Despite agreeing that this trip would be much less planned than our Disney vacations, I still felt like I needed to have some sense of what I was doing and where I was going so I began researching. I was surprised to learn about all the various things to do in Amsterdam that didn’t involve activities that are illegal in most of the US. The Anne Frank Museum is probably the most popular tourist attraction, followed by the Van Gogh Museum and Rijksmuseum. Reading about the mixture of the old world and the new, I admit the city had piqued my interest – but I still was much more excited for France (#1 on the bucket list).
We arrived at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam around noon, local time. Despite Benadryl, pillows, blankets, and an eye mask, I did not sleep at all on the plane, which departed from Cincinnati around 5:30pm the day before (by way of Minneapolis-St. Paul). Upon arrival, we found the metro ticket self-service machines fairly easily, but were confused because the 3-day ticket we’d decided on wasn’t an option – just the single ride or monthly passes were available. We asked a passing police officer who pointed in a general direction and just kept walking. After wandering for a while, we found a walk-up kiosk where we were able to talk with someone to make sure we selected the right option and then helped us make our purchase. As me made our way out to the bus stop, I mentally started my countdown to Paris, because I was not impressed with Amsterdam so far.
Growing up in Kentucky, there weren’t a lot of opportunities to use public transportation and the ones that were available were not usually the kind you want to ride alone as a female. Navigating our way to the hotel was an interesting experience, but Google Maps was incredibly helpful. We were able to select public transportation as a method of travel and were shown which routes to take and when to expect the train/bus. Lugging a 50 pound suitcase up and down stairs to the various stations was an unexpected adventure, but we made it to our hotel without incident.
We checked in and I was happy to see the quality of the hotel, especially given our tight budget and last-minute planning. We stayed at the Corendon Vitality Hotel on the west side of Amsterdam. The decor definitely had a modern feel with clean lines and a darker color palette. The floor to ceiling windows in our room provided a beautiful view of the sunset… and the construction occurring across the street. The hotel seemed to be located in a more industrial area of town. While it was not in the heart of the city, it was close to several bus and tram stops that made getting where we wanted easy. Breakfast was also available each morning for an additional fee, which was convenient though expensive. In the future, I think I’d stay closer to Centraal Station, but for a more budget friendly option, I would recommend this hotel!
Once we were checked in, we did the number one thing you are not supposed to do when flying internationally – we took a nap. We had discussed it and were not going to nap to help limit the effects of jet lag. However, given the fact that I hadn’t slept at all on the plane and my husband slept for maybe an hour, I knew if we did go out immediately, I was going to be in a horrible mood and decided it was worth risking jet lag in order to be able to better enjoy our limited time in Amsterdam.
We woke up in time to get up and head out for dinner. After looking at reviews online, we headed to Leidesplein – an area packed with restaurants, shops, and cafes. We made our way through the cobblestone streets to our destination, De Blauwe Hollander (The Blue Hollander). The small restaurant was very full, but we arrived just as another table was leaving and were able to grab their table. One thing I was really struck by was the lack of bugs! I would have expected to be shooing away flies and other winged irritants sitting by the open-air dining room, but it wasn’t necessary. We sat right by the window, people watching and enjoying the beautiful evening and amazing weather.
Prior to our trip, I had looked up traditional Dutch dishes and was excited to try some local fare. The restaurant offered a special prix-fixe menu with several items I wanted to try. My meal began with a thick, hearty pea soup served with a sweet rye-type bread with thin sliced ham. For my entree, I ordered a sauerkraut and sausage stamppot (stahm-poh). As much as I love food, I can’t say very much makes my mouth literally water, but the stamppot definitely did. I was unsure about the combination of mashed potatoes and sauerkraut, but it was delicious! For dessert, I had the vlaflip (prounced how it looks) which consisted of a surprisingly refreshing combination of yogurt, custard, raspberry sauce, and whipped cream.
After dinner, we decided to take the tram down to the Red Light District. You know how I mentioned I’m a Kentucky girl? I was not fully prepared! I’m glad I went because the social science aspect was enthralling and I feel like it’s kind of something you have to do while you’re in Amsterdam, but I can safely say it was not for us. Very little is left to the imagination as you pass the window dancers (literally lit up in red) and, for a fee, you can see it all live in action. We made our way down one side of the street and walked a few blocks over to catch the return tram to our hotel and called it a night.