- The start of our trip was…rocky. 24 hour trip delay. Lost baggage scare. Runaround treatment for hours in Toronto’s airport. It felt like everything was going wrong. Once we landed, we dropped our bags off at the airbnb, grabbed our rental bikes, and hit the ground running (pedaling?). All that stress slipped away the second we hopped on those bikes and started our brisk ride along the city’s canals, wearing bik kid smiles and laughing the whole way. We weaved our way through a mix of bike traffic, motor vehicles, and pedestrians, and headed towards the Redlight District where I stayed in 2010 (more on that in the next post). We capped off our first day in Amsterdam with a short boat tour and a traditional Indonesian rice table meal. Our stomachs were full, our eyes heavy, and everything felt right again. We slept well that night.

- De Haven Van Texel - 12 years ago, I flew to Amsterdam from Morocco to spend the second half of a long weekend with some classmates. My first impression of the city was that of hospitality and kindness in the form of a taxi driver. 15 minutes into our Amsterdam Centrale-bound ride, he must’ve picked up that I was a young student and on a tight budget. He recommended taking a train into the city from the airport so that I could save some money. He drove me back, refused to charge me, and I ended up paying just a fraction of what I would’ve owed him on the train ticket. Once I arrived to Amsterdam Centrale, I wandered a little bit looking for my hostel in the Redlight District. Mind you, traveling was a lot different in 2010. No smart phones - a lot more improvising. I remember walking past a corner restaurant and getting my first real glimpse of the canals. I stood there, leaning on the railing for a minute and thought, “ok, I’m close.” The rigid symmetry of the canals lined in contrast by uneven buildings leaning in at all different angles captivated me then and has captivated me ever since. That corner restaurant was De Haven Van Texel, and it was a full circle moment having coffee with Cassie there to settle in to our 2 week Europe trip… like a familiar dream.

- We woke up early, hopped on our bikes, and got on the ferry to cross the river. Our bus to take us to the tulip fields was on the other side. The streets were empty for King’s Day preparations. We had no idea what we were in for when we returned.

- Being in the Netherlands for tulip season was what spearheaded the planning of this trip. The gardens are only open 2 months annually, and the flowers really take center stage when that time comes. Every corner of the park is perfectly manicured and the color of the flowers are accentuated by the overcast skies of the Dutch countryside. The gardens are surrounded by tulip fields so we grabbed some rental bikes to explore what was around. We learned that these fields are commercial farms that harvest their tulip bulbs at different times of the season to prep for export. As a result, the flowers weren’t as abundant as they could’ve been but we still managed to find a pretty dense tulip field to stroll in.

- We were warned about King’s Day. When we first arrived, everyone we encountered had something to say about how crazy it was going to be; sometimes in subtle murmurs, other times in exaggerated descriptions. The National holiday happened to be on the day we booked our visit at the Kuekenhoff Gardens. It was the calm before the storm when we left that morning for the gardens; what we came back to was CHAOS. Every bridge or public square in the city was it’s own shoulder-to-shoulder dance party. The canals were filled with all different kinds of vessels converted into party boats. Everyone wore orange, the color of the Ditch Royal Family. The deeper we ventured into the Jordaan neighborhood, the crazier things seemed to get. It was both fun yet overwhelming in a lot of ways. We were most definitely not mentally prepared for it. It would have been like dropping two foreigners into New Orleans in the middle of Mardi Gras without them knowing. By nightfall, we fought our way through the crowds and were happy to be back in our AirBnB, relaxing with takeout pizza and Netflix. Between the tulip fields and King’s Day, it had been a long day

- Our time in Amsterdam felt rushed and fleeting. We lost a full day to the flight delay and King’s Day was hardly the quintessential Amsterdam experience. On our last morning in the Netherlands, we were finally able to melt into the city’s pace and feel the local energy of the Jordaan neighborhood. Our time was limited as we had a train to catch, but we were still able to check out a ton of vintage clothing stores and walk the quiet streets that were scenes of debauchery less than 24 hours earlier. I was excited for Cassie to finally see the Amsterdam that I remembered - calm and peaceful, rich in history, progressively tolerant yet polished and sophisticated.


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