My Trip to Amsterdam was a hugely anticipated trip, filled with high expectations. Although I had dedicated to traveling alone this year, an unexpected turn in events happened when my co-worker just so happened to want to visit Amsterdam to see the fields of tulips on the same weekend. I think both of us were a little hesitant in wanting to travel together because we don’t know each other that well, but it turned out to be by far one of the best trips I’ve had since arriving in Madrid almost two years ago. I, like her, believe traveling is an investment. So when you end up traveling with an unpleasant person, it feels like your money was wasted and you weren’t able to enjoy the trip like you had planned. Luckily, this wasn’t the case.
We only had two full days to travel, so both of us wanted to make the most of it. Upon arriving in Amsterdam, we decided to down some coffee, head to the hostel, StayOkay Hostel, which used to be an old Cinema, and make our way into the city, which we explored thoroughly, according to our Fitbit. I will admit most of those miles walked were accumulated because at one point while trying to find the AMSTERDAM sign I lead us five miles the opposite direction from where it was located. Apparently, Suri thought I meant, ‘Places to make signs in Amsterdam,’ not the actual sign itself. While leading the way and thinking we finally arrived, the words, "make a left right here," left my mouth and had us standing in front a brick wall that was a part of a sign making company. Oops.
Anyway, the first site we went to see was the Royal Palace, which is located in the city center. The first floor was the only floor open to the public, but it is big enough to take up about an hour and half of your time with each room as regal and gaudy as you can imagine; similar to that of the Palace of Versailles, but not as big. It was nice to see, but just like the feeling I had at the Palace of Versailles, I became overwhelmed with the amount of wealth that a few people had access to at that time. After we finished exploring the palace, I needed some damn good coffee... no literally, that was the name of the coffee place. I didn’t get much sleep the night before and needed something to get me through the day and ‘Damn Good Coffee,’ damn sure made that happen.
We then made our way to check out the three main canals being, Keizersgracht (Emperor's canal), Herengracht ( Gentlemen’s Canal ) and Prinsengracht (Prince's canal) where we took photo ops and got photobombed. Dude, whoever you are, don’t let the smile fool you, don’t photobomb my pic again. Mmm k? The majority of our day was walking and admiring the architectural structures of the buildings and houses. Everyday living was put on full display for a tourist to see as couples open their grand windows for the world to see them preparing and cooking dinner, watching television or being lost in a newspaper while having a cup of coffee. Simple and at times mundane things were refreshing to see especially in this social media-obsessed era. Anyway, I digress.
Before heading to dinner at Bulls and Dogs, which I highly recommend if you’re into creatively made cavity-inducing milkshakes and endless toppings on your hot dog, we went to the floral market. Best known as Bloemenmarkt, this market sells everything from, food, flowers, to weed and mushrooms. What a combo, eh? This market even sells TULIPS BULBS that you can buy and plant in your own backyard, but the instructions on how and when to plant it didn’t seem like it was worth purchasing. I was suggested to plant bulbs when the average nighttime temperatures in your area are in the 40-to 50-degree range, and surprisingly enough, this is not the case in Madrid as of yet.
After a very active day and having finished dinner, we were ready to go to the hostel and get some rest before the big event tomorrow…TULIP FIELDS. When we entered our hostel, we found it already occupied by one woman that immediately started talking to us as though she was waiting for us to get home. We found it quite amusing and made small talk. At one point she asked why the bedding was built like a sleeping bag. I immediately thought of my first solo trip to Bilbao in which I thought the same thing because the bedding came the same way. I articulated to them that, in my mind, I thought these covers were to protect a person from sexual harassment having the person snuggly cocooned in these ‘preventative rape sheets’ as my friend so eloquently put it. What else could they be? Well, apparently they were the duvet covers that the duvet fits into and can easily be washed and ready for the next solo traveler. "So you mean to tell me..."
Was I embarrassed to express that private thought to them? …Not at all, because I still used those sheets as I had used them before… as protection from a predator. Good night *sleeps with pursed lips, using the sheets accordingly.
The next day, we woke up early, anticipating seeing the colorful fields that awaited us. We got breakfast, hopped on the prepaid bus, and we were off. We arrived at Keukenhof, which is an enormous garden full of Tulips carefully planted and displayed for the public to enjoy. I'm not gonna lie, it felt like I entered the first room of edible flowers in Charlie in the Chocolate Factory while singing:
We explored gardens, took photos of the windmills, and enjoyed the food stands. I was in heaven, but as stated before, the purpose of this trip was to see the Tulips FIELDS, which were not too far away.
Bicycles were our means of transportation to the fields and being shown how to ride a bike because of miscommunication was the introduction given to my friend and me before starting the journey to finding these fields. We set off to the first one closest to our starting point that was filled with yellow tulips and continued to the next field that was even prettier having pink tulips. However, the most beautiful field, in my opinion, was found off the beaten path displaying purple, white, yellow, and dark and light pink tulips. Breathtaking! Although my friend and I were advised not to step on the grounds of the tulip field, I couldn’t help but contemplate it… and then follow the others, that were apparently thinking the same thing. They walked right past me onto the field, and I didn't hesitate to follow. “This is once in a lifetime,” I said to my friend who kept advising me not to do it. Low-key I was keeping an eye out for authorities that I might have had to outrun. I can only imagine being on the 5’o'clock news with a headline that reads, ‘Tulip Field Trespasser outwits and outruns Tulip Field Guards-“ If you have any information call 555…”
After our excursion, we headed back to the same place where we caught the bus because there is a tall building there that has an overview of the city and a giant swing that sits on the edge of the roof. Y.O.L.O right? Let me tell you, I couldn't even pretend to enjoy this because I was petrified the whole swing ride. I love an excellent adventure and nine times out of ten I will face my fears, but with each mechanical push, it felt like I was voluntarily setting myself up to be taken to glory. Afterward, we were starving and decided to meet up with our friend from the hostel at a sushi restaurant called Sushi Samba, which ended up being more expensive than I realized. So, after I ate my one little roll, I was on the hunt to find a cheaper and sweeter meal leading us to Sweetness Crepes & Waffles.
Full and satisfied, the girl from the hostel recommended that we walk through the Redlight District, which, if you’re a person that has been living under a rock or, like my mother, mistook it for the Blue light district, it is a district that is lined up with great restaurants, bars, and legal prostitution. Much like the #2 combo that the Floral Market offered consisting of food, flowers, and weed, the Red light district offered working women on or off their cell phones waiting to be purchased for however many hours one is willing to pay.
Although I am all for letting people live however they would like to live, the thought crossed my mind concerning if some of these girls are voluntarily doing this or not. And even though Amsterdam has created strict laws around this profession, hoping to create a safe environment for the women, I couldn’t help, but think that sex slavery would be easy to hide behind legal prostitution. In my opinion, it’s not the big bad wolf that is easy to site when unraveling who the wealthy masterminds are behind sex slavery, but the contrary, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, or the one that promises to protect you. No judgment towards the women, just a thought.
As the night faded, we decided to call it an early night as we hadn't gotten much sleep while on the trip. I was surprised by how much I liked the city and one of the few I could see myself living in within Europe. Overall I thought this trip to be one of my top five favorite trips I have gone on. Even though it was pricier than most of my trips, it was well worth it and a trip I recommend everyone make at least once in their life. Good food, beautiful scenery, and non-traditional rules and regulations are all the things one will have to look forward to after booking a trip to this unique city.