Day 2 – Thursday.
After catching some shut eye (better than the plane, but still not great – thanks, jet lag & unfamiliar setting), we caught an early bus to the area near the Anne Frank Museum. We grabbed some coffee and blueberry muffins at a little bakery and set out to find our first touristy stop. We weren’t in a hurry so didn’t bother looking at a map and soon realized we’d wandered too far. Spotting two ladies who were obviously tourists (big camera around the neck), we asked them if they were headed to the Anne Frank Museum. They confirmed that they were and so we joined forces to find it. We arrived at the site at 8:45 and spent the next hour and a half in line.
Travel tip #6: This doesn’t just apply to the Anne Frank Museum, but if there is a site you definitely want to see, check into buying tickets in advance to skip the line. We procrastinated on this and by the time we tried to buy them, they were sold out for the entire month of April.
The time in line passed quickly with our two Canadian friends who we’d met en route, their cousin – an Amsterdam native who had some great tips and recommendations, and the people in line behind us – an older couple (also Canadian) who had just arrived in Amsterdam that morning and were keeping themselves busy to combat jet lag.
^ Getting close to the door after some quality time in line! ^
Walking through the Anne Frank annex/museum is truly a sobering experience. To be in that space, where those eight people hid for two years, and think about all that they went through, all the fears they faced day after day…well, it truly brought perspective. The museum is impeccably maintained and managed and definitely worth a trip.
We grabbed lunch at Sara’s Pancake House – a Rick Steves recommendation. Kevin had a ham, cheese, and mushroom pancake and Amy had an omelette. Kevin also had coffee, of course. We found the tiny little cups with their one-finger handles to be pretty cute. It was usually espresso rather than regular coffee beans though, so Kevin didn’t feel like he was suffering too much in his attempts to stay caffeinated.
Bellies full we decided to take a load off for awhile and hopped on a canal boat tour. The boat tour was highly underwhelming with very minimal recorded narration and a completely disengaged “captain” who spent most of the time on his cell phone, but it was nice to sit and we saw a lot of the city – from the canal view – in a short amount of time.
Then we went to the Rijksmuseum, which is a piece of art in itself.
The Honour Gallery was very crowded and for good reason – it houses many famous pieces, including several Rembrandts. We meandered to the second floor and saw ornate cannons, intricate chimney pieces and furniture, and a wide assortment of paintings. Other highlights in the museum included a throne from William IV’s reign, the Van Gogh self-portrait, and the Waterloo painting. The latter was floor to ceiling and at least 15 feet across. So imposing!
We found a restaurant near the museum for dinner – Pompa. This was where Kevin had his favorite Amsterdam meal – Lasagna Bolognese.
After dinner, having mastered the tram system, we easily made our way back to the apartment and rested up for….
Day 3 – Friday
We began our day at a little coffee place near the apartment and then made our way back to the airport. We felt very proud because we took a much more direct route than we had when we first arrived – navigating that tram/bus system like a boss. We bought tickets for Keukonhof Gardens and took a short bus ride to the city limits to explore. The Gardens are fabulous. Perfectly cultivated and in varying stages of bloom. The hydrangeas were the real star of the show, but the tulips were starting to fill in so Amy could check “see tulips in Amsterdam” off the trip to-do list.
We grabbed lunch at the Gardens – cafeteria style – and then made our way back into Amsterdam proper. The next leg of our trip was to take a train to Bruges, so we went to the train station to buy those tickets.
Travel tip #7: When in Europe, you can buy train tickets online and in advance, but we were so incredibly happy to talk to an expert at the train station. She gave us excellent advice about which route to take and we felt far more comfortable about our plan than we would have if we’d tried to buy tickets for an unfamiliar journey on our own. We paid a little more because we were buying them last minute, but it was worth it to us!
We took a tram to Dam and began exploring the area. Fresh waffles (with Nutella for Kevin and with powdered sugar for Amy) were found at a shop on a side street that we affectionately nicknamed “Diagon Alley”.
Then we set out to find the red light district, which was surprisingly challenging (since we didn’t want to look like total tourists by pulling out the map and examining the street signs closely). The crowds and the noise got on Amy’s last nerve and she started to lose her
shi patience. But Kevin’s cool head persevered and eventually we found the land of prostitution and weed. We were both ready to leave shortly after arriving, but at least we can say we’ve been there. I guess.
Next we caught a tram to a street market area where we found what we were truly seeking – Stroopwafel. Thin, freshly prepared waffles, sliced in half and then sandwiched back together with warm caramel in the middle. So, so decadent and delicious.
Since we’d only eaten two types of waffle in the span of an hour and a half, we had to grab dinner soon after. (Ha.) George’s Bistro was the spot – Kevin had the half herb chicken with fries and Amy had the lobster corn chowder and fries. Tasty all around. (And round is what we were feeling after all that eating.)
We logged 18,000+ steps on this particular day so we were ready to rest our weary feet. Back to the apartment with us where we hung out with our pal Sugar, and plotted out the next leg of our trip…Bruges.