Ten years ago almost to the month, I set foot in Europe for the very first time. Despite its infamous dark and crazy reputation, this city won me over on the spot. Amsterdam. I literally had no notion what to expect of Europe, although it wasn't my first time overseas. At 19 I'd been fortunate to have already traveled quite a bit, so at the time I just saw it as another trip, another adventure. But Europe did something in me I never could have expected. It was as if I found myself in some profound way. I walked around staring, daydreaming, astonished at the culture and beauty. I remember it specifically as the first time I'd traveled somewhere and hadn't wanted to leave. I'd had no idea such a place existed. I vowed to return someday, maybe even live there for awhile. It was the moment in my life I truly fell in love with travel.
And don't get me wrong, it really is everything you think it is upon hearing the words 'red light district': drugs, sex, and all that goes with it. Indescribably broken. But it's also so much more. Tulips, canals, wooden shoes, Van Gogh. Bicycles, coffee shops, parks and markets. House boats, history, cheese, fine art. It's unquestionably breathtaking.
Returning again ten years later I held my breath, hoping I hadn't made it out to be something it wasn't, hoping it really was as beautiful as I remembered... and it is. Not only in every way I remembered, but a thousand more.
Here's a tiny sampling of my hundreds and hundreds of photos:
How could you not love a city that specializes in flowers? Particularly tulips? (sidenote: Following our UK trip in April, Josh and I flew thru Holland on our way home. From the air during the height of tulip season, rainbows of color literally stretch out into the distance beneath you. It's stunning.)
Apparently it was family stripe day. Fortunately, I didn't get the memo ;-)
The top deck of the most gorgeous house boat. It seems they utilize the deck for wine drinking...
They really do wear wooden shoes, like, for real.
The most adorable old man I've ever laid eyes on.
Paper cones filled with fries are the snack of choice in Amsterdam. There are endless shops that sell only, and I do mean only, french fries. Topped with your sauce of choice, of course.
The most amazing, terrifying swing ever. I adore Vondelpark.
Not owning a bicycle is unfathomable in this city. It's truly astonishing.
This city makes me so happy.
And look, we even found Jesus. In Amsterdam. I knew He was there somewhere... ;-)
We packed our days as full as possible. It totally helped that it literally didn't get dark until almost 11pm every evening. Greatness.
A hundred laughs and one major screaming match later (something about gratitude or attitude or something...), we set off via high speed train to Paris!