We’ve really missed international travel. It’s been a while since we’ve gone anywhere but Albuquerque. Don’t get me wrong, New Mexico is beautiful, but 2012 was chock full of passport stamps and new vistas, and we’ve discovered that’s kind of our thing.
This is part of our 100 Things in 2017 challenge. Here’s the full list. Click on the photos for a closer look!
So when I was accepted to give a presentation at a conference in Amsterdam, we started planning and researching and getting excited all over again. We love this stuff, and it’s been a long time.
We realize this isn’t technically a new country for us; we visited Rotterdam and Delft two years ago. However, since these are our rules, and that whole trip was clouded with grief at losing our dog Jackson, we decided to count it anyways, and have a great time.
Part 1: Amsterdam
Travel to Europe always takes two days; you leave around noon on one day, and land around noon the next. Ordinarily we like to then fight off jet-lag by staying up until it’s something kind of like bedtime where we land, but Becky just couldn’t do it; she had come down with a cold just before we left, and its effects fully set in during the flight. So I quietly partook of the bounty our Airbnb hosts had left for breakfast, and went for an aimless walk while she napped. I discovered interesting architecture, and a branch of my favorite Belgian pub. I came back after an hour or so and woke Becky up, went back out again for dinner, and we rounded off our first “day” of travel with a walk around town.
We made as much of the next couple of days as energy and illness would allow. We had a book full of walking maps, so we got to know the old part of town pretty well, and an Internet full of eating recommendations, so we kept our bellies full of delicious food. We visited the Blumenmarkt, a cheese museum, and our jaws dropped at the multi-level bike-parking garage at Centraal train station.
Then came two days where I was working my conference, and Becky made good use of her time alone. She visited several museums (including the Dutch Resistance Museum), did tons more walking, and ate some great food, but also made a conscious effort to rest and recuperate. Becky is the most energetic and don’t-waste-my-time traveller I know, but the flu would just not let her go, and she suffered all week. If you can call those poffertjes and that mango-lemongrass milkshake suffering.
Part 2: Zandvoort
Once the conference was over, we wanted to get to know a bit more of the country. So off we went to Zandvoort-aan-Zee (sand-fort on sea), kind of like what Seaside is to Portland. We were looking for kind of a taste of how locals get to the beach on a weekend. Here we finally ate raw pickled herring with onions, an Amsterdam tradition. It was slimy, but pretty good. We went for a nice long walk on the beach, making sure to actually touch the North Sea, then missed our train back, and waited for the next one.
Part 3: Haarlem
On our way back from Zandvoort, we stopped for a couple of hours in Haarlem, and liked it enough to come back the next day. This is kind of like a smaller, quieter, less-crazy Amsterdam, with much of the same history, but fewer tourists. Walking into Teylers Museum is like stepping back into the early 19th century, or onto a really well-done period-piece film set. We climbed to the top of a reconstructed windmill (complete with grindstone!), had a taste of Britain at Bij Babette, toured the Corrie Ten Boom house (a family that hid jews during WWII), and walked the narrow, winding alleyways through the old town. Lovely.
Completing the unexpected WWII-resistance theme of the trip, on our way back from Haarlem, we also managed to be one of the last admitted to the Anne Frank Museum, which was also amazing and humbling. The next day we packed up and headed home, talking much of the way, trying to make sense of all we had seen and done. We celebrated our 5-year anniversary on the plane home, and couldn’t think of any way we’d rather spend it.
This trip was really challenging because Becky was sick. Instead of spending all our energy doing “the things you do in the place you do them,” we had to dedicate half to recuperating and self-care. That’s not a bad thing, it’s how she managed to survive the week, but we had to adjust our plans several times to allow it to happen, and we’re not used to that.
Anyways, now we feel like we’ve really gotten to know (and like!) this country, so now it’s officially counted, and we won’t be able to call it a “new” country again.