My first European destination was to Amsterdam. I was fortunate enough to have a friend of many years, Lucas, who was about to get married and we had never met. It was hail Mary time, I needed to get to the Netherlands. I was also quite grateful to have another friend, Zeyad, who is a pilot that would show me the ropes my first day and thereby enabling me to spend days on my own. I discovered not only how tourist friendly the city is but also a few things that made it easier, so I will pass them on to you!
Coming from an American perspective, it’s really quite nice to be at an airport in another country. Because of unfortunate moments in our history, our airports are quite locked down and you can really only get past baggage claim if you are flying out. This is not the case elsewhere. You pretty much have free reign to go wherever you need! It’s beautiful and I embraced it, especially since there would be a good bit of things I needed.
First, there are so many restaurants, shops, and convenient stores. This was especially welcoming news since I am so used to having shampoo in my rooms, I had no idea I would need to buy some. I even ended up losing my voice and Zeyad directed me to the specific store in the airport that had what I needed to help. Then, seeing Burger King made me laugh but I wouldn’t allow myself to have anything I could get back home. I did indulge in the only healthy fast food I’ve ever seen, at Leon’s. There are also a few 24/7 restaurants, thank goodness for me. There was even a mini grocery store! I also got all of my souvenirs for family and friends at the airport. I cannot say enough how convenient the airport is.
Second, it doubles as a train station! You can either stop at a kiosk and do it yourself or go up to a window, either way, getting a train ticket has never been easier. I watched Zeyad do it the first time at the window, the next day I was buying from the yellow kiosks! I took the train from the airport to Amsterdam Centraal Station. From there you get the canals, the shops, everywhere. Moreover, you can take a train from Amsterdam and be in Paris in 3 hours. 3 HOURS! You can really get anywhere and it’s as convenient as right there at the airport.
Amsterdam Centraal Station
Not only is this building nothing like you’ll see in the states, it really opens the world for what you think of when you think, Amsterdam. There are restaurants and shops all over the inside but when you walk out the doors, you are immediately struck. I’m in Amsterdam! The water is right in front of you and all these antique buildings. Be careful though, there are trains coming all the time. This is a place where people bike a lot so there’s lots of people coming from lots of directions. Be aware of your surroundings, also. I was traveling alone, probably very obviously a tourist, and I had a man approach me who spoke little English but wanted me to go back to his home with him. No, we weren’t in the Red Light District. He did start following me after I looked lost inside the station. I wasn’t lost, I was in awe of the architecture. Oh, one last thing, don’t be bothered by that smell as you cross the road. Yes, it’s marijuana.
Cheese, Mayo, and Small Sodas
One thing we’re known for in America is eating too much cheese. I mean, it’s cheese, how can we not? Even for people like me who have issues with dairy, I can’t NOT eat it. Anyway, one cool thing about Amsterdam is there are cheese shops as often as there are Starbucks here in the states. They have these cute little cheese roll columns at the entrance and it’s just so much cheese. They know who their tourists are. LOL
I am always up for a healthy dose of ketchup with fries and various other things. Ask for the red goodness here and you will get an odd look. In Amsterdam, it’s mayo. It never ceased to amaze me when given mayo and not ketchup. I will say the mayonnaise is a bit different overseas than back home. It’s a little more creamy and slightly off white instead of stark white and more stiff. I was confused but not opposed to the cultural difference.
The one thing I was sad about because, again, I’m American, is the size of soda. On my connecting flight coming out of Iceland, I noticed the bottles were way smaller than what I’m used to. I’m from Atlanta, the home of Coca-Cola. These skinny bottles were hard for my brain. I was hoping it would get better in the Netherlands, it did not. It was also kind of expensive whereas in the states you can go to McDonalds and get a 32oz cola for $1. Our bottles are 20oz, their it was 12oz bottles and it was never enough. That probably is the American in me talking and not a responsible, reasonable human who knows how much sugar is in each ounce.
So, hopefully these inspire you to visit such a unique place! I had a lot of fun and my first day in Amsterdam was easily my favorite day I can remember. Feel free to ask any questions and for videos of the Amsterdam trip, follow me on Snapchat @QueenMeranda and I’ll be glad to share.