Monday, September 24, 2012


I suppose I had never given much thought to Amsterdam before I came here to Kasteel Well. Truth be told, it’s a lovely city with amazing architecture and really nice people.

We started out our weekend with a walking tour through the city and a brief jaunt through the Rijkmuseum. But the real highlight of the first day was our group trip to an Indonesian restaurant in Rembradnt Square called Indrapura. As a vegetarian, I’ve never had so many options on one table before. And they were all delicious (note: I was delirious from hunger, my reviews may be exaggerated slightly.)

We started to think we knew our way around, until we realized that every intersection is, while breathtakingly beautiful, exactly the same. These are the perils of a city built around canals.

Further perils of Amsterdam include the constantly present bicycles. There is no possible way for me to describe to you how many cyclists there are in Amsterdam, and how much flagrant disregard they show for human life. There is literally no such thing as a walk light in Amsterdam, as bikers obey no traffic rules. Or rules of human decency. And for as many as there are riding in the street, there are so many more parked along the canals (and everywhere else). I think I had at least 7 near-death experiences.

This city really has the most amazing street art. I was blown away by it at every turn. The streets themselves are a museum here. I was excited to visit some Banksys in London, but Amsterdam may rival its urban counterpart in gorgeous guerrilla art.

Day 2 included a trip to the Anne Frank museum (walking through the secret bookcase door was one of the most harrowing things I’ve ever done) and the Museum Van Loon, which was eerily similar to the Breakers mansion in Newport…

…but with a much lovelier garden. It was so whimsical, it really felt like Wonderland. A group of us somehow found our way into Chinatown (apparently every major city has one), and then into the Red Light District. In broad daylight, it’s a weird and deeply unsettling place. I consider myself to be pretty liberal, but after glimpsing the area “behind the curtain” during the afternoon, I couldn’t bring myself to go back with another group to see it at night.

But that was okay, as a few of us got to see my favorite street musicians there ever were. They set up shop in front of the statue of Rembrandt, hooked up to amazing amplifiers, and serenaded the area with what seemed to be a compilation pulled from my iTunes. These were no ordinary street musicians; it was essentially like going to an outdoor concert, but it was free! The city really comes alive at night, and the culture is so thick and omnipresent that it’s palpable in the air. I enjoyed Amsterdam so much more than I anticipated I would, and I think I will return before the year is out.


These teeny tiny cars! I wish I could have stood next to it to describe to you just how miniature these things were. They put Smart Cars to shame. I don’t know how that gentleman fit in there.

STARBUCKS! A little taste of home, with some of the nicest baristas I have ever encountered. The Apple Crumble Latte is something America desperately needs.

This amazing cappuccino, bought on a whim on Saturday morning, was one of the best things I had while I was here. I may be developing a caffeine addiction. Not pictured: delicious tomato pesto poppyseed bagel sandwich. mmmmm.

Bonus Rembradnt Square Playlist (so you can pretend you were listening to hip outdoor musicians, too!):
1. Leonard Cohen - Hallelujah (I think the performer may have been channeling the Jeff Buckley cover)
2. Snow Patrol - Chasing Cars
3. Robbie Williams - Angels (a fantastic request by a bachelorette party wearing matching “adult” headbands. They were hilarious.)
4. The Eagles - Hotel California
5. Coldplay - The Scientist

Friday, September 14, 2012

Hello, Amsterdam!

The past 2 days have been excruciatingly long, but I made it to the Netherlands in one piece! I had the unique and wonderful experience of watching the sun set in Boston as we pulled away, and watching the sun rise in the Netherlands as we touched down.

After nearly breaking my back and probably pulling a muscle in my forearm (note to self: heavy things go in checked bag, not carry-on!), I took a look at the amazing Dutch countryside through the oversized windows of our bus. Spotted: cows roaming along grassy plains with no border between them and the road (cars beware?), extremely classy and artistic Calvin Klein ads, Dutch songs sharing radio airwaves with Cee-Lo, every plant in technicolor green, and far too many American fast food establishments.

We eventually made it to Well, which is charming and lovely, and full of charming and lovely people. As the staff kept us busy all day through my delusional sleep haze, I didn’t have the effort or energy to snap any inspired photographs. Even though it is now 2:30 PM back home, I am more than ready to go to sleep.