Amsterdam came as quite a surprise trip for us, but a wonderful surprise at that. Austin and I were planning to take his younger brother to Germany to study abroad and we thought it would be a fun, mini vacation for us in Germany. Well, as standby life would have it, we missed our flights to Germany and had to stay a night in New York. We spent hours retrieving our checked bag, finding a hotel, and planning for how we would get to Germany the next day. After looking into multiple options, we settled on Amsterdam and we would take the train to Heidelberg, Germany. Once we finally made the flight, Austin and I decided we would stay in Amsterdam and just take his brother to the train. We waved goodbye and began to explore Amsterdam. Neither one of us had ever been to Amsterdam and we were a little bummed that we only had 2 of our 3 days left to explore but we decided to make the best of it. We booked our last minute Airbnb on the plane and we were good to go! We took the train into town, walked around a bit and settled at a little cafe around the corner from the Anne Frank House called Lunchcafe Dialoog. They had a luggage storage room which was perfect since we couldn't get into our Airbnb for a few more hours. The Anne Frank House is something you have to book months in advance so that will have to wait until next time.
We wandered around the canals and explored little shops - around every corner it was absolutely gorgeous. I always knew Amsterdam was known for it's bikes but I wasn't expecting hundreds of bikes on every street. Since we weren't planning on being in Amsterdam we just walked around the city. We walked for miles without any plan or direction. It was peaceful and very different from most trips we take where we pack the itinerary. We finally landed at the cutest little Italian place for dinner called Casa Sabatelli. If you are into nutrition, gluten free, or just interested in food, I highly recommend clicking on their link and reading about the restaurant and their wheat. All the organic, natural, and gluten free you could want. It was so good we ordered a third plate to split. We took our time, sipped on our wine, chatted with the owner, just how meals are supposed to be. It was more than just dinner, it was an experience. We were there for a few hours and ended the night with a tiramisu treat and limoncello. YUM!
The next day after a wonderful breakfast at the cutest cafe, we decided to plan a couple activities including a tour of the Heineken Experience and a canal tour. I highly recommend both. The Heineken tour is just a blast and the canal tour is peaceful and you learn a lot about Amsterdam. Both are very affordable and most of the canal tours have drinks included, which is nice. We went with Boat Amsterdam and chose the Old City Route. There are plenty of different companies and routes you can take. Check Groupon and Trip Advisor for deals. We also wondered around the Rijksmuseum Museum and of course we took our photo with the I AMSTERDAM sign. Next time we would love to explore this museum more and check out the Van Gogh Museum right next door. We ventured down every ally we could find, exploring book shops and boutiques. We took in every bit of architecture because it was all so fascinating and so new. We picked out our favorite house boats to live in and had the hardest time finding a coffee shop that actually served coffee. Ask me why if you don't know.
We ended the night on our private rooftop drinking our Heineken and watching the sunset. It was freeing to have no plans in a new city. We saw a place we liked and walked in because we had no where to be. This is not something I do well, I enjoy it, but it takes some extreme focus on my end to just be and not have a plan - to not worry about planning the perfect trip or vacation, to just enjoy walking the streets of a new city instead of embarking on a new activity. This trip almost forced me to do just that because we didn't even know we were going to be in Amsterdam until the day we were there. Yes, plans and agendas are good and have their place but there is something so beautiful in having a blank calendar for a couple of days. We feel like we truly experienced Amsterdam. I think we walked down almost every street and really took it in. We enjoyed the days and it felt like we treated ourselves. Amsterdam is truly a beautiful and unique city and I highly recommend you give it a visit.
If I can give you one piece of travel advice that I learned from this trip it's this: plan a trip to a new city but don't plan on doing anything in particular - even if it is just a day trip to the next town over. It may seem crazy but ask people around you for recommendations. Walk around and just enjoy the change in scenery. Enjoy the company if you have someone to join you or enjoy the probably much needed alone time. If you see an interesting shop, go in. If you see a cute restaurant, grab a little bite to eat. Walk slower than usual. Look up, down and all around you. Sometimes we explore a little too quickly. Slow it down a bit.