Today, I fell in love.
No worries, it's not that I found a man better than my own, on the contrary, but I have encountered a truly miraculous city which engulfed my heart within a minute and has seized me as a whole to fall unequivocally in love. Amsterdam. A sound which rather suggests a slightly clumsy, cute little town but actually turned out to be one of the most magnificent cities I've ever been to (and now I have already been to a few). If I had to describe it in one word, it would be vibrant. It is buzzing with life, joviality and bikes (oh dear, there are so many of them and the cyclists OWN the city through and through). When I compare it to Hamburg, which was beautiful but seemed pretty drained of people, Amsterdam is busting with people any age, colour and country enjoying themselves and the beautiful place they are currently in.
So, it all started pretty promising when we came to our accommodation in a place called Westzaan which is north of Amsterdam. It is a lovely log cabin amidst a green garden with a kitchen, a living room and a snug bedroom under the roof slope. It is called B&B Morgenland and we booked it via Air BnB and I can only highly recommend it!
So far, so good. From there we boarded the train to Amsterdam (we had learnt our lesson in Bremen) and arrived in Amsterdam Centraal, not even assuming what kind of treat we were in for! We came out and I was immediately on fire. The photogenic city stretches out in front of your eyes, the structure dictated by the many canals winding through the core and beyond. We have been lucky for once with the weather in the past two days and the last rays of sunshine were caressing the roofs, making the glisten brightly.
Completely enthralled, we went down the main street and the more I saw, the more I loved. They already have their Christmas lights on and the big main street we were wandering down disembogued into a market square where a fair was set up, including a ferry wheel and one of these horrible catapults. We sauntered through the market, sucking in the lively atmosphere. Then we strolled on into Kalverstraat, a cosy shopping street with shops like Pull&Bear, River Island, the wonderful Stradivarius and - if you can believe it - a Waterstone's! Yes, you read correctly, my absolutely favourite bookshop in the world is represented in Amsterdam. If I hadn't fallen in love with the city by then, that would have been the last nail to the coffin. An entirely English bookshop and a Waterstone's that is! Absolutely magnificent! Additionally, they have an A&F, but I decided not to buy there as I could get to decently priced items in Stradivarius instead, which made more sense. I bought a lovely purplish midi-skirt with flowers printed on and a white autumn wool-fake coat which will look great with jeans and high heels, so there will be a fashion treat in for you as soon as I come round to taking pics.
As it is a must, we also strolled through the red light quarter, but I cannot really get anything from that. I think erotic is often mistaken for porn and I think it is sad that something like sex is always sold off as something dirty and leather-included. We also saw real women posing in the shop window (Amsterdam is famous for them, I believe) and it was a pretty awkward moment. You kind of want to look because, well, there is a semi-nude woman in a shop window! on the other hand, you simply want to avert your eyes because in the worst case scenario you might have eye contact with the woman behind and I have no clue what etiquette suggests for that kind of situation...
Anyway, we sauntered through the city, crossed innumerable bridges and had to conclude that the entire core city of Amsterdam featured not ONE ugly house. Seriously, it is a myriad of amazingly gorgeous houses with huge windows, incredible dormers and fantastic architecture. Simply unbeatable! I know this all might seem a little much, but believe me, magic is happening in this city and if there is one city you should see before kicking the bucket, Amsterdam it is.
After cosying up in our little cottage, we went to the beach this morning in a town called Wijk aan Zee where we came into the treat of a spectacularly long and broad beach upon which children, adults and dog owners were romping about. We took of our shoes as it was pretty warm today. We strolled down the beach, watching the dogs play in the water and the horses being ridden alongside the shore. After fantastic vibrant Amsterdam and all the other cities bustling about us the past days, the beach was a welcome diversion and I could feel us slow down inside. We sat down and watched the waves breaking and dancing. Then, as we walked back, we saw a seal in the water! Well, we're pretty sure it was one as there was a black head popping up occasionally and diving down again, so what else could it have been? Either way, I'm going to stick with the seal story, as I like it to be true and I only wish we would have seen it longer.
Eagerly, we returned to Amsterdam for day 2 and took the boat tour around the canals, which was pretty amazing. We chugged on, passing all the best sights and took innumerable pictures (because the beauty of the city is so overwhelming, you have a constant need to capture it). We got off close to the Anne Frank house and got a bite at a restaurant called Sanders where we enjoyed a cheeseburger (me) and a pulled pork sandwich (my man) before diving into Kalverstraat again and purchasing aforementioned items. We would have loved to see the Anne Frank house but the queue was all the way around the block; still, we took a picture from the outside nearly being ridden over by an impatient cyclist, honestly, they are everywhere!
We don't know if we're going to Amsterdam tomorrow again or head straight to Belgium, but, concluding, I can only repeat myself in saying you must visit this vibrant, picturesque city and breathe in the greatness it provides! With that I say good night for today and hope we will see each other soon!