After Paris, Michael and I headed on to Amsterdam!
We really enjoyed train travel—less stressful than plane travel, better views, you can get up and walk around, and it’s actually kind of relaxing if you don’t miss your train (different story altogether). Our Air BnB in Amsterdam was charming but freezing (who knew the Netherlands would be so cold in January!), and we warmed ourselves on our first night by making a delicious, healthy spread.
We followed the same pattern we established in Paris, walking a big circle around the city and enjoying the people—EVERYBODY bikes in Amsterdam! Some of them don’t use their bike bells, they just do a little ‘woo-hoo’ noise to let you know that you’re in the way. It’s really adorable. They also ‘woo-hoo’ sometimes to say goodbye as they cycle away from each another. We saw lots of the must-sees: The Vogelpark, Rijksmuseum, the exterior of the Anne Frank House (too sad to go in), the Van Gogh Museum, the Royal Palace, and amazing houses of all kinds.
We also saw the oldest courtyard in Amsterdam with a historic church in the middle of it, whose housefronts and brightly lit windows and little front gardens were very hygge.
We wandered Amsterdam at night, enjoying the beautiful lights and feeling strange but intrigued by the surrealness of the red light district. Amsterdam has a ton of little house museums—literally museums in houses—like the Tulip Museum, the Sex Museum, the Weed Museum, etc. I have some more eloquent thoughts to put to paper about how I feel and what I think about the red light district, but that’s for another time.
Amsterdam is quirky, gorgeous, historical, and welcoming, but strange and a bit alien as well. It’s like being sent simultaneously to the past and the future. And there was far less cigarette smoke here than anywhere else we’d been in Europe.
Our second day we embarked on a long walk to the zoo, passing by the post office and the train station, which are both incredibly ornate and impressive buildings.
The zoo was the absolute best animal exhibition I have EVER experienced. The animals were just out and about in the buildings and the enclosures, many not in cages, and were close enough to touch (hence my disbelieving face at the sloth and the joy at the giraffe). The Royal Artis Zoo was one of the best experiences during my travels so far, and I feel so lucky to have gotten to do it with my best friend. They had every animal imaginable! Monkeys the size of my hand, bright orange hogs with long curly ears, mammals that look like they can’t decide between being a primate, a cat, or a squirrel…and they also had elephants.
We also could not stop laughing at the Dutch names for the animals (see hilarity-inducing example below):
And we learned a lot about Amsterdam and its history! For example, most houses have a beam sticking out of the little crown molding tiara situation at the top. We looked into why that might be and it turns out that most of the houses in Amsterdam, especially those on the canals, belonged to merchants who needed to store things in their attics. So instead of hauling heavy, large bags and boxes up the stairs, they would lift goods directly into the top floor via a pulley attached to the sticky-out beam. This is also the reason why many of the houses in Amsterdam tilt forward—so the goods being lifted into the top floor don’t bonk into the front of the rest of the house or knock any windows out. Pretty cool, huh?
On our last night in this beautiful city we went to the NEMO Science Museum. We didn’t actually go in, but to the top of it. The building sticks up out of the landscape and over the harbor like the prow of a sinking ship, and in the flattest country on earth, this was the only place to get a view out over the city (the resulting photo is the cover of this blog post). The NEMO closed right after we got to enjoy the sunset, and then we skipped on over to the people’s city library, which may now be one of my favorite places in the world. It was the perfect way to round out our short trip there.
Michael and I spent one last long day in London after coming back from Amsterdam. I took him to visit school and we visited the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum, and the Victoria & Albert Museum. I feel so lucky to have someone in my life who is as curious and in love with world as I am, who is my advisor, supporter, travel partner, best friend, and the best partner I could ever ask for. Someone who loves me the way that he does, who I can tell everything to, do anything with, and with whom I want to share everything. Having him leave was one of the hardest things I’ve experienced in a long time, but I know I’ll get to see him again soon and I’m so excited for many more adventures together.