“Fall asleep in London, wake up in Amsterdam!” read an online coach website. When having a hard time deciding between London and Holland for our girls’ trip, Nicole suggested we do both! The rest of us thought it would be out of the question because of how expensive it would be. After a long time of searching though, we came across a website for an overnight coach that takes passengers from London to Amsterdam. It was less than half the cost of a flight, would save us money on a hostel that night, and would save so much exploring time by traveling overnight! However, we ended up getting about an hour of sleep that night. “Go to sleep in London, wake up in Amsterdam” turned into: board coach at 9 p.m., drive for one hour, get off for boarder control, another hour on coach, switch to ferry for two hours, back to the coach for two hours, 45 minute gas station stop, and remainder of the time on the coach. At the time, we were grumpy, tired, and sore, all of us regretting the decision, but looking back we are so happy we did it because it allowed us to go to two amazing places!
Our first stop in Amsterdam was to the Pancake Bakery for brunch, to re-energize and reward ourselves after our tiring journey. I read online that you must try pancakes and waffles in Amsterdam, and the Pancake Bakery is one of the best spots to do so. They offered over 75 types of pancakes, from apple with cinnamon to chicken with pineapple. I ordered banana pancakes with strawberry sauce. They were delicious!
Down the street from the Pancake Bakery is the Anne Frank House. The house is where her and her family hid and where she wrote her diary. I am not sure what to really say about the house. It made me very sad and angry at the same time. I will never understand how someone could be so cruel and hateful. Every room had quotes on the walls from Anne’s diary. My favorite quote I read was one where Anne said she dreamed to be a writer. Her goal was to publish a book called the “Secret Annex” one day. I wish she knew then that she would be a famous author and that her book would be published in 70 different languages.
Walking through the dark and dingy rooms where they had to hide made me feel ashamed for ever complaining about rainy or cold days. Another of Anne’s quotes on the wall stated “I long to ride a bike, dance, whistle, look at the world, feel young and know that I’m free…” She wasn’t even allowed to peek through a curtain to see the sunshine, yet I complain at the first sight of a rain cloud outside. We were all feeling a bit down after our visit to the Anne Frank House, but I am glad I got to learn more about the history of the Holocaust as well as more about Anne and her courage.
Amsterdam reminded me of Venice. Although the city does not rely on the waterways, there are canals and bridges everywhere you go. Instead of getting around by metro, what we were used to in Europe, we had to use trams. The roads were rather confusing as there were not only lines for cars and trams, but also for bicycles! Most of the citizens use bikes to get around in Amsterdam. We learned that there are actually more bikes than there are people and over 40,000 bikes get stolen every year!
The language in Holland is so different than any language I have ever heard. It is very harsh and sounds a bit angry. I was looking forward to hearing pretty Italian again in Viterbo. While we were there, the Amsterdam football (American soccer) team won the final, so there was raging in the streets, beer cans and trash littering every inch of the city and police in every square. Some of the trams had to avoid certain routes because of how crazy it was! I have never felt very unsafe in Europe, but I felt a bit uneasy in the city that day. We weren’t there for much of the day though because our last day of girls’ trip was spent at the Keukenhof Garden!
The garden is outside of Amsterdam, in Southern Holland. At the entrance we got refreshing “swirls” ice cream (what I considered Holland’s version of DQ blizzards) to enjoy throughout the garden. The pictures I took of the garden do not do it justice whatsoever. I have never seen so many beautiful flowers in my life. The garden only blooms from the middle of April to the middle of May, so we came at the perfect time! It was a beautiful day. After wandering through the garden, we made a little walk to the tulip fields, where there were endless rows of purple, pink, white, orange and yellow tulips. It was just like the pictures I have seen, but one hundred times better. I could have strolled through the tulip fields for hours. I was so happy we got to experience both the city of Amsterdam and the breathtaking country side of Holland.
I can’t believe this was my last trip of the semester, but our girls’ trip was the perfect way to end my study abroad experience. I remember leaving for Barcelona, telling Laur “Not the next flight, or the next flight, or the flight after that, or the one after that… but the one after THAT will be the one taking me home.” Now my NEXT flight will be the one that leads me back the United States!