Before even stepping foot in Amsterdam, I had already decided I was going to love it there. Having heard the many tales my peers had told me of this magical city, I was constantly daydreaming of the picturesque canals, floating flower markets, and stroopwafels galore, but what I got out of my trip when the day finally arrived was even better than I expected.
I think it’s safe to say I got a different experience compared to some students when visiting Amsterdam because I went with my family, who had flown all the way from New Jersey to see me during their Thanksgiving Break. As a result, while the flashiness of the Red Light District and Amsterdam’s “coffee shops” are very intriguing, I highly enjoyed putting my focus towards exploring the more quaint side of Amsterdam and Holland as a whole.
Our first day technically wasn’t a full day in Amsterdam; it was dedicated more towards traveling, having a mini-reunion with my family after a long 3 months, and finding dinner after dropping our things off at the hotel. I think their jetlag rubbed off on me, as we groggily walked up and down the streets of Amsterdam without even realizing the landmarks surrounding us like the Royal Palace of Amsterdam in Dam Square.
Day 2 was much more eventful compared to our first night. I enjoyed a nice cup of coffee and breakfast in a little two-story cafe and strolled over to the Van Gogh Museum afterwards, spending nearly 3 hours admiring the massive collection of his works. I will admit though, that an hour of that time may have been spent playing around with the multimedia audio guide I at first reluctantly agreed to buy (great decision, by the way), seeing how many languages I could understand the explanations in, as well as roaming around the various souvenir shops scattered around the museum.
After a long day of sight-seeing in the city, we took a ferry to get to the “This is Holland Ultimate Flight Experience” attraction. It included 2 mini shows about the background and history of Holland, as well as a 5-D ride that gives the impression of flying over the country. I wasn’t sure of what I was walking into, but the ride lived up to my Disney World and Universal Studios standards and ended up being very fun!
Day 3 - This particular day was one of the most unique trips I had gotten to take during my time in Europe. My family and I decided to devote a large portion of this day towards traveling around the Netherlands and seeing what Holland has to offer. We toured Zaanse Schans, where there were functioning Dutch windmills; Edam, where we learned about the production processes in cheese and wooden clog factories (and filled ourselves up with an extensive cheese, wine, stroopwafel, and chocolate tasting); and Volendam, a charming little fisherman village where we tried herring (a Dutch favorite), a local dutch beer, and bought various souvenirs for very cheap!
This was one of the most refreshing experiences I’ve had during my study abroad time. Maybe it was because I was with my family, maybe because of the nature and farm animals I got to see, or maybe it was from all the food I got to try, but getting out of the city and into this enchanting little piece of Holland was the breath of fresh air I didn’t even know I needed. For a brief moment, I didn’t have to worry about schoolwork, internship applications, or getting hit by a tram if you stop paying attention for 2 seconds; given that at the end of my day, I still had to go back to the hotel to submit an internship application, that moment of peace is one I greatly appreciate.
Since most of our day was spent outside of Amsterdam, we spent the night doing more walking around the city. Some other highlights included our stroll through the floating flower markets (of course), trying desserts in food stalls in Rembrandt Square, and outdoor ice skating in a cute little ice rink in the middle of the square.
Our final day in Amsterdam before flying to Prague was pretty easygoing, like our trip as a whole. We went back to a crepe and waffle place we really enjoyed, took a boat tour across the canal, and visited Foodhallen, where we enjoyed lunch at a massive food court and wandered around the various stands selling upper-end souvenirs.