There are few things more intimidating/exciting that being a part of someone’s first time in Europe.
I remember so clearly specific people that I interacted with on my first trip here. Local bakers in tiny patisseries in Normandy, cussing tour guides at battlegrounds in Belgium and exuberant waiters in the Germany. It was so different seeing their world through their eyes and it’s an honor, really, to get to introduce others to my life over here – a life so different and yet so similar to the one I used to have in the States.
In June, I got to be a part of that for my cousin — and some random guy she let marry into the family… (love ya Jaim)
They resolutely told me that they wanted to be as un-American as possible (bless) but selfishly sometimes it’s pretty fun to play tourist in your own city.
Thankfully they let me use them as an excuse to revisit some of my favourite spots in Covent Garden (I’m looking at you Homeslice), finally get inside of Westminster Abbey, sip drinks on the patio at Founders Arms on the Thames and have afternoon tea at the Ham Yard Hotel (highly recommend).
We took a break from the city for a quick day trip to Leeds Castle in Kent and I rounded up some of the crew for a good ol fashioned pub crawl night in South Kensington.
In spite of the whirlwind of activities when I asked them what their favourite part of England was the unanimous answer was: “Meeting your friends and hanging out at their flat.”
*sigh* all my Google Doc itinerary planning skills gone to waste 😉
They then headed for Ireland but I rejoined them a few days later in Amsterdam – a city that’s been at the top of my must-see list for a long time.
Although I’m not sure I was more excited than this guy..
We spent our first night eating incredible Indonesian food down near the canals at Kantjil & De Tijger and getting a feel for the city centre.
We woke up the next morning to a torrential downpour and sent up a few prayers that it would stop in time for our city biking tour. Thankfully by the time we got loaded up and met our guide it was clear skies and less busy roads for our ride along the canals, Vondelpark and the hidden roads through the Workers District and the Jordaan neighborhood.
I can’t think of any better way to experience Amsterdam than on the back of a bike with locals flying past you at 100 mph and a pint at a local brewery at the end.
(Mostly to celebrate not dying in the process of criss-crossing the city).
Although the second best way is definitely by eating all the Dutch themed food that you can get our hands on.
Frites, Heineken, Belgian waffles, hotchpotch (run, don’t walk to try this), suddervlees (see previous comment), Belgian lager, homemade apple pie (we all agreed it didn’t hold a candle to Grandma Mona’s) and, well, Jack Daniels and Diet Coke in a can, cause why not?
We spent some solid time in between the eating just sitting on the edge of the water in the sun and watching the boats go by.
On J & B’s last day in Europe we headed back to the City Centre for a quick tour of the Royal Palace. We said our goodbyes in Dam Square and I spent the rest of the afternoon in introvert heaven wandering around by myself, reading at canal-side cafes and trying to avoid accidentally stumbling into the Red Light District before my 7pm flight back to Heathrow.
Amsterdam was a city that took me a bit by surprise.
You hear so much about the edgier side of the city but less often do people mention that it’s beautiful. Every street you turn down has something different. It’s one of those places that just feels alive; a perfect mix of old town charm with the new.
It was the perfect end to their European adventure.
J & B – thanks for crossing the Atlantic for your favourite third wheel!