Over my travels, I’ve been blessed to have met and made some people who have become great friends. One friend I met in Thailand on the scuba liveaboard was Jackie, who lives in Amsterdam. We have been constantly in touch and keeping up since we met at the end of March, and she had extended an invite for me to stay with her when I reached Europe, and she would host me for my time in Amsterdam and show me around her beloved city. When looking at a possible route for after Scandinavia, it made sense to land in Amsterdam in time to celebrate my birthday with a good friend!
I reached Amsterdam via 12 hours of trains and Jackie was waiting on the platform for me as I exited the train. It was amazing to see her and we hit it off just as we did in Thailand. We laughed all evening and caught up with what had been going on most recently in our lives. I was exhausted after traveling all day and Jackie had worked all day, so we opted for an easy dinner at a pizza bar near her house. The pizza was wood fire grilled and had super fresh ingredients…add a delicious Dutch beer to the mix and I was in heaven! We talked and talked and drank and the time flew by so quickly, before I knew it we were sitting on her back patio and it was midnight…officially my birthday! Out walks Jackie with a beautiful chocolate cake with a lit up sparkler on it, and she was singing Happy birthday to me! I felt so special and so glad that I was able to be a good friend for my birthday! She gifted me with some Amsterdam/Dutch treats and we passed out from exhaustion soon after. Birthday surprise at midnight from Jackie!
When we woke up, Jackie informed me that she had one more birthday treat for me, but she wouldn’t tell me what it was. I was to get dressed and ready for the day. When I walked out in jean shorts, she nearly had a fit, given that in Amsterdam in July it’s not necessarily warm. This day was quite chilly and overcast and definitely not shorts wearing weather but it was my birthday and I told her I was wearing them anyways, so she sucked it up and also put a pair on. When we hopped on her scooter (moped), I was nearly regretting the decision but not until we got to the first stop did I realize how dumb of a decision it was! What have I gotten myself into?!
That’s right, she was treating me to a FreezeLab cryotherapy session. -110 degrees Celsius (-166 Fahrenheit) for 3 minutes. Pure, nearly freezing to death, self-inflicted torture. We laughed and tried to breathe calmly as we felt our bones start to freeze then finally after what seemed like forever the technician announced 3 minutes was up and we moved best as we could to the exit door and promptly threw our hoodies on and got to bouncing on mini trampolines to warm up! Laughing hysterically trying to warm up!
This was a crazy experience but it was really neat to see how much energy we had for the remainder of the day from just those 3 frozen minutes! We did feel like fools hopping back onto the scooter in shorts after just nearly freezing ourselves to death, and we just had to laugh about it! After that, we headed to a delicious sushi lunch (with lots of sake to warm us up), then she took me to a friend of hers’ salon to get a haircut, since it had been since December since my last trim. I felt like a new woman after that, and we headed back home to clean up and go out for my birthday dinner. Birthday sushi lunch!We enjoyed an amazing four course dinner and shared a bottle of wine at a lovely place called Foodhallen. The atmosphere was fun and hip and we had a great time!
The next few days were full of relaxing, hanging out talking, eating amazing meals, having drinks at Jackie’s work (fun restaurant/bar in a great part of the city) with her coworkers), going to the beach,exploring the city, sightseeing outside of town in adorable villages and just having an overall amazing time. Amazing seafood at Mussels & GinBaloo enjoying the beach!
Even though I had been to Amsterdam before, Jackie wanted to make sure that we got some real Dutch touristy experiences in as well, so one afternoon we headed out to Volendam. This is a Dutch harbor town known for it’s adorable streets lines with colorful houses and shops, fishing boats in the harbor and fresh seafood stalls lining the boardwalk.
We did a little shopping, walked around enjoying the sights and then stopped for what Jackie says is a super traditional Dutch meal that she swears is a favorite of hers since childhood, raw herring. I wasn’t so excited about trying this because in my head it was going to be very slimy and fishy tasting, since herring isn’t a fish that we typically dine on in America. I was skeptical but after a taste, was pleasantly surprised by the good flavor. Paired with the fresh onions, it was actually palatable! Raw herring!I was nervous to take the first bite!
Then we decided to become ultimate tourists and went to a photo shop to take pictures dressed in traditional Dutch countryside clothing. Even Baloo got involved and really stole the show!Dutch country maids! Haha!
Another day, we woke up early(ish) and headed to the Friday cheese market in Alkmaar! It was so adorable and seemed like something from another era!
We realized we were starving after taking in so many sights of different cheeses, so walked through the village and found a fondue restaurant where we dug into an incredible meal of local Dutch cheese fondue with fresh bread and veggies! Yum!Local Dutch cheese fondue hit the spot!
Jackie’s parents had wanted to meet me and see us one evening, so they arranged for us to go out on a boat tour of the canals. It was a lovely time, and even they enjoyed sightseeing in their own city….something they realized they don’t do often enough! After the tour, we walked through the Red Light District and into Chinatown for a scrumptious dinner at a fabulous Chinese restaurant.
One of the major plans we had been discussing for months was to attend a huge music festival that goes on each summer in Amsterdam called Day at the Park. Another super exciting thing about this was that 2 of my Swiss girlfriends that I traveled with in Vietnam and Cambodia, Mile and Kreni, were going to be in Amsterdam for a long weekend with their sister and 2 friends while I was there, so Jackie bought tickets for all of us to go together! The festival was on my first Saturday there and we pre-gamed a bit at Jackie’s house with a few drinks, then headed to the festival in an Uber. It was a crazy experience, as Amsterdam is really well known for it’s summertime music festivals and it did not disappoint! We walked around, danced, people watched and ran into different friends along the way! It even rained that evening but we came prepared with rain gear and didn’t let it stop our fun!
We decided one evening to have a BBQ at Jackie’s house and invite over her parents to join us. I took advantage of this situation and decided make my homemade salsa and a 7 layer Greek dip that both are always crowd pleasers. Not to mention, I needed to get a Mexican food fix and chips and salsa was the cure. Both dishes were a hit with Jackie and her parents, and we also had some fresh tuna sashimi to go along with the other appetizers. Then Jackie’s dad fired up the grill and cooked up some amazing grilled veggies, fish and chicken! It was a delightful evening in with a relaxed vibe and great conversation.YUM!!!Cheers to a wonderful evening!Jackie’s dad manned the grill with skill!Fish, beef filet and veggies up first!Jackie’s adorable parents! Love them!
We had one last fun day planned for my time there, which was another music festival, this one called Summer of Love. It was a crazy good time, and I met some more of Jackie’s friends here. The music was old school house dance music and the crowd was a bit….more mature in age….ok….the people were old. But they liked to party and dance and have a good time, and the people watching was spectacular!
I had such an incredible time in Amsterdam and it was a much needed break from traveling and the hostel life, and I was so thankful to Jackie for making that possible! We had a ton of fun, ate amazing meals, saw some beautiful and traditional Dutch sights and partied with the best of them (followed by days of movie watching and relaxing). I have dubbed Amsterdam my home base while in Europe and already have plans to return for more fun and for some traveling with Jackie!
Until next time, Amsterdam…thanks for the memories!