The day after we arrived in Brussels, we had a bus ticket booked for a day trip to Amsterdam. Once again, we woke up before sunrise and walked a mile to the bus station. Thank God we were able to leave all of our heavy bags in our apartment for the day. After a surprisingly comfortable bus ride, we arrived in the famous city of Amsterdam. It was a very different atmosphere from Brussels with canals, bikes, and boats everywhere. I was actually expecting to dislike Amsterdam because I have realized that I am not much of a city girl. But Amsterdam was so much more than a city. It had a small town feel with still a good amount of hustle and bustle. It was not dirty like most other big cities, and the canals and buildings added a bit of the Dutch touch.
We decided that since we did not have much time, that we would sign up for the hop-on, hop-off water taxi. We were able to see the city from the canals, and it dropped us off near key attractions in the city. Two birds with one stone. Our first stop of the day was the Heineken Brewery. It was fascinating to see the huge vats where they cooked the beer, and the types of assembly lines they used. It was the first brewery tour I have ever done, but I will probably not do another one. The price was a tad expensive for someone who is not an avid Heineken fan. If you don’t know me, I am a bit of a lightweight when it comes to drinking and two or three beers can get me loopy in the head and pink as a grapefruit. Included in the admission were three beers, so you can just imagine us roaming next to the canals trying to find the damn water taxi.
We eventually found the taxi stand and let the beer digest while cruising along the canals. We had hoped to visit the Anne Frank House, but unfortunately, tickets were sold out online months in advance; and we did not have enough time to wait in line. Instead, we set out to find the IAmsterdam sign since we could not find it anywhere on a map. After asking around on the boat, we found out that it was at the next stop, and hurried off.
After seeing those two attractions, we just wanted to stroll around and get a feel for the city. We walked along the canals and headed in the general direction of the flower market. There was something magical about having canals run through the city, and I wish there were more cities like that back home in California. There was also a much broader range of vehicles used, from boats, to bikes, to metros, to cars. It was nice having the variety because it dispersed the amount of traffic on the streets. Back in LA, the only form of transportation is essentially driving, and the roads are always full. We tried herring, which the Netherlands is famous for, and none of us liked it. Even though it is a fish, it just tasted too, well, fishy. We roamed the flower market area and found beautiful plants, souvenir stores, cheese (the best cheese I have ever tasted), and of course, weed. Of course, we couldn’t come to Amsterdam without buying a few souvenirs.
After we realized we had spent way too much money buying souvenirs, we wanted to end the day with a stroll through the Red Light District. I had not thoroughly research the District, so I did not really know what to expect. It was sad to see people standing in windows as if they were shop merchandise. We even happened to pass by a transgender alley. The sights will never be unseen. I’ve never seen women objectified that blatantly before, and it was an eye-opening experience. Understandably, pictures are frowned upon in this area, so I did not take many. Out of respect for the women, I also did not take any pictures of the windows. What did surprise me was that normal families actually lived there, or at least it looked like it. I saw some old women sitting on their balconies and some normal middle aged women cleaning their front steps. If you came to that area during the day, you would not even think that it housed the kind of activities that it does at night. It simply looked like another neighborhood with a couple of theaters and adult stores sprinkled around.
We left Amsterdam with sad hearts, hoping that we would be able to return one day soon. It was one of the few larger cities that I actually really enjoyed, and I can’t wait to spend a few more days there in the future.