After a week of wonderful travels I have quickly settled back into my routines here in Strasbourg. Hardly going to classes, putting off a visit to the health insurance office, etc. Winter break began on Monday February 20th for me, when I hopped on a 10:35pm bus headed for Amsterdam. It was a long nine hour ride, but somehow I managed to get some sleep and was greeted with an acceptably cloudy day in the Netherlands’ capital. I had a few hours to kill before my travel buddy Lucie arrived, so I took a long stroll through Vondelpark.
It was so lovely and peaceful, and super interesting to be hearing dutch for the first time! The park was buzzing with runners, people and their dogs, and of course so many people riding bikes. The first day was spent wandering around, doing a little shopping and discovering. For dinner Lucie and I went to the Foodhallen, a wonderful hall lined with international food stalls. I got some veggie nachos and Lucie opted for some lovely looking rice paper rolls.
On day two we went through the Van Gogh and Stedelijk museums, rejoiced in sushi train for dinner and saw the movie Silence, a lengthy but good watch. We both bought a card that gave us unlimited access to city transport and free entry to a lot of things for 72 hours so we had loads to do. I really think this helped us make the most of it all – at the end of each day it felt like we had accomplished a lot!
On Thursday we visited the Anne Frank house which was deeply moving and so interesting. I’ve started reading the book and it definitely feels more intense having been to the house myself. I’m really happy we went.
Afterwards we took a 40 minute bus out to Zaanse Schans (the bus driver corrected our awful pronunciations), to see some windmills! When in Holland, and all. It was so incredibly windy. The last time I was almost knocked over by wind was at the top of a mountain in Cape Town. This was nuts – Lucie almost fell off the wharf while posing for photos, which while hilarious, would’ve been awful. Our card also granted us free entry into a small museum about the history of the area and its industry ties, as well as an old Dutch biscuit and chocolate factory, a big cheese shop and a cacao shop which smelled so incredible.
Windswept and sleepy, we headed back into the city and walked (or stumbled) to the NEMO science museum. It was very much like Questacon in Canberra, so we spent a while fiddling with all the games and taking personality quizzes. We had plans to meet friends for drinks but the weather was so foul that we called it off. Turns out that ‘Storm Doris’ was sweeping through Europe that night with winds that reached 150km/h over in the UK! It turned out to be quite useful, because the next morning most of the clouds had been blown away and we were graced with a final day full of sunshine. So we cashed in our canal cruise. It was a lovely way to spend our last morning.
When that was done and lunch had been had, we wandered over to the zoo. A zoo! In Amsterdam! It was the most pleasantly surprising experience I had the whole time I was there. Such a spacious and well designed zoo – and an aquarium inside a gorgeous old building with a grand staircase between the main rooms. Not as big as the one in Sydney but it had a great range of animals, fish and birds. I took way too many photos but it was a really nice afternoon.
After a jam packed four days I packed my bags, said a quick goodbye to Lucie and headed over to the station to start my little solo trip to Belgium! There were too many photos for one post so that will be up soon, but as for Amsterdam, I had a fabulous time. In rain, wind and shine that place is welcoming, beautiful and packed with things to see and do.
Bedankt voor het feit mij, Amsterdam!
(Special thanks to Lucie B for some of the pics xo)