Amsterdam in 3 days. Next time it should be 5.

Amsterdam in three days. Nutsy. But we loved it.

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So maybe we tried to pack in too many things… And maybe we weren’t so great at our time management. But we did a lot and explored a lot and had a great time. Lots of window shopping, lots of food (we declined the kangaroo burgers at the Australian restaurant, though), a few museums, and touring the city. And no, we did not go into any “coffee shops”, though they were everywhere, and the whole alternative culture was overwhelmingly present in that city. 🙂

The famous architecture really was stunning, and along the many canals we saw countless tall and narrow buildings with colored brick, painted trim, and beautiful details that gave each house a unique charm and personality . And I have never in my life seen so many bikes in one city. (No photos to fully prove this at the moment, but I promise. It’s crazy.) 🙂

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In the trendy neighborhood of Jordaan. We liked it a lot here.

The university residences.

The art at the university residences.

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It rained a whole heckuva lot while we were there. When we had brief sunny breaks here and there we would immediately take all our photos, and then the water would pour down again and we’d run for cover.  This led to some fun shop and museum discoveries, and many delicious snacks (poffertjes, stroopwaffles, and cheese, to name a few…), so no complaints here.

We found ourselves at the Amsterdam Tulip Museum’ which had a full history of how tulips became such an important part of Holland’s identity. (Did you know that the tulip is originally from turkey and the name comes from the same word they used for the Turkish turban?)

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Did you know that tulips originated in Turkey? Their name comes from the same word for the turban-style headwear of the Turks.

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Several tools used in tulip production- to carry, clean, and sort different bulb sizes.

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Next door to the tulip museum was the Cheese Museum. A bit smaller and most of our time was spent sampling cheese. 😀

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No filter. You see before you magenta, green, and bright blue cheese.

No filter. You see before you magenta, green, and bright blue cheese.

My sister getting a little silly with their dress-up box.

My sister getting a little silly with their dress-up box.

We found little discount tickets to things at our hostel and one was for Sara’s Pancake House, so of course we had to go. 🙂 It was a little pricey but the crêpes were quite good (I had a walnut caramel one and my sister had a pineapple banana crêpe), and it was fun to get a photo outside of me grinning ridiculously at ‘my’ pancake house (same spelling and everything)!

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We took in an open mic night at an Irish Pub called Mulligans: we just couldn’t turn down free entertainment, especially not Celtic music. 🙂 Three young guys from Ireland were the main performers and sang such gorgeous harmonies we were in heaven. The lead singer was on an acoustic guitar, they had an acoustic bass and a mandolin. A percussionist on a box drum (forget the real name of it, sorry) and a guy on a hand drum rounded it out, and then part way through a fiddler came in to join them. It was absolutely fantastic!!

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We checked out the famous floating flower market, and found tulip bulbs, fresh flowers, seeds and more souvenirs, but it wasn’t too exciting for us- perhaps if we were avid gardeners… 🙂image

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We went to the Rijk Museum of Art, which had a huge collection of art from the  1200s-1800s. One thing I noticed that I have never before seen in such a classic museum was that every piece of artwork had a description under the usual artist/title/material sign. It often said what the artist’s intention was, or what the images symbolized, and as a non-art-history major, I really appreciated that. It completely enhanced my experience. That, and some giant post-it notes around the museum with commentary from two modern art-history students on the art and the collections there.

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Wedding dresses from the 1700s in Holland

Wedding dresses from the 1700s in Holland

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Explanation! SO awesome!

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We then had to get some shots by the I AMsterdam sign (as one must do when one is in Amsterdam), and then we headed to dinner, which ended up being at an Australian grill where we got burgers. Not very Dutch, I guess, but there were delicious. We opted for beef, and not kangaroo, (no, I am not joking)…. we just couldn’t bring ourselves to being that adventurous… 😛

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We had tickets to go on a walking tour of the Red Light District but we were misinformed as to where our group would start out, so we actually missed it. We tried tagging along with another tour company for a few minutes, but they kicked us out rather quickly. We walked around the area for a bit after that, and then headed to our next evening event: the Amsterdam Ice Bar. 🙂

We had seen posters about the Ice Bar and wanted to go, so made reservations for 10:30pm. The main bar is like any other, with music and drinks and bar seating (and maybe some bear skin rugs and giant polar bear and penguin statues)… And when your reservation time starts they give you giant parka ponchos and matching mittens, and lead you into a smaller room at the back of the bar that has ice sculptures, frosted walls and ceiling, and a mini light show. You get two drink tickets for inside the ice bar, and the options of Heineken, vodka or whip cream flavored vodka with orange juice. You get your drinks in ice glasses, and you only really want to hang out in there for long enough to have two drinks before you want room temperature again. It was really fun, and a totally unique experience. We then got “Amsterdammed” drinks in the main bar (cranberry-something-delicious), and headed home for the night, as the next day would be packed with Van Gogh museum, Anne Frank House, and a canal tour.

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We wanted to see the Anne Frank house before we left Amsterdam and decided to brave the long line up to get in. We arrived during a torrential downpour. We were already around the block from the entrance to the museum so I wasn’t too optimistic about how much patience I had for over an hour wait in the pouring rain. The rain slowly tapered off after about 45 minutes of heavy pouring, and then 30 minutes of continuous drizzle, and the sun poked its head out of the clouds. It was at this point we had moved about 15 meters. But we persevered, had some hot chocolate from a well-placed local little shop, and made friends with the people in line behind us, a woman and her sister from Copenhagen, and a girl from Dublin. While we were in line, a busker played us some amazing Vivaldi on violin, and the church tower near us played some amazing ‘popular’ music for some time before a musician on a tiny boat in the nearby canal started playing a trumpet. Then all of a sudden he and the church bells were playing to each other, and we found out the bells in the tower were being played live by a musician up there. This went on for quite some time and was brilliantly entertaining! (And obviously, not the first time they had done this.)

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We had been waiting for two hours when we got to this sign.

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My sister caught this photo of the musician in the boat while I held our place in line.

In the end we were in line for over 3 hours!!! We agreed that the museum was worth it. It was unbelievable to walk through each room in the home and hiding place of Anne and her family and see short videos of her father, one childhood friend, and one of the staff who helped hide her family above her father’s business talk about Anne and what it was like during the war, and the impact her diary and writing have had on the world.

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Because of our 4+ hours at the Anne Frank house we didn’t make it to the Van Gogh museum. 😦 Since a canal tour had been so highly recommended to us we did that as our last excursion in Amsterdam as our night train left the main station at 7:00pm. We were looking forward to seeing the streets we had already wandered around from a different perspective, and get some history on the city. Going past all the house boats and barges was my favorite part. I would imagine it would be fun to take a tour in the evening when the city is all lit up.

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Well, Amsterdam, it’s been a whirlwind three days! See you again!

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Sights with friends: part 2! (ou Les attractions touristiques avec des amies: partie deux!)

Diana and Lisa introduced me to Sean, an American who will be studying for his Masters in Paris in the fall, and Hugo, a Parisian  who has agreed to meet me for coffee on occasion to help me practice my French. You could tell instantly who was from where; Hugo kissed both cheeks, Sean shook hands. 🙂

 

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These four introduced me to the Jardin de Luxembourg, and we sat in the late evening sun before going for food at the fanciest ‘pub’ I’ve ever been to in the 5th Arrondissement. They had fois gras, caviar, & champagne on the menu. needless to say, none of us ordered those. 🙂

It was great to hang out in a group, and though the gents had plans for the next couple days (work and such), we girls went out again yesterday and did some more sightseeing.

Well, we started with shopping, as both Lisa and Diana were heading out of town the next day- Lisa to Budapest, and Diana back home to Vancouver. Time for souvenirs. Diana and I started in Monmartre, looking for a well-priced béret, some scarves, and other fun items family and friends might enjoy. I introduced her to “Pylônes”, one of my favourite shops I remembered from the last trip, and I showed her Refuge Des Fondus- the amazing restaurant I can’t wait to go back to. Diana found a lot of great stuff, though I didn’t buy anything. I was just her souvenir ‘enabler.’ 😉

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Another serendipitous discovery that was on my ‘must see’ list that we happened upon: the famous Passe Muraille sculpture!

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The art is based on “The Man Who Walked Through Walls” -a short story published by Marcel Aymé in 1943. The story goes something like this- There was a man named Dutilleul who lived in Montmartre who possessed the unusual ability to pass effortlessly through walls. Dutilleul used this to break into banks and jewellery shops and occasionally would allow himself to be caught in the act, but could easily escape prison over and over again. He then fell in love with a married woman, for whom he would sneak through the walls of her locked bedroom at night to see her. One morning while leaving her house through the wall, he discovered that he could not move, and became trapped: where he remains to this day

imageHis hand has been worn down to bony gold fingers from all the people trying to help him out of the wall. It was kind of creepy.

 

 

 

 

We then decided to make a quick stop at Galleries Lafayette, which was hugely busy and overwhelming- kind of like a gargantuan Holt Renfrew or something.

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We considered buying tiny €3.50 macarons, but we decided against it and bought them for €0.90 at a McDonalds later that day. I know I know, McDonald’s is not your classic Parisian patisserie, but I has to try. And have a cappuccino there, too. To make proper use of their wifi. 🙂

I would understand if you judge me here. ;)

I would understand if you judge me here. 😉

$$$ desserts  (€€€ dessertes)

$$$ desserts
(€€€ dessertes)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We wanted to check out the Chateau de Vincennes, which is at the end of Metro Line 1. The Chapel was our first stop, and it was beautiful. Apparently it took over two hundred years to complete.

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Walking into the castle truly felt like we had gone back in time. We explored the king’s chambers, ‘walk-in’ fireplaces as we liked to call them, and numerous stairwells and rooms.
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Plus there was a random kid in a knights helmet, so there’s that….

We were looking forward to spending the evening by the Eiffel Tower with a picnic (une pique-nique), so we picked up three kinds of cheese, olives, wine, cherries, and baguette, and sat in the Park to the south to enjoy our dinner and wait for the sparkling lights again

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Note the classy wine- it was a pink grapefruit rosée… I’m not taking credit for that..

At one point, someone started blaring the song “Happy” by Pharrell Williams and we joked it was probably a flash mob.

And then a flash mob happened. It was quite a modest size group,  so it was cute but not too exciting. It was bound to happen at some point, I suppose.

We were all actually more hopeful we would see a proposal when the Eiffel Tower flashing lights came on, but no luck.

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With one last dessert together of “Nutella et Spéculos” crêpés, we hugged (we should have double-cheek kissed) and took our separate trains home. The good news- Lisa is coming back through Paris in ten days, so we will meet up then and I’ll hear about her Train travels back across Europe. I’m looking forward to seeing other friendly faces as they pass through Paris later this month and at the beginning of August!