Jan. 4-5: After picking up some French chocolate croissants at a cute little bakery for the road, I took the bus from Paris to Amsterdam, which took about 6 hours with a stop in Antwerp. After arriving in Sloterdijk, I took a train to Amsterdam Centraal and the tram to my hotel on Prinsengracht canal, beginning my first ever solo traveling experience! I got settled in my little hotel and then decided to go to a bar in the Jordaan neighborhood that I heard had some great “bitterballen”. It was about a 35 minute walk from my hotel down along the canal the whole time, which I thought was very relaxing and also a good way to see the architecture and cute little shops and restaurants in the area. When I finally reached the Cafe Tuin, it was everything I expected: very cozy and cute with a nice bartender who helped me choose a good beer to accompany my delicious bitterballen. After about an hour or so I headed home by foot again, and I have to say, Amsterdam seemed very peaceful and not sketchy at all really. Anyway, that was exactly how I wanted to spend my first night in Amsterdam! In the morning, I made my way to De Pijp to get brunch at a place called Bakers & Roasters and had probably the best pancakes of my life, complete with a double shot of espresso. After that, I walked to Museum Square, saw the famous “I Amsterdam” sign, and explored Dutch history and art in the Rijksmuseum. Crazy to see works by Rembrandt and Vermeer in person!! They also had a lot of interesting ship models, antique pistols and rifles, and even huge doll houses! Very cool and worth visiting. I then bought a few gifts in some shops, walked along the canals taking pictures, and drank a latte in a cafe before getting my bags and heading back to Sloterdijk to catch my bus to Brussels. My first day in Amsterdam definitely left me with a great impression of the city.
Jan. 8-9: After a few days in Brussels, I took the bus back to Amsterdam (with the nicest bus driver) and first went to the hostel I’m staying at for the night called the Generator in Amsterdam Oost. Then I decided to walk to the city center and check out the famous Dam Square and Rokin Street. I bought a few gifts for people and looked around, then went to Herengracht canal, where my parents used to stay when they came to Amsterdam back in the day, to take some pictures. At 4 pm, I went to the Van Gogh Museum, and splurged on a headset so I could actually learn something about the art. It was a cool museum! I love Van Gogh’s work too so I thought it was great. From there, I walked all the way back over to a cute little area in Amsterdam Oost to eat dinner at a Thai Cafe called Soi 66. I wanted to stop by a little wine bar after dinner, but it was already closed since it’s a Sunday, so I just chilled at the bar of the hostel for a while and wrote this blog post! I think I must have walked all of Amsterdam today. It’s a very walkable city and it always feels safe going around. Also all the little restaurants and cafes are all so cute and aesthetic is on point. I really love Amsterdam. I hope one day I’ll be back again, hopefully with friends though, not solo.
I feel so accomplished now that I’ve traveled somewhere completely on my own. I’ve always seen myself as an independent person, but I also really love having company and being with friends, so I wasn’t sure how this experience would go, but I was pleasantly surprised. It’s nice to be able to do exactly what you want, and traveling by yourself also gives you a lot of time to process things and think. It’s also nice to feel challenged and pushed outside of your comfort zone once and a while. And overcoming obstacles always helps you feel more confident in yourself! If I had to choose, I would still rather travel with other people, but now I know I can also enjoy solo traveling and be content with my own company! And next time I would bring a book! I’m really sad to be leaving Europe. I love the European lifestyle, and I can’t wait to come back already!
Now that my Europe winter break trip is over, here are a few of my Europe traveling tips/reviews:
•Icelandair: relatively cheap transatlantic flights that also somewhat introduce you to Icelandic culture, and sometimes can give you great stopover options! (See “Six Hours in Iceland”)
•Deutsche Bahn & Trenitalia: for trains involving Germany or Italy, both pretty easy to book online in English
•FlixBus: cheap buses throughout Europe that are (in my experience) reliable, easy to find, and also have wifi and outlets on board, with a really useful phone app with mobile boarding passes
•Airbnb: I’m a huge fan, it’s so easy and much cheaper and more authentic of an experience than staying at a hotel, you can find places in amazing and unique locations and the hosts are usually cool and can give local suggestions!
•”Here We Go” app: lets you navigate city maps / look up directions offline (SO helpful)