on a bicycle comes riding through our group and yells, "THIS IS FUCKING AMSTERDAM! AND I'M BRITISH! OH AND SORRY FOR THE FRENCH." It.was.hilarious. And the perfect ending to our day and a half in one of my new favorite cities.
I cannot wait to go back to this amazing city one day. And I will be back. I want to see it during the spring time when all the tulips are in bloom, I want to see more of the countryside and finally I want to explore more of the city itself. I feel like we got a pretty good appetizer of Amsterdam but I want the main course AND dessert! :)
Come back next Tuesday, when I'll be sharing our time in Germany!
Linking up for: