Bikes, boats, and beer, oh my! (Or: Amsterdam)

As if speaking French weren’t hard enough, last week Colin and I decided to try our hand at Dutch and hopped a train north to Amsterdam. Our friend Ben, who is a professional singer currently living in London, had let us know that he would be performing there, and it took us only half a second to say “Ja, ja, we’ll go!”

Amsterdam immediately won us over. One of the most interesting aspects of travel is realizing that no matter where you are in the world, cities feel remarkably similar: they have the same skyscrapers, the same traffic congestion, the same hustle and bustle. There are very few exceptions to this rule, but Amsterdam is definitely one. (Paris is another.) Amsterdam’s bikes, canals, and old architecture charmed us from Day One.

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We stayed for five days and packed in a ton. The first thing we always do in a new place is go on a long walk, which in Amsterdam took us through the large Vondelpark and several outdoor markets, past the zoo, to the top of the public library for views of the skyline, across more canals than I can count, accidentally through the middle of the red light district, and to a bustling food court that would quickly become our favorite lunch spot (the Foodhallen—I can’t recommend it highly enough!). I should warn you, though: a walk in Amsterdam is not for the faint-hearted. Bikes fly by at warp speed, and there are separate crosswalks for crossing bike lanes. You gotta watch your toes!

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Later in the week, we went to the Van Gogh museum, which was one of the best-curated art museums I’ve seen, and to the Anne Frank House, which was extraordinarily powerful. On our last day, we took the bus to the Amsterdam Bos, a large forest just south of the city. ‘Tis the season for stunning foliage, and the forest did not disappoint.

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Also not disappointing: our ability to entertain the Dutch by trying to speak Dutch. I’m pretty sure I can still hear that one waitress giggling over my pronunciation of Brouwerij ‘t IJ Natte. I just wanted a local beer that wasn’t Heineken! Good thing the Dutch have a sense of humor about their language.

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