Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Amsterdam {Day 3}

Initially, our plan for day 3 involved going to the Keukenhof gardens to see the flowers. In fact, it was the reason we wanted to visit in Spring and the gardens were opening on the 24th and we could go on their opening day. Fields of flowers just sound perfect to me! But, the weather wasn't looking that great and wandering around cold fields looking at flowers all morning didn't actually sound so appealing anymore, after all. So, we decided to take a bus to Volendam and Edam instead, since to wander around a town in the rain sounded a tiny bit more pleasant. 

We bought a ticket that allowed us to take buses along certain stretches all day long, and hopped on a bus. We had read that Volendam was really touristy and were anticipating quite a bustling little seaside village, with raw herring and onion to feed the seagulls (that's a reference to our fish-eating experience at the Baltic sea). 

We had a short trip through some beautiful countryside, where we were constantly surprised by the canals running through land higher than the road. The land is vast and flat, and really much like a rainy and green version of the Freestate.
When we arrived in Volendam and realised we had no idea where to go, we decided to head towards the church steeple and hope to find the harbour and town centre. We made our way through an extremely picturesque neighbourhood and soon arrived at the church, went up a tiny bank and found ourselves at the coast, entirely alone. That was a surprise! We walked towards the souvenir shops and poked our noses into a few, enjoying the quietness and lack of cyclists.

The cheese shop gave tasty little samples out, and we could peer downstairs to see some cheese-manufacturing machines. Along the promenade were stalls selling with poffertjies and waffles. But, after avoiding Amsterdam's coffee shops for fear of getting high on second hand marijuana smoke, we were rather pleased to find a comfy coffee shop with apple cake and cappuccino. We felt a little bit like retired folk, sitting in this empty coffee shop with a view of the foggy harbour and a mostly deserted street since a tour group had just left. We tried to look friendly as we sat in the window, so as to make the place look appealing to passersby, but that didn't seem too successful and a couple only came in as we were thinking of leaving. Apple cake and cappuccino in the hotel Cafe Van Den Hogen - A taste of retirement in Volendam!

To wake ourselves up from our cosiness-induced-trance, we walked out along the promenade and to the other side of the harbour to look at the boats docked there and hang out a little in the fresh sea air. 

The brochure mentioned that we could have a photo-shoot in traditional costume, and while it would surely have been fun, we decided to skip it and go to Edam - home of Edam cheese! We were immediately breath-taken by the beauty of the tiny little town. The quaint houses and the beautiful canals made it such a pleasure to stroll through! 

After taking a cheesy photo, where we actually did say cheese, we hung out in the square for a little while watching the few people passed. It's really cool because one can sit on a bench on the rail of the bridge over the main canal and watch life in slow-motion in a little Dutch village (population 7300-ish).

Not really knowing what to do next, having seen some Edam cheese in Edam, we did what we've come to realise we do best, and wandered. Really, I could sum up this entire trip to Amsterdam by saying "we wandered", but that's less interesting, isn't it?

We found our way to a windmill, to see one up close. I had no idea that they were thatched, so that was a surprise, and it's not everyday one gets to have a windmill-selfie (unless you're in the Netherlands, apparently...)

I suppose we did miss out on something by not going to Keukenhof - but we did experience something else so I don't regret our decision. We'll find fields of flowers another day, and it was nice having a quieter day, in fresh air and taking it slow with not much of a plan but lots to look at. 

Our trip back to Amsterdam was smooth, and passing by the houses along the way, we noticed how we've missed seeing houses made of brick. Despite our appreciation and admiration of Fachwerk houses, cute little brick houses were a nice change in scenery. The houses are really sweet with large windows, and the typical little house that one draws as a child seems largely based on these Dutch cottages we saw. 

When we got back to Amsterdam, we considered taking another bus to somewhere else, but decided that navigating and wandering through another village may mean the death of our feet. So, a detour through the harbour and then back to our hotel it was! 

Our hotel had free wifi, so we hung out for a while watching 7de Laan on YouTube until we got hungry and went to wander the streets once more. The flower market was really close and we decided to check out the flowers on our way to Rembrandt's square. One can buy trinkets and tulips bulbs, dried lavender and seeds to grow one's own weed. 

Our time in Amsterdam was coming to an end. We bought some Frites for supper and sat at the square in the drizzle for a little while before deciding to seize the night and keep wandering. We headed to the Jordan district and really just walked around trying to soak up our last night in the city. 

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