The team was finally getting 3 days off which was a lot, considering Wade usually only has 1 day off a week! This gave us an opportunity to plan a trip where we could travel farther than we normally would be able to. Between our close group of friends, the nine of us all decided to plan a group trip to Amsterdam! This was a city that was never on my bucket list but a city I quickly fell in love with! We piled into two cars following their last practice and started our road trip, making an overnight stop in Cologne to break up our 8 hour drive to Amsterdam. We woke up early the next morning to try and get to Amsterdam as early as possible but of course needed to first check out a bit of Cologne before leaving! It was almost impossible to miss Germany’s most visited landmark as we were walking into the city and spotting the two massive spires (the largest church façade in the world) of the gothic Cologne Cathedral. Once we turned the final corner to view the church, the architecture literally made us stop in our footsteps to admire the detail on this enormous church standing before us. We had a quick look inside and the awe only continued as we admired the breathtaking, gothic architecture with splashes of color through the gorgeous stained glass windows throughout. Walking back to our car, we strolled through an alley filled with high end stores and quickly realized how interesting this city really was! A morning was definitely not enough time in Cologne and will need to plan on going back one day!
Once we arrived at our hotel in Amsterdam, we all quickly got ready and decided to head out for an early dinner. Our new girlfriend Katie, told us about a blog she uses to find unique and non-touristy things in different cities such as great places to eat and drink (which is one of the best things to find on the blog)! It’s a blog from New York Times called 36 Hours and showcases almost all major cities and gives an ideal itinerary for the 36 hours (we now always use this blog during our travels and I highly recommend it - even for your hometown to find hidden gems). We looked up ideas on where to eat and we ended up finding a cute restaurant located in a small district called Westergasfabriek… a place we never would have found if it wasn’t for this blog! Westergasfabriek used to be a coal gas plant in the 19th century and has now been transformed into an urban park filled with historic factory buildings that holds unique restaurants, bars, shops and other cultural venues. The brick buildings where gorgeous and made all of the restaurants and bars extra intriguing. We ended up having dinner and drinks at Troost Brewery which was filled with locals and overlooked the large stainless steel brewhouse, enclosed by a large glass wall. The candle light, cafeteria-style atmosphere was a perfect way to start our trip!
That first night, I wore pumps thinking we would go for dinner and then go out to a bar after… big mistake! I think we put on over 20,000 steps that night exploring the crazy city! We started our venture walking through the endless alleyways, making our way to where the nightlife was. Along the way, we would stop at a bar every so often for a drink and/or a shot to begin our bar hopping adventure. The further we walked, the busier the streets got! I would hear myself saying “where are we?!” every so often because it felt as if we were in a different world. Seeing people openly walk in and out of coffee shops to drinking on the streets, it was definitely seeming to be a party town! The more we walked, we also started noticing obscene sex stores that had the most outrageous toys and props being showcased in the windows… it was literally jaw dropping! This meant we were getting closer to the red light district! Nothing prepared me for what the red light district was really all about! The first thing that caught me off guard was how busy the streets were filled with people – or shall I say creepy men (and then there was the 9 of us). I was so taken back by how this street seemed endless with windows filled with every type of woman imaginable, almost all insanely gorgeous, waiting for their next encounter. It was so sad yet very interesting seeing how this is actually a way of life for so many woman out there. Watching movies, it only seems as though the red light district is more discrete, but that is not at all the case. The streets on either side of the canal can be noticed from a distance as they glow so brightly with the countless red lights scattered throughout the streets.
Once we finally made it to the main square where all of the bars were, it was almost near the end of the night! We spent the last hour or so before everything shut down in a cute little pub we found and danced the rest of the night away. From all of the bar hopping we had done earlier, I definitely didn’t need to have any more drinks! I realized this after going into the washroom and trying to thank the women handing me my towel to dry my hands. We tried to learn some common Dutch phrases during dinner and I was feeling confident in remembering my new way of saying thank you! In Dutch, “thank you very much” is “danke viel” but I blurted out to her “donkey field!” She looked at me as if I was crazy! I hope she didn’t think I was calling her a donkey!
The next morning, after finally all waking up, we decided to rent bikes to explore the city. When we first started riding, we rode through what seemed to be a local, young, hip neighborhood that almost felt like a college town. I was instantly falling in love with the city, seeing it for the first time in daylight! The streets were filled with boutique stores, cute cafes, and fruit markets. The city was filled with bikers and the streets are designed for them - having bike lanes everywhere you go! Now that we were riding bikes, we realized how frustrating it could be for bikers trying to get around all of the tourists! Like us the night before, we were so in awe (and very distracted) with all that was going on and it took us a while to get used to all of the bike traffic. We had to quickly learn how to pay more attention to the bike lanes as we walked the streets because we almost got hit multiple times, causing the poor bikers to swerve out of our way! Our first stop was checking out the “I AMsterdam” sign to get a couple of touristy photos. It was insane, filled with so many more tourists than I had imagined! We ended up taking most of our photos on the backside of the city icon to avoid all of the people.
Wade and I decided to have a couple of hours to ourselves to have brunch and explore the city a little bit on our own. We found a cute little restaurant on the canal that had a patio out front. We enjoyed an amazing meal as we sat outside and enjoyed the view of all of the gorgeous canal houses along the other side. We took some time to explore the alleyways and streets along the canal, people watched, window shopped and for me, being the Interior Designer, admired the breathtaking architecture! This city is truly the best city to get lost in! Once we met up with everyone, we decided to check out the Heineken Brewery which was interesting, although, I didn’t take away too much from it other than admiring the massive old brass beer tanks. We learned how the 100 year old beer was made and the ingredients which surprisingly mostly contains water. My favorite part of the tour was definitely the beer tasting and the bar at the end of the tour!
We continued our day long bike ride and made our way to dinner. We ended up having an amazing dinner where the restaurant was connected to a lounge/bar on the backside of the building. Once we finished our meals, we made our way to the back where the most amazing, epic throw-back songs just kept on playing! For some reason after a couple of drinks, we thought it would be a good idea to check out “roller disco”. Back on the bikes we went and headed to the main square where all of the bars were situated. Being that it was a Saturday night, roller disco was absolutely packed and the lines were insane! Apparently it was a lot more popular than we had figured! Instead, we walked across the street to a club that was highly recommended to us. After paying our 20 euro cover each, we quickly realized this was not at all our scene! We were surrounded by people on a complete different level than us as they were dancing intensely to hardcore techno trance music. I don’t even know how to dance to that music – none of us did! We bought a couple of drinks hoping some good songs were about to come on or at least some music with words… but it was hopeless! We instantly were regretting leaving the original place but the trashy Euro bar definitely gave us a good couple of laughs! It was so late anyway so we decided to head back. We rode our bikes all over town that day and I don’t even think we saw the same place more than once! Riding our bikes in the middle of the night was definitely an experience, we literally all looked like a biker gang as the 9 of us rode through the streets of Amsterdam on our rented bright yellow bikes.
I could spend weeks in Amsterdam observing the architecture and design alone! Within the short 3 days we were there, it gave me so much inspiration and I instantly craved more the minute we had to leave! The luxurious canal houses with their unique gabled facades are fascinating with so much character! It would be an absolute dream to live in one! The commercial design is also so interesting with the pops of innovative, modern design scattered across the city, creating such contrast against the historic buildings and features. Amsterdam had no major bombing from World War II, so most of the historical buildings have remained the same since the 19th century. After experiencing a taste of what Amsterdam has to offer and seeing how beautiful it really is, I will definitely be planning on going back one day! I would love to have the opportunity to visit some of the renowned museums such as the Ann Frank House, the Van Gogh Museum and even check out some of the uniquely preserved Canal House Museums.