A few weeks ago, I traveled to the Netherlands to visit some of my best friends studying in Rotterdam. Although we spent the majority of the trip catching up and strolling around Rotterdam’s lively streets to take advantage of the sunny weather, I couldn’t leave the Netherlands without visiting its famous capital: Amsterdam.
We started our day trip to Amsterdam with an arguably late start. After having arrived in Rotterdam the previous day, the excitement and delight at finally being reunited after several months kept my two friends and me laughing and chatting late into the night. It wasn’t until about noon that we managed to catch the one-hour train that would take us to the stunning Amsterdam Centraal. Here, we grabbed ourselves some coffee and began our walk toward the tram that would take us to the first spot of the well-designed itinerary assembled by my two friends, Lina and Inara.
Being one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe, I took the short tram ride as an opportunity to observe and get a feel for the city. The public transportation system in Amsterdam, and in the Netherlands in general, was pretty impressive. The trams would only cost about one euro every time we’d use them to get through the city, and the metro, buses and bikes were always an alternative option. Most places we visited were close together anyway, so we found ourselves walking a lot too.
Amsterdam has tons to offer in the arts department, but with only a day to visit, we had to limit ourselves to only one museum. We ended up visiting the Van Gogh Museum, which houses the largest collection of works by Vincent Van Gogh in the world. Art enthusiast or not, I think everyone can appreciate Van Gogh’s work. I enjoyed the permanent exhibitions showcasing his unique interpretations of nature throughout his life, including during his time in a psychiatric hospital. We also were able to see some of the temporary exhibitions, including the very memorable and close-to-home work from the Lebanese artist Etel Adnan. Highly influenced by Van Gogh, Adnan used very bright and powerful colors in order to convey meaningful messages about nature, war, culture and identity.
It was during my exploration of this temporary exhibition that I did a double take as a petite but very identifiable woman walked past me. I stood dumbstruck in the middle of the room as I realized I was staring at the unmistakable Elizabeth Warren. I very quickly told my friends, and although we didn’t end up speaking to her, it was very hard to ignore the fact that she was in close proximity to us as we explored the remainder of the exhibition.
After the very eventful museum visit, we made our way toward the food trucks lined up at the Museumplein town square. I got some french fries, which I discovered to be remarkably popular in the Netherlands. My friends, meanwhile, went for the classic stroopwafel — a must-try if you’re visiting the country.
Once we’d filled up our stomachs, we made our way through the bustling streets of Amsterdam toward the center, first stopping for a quick viewing of Dam Square. We then continued to make our way to Kalverstraat, the main shopping street, stopping periodically to admire some of the more unique stores. We entered a few antique and souvenir stores, and although I didn’t end up buying anything, I simply loved looking at the models and paintings of traditional Dutch canal houses, plates and clothes.
My friends insisted on taking me to the world-famous red-light district here. And while it may not exactly be my type of thing, it was still really interesting to see what it was all about. We took a short stroll through the street before making our way back to Amsterdam Centraal, where we were going to meet another friend. While we waited, we decided to sit by the canal and watch the boats as they cruised through the expansive and beautiful canal system.
To end the already perfect day, our old-time friend took us to a local favorite, Miu, where we indulged ourselves in all-you-can-eat sushi and noodles. We spent the evening reminiscing on high school memories and reflecting on how different all of our lives had shaped up to be.
We ended the night heading back to Amsterdam Centraal after dinner then took the train back to Rotterdam. As the train made its way out of the station, I bade farewell to the beautiful city of Amsterdam, promising myself that I’d return once again for a longer stay.