We’ve been home for over month and we can’t believe we’re only getting around to publishing our final post now! We came home in a bit of a whirlwind; announcing our engagement, moving back into our place, and seeing friends and family. It feels bittersweet. But before we talk about THAT, we have one more city to tell you about: Amsterdam.
Our original plan had been to fly out of Dublin, Ireland. But as you know, we rarely follow a plan. When we found a cheap flight from Gatwick, London to Winnipeg, Manitoba, we jumped on it.
We arrived in Amsterdam on a train from Hamburg, Germany. We settled into the Eco Mama Hostel for $130/night. Amsterdam is an incredibly wonderful and livable city, but it is not cheap. It is one of the most expensive cities we visited, but it was worth it! Keep in mind, although we would consider ourselves budget travelers, we are not willing to sacrifice an experience for a couple bucks. We were also pretty over dealing with our budget at this point, so we just went for it.
The first thing you will notice in Amsterdam is the amount of cyclists. There are bikes everywhere! Locked up to every imaginable bench, bridge, or bike rack. The second thing you will notice is that all of the bikes are super old and pretty crappy. Apparently, having your bike stolen or “traded” happens all the time. There’s even these large claw-like magnets on a boat that rake through the canals picking up bikes that have been thrown in the water. Keep your eyes open for cyclists because they rule the road here..
Our first morning, we joined The Freedam Walking Tour. We may have become walking tour snobs, but this wasn’t one of the best tours we’ve done. It could also be that some cities have a more “exciting” (or cruel?) history, which definitely makes for more interesting subject matter. Either way, this one did help get you oriented and provided some great information on Amsterdam culture. For example, they discussed the Red Light District or as the locals call it De Wallen, whether marijuana is actually legal (it kinda is, but also kinda isn’t), and how history shaped this progressive, bike-centric city. They did point out the Prostitution Information Centre, which we really wish we’d had enough time to visit because the Red Light District was really confusing for us. Amsterdam is such an interesting place because it is very much focused on personal freedom. If you want to sell sex, then you should be at liberty to do so as long as nobody is forced to suffer. But there’s just something disconcerting about seeing women (we didn’t see any men, but that’s not to say there aren’t any) in being showcased in the red-light rimmed windows. It felt weird. Side Note – Did you know they use a red light to enhance appearances? Just can’t help but think of the Seinfeld episode below.
Also, marijuana access isn’t as open as you think. Only shops with a small green sticker actually sell pot, and it’s a weird ‘don’t ask questions’ kind of law about how the product is actually brought into the country. Pro Tip: In addition, a coffee shop is for coffee, and a coffeeshop is for pot! Notice the difference?
After the walking tour, we made our way towards the Van Gogh museum and the Heineken brewery ($27 CAD/person). We stared at the doors to the Van Gogh museum and had full intentions of going in. Only then we saw the massive line-up and decided that the brewery sounded like a better way to spend the afternoon, even though Clair doesn’t drink beer and Kik hates Heineken. Even if you feel this way, it’s worth it to go. It’s really interactive and there’s some pretty cool activities to try out. Plus, you get a couple of free beers, which on a traveling budget you like no matter what! If we could do this again, we would grab our tickets to the museum online, head to the Heineken brewery, get a slight buzz, and then go to the museum and skip the line (you can do this if you pre-book tickets).
The Anne Frank Museum is a must when you’re in Amsterdam. Most, if not everyone, is familiar with her story or have read the book The Diary Of A Young Girl, which makes this attraction a very popular one among tourists. We would suggest to purchase your tickets online, but this needs to be done well in advance. They advise 2 months before your visit! The alternative is to purchase tickets upon arrival at the museum ($13 CAD/person). With no pre-purchased tickets (of course), we tried our luck that afternoon, thinking the lineup would be manageable. We couldn’t have been any more wrong. The lineup was for miles! We weren’t about to waste an entire afternoon waiting in line. However, we did receive a little tip. If you return between 8:30-9:00 PM, the line-up is usually at its shortest. The museum closes at 10 PM, giving you an hour or so to complete the tour (which we were told was just enough time for the tour). We planned to do this on our last night.
What Are The Odds Of Meeting Another Dirty Gerty?!
On our last day, we got up early, stored our bags at the hostel and went to check out a few sites that we’d read about on some other blogs. First, we went to the Amsterdam Public Library which might seem odd, but we’d been told there’s an incredible view from the top. Head right up to the top floor and you can grab a nice lunch or a coffee and enjoy a great view of the city. After that, we headed to this really cool restaurant on the water called Hannekes Boom. We popped open our laptop to figure out how we were going to get ourselves to the airport that night, while enjoying some of their sandwiches.
We were also super excited to meet up with our friend Geert, who we’d met on our San Blas travels in South America. He took us to Foodhallen, which we would definitely recommend you check out. There was a gin bar, need we say more? After quite a few beverages and an invite for Geert to come to Winnipeg, we had to say by to our friend, and get ready to catch our final train to the airport.
But first, we made our final attempt to visit the Anne Frank Museum. The tip was AWESOME! We had just enough time to get through the museum and avoided the massive line up. You can’t miss this stop. It is so heartbreaking to be reminded that Anne was just a young girl and she was murdered.
On that note, we literally ran to the train station to catch a direct train to the airport. We were on our way home! With a quick stop in Gatwick, London we caught a one-way flight home. We would definitely recommend looking into flights with West Jet from Gatwick instead of Heathrow. The flights are nearly half the cost BUT there are NO perks. No booze, no food, no leg-room. So pick your poison folks! And just like that…we were home.