Small point of pride: I’ve never missed a plane or train in my life. Sure, I’ve had a couple close calls, and I’ve definitely missed a flight or two due to late connections, but I’ve never missed a trip as a result of bad time management. Until now. Sigh…..
The plan was to catch a train to Amsterdam on Wednesday to meet up with my parents, who would be flying there on Thursday morning. We would spend a relaxing couple of days there before catching the train back on Saturday. Marc’s younger brother Jeremy decided to come with us, so he arrived in Paris the evening before and we made plans to head out around 11:30am to catch our 12:25pm train. This was the first mistake….why on earth did we only give ourselves 55 minutes? Gare du Nord is about 35 minutes from our house, but under PERFECT circumstances, which I’m starting to realize don’t exist in Paris! We also left the apartment a few minutes late due to a work emergency for Marc, so in the end we had 40 minutes to make it to the station. We called an Uber, but he took 5 mins to arrive, so we were in serious trouble. In the end, after a sprint to the platform from the car, we arrived just in time to see the train pull out in front of us. OOOOOOOOH it hurt!
The worst part was that our tickets were non-refundable or exchangeable (we got a good deal), so we had to buy new tickets for the next train. We tried to economize by switching trains in Arras and Brussels, but in the end the price was more or less the same as direct. It wasn’t a very fun trip, but we got there in the end and now we have learned a valuable lesson about time management!
Amsterdam was completely wonderful. We spent two full days there and could have filled several more- the food was unbelievable, the museums were fantastic, and the scenery was pretty epic. The weather on the other hand….was, um….interesting? I actually can’t complain as we got a LOT more sunshine than I’d been expecting, but we also got a ton of wind (expected) and some very short but very aggressive rain showers. We met up with a colleague of my father’s who is Dutch, and he would always say ‘ Don’t worry, don’t worry, it’s only short!’ every time it started pouring….and the thing was, he was usually right! We would take shelter under an awning or something, and in five minutes the sun would be shining again.
As far as tourist attractions go, we did a couple of different things in Amsterdam. We visited the Rijks Museum and saw all the Rembrandts, Van Goghs, and Vermeers- along with tons of other amazing exhibits. I thought it was an incredible museum, it was really well laid out and it was a manageable size- not as overwhelming as the Louvre!
We also visited the Willet-Holthuysen Museum, which is a museum set up in the home of 17th century wealthy merchants. It was a really cool way to see how the rich people of Amsterdam lived during that time- the house wasn’t huge, but beautifully outfitted in the French style of Versailles.
The final museum we visited was ‘Our Lord in the Attic’, which is a hidden Catholic church in (you guessed it….) the attic of three canal homes. It was constructed during a time in Dutch history when Catholics weren’t allowed to worship openly in their own churches, but authorities would turn a blind eye to house-based gatherings. The church sanctuary was amazing!
We also spent some time in the Jewish Quarter- we didn’t visit the Ann Frank house, but we did spend a while wandering the streets and looking at the plaques that detailed all the victims of the holocaust who had come from the houses across. It was really sobering to see.
The rest of our time that was not spent ‘touristing’ in the city was spent wandering around, drinking coffee (from coffee houses, not coffeeshops…..haha), and eating all sorts of amazing food! Highlights include breakfasts in the cafe near our airbnb, middle-eastern food at Bazar, and of course….beer and bitterballen!
A few final impressions of Amsterdam:
- there are stairs everywhere and they are all terrifyingly steep and narrow! There was a treacherous set in our airbnb, which I guess is to be expected in private homes….but basically every bar and restaurant we visited had a scary set involved somehow. I wonder how many people fall down them every year after a drink or two too many…
- The coffee was delicious and soooooo cheap- why can’t we have two euro lattes in Paris?!
- Stroopwaffles are the best food ever created and I love them with all my heart
- Bikes are more dangerous than cars….we avoided any collisions, but strongly felt we were more likely to be flattened by a cyclist than a driver
All in all, Amsterdam was a great experience and I know we will be back! Two and a half days definitely wasn’t enough…
We made our train back (lesson learned!) and tomorrow morning it will be time for our half marathon….wish us luck!!!