If given the opportunity, everyone should take a trip to Europe at least once, if not multiple times, over his or her lifetime. There is so much history, culture and artistic excellence packed into such a relatively small area that it’s hard to pick and choose what to see and what to save for the next time. I will be the first to admit that it has been far too long since my last trip over the pond especially considering my extensive list of European bucket list items, but I’m undoubtedly grateful for the experiences I have had so far in my short 28 years of life. My last trip over to Europe, like the ones before it, was a whirlwind adventure, but this time I created an itinerary ahead of time. Over a three-week period, we would visit five countries: The Netherlands, the U.K., Germany, Switzerland and Italy. And so during one summer in late July and August during law school, with my soon to be husband in tow, it all began.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
We arrived in Amsterdam at 8:30 a.m. after almost missing our connecting flight in Houston, TX. We ran gate to gate to make our connection and made it with less than a minute to spare. After a seven-hour flight, the sun was bright in the sky as we boarded the train from Amsterdam International Airport to the city center. We were jet lagged, tired and weary, but pumped to be in a new foreign city. We rolled into Amsterdam Central train station and jumped on a trolley traveling across the canals. We came to our stop and eventually found the place where we planned to stay, a house along one of the canals. My mom and step-dad were already there waiting for us and were just getting up to begin their day. My family had arranged a house exchange so our family would stay in Amsterdam while a Dutch family vacationed at my family’s floating home in Seattle. Participating in a house exchange is always a great way to feel like you’re actually living in the city and it’s also obviously cost efficient since it’s virtually free! The flat we stayed at in Amsterdam ultimately served as a base to explore from, all the way down to Italy. It’s hard to beat having your own European home for a few weeks!
After settling in, we walked the streets through flower markets, ducked into fresh cheese shops and admired the classic Delft blue and white pottery. The spokes of bicycle tires spun quickly by; the sound of bells rang as people on cruiser bikes passed in and out of foot traffic; the river boats traveled up and down the canals and trolleys zipped around the designated tracks. Instead of large parking garages like in the United States, Amsterdam has constructed areas for mass bicycle parking, a true staple in the city. There is no doubt biking around the city is a way of life.
Over the next couple of days, we visited the Anne Frank Museum, experiencing first hand the place I had once envisioned as a young adult and also strolled through the Van Gogh Museum, admiring the colorful strokes that created such masterpieces of art. Amsterdam was vibrant, colorful and full of life. Sure, there were pot signs and the infamous red light district lingering in certain parts of the city, but overall Amsterdam is very clean and inviting. It proved to be a place we would love to return to time and time again. As much as we could have explored Amsterdam the entire three weeks, there was so much still to see even within the Netherlands that our European adventure had only begun. Next, we were off to explore the surrounding towns and then we would hop over to the U.K. for a weekend in London!