Howard and I said one last thank you and goodbye to Marc early in the morning on August 24th, and departed Arnhem to see Amsterdam. I explored Amsterdam for the first time in 2008 with my awesome friend Cate, but I was very excited to see the city once again, and especially excited to see what my dad’s thoughts were on some of the city’s finer points.
We arrived in the city still fairly early in the morning, and we trekked beneath very cloudy skies to find out hotel. Just like the first time, I got lost and ended up guiding us too far east, which helped us see some of the city despite our heavy packs. We checked into the Hotel Marnix, and then immediately headed to the Rijksmuseum.
When I was in Amsterdam in 2008, Cate and I were very confused and disappointed when we visited the Rijksmuseum and only took about an hour to see the whole thing. The reason why our visit took so little time was because of ongoing renovations, and the only parts that we could see were what the museum considered to be the “Masterpieces.” I was anxious to return this time to see the whole thing, but once again I was let down because the museum won’t fully open until sometime between 2012 and 2013. We waited in the rain and paid full admission though, mostly because I still think seeing Rembrandt’s “The Nightwatch” is worth the full price of admission.
We explored more of the southern part of Old Town and enjoyed the street guitarist jamming hard in Rembrandt Square before returning to the Marnix Hotel to see if our room was ready. We waited an hour longer than we had been originally told, and then set out to see the infamous Red Light District. Howard seemed only slightly impressed with the women, but the people watching proved to be fantastic as expected. Of course, I did not take pictures in the District, but I stand by my statement from 2008: The Red Light District, and Amsterdam as a whole, is something that photos simply cannot give justice to. You need to experience it yourself! Take the trip!
The following day, we took the best Free City Walking Tour in Europe, saw a good amount of the city, and ended up at the Anne Frank House. The experience inside the house was as powerful as the first time, and is another “Must See” if you go to Amsterdam. Beforehand, however, we were able to quiz our great Australian tour guide about where to find the best beers in town. We got some tips, and after seeing the Anne Frank House, Howard and I took a long walk outside of town for our first pub stop, Brouwerij ‘t Ij.
Brouwerij ‘t Ij is a brewpub located in the ground floor of a classic Dutch windmill. The beer was superb and the crowd was almost entirely locals, but the surprise of the day was certainly the 1960-ish Chevy Impala that pulled up on to the sidewalk with three guys inside. They quickly transformed the vehicle into an outdoor stage, and proceeded to jam out American and British rock classics. We just happened to sit at the end of a table close to the street, without the expectation that we would have front-row seats for the show!
We worked our way back into town stopping at a few more pubs specified by our tips from the Australian guide, seeing aspects of Amsterdam not widely enjoyed by tourists because of the pubs’ distance from Old Town. After some more delicious Dutch and Belgian beers and people-watching in the Red Light District, we meandered back to the Hotel Marnix.
That night, and the night before, we were joined by a very special guest (or two?) consisting of some Dutch mice in our hotel room. We didn’t get a discount for having these extra visitors, so I must specify, I DO NOT recommend the Hotel Marnix (pay a little more for a StayOkay Hostel or different hotel).
Otherwise, I have now spent a collective week exploring the streets of Amsterdam, and the only European cities I have spent more time in are Paris and Stockholm. This time around, I recognized Amsterdam’s individual charm and character, and I would highly recommend it to anyone visiting Europe. Regardless of your views on soft-drug use, legalized prostitution, getting run-over by bicycles, or whatever else you may have preconceptions of Amsterdam being notorious for, I honestly believe anyone and everyone would enjoy this city. Go there!