Touch down in Amsterdam’s Schipol Airport at 7:00am on Saturday July 7th. Also known as 1am Toronto time. Also known as “horrible redeye flight” because if you’ve ever been on a 5pm-1am flight before, you probably already know that sleep is just not an option at those hours. Unless of course, you have plenty of Gravol and plenty of patience for screaming babies. Which, incidentally I do, as I am a baby-lover by nature. However, I am not necessarily a lover of the screaming variety, especially not at an altitude of 35,000 feet. But, this is something we all have to deal with every now and again while traveling, and I was happy to do so. Our flight also experienced the worst turbulence that I have ever been through, somewhere over the Atlantic, so that also had me feeling queasy and wide awake. So, after landing and making my way through customs and baggage claim I thought it would be a good idea to grab myself an espresso on my way out to the train station. And that, I did. Two espressos later I found myself wide awake again and racing to platform number three to get the express train to Amsterdam Centraal.
Once there, and after fifteen minutes of shuffling my way through the train station, dragging my broken luggage behind me (thanks Air Transat!) I finally found the luggage storage area. This is a practical system and is common all over Europe. It was amazing because I was able to leave all of my luggage and carry on in this digital locker for the whole day for only nine euros. I don’t believe this system is as common in North America, only because of the fear of a bomb threat or a terrorist using this service – but nonetheless, it was perfect for what I needed it for.
I had to be in Eindhoven, which is in the South of the Netherlands, by 615pm that day so I had a few hours to kill before having to take the two hour train. And considering that I had always wanted to see Amsterdam, I thought this was the perfect opportunity to take in some of the sights.
After quickly grabbing a map of the city, I made my way to the Anne Frank House, which according to Google was supposed to be a 21 minute walk. But of course, I took a little longer because I wanted to take in all of the sights and sounds of a beautiful Amsterdam morning. This time of day is perfect for sightseeing. Prior to 8am, there is less traffic and you can move more freely around the city. Traffic being of course cars, but also bicycles and streetcars as well . After all, the main mode of transportation for Amsterdamers is by bike. On average, each citizen has at least two bicycles, one for every day use and one for more fancy bicycle usages. So the streets, in a sense, were a bit deserted, at least for this brief time slot which was all I really wanted anyways. It’s that window of time after all the party goers from the night before have gone to bed and before all the tourists leave their hotels in the morning to start their day.
I got myself a bit lost as I meandered through the streets, over bridges and canals until I eventually found myself at the end of the line for the Anne Frank House. It was 8:45am by that point, and it opens at 9am, but I still had to wait for over half an hour to get in. So, just a heads up to anyone planning on going during high season – expect long lines. It’s inevitable, even if you do arrive early. But even so, the Anne Frank House, or Anne Frankhuis was incredible. It has always been something I have longed to see, ever since first reading her diary in elementary school. The building itself has gone through many renovations, as it has been transformed into a museum in recent years, but many unique features of the house have been preserved. For example, at one point in the tour you are actually able to walk through the secret passage behind the moveable bookshelf and into the “Secret Annexe.” This gave me goosebumps. You can also to see the bedroom that Anne used to sleep in as well as all the other bedrooms, washroom, kitchen and living area. There is one wall that still has the pencil markings of the height of each of the daughters that was updated over the years the family was in hiding there. Very cool.
After visiting the house, I walked along a nearby canal into the Southern portion of the city and found myself drinking a cappuccino at another cafe. No, not one of those coffeeshops, but an actually coffee shop. Serving purely caffeine-related products, not of the cannabis variety. After over-indulging in some more much needed caffeine, I made my way over to Dam Square which is in the heart of central Amsterdam. It’s sort of like the Dundas Square of Toronto, but for Dutch people. After taking a few tourist photos I stumbled upon something incredible and that had unbelievably slipped my mind – Sales. Every year, twice a year, Europe has “the sales.” For the past two summers I have been there for “the sales” and was able to shop freely anytime I wanted, because I was living there at the time. But this, this was not planned. I completely forgot that my Holland vacation was overlapping with “the sales” time. So, I went a bit crazy. Not only did I visit the usual Zara, Mango, Bershka shops, but I also stumbled upon other stores that I had never heard of before like Scotch & Soda Amsterdam Couture. 70-90% off everything. I was in heaven. Two hours and four shopping bags later, I knew it was time to say goodbye to Amsterdam. My train was going to depart in less than one hour from Centraal Station and I still had to walk back to the station and retrieve my luggage.
It was a lovely day in Amsterdam, very different from the city’s night scene, which I will touch on in another post.
Cheers, friends! (Proost!)