Amherst to Amsterdam

As you have seen, my close friend Bridget who just graduated college visited me this past week on a stop while backpacking around the world. It was perfect timing for her to come as I had just finished up my weeklong orientation and had another week before classes started.

Bridget arrived on Tuesday night and we got to living life in Amsterdam to the fullest immediately. One of my favorite things to do in Amsterdam is picnic in Vondelpark. Since Bridget wasn’t getting a bike until the next day we walked from my apartment, stopped at Albert Heijn (best grocery store ever), and headed into the park to have salads, a baguette, and Heinekens of course. It was lovely to catch up with her and hear about all her travels so far from her past month of backpacking. The sun quickly set on us so we decided to walk into the city and see the sights. I showed her the museums, iamsterdam sign, and a few favorite spots in the city. While we were out we saw a car run over a pole that is supposed to keep cars off of pedestrian walk ways. The car was pretty much fish hooked on this pole. The UvA freshmen were on a bar crawl and all went running out to try to get this car off of the pole. Eventually they were able to lift the car and the car backed up. But the cobblestone was all torn up.

The next day we met up with my friend Deryn and her boyfriend Dominic who were also traveling around Europe for a few weeks. Dominic’s friend from high school lives in Amsterdam now so we all met up with him, Sebastiaan, at a Mexican restaurant. The Dutch don’t have a ton of traditional food so many restaurants are globally inspired. After making our introductions to each other and catching up, we headed down the street to a speakeasy themed bar. You have to make a reservation ahead of time, knock on the door and speak to the bouncer, and then are led through black curtains into a fancy bar. The drinks here are all themed based on attractions here in the city. I ordered the “New Amsterdam Expat” which was kind of fitting for myself. It was similar to a Shirley Temple with Fireball. After having several drinks at the speakeasy, Sebastiaan led us over to his work office to show us his “tiny disco.” We followed him through many staircases, parking garages, and different offices to the tiny disco. This tiny disco he explained is where his work celebrates happy hour and other successes. The 5ft by 5ft room, maximum, is decked out with strobe lights, a sound system, and sound proof walls. Here the five of us had the tiniest disco party ever dancing and blaring music. I really think I would enjoy working in that office! Plus, they had an indoor park to picnic for lunch in. After the tiny disco we parted ways, glad to have had such an incredible night between the five of us who didn’t know each other before the night began.

Thursday, after going to the windmills, Bridget and I went to a bar in the center of town where she introduced me to Ollie, from New Zealand, whom she had met at her hostel in Paris, and his new friend Chelsea, from Georgia, who he was sharing a room with at the hostel in Amsterdam. After meeting each other we went on a bar crawl through the Red Light District. I had been through the area several times during the day since it is in the center of Amsterdam but most windows are closed then. As we began the night the women were getting ready, surprisingly seems like very laid-back work as most of them were still putting on their makeup, smoking, or eating. Even though prostitution is legal in that section of Amsterdam, it is still not a respected profession. No pictures are allowed of the women since many of their own families don’t even know that’s what they do for work. Other than that, it is even sadder than you’d expect. The women don’t seem to enjoy the work and get into the industry the same way as in America, for the money. Definitely not a place you want to spend a lot of time. Besides that, they do have a lot of food stands open for those late-night snacks.

We spent the rest of the weekend enjoying all the music and nightlife the city has to offer. On Friday, we went to a festival near Ollie and Chelsea’s hostel called “Het Amsterdamse Terrassen.” The festival included a silent disco, and many other small stages with music and dancing. Every weekend there are music festivals across Amsterdam, many of which are free or inexpensive. After thinking I would never see Sebastiaan again in this city, Bridget spotted him at the festival as well! What a small world. After the festival wrapped up we headed back to the hostel where we saw a long line outside. We hopped in the line not knowing what it was for but quickly realized it was for an underground bar. Down the stairs was a hidden disco bar. The Dutch love their disco. Ollie, Bridget, and I danced there for a while; apparently it is a new bar in town that opens late and is quite popular. Really you never know what you will stumble upon here.

Saturday was a slow-moving day so Bridget and I relaxed, journaled, and talked to some friends. At night, we decided to go out to celebrate Bridget’s last night in Amsterdam. We first stopped at a little bar along the west side of Vondelpark called Goud West. It was here I had my first traditional Dutch meal. The menu offered many vegan options, including vegan Bitterballen which are a Dutch appetizer which are usually fried balls of meat. We also grabbed some fries with mayo of course! One of the beers they had on the menu was from this brewery people here rave about, Bridget and I decided to test them out. We liked them so much we each had three! After Goud West, we biked into Vondelpark where I heard a concert was going on in Vondelbunker. Vondelbunker is an old WWII bunker under the bridge in Vondelpark. Though never used as a bomb shelter it has been used as a concert venue since the 60s and quite popular among the hippies who inhibited the park back in the day. The night’s line up turned out to be super heavy metal rock bands. The bunker itself is not that large, along intended to shelter 2,600 people, it maybe could fit 100 people max. At the concert though there was about 30-40 people, including a mosh pit. We grabbed some more beers here called Butcher’s Tears Monster Soup, the name was fitting for the concert. I could have sworn the beer tasted like chocolate though. At the concert, we met up with two of my neighbors Chris and Jenni. While we were outside talking, we met a couple from Amsterdam who were heading to another bar after and invited us to join. The six of us biked from Vondelpark to Westerpark where we went to this bar called Pacific Parc. The bar was in buildings alongside the park that were part of a former gas factory. The building is now home to a brewery, restaurants, and shops. Pacific Parc was a huge bar with a DJ and many young people. Even the bars here have historical significance! The bartender really liked Bridget so he gave us free drinks. After the bar, we thought it was best to Uber home.

Sunday was a long exhausting day where nothing seemed to go right or go according to schedule as we went to retrieve our bikes on the other side of the city. Including almost getting kicked off the tram and being forced to throw out the smoothie I had just bought. Apparently, you can’t bring drinks or food of any sort on the tram, consider yourself warned. After deciding to get off the tram anyways since public transportation in this city takes longer than biking and sometimes even walking, we met up with Ollie for a farewell lunch. When traveling, you become such close friends with the people you just met since they serve as your lifeline. Travel friendships are the strongest friendships, each day you can meet a best friend for the day. Long story short, Bridget ended up missing her train to Germany and stayed another night. When we finally got back to my apartment, we were so thankful to not have to move anymore that we simply made some tea and binge watched Netflix. We were glad to end her week here in a relaxing was so that she would be well rested for her next adventures.

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