My first Solo Travel Experience: Amsterdam

I love big cities, I was born in Hong Kong and my fondest memories of Christmases were from my childhood of being out and about taking in all the beautifully decorated skyscrapers and festivities.  There were fireworks, outdoor concerts/performances and game shows.   Something fun is always just around the corner.  When I decided that I want to see Europe because I have never been there I had my mind set on a vibrant and fun city with lots of art and good food.  I am not a thrill-seeker.  “Exotic” places in nature (such as riding a camel in the desert or an elephant in the safari) doesn’t really appeal to me.  I had to decide on a relatively safe place to travel to because I was going by myself.

I was reading “The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living”  and after learning that Denmark was ranked the Happiest Country in the World that year, I wanted to go there.  I decided on Copenhagen – the capital city of Denmark.  I would have a stopover in Amsterdam so a teeny lightbulb went off in my head and planned a few days in Amsterdam as well.  When Josh came home, I told him I had booked my flights and hotel for my trip.  We had talked about me travelling on my own but I think he might have been a little surprised that I actually just went ahead and booked the trip.

Learning from my previous mistakes of flying with Air Canada, I flew with KLM direct to Amsterdam from Calgary which meant my luggage never got lost and my flight did not get delayed and the flight attendants were not miserable and condescending.  Also, I have this natural “talent” for falling asleep on flights as long as I have ear plugs in to drown out the crying toddlers.

After missing my train on one platform and having to navigate to several other platforms and trying to figure out which train to take into the city (it was like playing frogger) I finally made it to my hotel around noon time.  I stayed at “Motel One Amsterdam” – a chain of “hip” budget hotels in Europe.  I highly recommend it!  It was in a quiet area (not city centre) but only a 15 minute tram ride into centrum. I was able to check in early before 3 pm which meant I could have a shower and a power nap before going out exploring.  Perks of travelling alone: nap whenever I want and go out whenever I want.

 

After my shower and nap, I felt refreshed and excited – ready to explore.  I thought taking the canal cruise would be the best way to get acquainted with the area and relax.  The weather was perfect, sunny with a warm breeze…  The cruise was relaxing as expected…in fact, it was so relaxing that I fell asleep 15 minutes in…  My first thought as I climb into the boat was that I wish Joshua was here with me.  My first day in Amsterdam was filled with pangs of missing Joshua and wishing that he was there with me to share my awe moments as I trudge along the beautiful streets of Amsterdam and feast my eyes on amazing art in museums.  I thought about how romantic it would be to sit on the same bench where Hazel and Gus sat (from The Fault in Our Stars)…and not have one of us die.  I didn’t plan on doing a whole lot my first day in Amsterdam, I followed the tourist maps/recommendations and came across the MOCO Museum where I saw a line up outside.  I was ecstatic that they had a Banksy and Warhol exhibition running!    Interestingly, the second day came and those anxious feelings and missing Joshua went away rather quickly…

 

On my second day, I visited the three major museums in Museumplein (the Rijksmuseum, the Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art and the Van Gogh Museum)  It is indeed an art lover’s paradise.  I learned that for me, art museums are something to be enjoyed in solitude.  I can take as much or as little time in learning about what interests me without worrying about taking up other people’s valuable time.

 

The night before, I would make a plan – a list of places I want to visit for the following day.  And every morning, I would have a croissant and coffee while I read about the local news.

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One of my favourite travel quotes:

“To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world. You are surrounded by adventure. You have no idea of what is in store for you, but you will, if you are wise and know the art of travel, let yourself go on the stream of the unknown and accept whatever comes in the spirit in which the gods may offer it.” — Freya Stark

Some mornings I wake up a little confused and disoriented…  And then I realized I am not home.  When my brain reorientate to where I am, that sudden realization is one of the best feelings in the world.

One of the negatives of travelling alone is not being able to order a variety of food to try at restaurants.  The positive?  Eating whatever and whenever (preferable before I get hangry) Another positive is not having to wait for a table, the busiest of restaurants (like this popular seafood restaurant was packed) and it was not at all difficult to seat one person at the bar.  The great thing about being seated at the bar?  People watching the handsome bartenders and chefs.

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Those were the most delicious razor clams I ever had…and to the right is a bowl of lobster bisque.

 

I love Gouda…and I could not possibly leave Amsterdam without smuggling some Gouda back to Canada…

I don’t remember exactly when or how I started my mini bottle collection but since then I always bring home mini bottles from my travels.  Go to this link to read about the History of the delft blue houses

One of the highlights of my trip was finding these KLM mini bottles at a market for cheap!  Earlier in the day, I bought a couple from this place but they were 20 Euros each!  (I bit the bullet and shelled out the money for it but later I came across this market and haggled…and got a few more bottles for only 6 – 7 Euros!)

 

I have to admit that I am very easily drawn to the most “Touristy” attractions of a big city.    I went to the Tulip museum (they actually had seeds that were pre-approved by customs to bring back to Canada)  I kind of regretted not getting some when I was there.  I did the tasting tour at the Heineken Brewery (I made my own Heineken bottle with my name on it – it is in my bottle collection)

 

The Rembrandt House Museum – I was in awe to see where the master worked and taught his pupils…

 

Sadly, I did not get to go into Anne Frank’s House (during the summer peak season, the advance ticket purchasers still have to wait at least 2 hours in line to get in to the museum!)  I did not want to spend my time waiting in line…I did walk by and took a photo of the building from the outside.  I felt that I could appreciate the story and the history lesson without having to step inside.

After a few days in the busy city, I took a day trip to Muiden.  I never been to a medieval castle before…  Amsterdam Castle Muiderslot’s legacy dates all the way back to 1280 when Count Floris V commissioned the construction of a stone fortress on the grounds.  I loved the garden there and spend an hour just taking photos of the flowers in bloom.

 

 

I loved Amsterdam, and the list of things I love about it is very long.  One of them are the Frenchies of Amsterdam.  Trudging down beautiful cobbled streets, I came across many Frenchies out and about!  Everytime I saw one, I miss my Darwin!  Read this article about the Rise of the French Bulldogs in Amsterdam

 

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