Friday, December 9, 2011


Last Monday I left for a trip to Holland to visit a friend, and former student at IMD, and to see Amsterdam for the first time. Now is an excellent time to visit the European cities, while they are dressed for the season in their sparkling gowns of lights and pines.

The first reaction I had to Amsterdam was it is such a shame that it took me this long to visit! The city is incredible with the canals, the leaning buildings, the amazing streets filled with interesting shops and restaurants, and the bikes. Oh, the bikes!!
Tilting houses on canal
Canal- the boat is named: Double Dutch 
Can you see the skinny house :) ? 
My ride in Amdam- pink with a basket!
My first night, I headed straight to Colleen's apartment where I dropped my bags and we jumped on her bikes. She gave me an awesome tour of the city at night, taking me down twisting streets filled with other bikers and people on their feet. She gave me a crash course, no pun-intended, on biking in Amsterdam. The do's and don'ts. Although the night was extremely chilly and I had already started to feel the start of a cold, I did not want the night to end. Before we went home, we stopped in a little restaurant for a light, but warm dinner, including soup and mint tea. Delicious and warm. Just what I needed. Also, refreshing. The servers were pleasant and almost seemed happy to be there. After, we hopped back on the bikes to end the night at her home and I crashed and slept soundly til late the next morning. C is generous and told me to make myself at home and take whatever I needed. The only rule she had was that when I took the bike out, it must be double-locked, and if possible, attached to something, at all times. Simple enough!
bikes everywhere
Old bike
Leopard bike
My second day was a wonderful experience. I hopped on my newly acquired bike and got myself over to the Van Gogh Museum. I had only meant to spend an hour or so there, but ended up passing close to 4 hours there. It was just too good to rush through. When I left the museum, I wanted to instantly return. The day was wet again with rain, and just at the moment that I left to get my bike, it started hailing. Big, round pebbles of sharp hail. This continued the whole day. Interchanging only between wet, heavy rain and sharp, pelting hail. Knowing me, you know this is a personal hell. I hate to be cold and I hate to be wet. Second only to being hungry... and third to being lost. Luckily, I was ok on the food front, but got lost the rest of the day trying to find other sites. I eventually did find the famous street market, but couldn't seem to get back into the heart of the city. At this point, I was so drenched, I figured that my only chance of not getting the flu was to make it back to the apartment and get a hot shower as soon as possible- which is exactly what I did. The night ended with a delicious home-cooked meal, thanks to my host and I silently prayed that I would not catch something that would keep me in bed for my last full day.
Van Gogh self-potrait
old book shop
On Wednesday, I vowed that with the unpredictability of the weather, I would sacrilegiously leave the bike and only take the trams. At this point, I definitely was feeling under the weather and had much more that I wanted to see and do. First on my list, go to Anne Frank's House. It was an interesting experience. I remember reading the book when I was much younger and being moved by the girl who was close to my age. I was surprised to find the hiding space much larger than I expected. I thought it would be much smaller and claustrophobic. But in reality, it was rather spacious, even for 8 people. From there, I was ready to try one of Amsterdam's famous pancakes topped with savory things. I went to the Pancake Bakery and had the ham, cheese and mushroom pancake. It looked like a pizza, the pancake tasted like a perfect marriage between a French crepe and an American pancake. Yum! The rest of the afternoon was spent exploring the 9 Streets or 'De Negen Straatjes'- filled with interesting shops and cafes. Before I headed back to the apartment to get out of the wind and cold, I vowed that I would not leave Amsterdam without trying the famous Herring. I did this and am glad I did. It was an experience that I can cross off of my list... :) Then I made my way back to the apartment to pack up and get ready for my early morning flight.
Entrance to Anne Frank House
Pancake "pizza" :) 
All the "9" streets are 'labeled' with the lit 9s 
Herring Shop
Famous herring sandwich with onions and pickles
All in all, Amsterdam is a place I would definitely go back to in a heartbeat. It had a really quirky and cool feel to it. Like the younger, crazier kid-brother to Paris. I love that everyone bikes, no matter the time of day or the temperature. It felt like I was a kid again with a carefree attitude, one that seems adopted by the inhabitants- like the city doesn't take its self too seriously. Besides the weather, I have no complaints! What a great city!

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