After our quick stop in Brussels, we continued north to Amsterdam. Amsterdam without a holiday is a crazy city, so just imagine the intensity of New Year’s here! Anticipating this, Ian and I stayed in the Southern portion of Amsterdam, close to Vondelpark and the Van Gogh Museum. This was far enough away from all the madness, yet walkable to the heart of the city. We stayed at the Alfred Hotel which was precious and took wonderful care of us. It was perfectly positioned on a tree lined street with boutique shops and chic restaurants. Ian called this area the “boujee” part of Amsterdam.
Once we checked into our hotel, we walked to the main canal strips. We grabbed some dinner and then celebrated the New Year’s on the streets of Amsterdam. I have never seen anything like this in my life. There aren’t any firework laws or regulations in Amsterdam, so people were doing fireworks off of rooftops, boats, and even throwing them at people. At first, I thought the scenery was incredible. I skyline consumed by fireworks. But after surveying the scene further, I realized these were homemade fireworks being let off in wine bottles. Frightened, I asked if we could remove ourselves from the heart of the action and watch the rest of the show from our hotel. We walked through the Red Light District on our way back. This is something that must be seen! Women are standing in rooms that almost look like Barbie boxes that have doors. She chooses to let any man in that will pay her a hefty fee. Photography is not allowed on this strip, surprise surprise, so you must go and experience this for yourself.
The following morning we grabbed an incredible breakfast at Le Pain Quotidien, a restaurant less than two blocks from our hotel. Ian and I then enjoyed a brisk morning walked through Vondelpark. This park is gorgeous and huge. It leads up to the I Amsterdam sign which is right next to the Van Gogh Museum. We of course took touristy photos at the sign then warmed up with a stroopwafel. Ian and I hadn’t purchased tickets for the Van Gogh Museum yet and the line to do so was over an hour. I suggest you do what we did. I hopped on my handy dandy cell phone, purchased them online, then arrived at the proper time. No waiting in the rain was needed!
The next day we started off the same way…breakfast at Le Pain then walking through Vondelpark. Today, we had tickets to the Anne Frank Museum, a wine and cheese tour at Reypenaer, and a canal cruise at sunset. As a child, I read Anne Frank’s diary multiple times. Seeing her quarters in real life hits a soft spot. It all becomes more real. This museum is a MUST if you are in Amsterdam.
To cheer ourselves up after Anne Frank, we got some Dutch pancakes at Sara’s Pancake House. I have never had anything more delicious in my life! I nearly licked my plate clean. With full bellies we walked the canals and headed to Reypenaer for our cheese and wine tour. This was quite the experience. We got to taste various wine and cheese pairs. I ended up eating Ian’s cheese, and Ian ended up drinking my wine!
We ended our last night with a canal cruise at sunset. We expected there to be no colors with all of the rain, but the clouds parted and we got a gorgeous pink and orange goodbye sunset! Along the canals at winter are light up art pieces called the Amsterdam Light Festival. This is something fun to see if you are there at the same time! We walked home from our tour and ate a delicious meal at Pompa. The next day was a big day! We were off to Ireland!
Reflecting on our time in Amsterdam, I can say that the food was some of the best in Europe. We stayed in the most relaxed part of town which made this portion of the trip effortless. Amsterdam was stress free for us…and this is not because of the coffee shops (we don’t smoke!) I felt so happy here. This could also be because Dutch is one of the happiest sounding languages ever! They can be yelling at each other and it sounds like a song. If you are traveling around Amsterdam, do not miss it. Make sure this is on your “places to hit” list.