Day 13: Amsterdam pt. 2

This day in Amsterdam was spent the best way I know how–sleeping in, museum-hopping, eating sandwiches, and last but not least, drinking beer.

The first item on our agenda today was to go to the supermarket and buy food for the next few days.  We bought sandwich ingredients, pasta, snacks, donuts, etc.  We ate our breakfast over a few episodes of Friends, and then we made our way over to the Anne Frank Museum.  Fun/embarrassing fact: There is free Wi-Fi in the Anne Frank Museum so Ninna and I spent the first half hour in the lobby playing with our iPhones.

The museum was pretty cool, mostly because I got to physically place myself in the actual home (if you can call it that) where Anne Frank and her family hid out during the Holocaust.  Seeing the rooms, the pictures on the wall, being in her bedroom–it was all a part of putting myself in her shoes and reminding myself how lucky I am to be free.

Here’s a quote from her diary:

After reading that and realizing that I couldn’t directly relate to her, and that I have never even felt caged in any way, I grew to appreciate the simplicity in freedom and being alive in general.  That’s not to say that I didn’t appreciate my freedom before I ever read this quote but part of it really struck me deep.  Imagine what it’s like to look at the same part of the world through the same window, season after season after season.  Sounds like torture to me.

Outside of the museum, we sat along the canal and ate sandwiches.  I have to point out that it was a picture perfect moment–seeing the city so deeply was something I remember appreciating at that moment.

After our sandwiches, we walked around the city a little bit more and explored.  We attempted to go to another city attraction–Amsterdam Dungeons–but it was closed when we got there, so we found the closest place to have a beer…or three.

One thing we discussed over these particular beers were the fact that, in Europe, time is a concept that is appreciated and recognized with a completely opposite viewpoints than it is in the United States.  In Europe, people sit outside and take their time.  They eat meals outdoors on sidewalks and appreciate moments for as long as they can.  Americans, on the other hand, see time as money.  They rush everything trying to multitask. Everyone wants to make it in America–it’s become so cut-throat that the competition has taken away every second there is to appreciate.

Thinking about it even more now makes me recognize how differently each culture reflects itself.  Europeans seem to take time while Americans use time.  Europeans value the lack of time so they slow down and appreciate it; Americans value the lack of time so they speed it up to make the most of it.  Both cultures acknowledge the value of time, but they each go about gratefulness so differently–that in itself is beautiful.

Enough with the philosophies right?  Perhaps that’s what happens when you drink beers over long periods of time outdoors on sidewalks and under umbrellas in Europe.

Hours later, we met up with a friend at a tapas restaurant and let me just mention that I don’t think I could ever forget how delicious it was, especially after our a-beer-ppetizer.

After dinner, we went home.  However, on the way home, we passed very lively street with bars and restaurants and we just couldn’t resist so we sat down for another beer…or three.

We ended the night a little bit early so we could get some rest for tomorrow–PARIS!  Like I’ve said in previous posts, Paris was my favorite part of the trip so I’ll try to make that post a favorite too.

PS- I must apologize for my lack of blogging lately.  I got carried away with the summer waves (and obviously the Olympics) and have seriously been slacking on my media use.  I’m seriously back this time! Hopefully.

Day 12: Amsterdam

Day 12 began our mini adventure to Amsterdam.  Our itinerary included: trying to find Ninna an apartment (she’s going to study there in the fall), meeting up with our Dutch friends who studied at Hofstra last year, and basically partying.  Judge me all you want, I’m a 20 year old college student–we get that a lot.

We woke up too early for either of our liking to catch our flight to Amsterdam, and just like the last two week of my life, the day was filled with trams, trains, planes and many a form of public transportation (which by the way, I prefer abroad so much more than here in NJ/NY).  I have to give a shoutout to Nynke (Ninna’s friend/Hofstra alumni from Amsterdam) for lending us her perfectly adorable apartment while she is here in the States for the summer at Notre Dame.  We would have been sleeping on floors if it weren’t for her.  Her apartment was right above Albert Cuyp Market, one of my favorites in Amsterdam.  I would definitely recommend that one for clothes/shoes/purses and even foods/fruits (very fresh and organic).

The second we arrived in Amsterdam we were rushing to meet Ninna’s friend/future roomie to go to an apartment showing.  I just have to say while I’m on this topic of apartments that I discovered a new love for realty/architecture/interior design on this trip.  The apartment we saw was seriously awesome in the way it was designed, but only if it were for one person because the bedrooms gave its owner almost no privacy.  The only thing that separated them was a ladder to climb through a hole in one’s ceiling and the other’s floor.  Everything else was great and spacious, but the price was not worth the extreme lack of privacy.

After the apartment showing we sat down for some beer and discussion.  Then we went to a place called Burgermeester for more beer and of course, burgers.  It was extremely yummy and I would really enjoy one right now.  Unique burgers and delicious dressings.  When we were too full of burger, we wisely decided to go to a small bar to sit outside along the canal and drink more beer.  I don’t remember what the place was, but I think it was across the canal from the Anne Frank Museum.  I was loving the beer prices.  Needless to say, they weren’t like Oslo.

 

From the moment I arrived in Amsterdam, I was overwhelmed with excitement and I had a familiar feeling–the same one I had when I first set foot on Hofstra’s campus.  Long story short, I was having a lot of trouble deciding what college to go to, and Hofstra was nothing but a safety school for me.  When I went on that campus tour, I never wanted to go anywhere else; it was like something inside me clicked.  Whether it was because of the atmosphere or the good vibes I was getting from everyone around me, I felt the same way about Amsterdam from the first few moments I got there.  It was a little frightening, but I can’t help my feelings.  Turns out my instincts were totally right because I really loved my time in Amsterdam.

The people were great.  Friendly, sweet, helpful.  Take for example Nynke!  She offered for Ninna and I to stay in her apartment while she was on the other side of the world.  How many people trust in others anymore?

Amsterdam is a perfect little city.  Lots of young, happy, beer drinking people.  So many things to do, places to see.  Years and years of history to learn about.  The architecture and style is also impressive.  In my opinion, it lacks a little bit of meaningful culture but I do think that’s changing (and I could be wrong).

One of my favorite parts about the people and the city itself was the public transportation systems and use of bikes!  I think I’m going to save that for Day 16 blog though, because this one is getting a bit lengthy.

More Amsterdam tomorrow!

Here’s a photo of my favorite part of the apartment we stayed in:

Day 7: Florence / Duomo / Piazza Michaelangelo

What I remember most about Florence was the culture I encountered throughout the city.  And by culture I mean gelato!

The train ride from Sorrento to Florence was relaxing and the views were straight out of storybooks.  Now I know where illustrators probably get their inspiration.

After settling in our hotel and walking around the streets a little bit, I walked the 400 steps up to get to the dome of the Florence Cathedral (The Duomo).  It definitely required some stamina to get up there, but it was absolutely worth the view of the city.  Many of the steps were up spiral staircases which I really enjoyed because that way you can’t really see how much more you have to go; it’s kind of a nice relief at every level.  It also helped that it was cold both in the church and the staircases because who likes to be in close proximity of other people while they’re sweating as they walk up 400 steps?

At one point, we got to walk almost alongside the dome at one of the higher levels, and the ceiling was fantastic.  I’m always taken aback by the domes in European churches.  I couldn’t believe how close I was to the ceiling itself.

Just as beautiful was the view at the top of the Duomo.  It was about 4 pm when I got up there so the sun was making its way down, and there was a slight breeze.  I could have stayed up there for a while, but I heard the gelaterias calling my name from the top of that building.

All of the piazzas and bridges were perfect in the late afternoon.  The water and the sky complemented each other more than they usually do.  The shops on the bridge Ponte Vecchio were great for window shopping but not so much buying–at least not on my college budget.

Piazza Michaelangelo at sunset was almost unreal.  I’m an avid sunset collector and to have that on my list certainly completes it.

In addition to catching the sunset on the Piazza, I also caught the last few minutes of it across from Ponte Vecchio, THAT was another great addition to my collection.  As we watched the sun go down, we looked for eels in the water below us and spoke with an American artist who travels between Florence and Connecticut, where he grew up.

The artist’s name was John Melecsinsky, and you should check out his artwork here.  He signs everything as JEM, his initials.  He spoke with us for a while about his life and passion towards art.  I couldn’t concentrate on our conversation after he told me that the Gelato Festival was being held in the city for the next few days.  Did you know gelato was invented in Florence?  Me neither.

John walked us back to a main town area and on the way showed us a gallery where his art was being displayed.  We also watched a man catch a fish in the river together.  Firenzian romance at its finest.

He was such a sweet man!  I wish we could have talked a little bit longer.

We had dinner and dessert in a small outdoor restaurant and enjoyed a nice walk back to the hotel.  It’s amazing how different a city can be when it’s nighttime.  More beautiful and yet less.

Later I’ll post about Venice!  Feel free to share your stories of Italian travels, I want to hear them!