Adventures in Amsterdam – the first leg of our first European vacation

It feels as though we’ve been wanting to take this trip forever. For as long as we can remember, we’ve dreamed of visiting Europe, among other continents. This year we finally made what will be the first of many trips. As we heard from native and transplanted Europeans, and experienced for ourselves, there is way too much to cram into a couple of weeks—and so much more to Europe than its popular eastern countries! We’re already planning a second trip for next summer to explore more. For this vacation, however, we started off in the charming city of Amsterdam.

 

Monica in Amsterdam

 

We knew from checking the weather ahead of time that it would be a little chilly and mostly cloudy during our stay, but coming from 80 degrees in South Jersey and the instant drop to 60 upon leaving the plane made it felt much colder.

Cheril in Amsterdam 2014

And then it rained off and on for most of the three days we spent there. lol. Despite the non-summary weather, we absolutely fell in love with this romantic city! The first exposure to the vibe for our stay was the owner of the apartment we rented. He was a really nice guy who was accommodating with our schedules and helping us get settled. We stayed in a trendy little neighborhood called Jordaan.

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It was the perfect location, within walking distance to almost everything we wanted to see–from the Anne Frank House to Downtown and some of Amsterdam’s other well-known tourist areas. About a half a dozen little restaurants were also less than five minutes walk from our apartment and the smell of fresh bread from a corner bakery was a pleasant greeting to our morning adventures around town.

Cheril in Amsterdam 2014

Day 1 was rough, though. When we left Philly it was 8:00pm and when we arrived it was almost 9:00am the next day (the flight was only eight hours). We figured if we got in and went to sleep we’d still be on EST time zone so it was better to tough it out and stay up all day. Additionally, we didn’t want miss out on a whole day in Amsterdam, which we knew would happen if we went to sleep when we arrived. We did it, barely, and paid for that decision for the rest of our vacation! Note to selves: do NOT stay up almost 30 hours next time–just add another day to the trip to wind down completely! lol

Monica in Amsterdam 2014

Whatever. lol. We ran on less sleep and walked more than we have ever done. I think on day two we walked almost 11 hours between aimless wandering, planned tours and just general getting around. Public transportation is abundant in Amsterdam, but Monica wanted to walk almost everywhere for exercise and to take in our surroundings. We thought about renting bikes, but figured it would just be annoying with the rain coming down off and on all the time. If there’s one thing that can symbolize Amsterdam, it’s BIKES.

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There are hundreds of thousands of them everywhere. Not too many people drive in this water city. It’s no wonder almost everyone looks fit! Speaking of the people, there seemed to be a concentration of beautiful women in this little town. lol. Lots of mixed race beauties that made both of us stop and take notice. What a lovely surprise – enough eye candy to make you sick. 🙂

Speaking of women, although we went back and forth on if we wanted to visit the famed Red Light District (our landlord didn’t speak very highly of it nor did other locals), it would have been hard to go all the way over there and not at least experience it for ourselves.

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The time slot that we had allocated for the district was at night so we opted for a walking-tour so that we could learn the history of it and get more out of it than just seeing women working in windows. The tour was a good choice. Below is a snapshot of our quirky guide who held up a plastic, pink penis to make sure everyone could see him when we went through crowded areas.

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We were with a group of probably about 25 people from all over the world, and the guide did an excellent job giving us tips on what to do and what NOT to do once we got to the district (you cannot take pictures of the girls [obviously] – if you do, you risk getting some urine tossed on you or just plain beat up). The group was reminded that the women were just working and that they’re human beings just like the rest of us.

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On the way to the heart of the district we passed through the gay area. We have to say we really hated the description we got from our guide of the men that pass through there and they’re behavior, but it is what it is. We can’t get mad at the truth of what goes down but it does make it a little uncomfortable to see the faces of other people when things like glory holes and the like are being described during a tour. ugh. It makes us sad to think the people in the tour may have left with that view of the gay community.

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Anyway, back to the district. It’s fascinating to say the least, but it can leave you with a little bad taste in your mouth. Especially, if during your tour you see the overly excited face of a client exiting a worker’s booth (and he had the biggest smile on his face we’ve seen the whole trip!). It kind of stings, because there’s obviously more to it than just sex for money–and these girls are taxed about 50%. Anyway, we say all of that to say we don’t regret going but do recommend booking a tour if you want to go beyond the surface of the neighborhood. We booked ours through Viator, a handy site for booking touristy stuff yourself.

There so much more we can say about Amsterdam, from the food to the people, museums and architecture to “space cakes,” and beyond, but this entry is already getting lengthy so we’ll start wrapping it up here. There’s one other thing that we really want to mention and it’s De Kas Restaurant.

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Cheril found out about this place online and was sold on it after learning its history and that the bulk of the food prepared is fresh from the day of preparation. We want to give them a special shout out because we had a mishap in timing and got there after the kitchen had closed. Despite that, they still honored our reservation and gave us a quick tour of the on-site nursery from which our vegetables and herbs were picked.

Cheril and Monica

The food was very, very good and we highly recommend this restaurant. It’s a bit out of the way (the one place we needed a taxi for), but it’s worth the trip. The pic below is a little blurry, but you get the point. lol

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Anyway, that’s it for now. There are few cities we like enough to say that we’ll definitely go back, but this has landed near the top of the list. We loved Amsterdam!!!

Below is a gallery with a few more images:

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3 thoughts on “Adventures in Amsterdam – the first leg of our first European vacation

  1. Nerissa Kelly

    Thanks for sharing! I’m thrilled you two decided to do a website dedicated to your experiences and adventures. It’s neat to get a heads up about the intricacies of travel especially when traveling while lesbian & black. 🙂

    You are eternally supported and cheered on.
    Cheers!
    ~Nerissa

  2. Pingback: Five Tips for International Travel | Cheril and Monica's blog

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