As I sit on the bus travelling from Amsterdam to Brussels, it’s hard to believe we’ve already finished our first stop in Europe. It’s also pretty crazy to think that any second now, we’ll be crossing the border into country #2 (wait, we just did!) made obvious only by a subtle change in the language on road signs.
Amsterdam was a dream. It is my brother’s first time in Europe and I think for him, Amsterdam was the perfect stepping stone between New Zealand and the rest of Europe. It is such a pretty city: glistening canals lined with colourful houses and an abundance of greenery – it is so easy to just wander, and be happy.
Our evening arrival enabled us the best chance of minimising jet lag and I’ll report that this has mostly been successful. Typically, lack of sleep has left me rather sniffly but I am hoping to nail that one down shortly. With the sun rising at about 5.30 am and not dropping until after 10 pm, the long days have seemed slightly mismatched with the somewhat crisper temperatures, but in a pleasant way. In saying that, there has still been enough sunshine to ensure we have two red nosed Rudolphs in our midst (not me, duh).
Everyone says it’s well known that the best way to familiarise yourself with the city is to jump on a bike and who am I to disagree? Cycling around Vondelpark was an absolute highlight for me (and equipped me well for my not so secret alternative agenda of doggo watching!); it is such a lush place to be on a sunny day. It would be a prime spot for a picnic as well as there being an open air theatre too.
Having bikes gave us so much freedom to get from A to B quickly and have time to get gloriously lost alongside the warren of canals (which actually have a convenient structure once you learn how) on the way.
Following a series of close calls (keep to the right people!) we cycled out to Browertij, a microbrewery located to the east of the city. It was quaint and cheerful, obviously heightened by it being inside a darling little windmill. It had a great tasting menu, and it was a lesson quickly learnt that European beers are a touch stronger than those back home.
Naturally we did all the things visitors are supposed to do, such as a walking tour, visiting the city’s landmarks, the Anne Frank house and (not) indulging in the red light district (which was certainly quite the eye opener). The floating flower market, Bloemenmarkt, was appropriately cliche and Jordaan was again my favourite area of the town.
I must say I was disappointed to see that the corny Iamsterdam sign had been removed from the Museumplein (for the reason that residents thought the “I” conveyed the idea of individualism, which doesn’t align with the city’s progressive thinking). The canal cruise was one of the best things we did: relaxing in the sun with a G&T in hand, soaking up not just that but the scenery too. We also ate some fine food, but more about that later 😉
A glorious beginning to our time away, if I dare say so myself. If A is for Amsterdam than B must be for Brussels… so stay posted!