We awoke early on the outskirts of Düren in western Germany, enjoyed a large breakfast, and quickly headed out for the ride back to Amsterdam where we had a departing flight to Copenhagen the following afternoon. I drove as Teresa slept for our longest ride yet. Before getting back to the city, we decided to make a slight detour to Keukenhof Gardens, about 30 KM away from town.
It was a Sunday and the roads leading into the massive parking area were jam packed. Upon our approach, it took an additional thirty minutes or so to actually park. The grounds stretch far and wide and are absolutely stunning. However, we’d been getting used to some long hikes so it seemed like a fairly brief engagement to completely circle the gardens and explore within, as well.
Between the two of us and parking, it cost us roughly $60 CAD, a price we found to be a little inflated for the amount of time we spent exploring. For as many cars as we’d encountered on the way in there were probably four times as many people in the grounds themselves. Long story short, the place was packed with bodies all scrambling to get the best views of the wide array of the present horticulture. Pricing aside, the flowers and plants were beautiful and as varied as one could hope for. The air was fragrant and fresh (when you weren’t passing by a smoking food stall) and despite the crowd, an essence of peacefulness permeated the environment.
On our way out, the two of us treated ourselves to a Dutch specialty, the sweet, syrupy stroopwafel. Packaged versions are available in Amsterdam and around the world (I’ve enjoyed them here in Canada not even knowing they were Dutch). Fresh from the stall, they’re just that much better. Again, based on the touristic location they were a bit pricey but we definitely weren’t worried about that as the sugary warmth coated our mouths. A stroopwafel is always a pleasure.
Afterwards, we made our way back to the city to find our newly booked hostel. About a thirty second walk from the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum, Anne Marie Hostel is in a great location but it was definitely the grubbiest room we’d stayed in for the entirety of our trip. It reminded us a lot more of the kinds of places we stayed in throughout our adventures in Southeast Asia. The room was narrow and tiny, a slim bunk bed taking up the majority of the space. We’d been having nothing but excellent, well rounded breakfasts everywhere we’d been to so far. This wasn’t at all the case here. In fact, it was a sad state of affairs if I may be so critical.
To recap: at the Lucky Lake Hostel, we got a variety of bread and pastries with several jams and spreads to choose from, eggs cooked as we liked, mini pancakes (also a Dutch specialty) coffee, tea, and juices. The atmosphere was lively and the conversation with other guests as well as hostel staff was great. In Belgium and Germany it was the same thing, except they threw in some deli meat, cheeses, fruit, croissants, buns, and so on. It was endless, nourishing, and delicious. At Anne Marie, we walked down the narrow staircase to a small, muggy, sadly quiet cafeteria-like common area. Our breakfast options consisted of a row of either white bread or brown bread, and a choice of either peanut butter or jam. No one spoke to each other and the atmosphere was quite depressing. A large angry cat was sitting in the window. I went to pet him and this is what he did to me:
It was the most anyone interacted with us in this breakfast experience. A stark contrast from the breakfasts we’d come to know and love for those first ten days of our trip, indeed, but definitely an enjoyably story to tell, so there’s that.
One positive aspect about our spot around Anne Marie Hostel was the free Sunday parking. We were going to return our Suzuki Swift early because we didn’t want to pay the typically astronomical parking fees in the city, so we certainly lucked out in that regard.
After settling in, we went for a long walk throughout the city. It was a very special day for us. Despite having enjoyed Belgium and Germany so much, I had missed Amsterdam from the moment I left it behind. It’s very rare for us to be travelling and have the opportunity to revisit a place before moving on to somewhere else or returning home. There was an increased level of appreciation because we knew what we had in store for us and we weren’t tired of it just yet. Teresa and I were thrilled to be back in the city.
As we walked along a particular cobblestoned street, we came across a pair of large herons just chilling in the streets, eventually making their way on top of people’s cars. Human presence doesn’t seem to bother these large city avian species whatsoever. We thought it was pretty cool.
That evening, we visited a restaurant called Pasta Pasta which, as the named suggests, has some excellent hand-made pasta selections for very reasonable prices. In addition to the usual salt, pepper, and other garnishes you’d find on the table, Pasta Pasta also has potted herbs that you can pick right there and add to your dish as you like. Our table had a bright, vibrant basil plant (Teresa’s favourite) right in front of us and we took full advantage. Perhaps this is common in some places, but I’ve never seen anything like it. Apparently, there are a few locations in the city. We loved it so much that the following day, we visited another Pasta Pasta, this time in the Red Light District, after we’d checked out of Anne Marie Hostel, dropped off our car and taken our dirty clothes to a laundromat.
By the way, the Red Light District never sleeps. As we walked with all of our baggage through the area in search of a coin laundry, the prostitutes still lined the windows as early as 8 AM, behind a large cathedral at that. I’m not sure who’s shopping around for sex that early, but apparently there’s a 24 hour market for that sort of thing which we found very interesting. A larger African prostitute glanced at my backpack, filthy from about fifteen countries worth of dirt, and gave me an equally dirty look; I guess she assumed that because I was travelling cheap I must simply be cheap in general.
After our second round of Pasta Pasta, the two of us finally headed back to Schipol International where we soon caught a KLM flight to Copenhagen. Here, we would meet up with a young lady named Maria and her eight year old son Margus whom we’d met last year in the Peruvian Amazon. Great hosts and great friends, they would show us around their home city and provide us with a perspective of the Scandinavian gateway that Teresa and I will always cherish.