amsterdam, the netherlands

i traveled solo for the first time to amsterdam back in early july.

amsterdam wasn't on my life's list of destinations (somehow). but after going through a long list of places - some beachy, some big, some far - it came down to 3 things:

  • a place i could safely roam around
  • interesting/iconic museums
  • a <12 hour flight

i visited the anne frank house (cried), van gogh museum (didn't realize how much i like his work, especially the self portraits + that starry night is at the new york moma), cannabis/hash museums (rad), stedelijk (favorite exhibit included a giant, hovering concrete block and the tree of tenere), and the huis marseille (photography museum, no crowds). i ate traditional dutch, thai, malaysian, indonesian, caribbean, indian, and more i'm definitely missing. 

also, i felt safe. as a solo female traveler that was a big one to be confident about.

anyway, i bought a ticket, i had fun and ate so much, and made it home. here are some shots from my trip.

after leaving the airport, the first thing i did when i got out of my lyft was nearly step into a very busy bike lane. 

there are two things wrong with this:

1) i didn't really need to take a ride share. unless you're traveling with a lot of luggage, buy an OV-chipkaart, load it up, and take the tram from schipol airport. 

the cards are reloadable and can be reloaded at tram stations, store service points, and online. note that not all machines take non-local credit cards and buying credit online means you must tag it on the tram to activate the credit. 

i didn't know any of this when i eventually picked up a card and went to the liquor store to reload, but luckily i made a nice buddy behind the counter who let me use his card and pay him cash. 

2) but don't take the tram all the time. rent a bike and go ride. amsterdam is one flat, bike-friendly city. a lot of people get around this way 

bike lanes are practically built into the urban landscape, nuzzled between street parking and the sidewalk. sometimes, you might even see a moped speeding through. it's easy to confuse sidewalks and bike lanes, so look up and look both ways when you're crossing the street. 

a local told me they'd never angrily yell at you but instead say "fuck you!!" with a smile. how confusing and delightful

i walked everywhere for about 80% of the time i was in amsterdam, the main reason being because i wanted to EAT my way through the city. 

while i didn't get pictures of all my meals, here are the places/dishes i reeeally enjoyed:

  • blauw » great indonesian food; stellar presentation; a place where i felt embarrassed ordering solo since there's so much to eat. but eventually, feeling embarrassed was replaced with with feeling full. i took the rest to go, went home, took off my pants, and ate the rest. make a reservation

  • foodhallen » god blessed my airbnb being right around the corner from this place. this place is exactly what it sounds like, a food hall. there's even a set of bleachers for people to watch games. it was world cup season while i was there, so it was packed. highlights: de ballenbar (for the bitterbals), bulls and dogs (pretzel bun hotdogs), taqueria lima (i was curious), and petit gateau (for sweeeets). they also got a couple bars inside and other restaurants that looked good but didn't have time to check out

  • bakers and roasters » brunch at least once here. cool space and it's near the van gogh museum

  • the patio » i wish i ate dutch food here instead of the spot across the street. make reservations

  • spaghetteria » this was right below the airbnb i stayed at and every night, it always sounded like this spot packed a full house so i had to try it out. confirmed: the parpadelle is good. 

  • albert heijn » also called AH. a grocery store with a solid to-go foods, and not just your standard salad or lunchables, etc, but hummus, charcuterie, cheeses, fruit and veggie smoothies, olives, marinated tomatoes, and more more more. i stopped in this place twice between the van gogh museum and stedelijk - way cheaper than a museum meal. doesn't accept non-local CCs, bring cash.

  • stroopwafels » thin ooey gooey warm caramel waffles sometimes covered with other sweet things. pick up fresh at local markets (like albert cuyp) or pre-packaged and still delicious at AH

  • poffertjes » mini pancakes covered in powdered sugar

i went with the go-to dutch dishes this time. might have to give raw herring a chance next time.

one nice thing about walking around amsterdam was that it was easy to get lost, find tiny boutiques and food shops, stop to check out art, or pop into a bar near a canal for a beer. 

i was terrified my first day alone in amsterdam and went home at 7 pm, while there was still a lot of sunlight. over the next few days, i stayed out a little later and later, getting used to my route home and finding landmarks that mapped my path, also realizing that the sun really didn't fully set til about 11 pm. 

before the trip, i did some reading on tips for solo female travelers. there were logical, obvious ones like watching your drink at all times, not waving around valuables, or taking a taxi/lyft/uber home after dark. but one tip i particularly liked and luckily didn't find useful was keeping a second wallet with old cards in your purse. if someone tries to rob you, throw them the dupe and run.

near the end of the trip, i decided to spend an afternoon on a canal tour cuz why not

i felt envious seeing all the boat houses with outdoor patios, rooftop gardens, and inside, decked out living rooms, and locals spending their sunny afternoon bbq-ing, sipping wine, and tanning on boats. i wanna live like that...

parting thoughts:

  • get more ideas: one of my favorite sites for was culture trip. also, youtube videos. 
  • food: if it doesn't look busy, probably don't eat there, especially in the city centre area 
  • know the difference: coffee bars vs coffee houses
  • weather: expect rain anytime, even if the forecast for your trip says sunny
  • paying: bring cash. not all places (like AH) take non-local CCs
  • shooting film: schipol airport allows you to hand-check certain items, like film, for example. german airports do not, but their scanners are apparently not strong enough to damage your film. bring a lead lined bag, and don't try to push for a hand-check if TSA already told you no once. they're not very friendly when you don't take no for an answer :^)

how i like to build my agenda: 1) add where you want to go on google maps, 2) plot them on a calendar view arranged by each location's proximity to each other/neighborhood you want to explore for the day

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