Although John Green’s book was the driving force behind this trip, it wasn’t just about TFIOS. This might be the only time I ever get to visit Amsterdam so I wanted to make sure that I also made time to see and do everything else the city had to offer.
The Van Gogh Museum was one of the first places we visited. It was crowded so we started at the top floor and worked our way to the bottom. One of my favorites was a skull with a cigarette hanging out of its mouth. It reminded me of Augustus and his metaphor so I bought the postcard. This was definitely a place worthy of checking out. I enjoyed seeing the original paintings of works that I recognized like his Irises and the Almond Blossoms. I also learned a lot about his life and his process. I have a replica of The Bedroom in my classroom so I was interested in learning about how the colors have faded. What I have come to know as blue was actually purple. I have also dubbed Van Gogh as the original king of the selfie. Seriously. Check it out. Ok, he didn’t have filters, but he was able to paint himself in the finest Parisian frocks even when he was actually in pajamas sooooo same difference, no?
The Artis Royal Zoo wasn’t originally on my must-see list. It seemed to get mixed reviews on Trip Advisor, but I was willing to give it a chance. I thought it would be cool to go see the oldest zoo in the Netherlands. I think I sold Emily on it when I told her it had a planetarium. When we first walked into the zoo there was a beautiful area set up for camels and other animals. Our first stop was the planetarium. The timing seemed perfect, because there a show was just about to start. The title was in English, but the narration itself was not. I think the language barrier did influence our decision to leave the show early.
One thing I noticed was that there were lots of sea birds hanging around the zoo, perched on buildings. I bet some of them mock the other animals locked in their pens. We got to see lions, an alligator, and seals. We also went through the butterfly house, and really I don’t think you can ever go wrong with butterflies. I was excited to observe the Silverback gorilla, since the title character of Katherine Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan is one and I will be using it in class.
Traveling to Amsterdam so soon after returning from and loving Indianapolis made it difficult to avoid points of comparison. While some areas of Artis were beautiful, I found a few of the areas unsettling. I realize that Artis is 175 years old, but sometimes an upgrade is necessary. The penguin area was pretty filthy. The wolves looked sedated and there seemed to be a mud pit instead of a watering hole. The elephant pen was sparse and sad. I could only think of the lush oasis the elephants in Indianapolis enjoy. I feel like I can’t recommend the zoo as a must-see attraction.
I stumbled upon the Flower Market and that is one place I can recommend. I thought they had the best selection and value for Amsterdam-themed souvenirs. There were also some street musicians who were pretty great. Another spot I checked out was The Tulip Museum. It was pretty small and I didn’t really find this place worthwhile. It would have been cool if I could buy tulips and bring them home. But tulips need to be U.S. certified and the ones they had weren’t.
The Rijksmuseum was mentioned in TFIOS, but the characters know that physically it would be too much for them to handle. I believe the Rijks has just undergone like a decade of renovation and just reopened many of its rooms. There were some interesting works here, but I wasn’t overwhelmed with its amazingness. They had some Van Gogh’s, one of which was another selfie. They had a Monet. I found a room of these funky dioramas, which were interesting. There were some interesting portraits, especially the ones of Napoleon and his brother. I took a quick dip into the Rembrandt section, but found it to be too rambunctious. It was good that we hit the museum up early, because when we left there was a decent line outside.
We took an evening canal ride at 10 pm. One of the things I did not know about Amsterdam in the summer is that it doesn’t really get dark until 10:30pm. Our canal ride gave us beautiful sunset views. When the buildings that border the canal turn their lights on, it is definitely magical. This experience was one of my favorites on the trip.
Food in Amsterdam is pretty eclectic. Our first night in Amsterdam, we walked to De Italiaan. I had the pizza crudo and it was delectable. Our second day in Amsterdam we ate at Cinema Paradiso. There were two reasons that I was interested in this restaurant. First, I like the movie of the same name. Second, the restaurant was the location of a movie theater, definitely cool. The food was delicious and the service was fantastic. And although the volume was turned down on the movie they played, I was riveted. Our last morning in Amsterdam, we ate at Pancakes!. It was a small place, but the staff was very friendly. I ordered apple pancakes and they were divine. We ate dinner at another place and it was pretty comical. We must have walked around for over an hour, because we couldn’t find somewhere we wanted to eat. Then we wanted to order and we both wanted a burger, but they only had one left. And then twice the dessert I ordered, they were out of. I basically broke it down for them: “Why don’t you just tell me what you DO have since the menu hasn’t been working out for me.” The meal was good, but it got a little ridiculous. I was also instructed to indulge in French fries with mayonnaise and so I did. It tasted ok. I don’t think it is something that I will continue to eat.
I leave you with some other random thoughts. In Amsterdam many of their beverages are served in glass bottles instead of plastic. And I have to tell you they taste different, better even. My soda of preference is not Coca-Cola. However, served in a glass bottle, I found Coke to have a very crisp taste. It makes me hesitant to drink things out of plastic bottles and aluminum cans. COME ON. Get with it, America! If you go to Amsterdam, I would definitely recommend getting the I-Amsterdam card. We got three days worth of tram rides, free admission into some attractions and discounts at others.
I hope you watch our vlog when we post it. We have other surprises from our trip yet to be revealed!