As someone who is not very adventurous and also sometimes hesitant to spend money (I think I have weird spending habits), I have to say that most of what I did during my trip to Europe was eat, walk around and wait until it was time to eat again, and look up places to eat. But unfortunately the “what I ate” post will have to wait for tomorrow, and today’s is just briefly describing some of the highlights of what we did while traveling!
In Amsterdam, I really wanted to go to the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh museum, and we went to each one on a separate day – I think this was the right choice even though they are literally right next to each other because I would have been very museum-ed out. I enjoy art museums, but there’s still only so much old art I can take before I start to get tired and just want to nap in a comfy chair. (In Brussels, we also went to the Magritte museum to kill time, but ironically most of the actual Magrittes had been moved to the SF MOMA for their current Magritte exhibition, so that museum experience wasn’t as great.)
The Rijksmuseum itself is a beautiful building, and right outside the entrance we heard a really great string quartet playing. All the street musicians we heard in Europe were really talented. A famous painting that they have at the Rijksmuseum is The Night Watch by Rembrandt, which led to many Game of Thrones jokes made that afternoon. We weren’t allowed to take photos at the Van Gogh museum, which is (obviously) dedicated to Van Gogh’s life and works. I felt like I learned a lot while going through this museum, although it is a lot smaller and definitely doable in like two (or less) hours.
Jeremiah was confused throughout the trip why I was so obsessed with Miffy, which upon reflection is sort of weird that I was so excited every time I saw the little bunny. I guess it was just because growing up I had always thought Miffy was an Asian creation because I had a comforter and sheets set that had a giant Miffy on it, and that blanket was really comfortable. And then I thought she was French. But nope, she is a Dutch creation and the Dutch are quite proud of her.
Right outside the museums is a small park area where there were lots of people just hanging out, even on the weekdays! The museum area is also close to Vondelpark, a giant park that is like the Central Park of Amsterdam but seems bigger and there are what feels like ten times more bikes zooming around. We rented bikes to bike through Vondelpark which terrified me at first (especially getting to the park from the rental shop) because although I know how to bike, biking around other people who are going much faster than me is on another level. Similar to snowboarding and skiing. But we made it and it was great and I’m glad we biked!
I had also marked down the Hortus Botanicus, a botanical garden, as a possible thing to do and we ended up going there one afternoon to kill time. This one was cool because there was a butterfly house, which we didn’t have to pay extra to get into (which always stops me from going to the butterfly exhibits when I go to natural history museums). It did feel a little bit out of the way, though, and I’m kind of surprised we walked all the way over there, but it was during an afternoon where it felt like we were just strolling leisurely through different neighborhoods of Amsterdam.
A tourist thing that we did in Amsterdam was go on a canal tour – I enjoyed the tour (also because I like being on boats) although it was pretty sunny and hot that day and our boat did not have shade on it. And we almost missed getting on because we were a tiny bit late for the on boarding time. But I liked hearing some of the history and design of the city, although I always wonder if some of that stuff is either made up or embellished. It’s like when you’re a new student at Cal and they tell you all these lies that make Cal seem a lot cooler or make student life seem quirky and fun, like doing the Time Warp at football games. I have never once done the Time Warp at a football game, but yet all incoming freshman have to learn it during CalSo. WHY?!
We also did a canal tour while we were in Bruges, because again there wasn’t much to do there besides shop for Belgian chocolates and try to figure out places that were in the movie In Bruges (which is probably the reason for like, 85% of their tourism). I also really enjoyed the train rides we took to get to all the different cities and even to cross the border into a different country! Something that we rarely get to do living in California.
Bruges was also very picturesque – it felt like Disneyland! On the way back from Belgium, Jeremiah and I made a quick stop in Rotterdam to see the windmills at Kinderdijk – we found out that the OV-Chipkaart transportation cards that we had gotten in Amsterdam could get us there as well (through ferry and bus) and I’m glad I figured that out because otherwise we would have spent more money getting there than was worth the time that we spent there. There’s a small museum there that I think is about how people used to live in windmills, but we decided to just walk up and down the little pathway where you can see the windmills. There’s also the option to rent bikes, and if you rent a bike you can definitely bike the whole loop in less than an hour, in time to catch the next ferry back.
After Rotterdam, we stopped in De Hague because Sam wanted to take us to Madurodam – this place where they have mini reproductions of famous buildings and places from different places in the Netherlands. (According to Wikipedia, it was the inspiration for Storybook Land in Disneyland!) We also got to meet one of the current directors of the miniature park, since he was a friend of Sam’s, and hearing the story and seeing the behind the scenes development made our experience a lot more fun.
After Madurodam we made our way to the beach because the Hague is on the coast. Since we visited in July, the sun would set at like, 9 or 10pm each night which made the days feel luxuriously long.
That above photo was probably taken at like 8pm! Amazing. After a dinner at the beach, we made our way to our last stop, Utrecht – a tiny little town that felt even smaller than Bruges but less touristy (more like a college town), where we really just spent the night and walked around more canals before heading back to our home base of Amsterdam to finish out the trip.
Phew! I guess I lied – we really did do a lot. I’ve been telling people that although it felt like the European cities we visited were small and it was easy to see all the big landmarks in only one or two days, it was nice spending so much time in one place because then we could see a lot of other things. And I guess after writing this and remembering all the things we did, my statement is not wrong.
Coming up next – what we ate!