For you see, so many out-of-the-way things had happened lately, that Alice began to think that very few things indeed were really impossible.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
After waving goodbye to Iceland, I took an insanely early flight to Amsterdam. I chose Amsterdam as my next stop for one very important reason- it was the cheapest place to fly out of Reykjavik! My plan for Europe is to plan two to three cities out so that I can maintain flexibility throughout the trip. It is me, though, so of course I have a rough itinerary mapped out already!
I still had my terrible cold so Amsterdam activities were somewhat limited. I landed, made my way to Central Amsterdam on the metro and found a place to store my luggage until my airbnb was ready. My choice of lodging varies in each city but in Amsterdam, this flat was super inexpensive and allowed me to make all three meals instead of eating out- a good thing since Danish vegetarian food is not prevalent!
The first thing you notice about Amsterdam is the bikes- all 1.8 million of them. They own the roads, the sidewalks and apparently the canals as 15,000 of them are fished out of the canals each year. The bikes aren’t fancy, but much more traditional, many complete with fantastic bells. I love to photograph bikes, but it seemed a bit ridiculous in this town. The best I could do was a photo with graffiti, bikes and shops- all three very common here!
The first thing I learned about Amsterdam is to walk on both sides of the street. Between the canals and the bikes, it is so hard to see everything. So often, I walked right by something that I didn’t notice until I was walking back the other way. I walked by the Red Light district about four times (during the day) before I even realized the windows!
Everyone said to take a canal tour to really see the city. I was lucky enough to be there during their Festival of Lights so I took a Watercolor Cruise after sunset. In addition to the great sites, there were about 20 different art installations on the water representing Amsterdam life. The homes along the canal are amazing. There is definitely some wealth along the water.
Of course I did all the touristy stuff in Amsterdam- the Van Gogh Museum (amazing), the Rijksmuseum (totally cool) and the Anne Frank House (inspiring). The Anne Frank home is especially interesting as Otto Frank required that they leave it quite bare. They do a great job of balancing education with emotion. Little did I know that this visit to see the hideout of a little girl who inspired so many would be one of several Girl Power activities I would encounter. This little girl decided in hiding that she would right a book that would be published. And so she wrote. Because what she wanted was not impossible.
All in all, I liked Amsterdam quite a lot. By day. I didn’t love it so much by night. The streets become filled with British teenage boys with their ridiculous haircuts and track suits. Fortunately, I had my lovely little home to go to and curl up on the couch and watch Sherlock! I also love their fries. Everywhere you look, they have french fry shops with lovely dipping sauces- curry was my favorite!
But it was time to go- I boarded a bus for a three hour ride to Brussels.
Despite much doomsday around the Brussels Nord Train/Bus Station, I arrived, grabbed my luggage from the bus and made my way to my hotel. I totally scored on this hotel. It is blocks from the Mannekin Pis and the Grand Place, has an enormous breakfast buffet and is only $40 a night!! I checked in, found a supermarket for bread, peanut butter and apples and grabbed a pizza for dinner and a movie in.
The next day, I was off, for 12 miles of discovery. Brussels surprised me. It is quaint yet metropolitan, touristy but local, busy but quiet. I really liked it here. The shops were too cute to describe. If only I had even a tiny semblance of artistic talent, I would love to paint this place. Until then, I will have to use my camera. In addition to all of the adorable shops, there are waffle shops every 10 feet. I like waffles but usually without topping but I went with chocolate, black chocolate as they called it. Quite tasty waffle- next time, I would go with the natural version. I say this knowing full well both my father and sister would disown me from the family by shunning chocolate.
My second night in Brussels coincided with the Presidential Inauguration in the United States. And as luck would have it, there was a Sister March happening just down the street from my hotel. Not a March as much as a Candlelight Service. Once again, I had the opportunity to be inspired by strong women and the belief that the impossible could be, in fact, quite possible. We met for fellowship and conversation and shared ideas of what the world could look like. I met women from all over the world at this event, good women that want the world to be a better place.
The next day was off to the Atomium- a totem and Brussels treasure from the 1958 World Fair. It looks like a giant atom with elevators and escalators connecting the pods. The pods have different exhibits about the Fair and life in the 1950s. Walking through here, I suddenly realized my penchant for World’s Fair History. I love this stuff but never put the pieces together. Once my journeys are over, I suspect I will take up in depth reading on all of the World’s Fairs.
One of the best parts about Brussels was that I got to practice some of my high school French. Turns out I can pull off reading menus and signs and engaging in simple conversation, but I can’t read washing machine instructions in the laundromat AT ALL. Fortunately, I have done laundry once or twice and managed to piece together my own instructions. The clothes looked and smelled clean so I think I managed just fine.
I headed out to explore on my last day and found myself standing in front of a cinema. I suspect it is very unlikely that I will see every Oscar Nominated Film this year but I will make a concerted effort! So one ticket was purchased and my last evening was spent with the Rogue One crew. Ironically, it is a movie with a strong female character capable of doing the impossible. How apropos.
Next stop…..Lisbon for some warmer weather!