Written June 2017
July 21-24: Amsterdam, Netherlands
Sites: It could be called a larger scaled Bruges, yet Amsterdam was somehow much more beautiful, intriguing, romantic, and impressive. Though there was a palpable city culture of “no rules and no judgement, do whatever you want without consequences,” it wasn’t enough to drive us away. We wandered into the red light district only once to see what it was, but quickly made our way back out when we had people trying to lure us into sex shops or sell us drugs.
Amsterdam was a great stop for us because it had a mix of city and outdoorsy activities. We enjoyed walking the canals, visiting Anne Frank’s house, stopping to see a former Catholic convent, and eating at trendy noodle shops. Outside of Amsterdam we went to Haarlem and toured Corrie ten Boom’s home, which was definitely a highlight of the entire trip. She’s the author of an inspiring book, “The Hiding Place,” which describes her and her family’s World War II experience hiding Jews from the Nazis. They eventually ended up in concentration camps, and yet saw the hand of the Lord many, many times. We’d listen to the book years before and knew her story well. It was humbling to sit in each room of her home as an English-speaking guide retold her story in a Christian way. I remember several people had to be turned away because the tour could only accommodate a certain amount. I felt grateful we arrived when we did.
Another highlight was visiting the windmills and Zaanse Schans (and vowing to come back when the tulip festival was in full force) and then buying meats and cheeses to enjoy on our bike ride. I remember we stopped to eat near a rive and I sat in a pile of ants. Their bites still bothered me days later! That bike ride was particularly memorable because we stumbled upon a community swimming hole in a rural part of the area. There were several local families there clearly just enjoying summer. It was so picturesque with a windmill only a few yards away. I can still picture Lance jumping off the dock perfectly. On that bike ride, we also rode to the beach and saw a few nudes on accident!
Lodging: In Amsterdam we stayed at the Apollo Best Western and for some reason that still makes me laugh. It was 344 Euros (about $400) for four nights — not a bad deal! My memories of this place are that it was quite possibly the smallest space we stayed. The bed practically touched three of the walls and we had a tiny closet and bathroom. But, it was in the city center, wasn’t in the red lamp district, was affordable and within walking distance of so many sights. We didn’t see any drug deals go down there, so that was good too.