Saturday, 28 March 2015

Finding (the) Netherland(s)

My three week Easter break has officially begun, and a break was certainly needed. I packed my bag, jumped on the bus (YEP! I did it - I took a freakin' bus!) and made my way to the airport on an early Sunday morning. I was about to embark on my very first bus tour. This trip would take me from Amsterdam to Paris, with a stay in Bruges and a quick peek of Brussels. I was pretty excited to get away!

When I arrived at the Amsterdam airport, it brought back some wonderful memories of my voyage to and from Ghana last year. I remembered how hot the water felt after not having had access to warm water for several months, and how bright it was. Thankfully this time around, this wasn't an issue for me. Instead I boarded the public bus and made my way towards the Museum District of the city, where my hotel was located.

I got slightly lost on my walk to the hotel, but I enjoyed taking in the sights - the beautiful buildings, the presence of tress, the people wandering and, of course, the bikes. Getting lost is really the best way to explore a place, as you usually end up in areas you wouldn't ordinarily find yourself. However in this case, it directed me to the exact place I was wanting to go!

I didn't stay long once I checked in. I grabbed my camera and made my way throughout Amsterdam, zig-zagging up and down the streets and along the canals. It was so beautiful. I instantly felt this wonderful vibe. Mind you, that could have just been the result of a certain scent found all over this city. Interestingly, I felt pretty relaxed around that same time...

The first picture of the trip...not to shabby!
I had initially intended to pay a visit to the Anne Frank House after much debate between spending my first afternoon in Amsterdam there or jumping on a train for The Hague to visit Madurodam. But, when I arrived, the line-up was massive and wasn't moving anytime soon, so I passed and decided to just get lost again, instead. Sorry, no pictures here folks - it just didn't seem right.

Getting lost was the right decision. I really enjoyed walking along the canals. I found it amazing how many incredible churches were to be found tucked away almost out of sight. For the most part, I felt like I was back in Venice, but with vehicles and intense cyclists, and less the ever-present fear of being wiped out by sea-level rise*.


On my way back, I took a nice, long stroll in Vondelpark. It was a Sunday afternoon, and unlike many of the parks back home, it was filled (FILLED!) with people of all ages, shapes and sizes. Families were playing and picnicking with their small children, elderly couples were walking hand-in-hand, several groups were playing soccer and catch, many were doing just as I was - walking around, enjoying the outdoors - and everyone else was biking.

This is how I selfie.
That evening, the group I would be spending the next several days with met for drinks and dinner. I quickly learned that of the 23 of us, I was the only Canadian. BUT, I was not the youngest, and I wasn't the oldest. From first impressions, it looked like we had a good mix of people, and my apprehension of partaking in a bus tour soon faded away.

View from my room
The next morning, we all boarded the bus, and began a 'Coles Notes' tour of Amsterdam. I recognized many of the places I had walked past the day before. Then we jumped on a boat and spent the next hour on the canals.

I found Nemo! that one's been done a few times too many!
Actually, this is the city's Science Centre. 

If there's one thing Amsterdam needs, it's gotta be bicycles.
As you can see in this photograph, they're running short.
Central Station
Next we jumped back on the bus, where we made our way to a nearby town called, Volendam. On route, we made a pitstop at a cheese farm and clog making shop. And really, if ever there is a "best kind of farm" a cheese one must certainly be up there!

Clog makin'
A windmill just outside of Volendam. 

The rest of the afternoon was free time. I went in a different direction from the previous day, with a few spots in mind, but ultimately put away my map and wandered. I did eventually find the flower market, which was mostly bulbs, but it was pretty neat to see nonetheless. I also returned to Dam Square.

The Rijksmuseum, or the National Museum 

One of many amazing and well-hidden churches I stumbled across

The flower market
Dam Square

In the evening some of us did an optional tour which consisted of one of the best and ginormous meals of my life (at which I learned Canadian hodgepodge is nowhere near the Dutch version, but equally delicious!). Then we walked throughout the Red Light District, which was...interesting. It was really quite amazing how low-key it all seemed. I don't really know what I was expecting, but anyway.

Oh yeah, remember how I was going to go back to eating my allergy-friendly diet? Yeah, that went out the window almost immediately after landing. Coffee didn't take long to filter back in either (see what I did there...filter...because it's coffee?!?)...

-the Orange Canadian

*Degree to which the impending doom felt may be a slight exaggeration. 

No comments:

Post a Comment