Amsterdam, Days Seven, Eight, and Nine

Although I’m back in the United States, I am more than willing to relive my vacation.

On Day Seven, I went to the Hermitage, which was in the middle of switching out exhibitions so I didn’t really see as much as I could have if I went during the major part of the tourist season. They had a huge exhibition on the Dutch Golden Age portraits. They had a light show in the largest of the halls, which I was surprised by, but it was still a gorgeous exhibition.

Then, I went to the Albert Cuyp Market, with the intention of finding something to eat. I ended up wandering around de Pijp, the neighborhood that the Albert Cuyp Market is in, for nearly two hours because I got lost like six different times.

Then, I went to the Van Loon Museum after I got my bearings. It was a really lovely museum that was about this wealthy family that still has a lot of cache in Amsterdam. They hosted President Obama and had a little display on him.

After all of that, not satisfied with walking too much already, I walked back to the Museumplein and bought some stuff at the Museum Gift Shop for my mom, since she had been watching my dog while I was away.

On Day Eight, it was a fairly laid back day. I went to the Houseboat Museum in the Jordaan. I got lost and couldn’t find it at first. Then, right at the Museum, there was some sort of emergency because there were firetrucks and police officers gathered around. I did end up finding the Houseboat Museum.

It’s very tiny and definitely not something you would build your whole day around. If you’re already in the Jordaan, make a stop because it is a fun time, but it’s not an affair that you’d spend more than an hour in (and an hour is pushing it). The houseboats are iconic within Amsterdam, so I do think it is worth a stop. I, for one, was surprised how roomy it was on the inside.

After lunch, I went to the Allard Pierson Museum, which is a museum focused around the Ancient Mediterranean (Etruscans, Romans, Egyptians). They were in the midst of a renovation so it was a quick trip. The renovated parts that are open to the public are beautiful; it is going to look gorgeous.

Afterward, I was trying to go to the KatteKabinet, which I read was a fun time. Unfortunately, I kept getting lost and couldn’t find it, so I ended up just walking around Amsterdam for a while. I got Vlaamse Frites and sat in Dam Square, watching the crowds.

Day Nine was my last day in Amsterdam, so I spent the morning just walking around the city. I mostly stayed in the Jordaan and went up towards Dam Square. While I was in the Jordaan, I went into the Amsterdam Cheese Museum store; I do wish I went into the Museum itself for a little bit. It would have been fun.

Then, to close out my trip, while I was waiting to go back to my hotel, I sat on a bench next to a canal, I believe the Leidsegracht (there’s so many it’s confusing), and just watched the boats pass. It was such a lovely time. I saw one guy piloting a boat by himself; he was drinking a beer and seemed really relaxed.

I had a great trip and I did exactly the things I wanted to do. There are some things I’d change or do differently, if given the chance but overall, I can’t say anything was disappointing. Everyone I met in Amsterdam was great, from the desk attendants at my hotel to the Canadian women I shared a coffee with to the bartender from Bulgaria. I had a truly wonderful trip.

Amsterdam, Day 6

A truly pleasant day. After I lost my iAmsterdam card, I booked a day-trip to see the windmills in Zanse Schaans. It was probably one of my better choices on this trip. It was a really lovely day of seeing windmills, eating cheese, walking around little villages. I had a great tour guide, who was really well-informed and very nice.

We got back at around 2:30PM, so I went to the Museum of Our Lord in the Attic, which was a really fascinating museum of a secret Catholic Church, built because of the shift of the Netherlands being a Catholic region to a Protestant region. It had a very good audio tour and fascinating material to work with.

Then, I went to the Oude Kerk to look at the oldest church in Amsterdam. It does seem quite barren, if you’re used to visiting Catholic cathedrals. The Church is also under construction.

A really nice day, all said and done. Except for the weather which was truly atrocious after a certain time. My pants got wet to the point that it was comfortable to walk and difficult to take them off later. They’re still probably dripping on the bathroom floor from where I hung them up.

Amsterdam, Day Five

A busy, arty day. I went to the Rijksmuseum, the Stedleijk, MOCO, and the Van Gogh Museum.

The Rijksmuseum is beautiful Museum. I really liked their Neoclassical Collection, especially their portraits of Louis and Napoleon Bonaparte, right next to each other.

I liked MOCO quite a lot, even though it was extremely small. I probably went through it in about forty-five minutes. The collection was small, but impressive with a few pop art masters (Haring, Warhol, KAWS). It has an ultra contemporary collection, with a high appreciation for the Instagram-basic aesthetic.

The Van Gogh Museum was obviously very popular. It was a little uncomfortably popular, with people crammed along the walls, in front of paintings that may have not even been painted by Van Gogh.

My favorite Van Gogh painting (At Eternity’s Gate) was not there.

Amsterdam, Day Four

Big day today. I used my remaining iAmsterdam pass today to go to a few museums: the Rembrandthuis, the Dutch Resistance Museum, and the Jewish Cultural Quarter, which covers a further four museums (National Jewish Museum, Portuguese Synagogue, National Holocaust Museum, and the National Holocaust Monument).

I suppose any Jewish-related museums lay in the shadow of the Anne Frank House, since the Jewish Cultural Quarter was far less busy than the Anne Frank House.

Even as a traveler/amateur Instagram enthusiast, I do find some selfie-related tendencies to be quite strange. When I see people smiling and taking pictures with the Anne Frank statue or laughing at an exhibition about police brutality, I do have a sudden crush of discomfort. It is a normal feeling to want to document, but I can’t help but dislike transgressions of that nature. Smiling with Anne Frank’s statue is ignoring that the reason we know who she is is for entirely tragic reasons.

Amsterdam, Day Three.

Today was a long one, even though it was a Sunday, which makes it a little more difficult to do anything, especially since I’ve lost my iAmsterdam card. I went to the Amsterdam Museum first, which did provide a good overview of the history of Amsterdam.

Then, I walked through the Begijnhof, which was close to the Amsterdam Museum. It is a small courtyard, famous because it was built in the Medieval Era. It used to be a form of social welfare for widows and orphans, as a way for the Church to house those vulnerable populations. It is used for people, so it still felt a little weird wandering someone’s lawn, basically.

Afterwards, I walked through the Bloemenmarkt, the Flower Market. Because it is not tulip season, it was ultimately kind of disappointing because all they were selling were tulip bulbs. The market is housed on a series of badges along a very busy street, where I ended up getting lunch.

After lunch, I went to the Nieuwe Klerk, or the New Church. It is in Dam Square, kind of the main tourist square of Amsterdam, something of a Times Square, though far less obnoxious (I.e. no giant screens or anything like that). The Nieuwe Kerk was originally a Catholic Church but was converted into a Protestant Church after the Reformation. The Nieuwe Kerk is a lot more bare than any Church than I’ve ever seen, though with stained glass. Many of the old statues and murals were removed, during iconoclasm. They also don’t seem particularly concerned with the Church being a solemn space for worship, since it was nine euros to get in and they had a huge display about the Royal Wedding and the King’s Coronation.

After the New Church, I went on a free walking tour which was not that great, as the tour guide had mixed up all of the Bonapartes and their relationship to Amsterdam. Ridiculous.

After that, I walked around for a while before going to the Anne Frank House where I walked through the warehouse and Secret Annex. Perhaps because I read the Diary very recently, I felt so sad there. For me, I suppose I found Anne’s complaints about her mother and the other occupants of the attic very normal, I found it easy to extrapolate her experience across the seven million other Jewish people who died in the Holocaust. I did cry.

Tomorrow, I am going to the Jewish Quarter, which should be interesting.

Amsterdam, Day Two

My day was a series of improvisations, which can lead to great things, so fingers crossed about that. I went to my food tour an hour earlier, forgetting that I had gotten an email about it being at 11AM, rather than 10AM. For a brief moment, I was convinced the tour left without me. But they hadn’t.

An hour later, my food tour went off without a hitch. I cannot recommend enough the act of going on food tours. I’ve gone on several of the Secret Food Tours, but I do feel like that any food tour is a great way to orient yourself in a new location. We had the typical Dutch foods like stamppot, jenever, and bitterboellen.

After the food tour, I went to the Royal Palace on Dam Square. The Royal Palace was very interesting to me. The first king of Holland was Louis Bonaparte, my second favorite Bonaparte. His rule, even though he was a Frenchman/Corsican, was an important aspect of centralization of the Dutch nationality. His rule essentially created a nationality, as a contrast to Frenchness/Spanishness (their prior colonial overlords).

I returned to my hotel to check my email and get a coffee. At five o’clock, when I went downstairs to get a coffee, I was offered a free cheese tasting. They had a pesto cheese that was really delicious. I’ve become very fond of aged cheese. I like the sharpness, the hint of salt.

Then, I went to the Heineken Experience to fill up my evening. I did not like the Heineken Experience. I don’t like beer all that much, but the beer was fine. I just could not get into the mega-corporate vibe and the massive whitewashing of the most interesting aspect of the Heineken Experience: the kidnapping of Freddy Heineken.

It wasn’t as traumatic as J. Paul Getty’s kidnapping, but any hint of crime was not discussed. Heineken Experience was very touristy. If you don’t mind dropping twenty dollars on a glorified Instagram opp.

At the Heineken Experience, I lost my Amsterdam card, which really changes my plans. Travel is all about improv, guys.

Amsterdam, Day One

I arrived in Amsterdam, having gotten roughly four minutes of sleep in twenty-nine hours. I think I went through the looking glass of being tired because I found it fairly to navigate. Everyone I’ve come across so far is very friendly.

I mainly attribute my good mood to being able to watch the majority of the double eviction on Big Brother before boarding my flight. My favorite contestant was able to win this week’s competition, thereby securing her place in the game for a little while longer.

I think I made a good choice in booking at the Hotel La Boheme. The desk attendant was very kind and willing to go over different suggestions for my trip. I even got a coffee and a stroopwaffel before I checked in.

I went on a canal tour of Amsterdam’s extensive canal system. The city was carved up to create easier methods of transport and for keeping the city from flooding. Amsterdam is allegedly known as “Venice of the North,” which I’ve heard no one say.

Dutch is a peculiar language. It looks like German but sounds very different. The desk attendant compared it to Hebrew, which I guess makes sense. There’s a throaty nature to it.

It’s currently raining. I might take a walk a little later. I’m exhausted though. Tomorrow morning I have a food tour that I’m excited about.

Travel Inspo Can Come From Anywhere

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Inspiration for wanderlust can come from anywhere. I have found places for my bucket list in books and movies, falling in love with travel all over again with books like What Was Doing While You Were Breeding or movies like Under the Tuscan Sun.

My favorite television shows for travel inspiration are the Bachelor and its sister show The Bachelorette. They are two of the most famous reality shows, with incredibly simple concepts: thirty contestants vie for the heart of the lead, with the ultimate intention of getting engaged at the end of their whirlwind courtship. Although the show’s format is very rigid, it does prove there is some sort of braindead pleasure in the reality television genre.

The first three weeks of the show are centered around activities that take place in Los Angeles County, where the famous Bachelor mansion is located. The next two weeks follow the contestants across the United States. Then, they go abroad for the next four weeks, with a quick break within the midst of that to visit the contestants’ hometowns. The show engages in a lot of travel, often emphasizing exciting experiences.

I say that using the Bachelor and the Bachelorette as travel inspiration comes with the huge caveat that the show is relatively stupid. That stupidity comes through its entire being: it indulges in stereotypes and a thorough ignorance of the World outside of the United States. It is quite unashamed in its stupidity. Production will even make up cultural traditions to push their storylines forward; in the most recent season of the Bachelorette, the show tried to pass off naked bungee jumping as a sacred Latvian courting ritual. Contestants will often be forced into uncomfortable scenarios, so they will be more likely to expose vulnerabilities to make for a more interesting show.

It’s not all bad. In the same season as the naked bungee jumping, Hannah, the series lead, showed a distinct interest in engaging with the culture around her. She became very emotional while at the Maritshuis in the Hague crying in front of Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring,” precipitating a breakup with contestant Mike.

Arie Leuyendyk’s season had some of the best locations I’ve ever seen. He had a goofy fun hiking excursion in Lake Tahoe that depicted the cast getting lost in the woods. He also traveled to Tuscany, where he and a contestant went truffle hunting with a farmer and his dog in a beautiful sequence in the Tuscan hills. The contestants and the lead bond over their shared experiences and spoke to locals about thoughts on love.

The show can be goofy and off-putting, but it can sometimes hit on that sublime feeling of discovery and the beauty of traveling with a new friend.

Destinations I’ve Been To (As an Adult)

  1. Braunschweig, Germany. (July – August 2011). I spent that summer studying in Germany.
  2. Copenhagen, Denmark. (June 2014). I went to Copenhagen for a children’s librarianship class for two weeks.
  3. Washington, D.C. (January 2015).
  4. Paris, France. (April 2016).
  5. Berlin, Germany and Munich, Germany. (March 2017)
  6. Boston, Massachusetts. (May 2017)
  7. Vienna, Austria and Salzburg, Austria. (September-October 2017)
  8. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (March 2018)
  9. Dublin, Ireland; Galway, Ireland; Edinburgh, Scotland, UK; Highlands, Scotland, UK. (June 2019
  10. Madrid, Spain and Barcelona, Spain. (March 2019).

Travel Philosophy

Every person has their own reasons for wanting to travel. Having a particular vision of what I think is a good vacation means that I have to be pretty accepting of other styles of travel. I am a rather particular traveler because I am often trapped in a swirl of anxiety that I created.

I like staying in one city for an extended period of time, for a week or so, and explore from there. As long as I can leave my suitcases in one place, I think I will enjoy myself. Rolling my suitcase around too much makes me absolutely sick. It’s the inherent contradiction within me: I want to go, but I can’t go too much.

I love history. History usually is the center that my trips will rotate around. I spend hours in museums and cathedrals. If I can take a tour, I’ll be there. I love smarter people than myself, telling me stuff.

I suppose my travel philosophy is based upon learning. I like learning about the history of my destination. I like being able to be in the same place as something amazing. If a Bonaparte brother happened to stay there for the night, even better!