After 16 hours of being in transit, we arrived in Amsterdam yesterday afternoon, weary, but so, so excited that our much-anticipated vacation was finally beginning. And from the moment our train from the airport rolled into rolled into town, I knew we were in for something special. The charm of this city is undeniable – it hits you around every corner and will make you ooh and ahh like the most unsophisticated of tourists, as evidenced by the fact that I grabbed Shane every two minutes to ask ‘could this place possibly be any cuter?!’ The unique-but-perfectly-matched brick facades, the dreamy canals, the lively sound of Dutch rolling of the tongues of the locals…I was immediately smitten.

I was also ravenous, as we hadn’t had a real meal for nearly a full day (turns out those tickets on Iceland Air were so cheap for a reason), so after dropping off our bags at the hotel, we set out in search of a place to grab a bite. Our wandering landed us at Cafe Morlang, a cozy little canal-side bistro where we scarfed down a grilled ham sandwich and a perfectly-fried order of fish and chips.

Bellies full, we enjoyed the feeling of the sun streaming through the windows and it was all I could do not to curl up in my plush booth and take a little nap – jet lag was quickly setting in. And so we peeled ourselves out of our seats and set out to a little more walking. Cue charming canal:

We were about to head back to our hotel when we saw a crowd gathered at a nearby plaza and headed over to see what the draw was. We spent the next 15 minutes watching an impressive troop of break dancers put on quite a show. I couldn’t help nodding my head to the beat and joining with the cheering spectators. These little surprises are one of my most favorite things about Europe.

We ended the day with a short stroll through Vondelpark, before succumbing to our tiredness and turning in early (as in, 6 pm!). We’d thought a little power nap would be all we’d need to recharge and then head back out for late-night cocktails, but once our heads hit those pillows, we were out.

We awoke to rain this morning, but didn’t let that deter us from heading out for a leisurely walk to the Pancake Bakery for breakfast. We stuffed ourselves on pancakes (which were more like crepes), topped with ham and cheese, and then bananas and rum, and we fueled for another stroll though town. Again and again, I was struck by the quaintness of each street we crossed.

Just as the rain was threatening to soak through our rain coats, we took refuge in the Van Gogh museum. We ended up cutting our visit a little short due to the massive crowds, but were there long enough to gain an entirely new appreciation for the artist – did you know that Van Gogh practiced art (without any formal training) for only 10 years before his untimely death, but left behind over 800 paintings and some 1,100 drawings? You can stick that one in your art trivia memory bank.

Post-museum, we decided we’d get an architecture fix and take the tram to the edge of town to check out a couple of projects I was interested in seeing (but not before snapping the requisite tourist photo).

First on the list was ‘The Whale’, a contemporary housing project by de Architekten Cie. I was one of those ‘how did they come up with this?’ kind of buildings. And I dug it.

After taking in The Whale, we walked over to the Borneo housing development, master planned by West 8. Each row-house along the pier was unique, creating an interesting collage of facades. Shane and I picked out our future home and will begin negotiations with the owners as soon as possible.

A few more photos, and then the rain really started to chill us, so we hopped back on the tram toward the city center for dinner. We landed at De Prins, another cozy little bistro, where we proceeded to have one of those meals that will certainly go down in the books as an Amsterdam highlight. Part of it was the ambiance (candlelight, rain falling outside), part of it was the food (a simple linguine, followed by an exceedingly rich cheese fondue, paired with a crisp white wine), part of it was the fact that today is my birthday (indeed, I am no longer in my 20’s…), but mostly it was just the chance to thoroughly enjoy the feeling of spending an evening abroad with my very best friend. Our conversation tonight wasn’t anything especially revealing or life-altering, but I was struck several times by just how much I really, really like hanging out with this amazing guy that I get to be married to. He’s a catch, that Shane… We ended our meal with a cappuccino and a glass of Port (you can guess who ordered what), and then headed back out into the drizzle.

And because it was my birthday and all, we stopped for gelato just around the corner. Fondue, coffee, and dessert? I was one happy camper.

It continued to drizzle on and off, but we didn’t let that deter us from a nighttime stroll, enjoying the ripples in the canals and the reflections of the lights on the cobblestone sidewalks. It’s been a full-but-relaxing day – packed with those ‘there’s no place else I’d rather be’ kind of moments. Happy birthday to me.


  1. la v says:

    Looks fantabulous! Happy Birthday!

  2. Nance says:

    I know it was your 30th and all but… did you eat both those gelatos, Kel?!