Epic Trip Stop 1 – I Heart You

I set off on the first big journey of my new life on June 20, 2015.  My first stop was Amsterdam, via Atlanta, where I had a brief transit stop.

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I forgot to take a picture at the start of my journey in Kingston and I finally remembered while I was waiting in Atlanta for my next flight, so this was the first pic of my epic trip

I arrived in Amsterdam just before 6 am the next day, which was perfect.  Before I left Jamaica, I had made all my plans for how I would spend my two days in Amsterdam.  I had purchased an I Amsterdam city card online, which I picked up at the airport.  This gave me unlimited public transport access for the two days I would be there, and it gave me express entry into some museums.  I found my hotel shuttle at the airport and was off.  I hadn’t really slept on the almost 9-hour flight from Atlanta but I wasn’t tired.  Adrenalin was coursing through me and I couldn’t wait to get started.

The shuttle dropped me off at my hotel, I checked in and left my bags in my room, got a map of the city from the hotel front desk, as well as instructions on how to get to the Museumplein, and I was off.  I had dedicated that day to visiting the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, and any other museum that caught my eye.  I also knew that it was important for me to stay awake all day and not go to sleep, in order to combat jet lag.  So I hopped on the tram that would drop me closest to where I needed to be, and I was off on public transit in a foreign country for the first time in fourteen years (the last time before that was when I was working on my master’s degree in California).

I had an absolutely brilliant day.  I got off the tram at my stop and was delighted to see an H&M store, not because I wanted to buy anything but because, somehow, I hadn’t expected to encounter anything quite so recognisable.  From my tram stop, I walked to the Museumplein and entered the Rijksmuseum as it was opening.  I spent the next couple of hours admiring works of art from centuries gone by, including Napoleon’s horse (seriously, it was stuffed and displayed), tapestries, busts and paintings.  I felt like I was positively steeped in European history and culture.

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That’s the Rijksmuseum behind me…and a million tourists wouldn’t move so I could get a selfie without them in it!  Darn you, unaware tourists!

Around late morning, I wandered over to the Van Gogh Museum but all the lines were too long, even the express line, so I decided to try that one again later.  I toured the Diamond Museum (free with my IAmsterdam card) but it was fairly boring compared to what I had already seen.  Afterwards, I meandered along the main road until I came to a boat tour of Amsterdam’s canals, which was free with my IAmsterdam card.  I hopped on and enjoyed the next hour or so sleepily drifting along and learning a lot about the city’s canals,  By the time the tour was over, I was very impressed with Dutch engineering and water management.  In fact, impressed may be too mild a word.  I was well on my way to having a crush on the Netherlands.

I got off the boat and headed back to the Van Gogh Museum, where the line was much reduced from the morning’s craziness; it only took me about 20 minutes in the express line to get in.  I fell in love with his work.  I can’t say exactly why, but I did.  He was a troubled but brilliant man and even now I’m still very happy that I had the opportunity to see the results of his brilliance with my own eyes.

By that time it was mid-afternoon and sleep was calling my name.  I started back to my hotel, stopping first to have Dutch pancakes for dinner.

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Dutch pancakes…as yummy as they look!

By 6 pm I was out like a light and I slept the sleep of a truly happy woman, waking the next morning to start my second full day in Amsterdam.  I had two tours planned for the day and I needed to find breakfast (my hotel didn’t provide it) before I found my tour office.  I got off the tram in the same square as the day before, had tea and a bagel at Starbucks and hopped on another tram that took me close to where I needed to meet my tour.  I was heading into the Dutch countryside.

I. Loved. It.  Loved it!  People, the Dutch countryside is absolutely gorgeous, with a beauty so sharp sometimes that it almost hurt my eyes to look at it.  I couldn’t stop smiling and I didn’t care if the other tourists on the tour bus thought I was a complete dork.

I saw working windmills…

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Working windmills, people!  One of them was a saw mill and I went inside and saw how they use the wind to cut logs

…quaint villages that you probably think only exist in Hallmark movies…

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This village is called Zaanse Schans

…a cheese factory…

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This was when I became a cheese snob…nobody does cheese like the Dutch.  No-one!

…then after lunch took a ferry to yet another quaint village to visit a wooden shoe factory.

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No, I didn’t buy them…though I wished I could, I wasn’t about to start weighing down my luggage on my very first stop

The morning was a rousing success and all that I had seen solidified my crush on the Netherlands.  Yes, I’m not ashamed to say that Holland is totally my first ever country crush.

We went back to Amsterdam, where I caught an afternoon tour to Delft to visit a Delft Blue pottery factory that’s been around since the the middle of the seventeenth century…

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Delft Blue is an actual thing, people…look it up

…then to The Hague, which I learned is an actual town, not just a court where war criminals get tried.

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Hofvijver, the pond in the centre of Den Haag (The Hague)

As evening approached, we returned to Amsterdam, where I inhaled dinner in a pub before catching a tram back to my hotel, pleasantly tired and bursting with pleasure over my two Dutch days.  I really couldn’t have asked for a more wonderful visit and didn’t think my epic trip could get better.

But It did.  It so did.

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