Travel wall: Amsterdam edition

by Kim on December 1, 2013 · 71 comments

Europe by train: day 16. Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

We’re in Amsterdam and I’ve hit a travel wall. Amsterdam is a great city but it’s crowded. Yesterday we took a walk into the city center and I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. There was too much humans/bicycles/coffee/beer/drugs/bagels/shot glasses/dildos/scarves/you name it.

We have a hotel outside of the tourist district. There’s a park right next door where I go for my runs each morning. There are two really great bars across the street and a little café that serves delicious omelets for breakfast and sandwiches for lunch. They have homemade bread and free WIFI and the customers bring their dogs inside.

People keep speaking to us in Dutch. They think we’re one of them.

“I love our neighborhood,” I said to Brian yesterday afternoon as we sipped coffee in our café.

“It’s not really our neighborhood you know.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” I almost yelled it.

I just won’t hear of such things.

Brian has to practically beg me to venture off of our street. I am reluctant, whiny. He may have used the words, “pain in the ass.” I refuse to go back to the center of Amsterdam. The tourist district of Amsterdam feels like a performance of Disneyland On Bike: Canal Edition. I cannot believe I am not in love with Amsterdam.

“Let’s just go across the street to our bar,” I say when Brian asks what I might like to do today.

He shakes his head. “Really? But we’ve been there every single day. And it’s not our bar.”

“Stop saying that! We’re here and it’s ours.”

So we go. Because beer.

On our first day in Amsterdam we went to the Anne Frank House. The museum is in the building where Anne and her family hid from the Germans during the Second World War. It’s where Anne wrote her famous diary. She and her family lived in an upstairs annex of the building. They hid for two years before being captured by the German Security Service. Anne died at the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp only a month before the liberation.

Anne’s father, Otto, was the only member of the family to survive the war. He is the one who sought a publisher for Anne’s diaries. Anne wanted to be a writer and she dreamed of one day publishing her account of her time in hiding.

Visiting her home was haunting. The museum is powerful and moving. It was worth a venture into downtown Amsterdam.

I almost wish I hadn’t liked it so much because Brian is using it against me. “You liked the Anne Frank House,” he keeps saying. “Amsterdam is full of other things you’ll like too.”

I know he’s right, but our street is just so perfect. Why give up a good thing?

Tomorrow I have promised Brian a canal tour. It goes right through the heart of downtown Amsterdam. I’m hoping for another Anne Frank House-type success. No matter, it helps to know I can retreat back to our neighborhood, our home, for now anyway.

Train station Europe

Europe train station

Bikes in Amsterdam

Amsterdam canals

Little car Amsterdam

Amsterdam

Amsterdam sunset

Amsterdam sunset

I didn’t see as much as I could have of Amsterdam. If you’re planning a trip to the city check out this blog for some great tips.

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{ 68 comments… read them below or add one }

Gillian @GlobalBookshelf December 1, 2013 at 1:47 pm

Hee hee. I think that ‘s the risk of renting an apartment, or hotel, outside of the tourist areas…you never want to leave! I am a firm believer, though, that the travel is much better this way. Stay on your street Kim and experience hyper-local Amsterdam – you can read about the other stuff while you sip your beer. Sorry Brian :)
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Kim December 4, 2013 at 12:40 am

Yes, you’re on my side :) We did venture downtown again for the canal tour… should have stayed in our neighborhood.

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Charlie December 1, 2013 at 1:56 pm

It’s a shame you’re not too keen on Amsterdam, I’ve fond memories of visiting there. But still, you can’t love everywhere and I do remember it’s pretty busy and filled with tourists in the centre of town. There’s some great art galleries in Amsterdam though, including the Van Gogh Museum of course, and some delicious fondue restaurants that might tempt you out of your neighbour for a spell.

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Kim December 4, 2013 at 12:41 am

Thanks Charlie. I’m sure it’s more about where I’m at (tired!) than Amsterdam itself.

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Erica December 1, 2013 at 1:59 pm

I am dutch, and I do not like Amsterdam either. Too crowded, the streets are too narrow. I always feel trapped. Go to Rotterdam for a day tour, and stay by the river there. Kop van Zuid, Nieuwe Werk and Noordereiland. You’ll like it. Go for a drink in Hotel New York and stroll around the Meent.
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Kim December 4, 2013 at 12:42 am

Thank you for the advice! I wish we’d had more time in Holland. I will definitely do these things next year.

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Betzabe Orozco December 1, 2013 at 2:05 pm

I think I understand what you mean!! Sometimes this beautiful cities are so crowed with tourist…..it feels that they don´t care for the city. It´s a feeling in the enviroment. Same thing happen to me in Paris :( Hope next days get beter :)

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Kim December 4, 2013 at 12:42 am

Yes, we all have our places I think. I adore Paris but I can see how it could easily happen there as well.

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Ellen December 1, 2013 at 2:06 pm

I live very near the Oosterpark, so I have an idea where you are. Stay out of the Dam/Wallen area — the heart of the tourist centre. I can’t stand that area. It’s very trashy, a whole other side of Amsterdam. It’s better to explore the Jordaan, the Pijp (Albertcuypmaarkt), Amsterdam Oost, and some of the other neighbourhoods on the outskirts of the centre. They have a lot of character, and a lot fewer gimmicks!
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Kim December 4, 2013 at 12:43 am

We walked through the Pijp after you recommended it and it was great! And no gimmicks.

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Colleen December 1, 2013 at 2:07 pm

I have family in Holland and have been five times, including twice this fall, but almost never go out to Amsterdam any more. I know what you mean… I’m happy to have my routine, go to the little shopping district along the canal with its cheese shop, fish monger, bread baker. I go to the gym and hide away in cafes. I love the seasonal speculoos and oliebollen treats you find there this time of year. Enjoy your little rituals. It’ll be time to move along soon enough. If you need a smaller getaway town, try Leiden or Delft.
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Kim December 4, 2013 at 12:44 am

I need my rituals. I am such a person that works well with a routine so it makes me happy to have one. I’m glad I got to set one up in Amsterdam, if only for a few days.

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Rhonda December 1, 2013 at 2:12 pm

I know where you’re coming from… we were like that when we spent one Christmas in Hanoi… we barely ended up seeing anything in the city because in our 8 days there we rarely wandered more than 1/2 mile from our hotel. I just think you’ve been traveling quite a bit these last few weeks, and, perhaps with the holidays, you’re just feeling in need of a home. Brian…not nice to call her a pain in the ass! lol
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Kim December 4, 2013 at 12:45 am

This time of year always makes me wish I just had a little place to settle down in (the holidays, the weather, etc.). I’m trying to slow down and listen to what I need. It’s hard to do that when you’re traveling all the time.

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Sarah Somewhere December 1, 2013 at 2:28 pm

Hey Kim, I find when I hit a wall it’s less about the place than it is about me. You’ve probably had enough of sightseeing, and that’s okay. Some unwanted advice: A day apart. Brian, go to the Heineken ‘museum’ or the Van Gogh museum and get some bragging rights. Kim: Run, relax, and write from your favourite bar. Meet for dinner, share stories about your day. Repeat if necessary :-)
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Kim December 4, 2013 at 12:56 am

What?!?! You want me to spend time apart from this person I spend 24-hours a day with. Are you crazy?!?! ;) Just kidding. It is a great idea. I don’t know we don’t do it more often, actually. And it’s nice to have separate experiences to talk about at the end of the day.

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Lydian December 1, 2013 at 2:32 pm

Welcome to my hometown! I fully agree with Ellen that the city centre as such is not the nicest place to hang around, especially not around this time of the year when everyone is shopping for Sinterklaas (national feast for children that is being celebrated on the 5th of December) and Christmas. It really gets too busy during the weekend. It should be less busy during the week though. Apart from the areas mentioned by Ellen the area around Museumplein, Vondelpark and parts of West (Westergasterrein and Oud-West) are definitely worth walking around as well. For something different take one of the ferries across the Ij, it’s free and you experience a different feel of Amsterdam. Hope you’ll enjoy the rest of your stay!
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Kim December 4, 2013 at 12:57 am

Thank you Lydian. We actually went back to the middle on a Monday for a canal tour and it was much less crowded. Still not as great as “my” neighborhood, but much easier to handle.

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Amanda December 1, 2013 at 2:50 pm

Don’t feel too bad – I felt the same way about Amsterdam. It’s a really pretty city, don’t get me wrong. But I just didn’t connect with it. I, too, pretty much only enjoyed the Anne Frank House. And the canal cruise I took. Other than that? Not a fan. At least you have your little neighborhood to enjoy though!
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Kim December 4, 2013 at 12:59 am

The Anne Frank house was wonderful. I think Amsterdam seems like an incredibly liveable city overall. It’s a lot to handle in a few days as a visitor though.

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eemusings December 1, 2013 at 3:19 pm

We were priced out of the tourist district and stayed near the Heineken museum, which turned out not to be a bad thing! Amsterdam is fun but it is a LOT, and two days for us was enough.
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Kim December 4, 2013 at 1:03 am

Yes, it is a lot! Such a big city. I was a little surprised by the size.

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Laura December 1, 2013 at 3:33 pm

Sounds like travel fatigue. Maybe indulging your lack of desire to go and explore would be the best thing? Just take a break and be ok with it. It’s ok. Really. :)

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Kim December 4, 2013 at 1:04 am

It’s so strange when I feel guilty about relaxing. Like, I’m only in this city for three days I must! see! everything! But I need to get over that because that’s when I hit the wall.

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Patti December 1, 2013 at 4:17 pm

Did you find the same scenarios in Paris – or was it because Paris is, well, Paris! Give yourself permission to not be in love with Amsterdam. I don’t think we can fall in love with every single place we visit, and besides, it gives you perspective on what you do love, right?
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Kim December 4, 2013 at 1:04 am

No, I didn’t feel the same way in Paris for some reason. I’m not sure why.

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Amber December 1, 2013 at 5:33 pm

I do love Amsterdam, but there are some parts I can go without. I love wandering the more quiet areas, and finding a little pub or cafe, particularly at this time of year where they have blankets outside to cuddle under. That said, I understand you not wanting to leave your little neighborhood. It sounds pleasant, and after being on the go the last how many weeks, you are right, you may be hitting a wall.
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Kim December 4, 2013 at 1:06 am

I did love that they put blankets out to cuddle under. They did that at “my” bar!

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Debby December 1, 2013 at 6:47 pm

I’m Dutch too, even the Dutchies don’t like Amsterdam too much (I mean, the center). Even I feel like a tourist there in my own country. I don’t feel safe in the streets. I hope you go see Utrecht, that’s a lovely city.

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Kim December 4, 2013 at 1:07 am

That is good to know I think. It’s true you can’t get a sense of a city based on the tourist area. The tourist areas are always bad!

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zof December 1, 2013 at 11:04 pm

Go to the Central Railway Station and head to something smaller! Like Hoorn or Haarlem or Utrecht. I was in love with Hoorn. A trip to Zaanse Schans might be an idea too, even if it is as touristy as a place can possibly get. Still, calmer than the touristy Amsterdam….
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Kim December 4, 2013 at 1:08 am

I wish we would have had time to do this… :(

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Victoria December 2, 2013 at 5:44 am

The touristy district of a city is nearly always awful. When living in London, it used to pain me to hear people say they didn’t like the city when they’d only been around Oxford Circus and Leicester Square. Locals tend to avoid those areas like the plague. The essence of a city lies in the types of places where you’re living now – your area. You like that, therefore it seems to me you like Amsterdam. It’s lucky you’re not staying in the centre or else you may never have known otherwise. And I totally undersatdn calling it “your area”. I instantly refer to places as home (so long as I like them!).
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Kim December 4, 2013 at 1:09 am

I agree, I used to hate hearing people say they couldn’t understand what the fuss was about Portland and I knew it was because they hadn’t visited the neighborhoods.

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Kim December 2, 2013 at 7:37 am

I haven’t been to Amsterdam for at least 20 years, but one thing I remember – in addition to the Anne Frank house – was the hidden church that was built in the attics of three adjoining buildings. You might want to look that up. And, I know how you feel about the “too-muchness” of Amsterdam. I rounded out my last trip with a couple days in Hoorn to decompress. I thought that was a nice place.

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Kim December 4, 2013 at 1:10 am

What?! That sounds awesome! I missed it (we didn’t have much time in Amsterdam).

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Jimmy Dau December 2, 2013 at 8:46 am

lol glass dildos got my attention. Give yourself a break. Sometimes you need a weekend from travelling too
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Kim December 4, 2013 at 1:10 am

Haha. I need more than a weekend from traveling right about now!

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Steve C December 2, 2013 at 9:11 am

Kim, I hear ya. I think it’s a combination of circumstances. Too many people as it’s a combination of the Christmas season and of course, it’s always Tourist season. Was it a weekend or the middle of the week that blew you out for the City center? And, as you know that slower is better, this may be a start of travelers burnout with a Eurail ticket. Too much to see in too little time.

As Sarah Somewhere suggested above, It’s OK for you guys to split up for a day of individual exploration. It would be out of the ordinary for two people to be around each other 24/7 and be totally happy. Been there and done that. Both of you need some alone time. Actually, we all do!

Also, I’m worried again that you may be spending too much time at the bar. (yer mother again!) Or, like you told me last time, is this something you just think readers want/like to hear?

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Kim December 4, 2013 at 1:26 am

It was a weekend when we went into the tourist center- bad idea! Went back on a Monday and actually it wasn’t so bad. Still not my thing but not terrible.

RE: the bar. I do spend a lot of time there but don’t worry… I’m not always drinking! WIFI is my drug of choice.

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Lance | Trips By Lance December 2, 2013 at 9:33 am

It’s great to find a neighborhood to call your own whether it’s for one night or two months. That’s a main reason I like apartments and house stays. I hope you find a great destination today.
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Kim December 4, 2013 at 1:28 am

Thanks Lance. I agree, it’s the reason I like renting apartments better than hotels (we were in a hotel this time but normally I prefer apartments with a kitchen).

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Darcy @Darcy's Utopia December 2, 2013 at 12:37 pm

It’s been a while, but I really enjoyed the museum of natural history and ethnography. I went to Amsterdam for spring break (from Copenhagen), and my three friends and I made a game of taking a different street home each time we ventured out…over the week it took longer and longer to make it back to “our bar” where we crashed each night in a room of bunks each night. Being stoned didn’t speed up our adventures…but we sure had fun…it’s beautiful in spring. Enjoy the most of your time left to explore!
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Kim December 4, 2013 at 1:29 am

Haha, Darcy, I can totally see you doing that. And I bet Amsterdam is amazing in the spring.

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Mary December 2, 2013 at 1:10 pm

I know what you mean – it doesn’t matter what city I’m in, I manage to find my comfort zones as quickly as possible and have a hard time venturing away from them. I find a coffee shop that feels especially adorable, or a cozy bar. I use those as my “routine” places but then get adventurous for dinner or on weekends. Also, I went to Holland last year for Thanksgiving (oddly enough NOT Amsterdam, but instead Deventer and Arnhem – adorable around this time of year). It was beautiful, but I actually loved the fact that those cities were a little less traveled, a little more Dutch, and still had all the architecture/history. (Also, as an aside, the Black Piets really threw me off at first, I gotta say).

Enjoy!

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Kim December 4, 2013 at 1:31 am

It’s possibly my favorite thing about traveling: finding a spot and making it my own. I’ll go back to the same places over and over. I suppose it’s a way of establishing a home no matter where we go.

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Keith December 2, 2013 at 1:39 pm

Hope you and Brian made it to the windmill (Brouwerij t Ij) for a beer or two. It is really close to Oosterpark but watch out it is a bit strong.

On the top 2 pictures are they from Amsterdam. It just does not look like central station to me?
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Kim December 4, 2013 at 1:31 am

We did. It was actually in the neighborhood! The IPA was so good.

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Barbara December 2, 2013 at 2:07 pm

PLEASE go to the galleries … the Reichsmuseum is wonderful … the detail in the oils leaps off the canvas … every stitch of lace is there … way different from the prints we have all seen of the Dutch masters …

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Kim December 4, 2013 at 1:32 am

Well, we didn’t go (and have since left Amsterdam) but at least my list of things to see when we go back is getting longer…

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Doug December 2, 2013 at 6:01 pm

We were in Amsterdam for a week in August and stayed in an apartment in the Jordaan. We loved it! But we took a walk through the city center one day and couldn’t get out of there fast enough. I hope you found the canal tour more to your liking. In the boat, even in the city center, being down on the canal keeps you separate from the crowds and provides a modicum of serenity.

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Kim December 4, 2013 at 1:34 am

The canal tour was nice but to be honest I wouldn’t do it again… I think the next time I am in Amsterdam I will just stay in the neighborhoods and avoid the center altogether. Live and learn!

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Peter Korchnak @ Where Is Your Toothbrush? December 2, 2013 at 11:58 pm

No place is perfect. Sounds like you’ve found at least a couple of things about Amsterdam you like, maybe even love. Good!
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Kim December 4, 2013 at 1:35 am

Yes, I did love our little neighborhood!

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Corinne December 3, 2013 at 4:54 am

We used to live in the Netherlands and there is tons of great places, great neighborhoods, great towns. I love the towns. We stayed in Giethoorn and loved it. It had all the things you do like…like beer and fun people! Relax! You deserve it. Question: I always have passed on a Eurorail pass for this reason, too many cities and too fast. What do you think?
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Kim December 4, 2013 at 1:36 am

I think the Eurail tickets are worth it. For our pass, we have 10 days in two months so hypothetically you wouldn’t have to travel as fast as we are. We’re flying to Vietnam in two weeks and that is why we’re moving so fast, less a fault of the Eurail tickets and more a fault of our poor planning!

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Montecristo Travels (Sonja) December 3, 2013 at 11:24 am

Oh that is a shame … the flower market alone is worth the trip – although your there in winter. Not nearly as much fun. Van Gho museum IS worth it.

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Kim December 4, 2013 at 1:36 am

I would love to see the tulips growing in the countryside…

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HP December 3, 2013 at 11:50 am

I am in A-Dam tomorrow. On a layover. When staying longer, I prefer Harlem, a miniature version of the big city. Same good food, just many less tourists.
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Kim December 4, 2013 at 1:36 am

That is something to remember!! It sounds nice in Harlem.

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Mark December 3, 2013 at 2:17 pm

GREAT one……you make me laugh quite often….whether or not you mean to….. I mean it as a complement, not to offend.
Either before of after the Camino next spring I’m planning France, Belgium & the Netherlands and especially looking forward to Holland to hook up with a fabulous couple I met in India. I love you two checking out everything ahead of me. Been single, means I have to do all the research myself and when your there by yourself you have no one to bounce things off of. All in all I’ll get to see if
“humans/bicycles/coffee/beer/drugs/bagels/shot glasses/dildos/scarves/you name it.”
have the same effect on me.
If you are having a bad/few bad days, your ol buddy Sarah Somewhere advice sounds good to me.
Keep your chin up 

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Kim December 4, 2013 at 1:37 am

Thanks Mark, and I’m glad to make you laugh!

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Jessica J. Hill December 5, 2013 at 11:29 am

I completely understand your aversion to the overly touristy places, and how much nicer it is to just be on the outskirts of it, to see how the locals live – not the expats. I hope your next adventure is a success!

I’m curious – how do those cars get out? The ones parked along the canal in your photo…they look stuck!

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Kim December 6, 2013 at 12:17 am

Ha, I wondered the same thing about the cars. No idea!

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TammyOnTheMove December 5, 2013 at 8:54 pm

Amsterdam can be very overpowering, so I actually loved renting a bike and venturing out into the suburbs. The countryside is so nice and you don’t get the crowds either.
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Kim December 6, 2013 at 12:19 am

That sounds wonderful. I think that will be my plan the next time I am there.

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Carmel December 9, 2013 at 8:58 pm

Just read your comment back to Sarah….I am not feeling well and have been hiding in bed all day. Shawn just said he was going to go out to the deck of our guesthouse to read and write and was like, “WHAT? Don’t leave me!” in my head…but duh. It’s ok to spend time apart and usually it’s nice to have a break. Hope you were able to enjoy your time there after all.
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Kim December 9, 2013 at 10:46 pm

Funny, huh? We get so used to having the other person around, they become like a limb. Not healthy!!!!

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