In early December when the project and it's actualization began to form, I was trying to think of new places atop of my list to travel to, and Amsterdam popped up. When I initially listed Amsterdam in my phone, and then officially on the list, the same uninformed thoughts of the city emerged, questioning why I lacked knowledge about this place. Both times that's where my thought process ended, and I was onto writing down another idea or frantically to #17 and the remaining 70 items.
Amsterdam continued this trend right up to our arrival. Visiting the city was totally unplanned; I hadn't actually even begun to plan this trip. Early on I was trying to generally map out the year based on when the best time to visit where was, but consistently Amsterdam was an afterthought. Do people go to Amsterdam as its own trip? Do people usually stop there between visiting other cities? Questions unanswered; actually, it was just a bit out of my mind in general.
This trip was initially planned to accomplish #2 Go to Paris Fashion Week. We made plans to fly from JFK to Paris on Tuesday, February 27th and stay through March 6th. Andy had never been to Paris, and I had been once for 36 hours years earlier. Given it was going to be, accumulatively, our first time experiencing the city and planned to stay the entirety of the week to soak it all up - then our plans began to shift.
I did a campaign for Tommy Hilfiger in the fall, and they invited me to attend the latest Tommy x GiGi installment. The events were closing out Milan Fashion Week and happening the Saturday and Sunday before our Tuesday flight. Andy and I went back and forth, and the day prior finally decided we would participate. On Friday, February 23rd we were headed on a red-eye to Milan. Since our trip had no been extended 4 days, we played with the idea of visiting another city before Paris, instead of going for 8 days.
On Sunday before, the fashion show, a decision was made to go to Amsterdam after Milan. We would stay there for a few days and then take the 3-hour train to Paris on Thursday. We booked our flights then and quickly began outreach to hotels we were interested in, and the Pulitzer Amsterdam was happy to host us for two nights. Suddenly #16 and all the mystery accompanying it was planned. In my lack of knowledge, I also lacked expectations which I would say is a rare beauty in today's world. All I knew was there was a canal, the Red Light District, weed shops and my high school sweetheart bribed me into reading The Fault in Our Stars (which I ended up loving) which partly took place there.
We boarded our flight, and an hour and a half later we were landing in Amsterdam. Not knowing how transportation worked, we found our way to the taxi line. The first 'taxi' that pulled up was a Tesla Model X where the side doors opened up like wings, and our driver resembling John Turturro, was an overall bizarre ride. This trip was going to be interesting. We drove directly to the Pulitzer Amsterdam, where we head the warmest welcome. We dropped our bags, grabbed a cheap Greek dinner since, unlike New York, everything was closed by 11:30 pm. On our walk back to the hotel one of the only late-night coffee shops (marijuana dispensaries) was located on the route. We checked it out, bought a joint, smoked out by the canal in front of our hotel and then slept deeper than I had in months.
The next day, Tuesday, the day we were initially supposed to be flying into Paris, we woke up late and grabbed an afternoon brunch. Our first walk outside in the daytime I couldn't believe how stunningly beautiful this place was. Everywhere you looked: the people, the buildings, the canals, it was all so picturesque.
After brunch and our short walk, we spent most of the day at the Pulitzer. The hotel is so lovely and was a great place to catch up on work and edits we weren't able to do in Milan. If you want to learn more about the Pulitzer, it's in our Amsterdam travel guide.
It was our final night at the Pulitzer, and we had barely scraped the surface of the city. Both Andy and I, enamored with the few parts we saw, agreed it would be worth it to extend the trip. We decided to stay until Friday, giving us two more days to explore, and booked an Airbnb in another part of the city. Uninformed with the coming weather, our final morning at the hotel we woke up to a white Amsterdam.
Both Andy and I share a love for exploring a new place on foot. I firmly believe it's the best way to understand a new culture. Amsterdam was so freezing, though, even the Dutch were off their bikes away, and hiding away inside for warmth. Even the canals were beginning to freeze over (a rarity), and though we're used to cold places being from northern parts of the U.S., it was miserable to be outside. The weather wasn't supposed to return to average temperatures until we were long gone in Paris. I was disappointed. Trying to make the most of what we could do, I posted on Instagram asking for Amsterdam recommendations and got a flurry of responses.
Andy and I spent the next two full days going to as many recommended spots as we could - consisting mostly of food, but a few photography spots as well, which we would briefly brave the cold for.
Our final night happened to be one of my favorite nights so far this year. Andy and I made the decision to get an early dinner at a recommended steakhouse close by. At some point along our travels together, we adopted a tradition of ordering a bottle of wine to share before anything else. When the wine came, Andy had to jump on the phone for a meeting, which ended up taking a bit longer than expected. On an empty stomach, I had drunk my half of the bottle and decided to order bruschetta as an appetizer. While Andy was on the phone, it gave me a moment to absorb where we were spending our final dinner in Amsterdam, and I decided I was not very impressed. Every other restaurant had this artistic Dutch minimalistic expression between its food and decor, an experience we wouldn't get anywhere else. This steak place wasn't that and felt very commercial.
When Andy's phone call finally ended, I had a proposal for him,
"Let's do a food tour of Amsterdam..."
We had plenty of places left on our list, and thankfully Andy's a pretty much up-for-anything-if-it's-an-experience type of guy. So we grabbed the check for our wine and bruschetta and headed to our next spot. A process we repeated four more times. Our night ended up looking like this:
- Wine and a bruschetta appetizer
- A gastropub, which we decided not to go to the night before. We got our steak dinners, had another glass of wine, and sat next to a delightful couple from London who provided wonderful conversation.
- A pancake house for a giant Banana Nutella pancake (that's better described as a crepe).
- A Mediterranean spot that we fell in love with the night before. We had the same server who we loved and brought us two new dishes she recommended that we didn't have the night prior.
- A spot at the end of the street that had "world" (city) famous apple pie, and another glass of wine.
- We concluded our tour at another Coffee Shop, our first since the first night. This one was more like a lounge, or a bar for weed, with music and high tables and was an enjoyable way to cap off the night.
It was a memorable night, Andy and I repeatedly brought it up throughout the remainder of the trip. I can't say enough great things about Amsterdam as a whole. The city is stunningly beautiful, and more impressively, the people are friendlier than it is beautiful. It's one of the few places I've traveled to that I could actually imagine myself living there. Though it was cold, it was the most incredible surprise. I think an important piece of traveling is being conscious how new environments impact you and I found a piece of myself, and my heart, in that city.
The following morning we woke up and headed to the train station, next stop: Paris, and three potential items to be crossed off. #16 Visit Amsterdam: CHECK. Onward...
All my love,