All in all, Amsterdam was amazing. The weather was beautiful (except for a 3 hour stint on Wednesday where it rained cats and dogs, then cleared up), much warmer than London.

The first day was cloudy, so we thought we’d cover the museums we wanted to see, first. We went to the Rijksmuseum, which is like the national museum of art from the Golden Age. I really enjoyed it, and I liked seeing all the Rembrandts. Two giant doll houses, replete with real silverware (as in, silver silver), real linens, real porcelain, were on display. Apparently it had been a symbol of wealth for ladies to curate these enormous doll houses and furnish them, just as they would their normal sized home. Certainly not for playing.

The Van Gogh Museum was interesting, but I’m not the biggest Van Gogh fan and there were fewer of his supremely famous paintings there than I expected. It was interesting to see his development as a painter, but my favorite part may have been the gift shop. I cringe with shame to say it, but I think it’s true. There were a few of his greats, including one of the sunflower ones, and the bedroom.

We also walked through the flower market area, and later that evening we had a quick dinner and went to grab drinks with more Dutch friends we had dug with.

Our second day we spent in a very different way—we rented bicycles and rode to pick up my friend Job, who is a native Amsterdamian (or however one would name that), and he took us over hill and over dale, to Vondelpark and Vesterpark, where we ate a delicious lunch. We continued back to the city center to get gelato with Dutch waffles, ice-cream sandwich style. We rode through the Red Light District to get there, so we got our exposure to the ladies of the night (even though it was daytime). They looked really sad and bored. From there, we rode to a cool little bar on the water, and had a nice rest and a drink. I maybe fell asleep for awhile on the grass next to the harbor while Lauren and Job talked about beer. From there, we cycled to another bar—this one was a windmill—and eventually made our way through rush hour Amsterdam traffic to return our bikes. I wouldn’t be able to estimate the number of miles we cycled, but it may have been the most I’ve ever ridden before in one day.

The amazing thing was how easy to navigate Amsterdam was; we had to meet Job at his apartment, and with a map and directions from Marijn, we made it there in 30 minutes. There are bike lanes, and SO many bicyclists around that the real danger is not being able to dodge a speedy cyclist rather than getting hit by a tram (although a few times we did get honked at as we tried to follow Job, who was nonchalantly riding ahead of us with no hands, seemingly oblivious to the fact that we were going down one way streets or narrowly missing cars).

That evening, we convened in Marijn & Tijmen’s beautiful garden, where we ate homemade pancakes, Dutch-style. They reminded me a lot of crepes; we ate them both with a traditional sugar syrup (yes, really. The ingredients are: sugar) and powdered sugar and some with melted gouda cheese. DELICIOUS.

Because the skies don’t fade in the north until about 11pm in the summer time, we headed out to a really awesome bar/restaurant place in the same neighborhood Marijn and Tijmen live in, which is the northern part of Amsterdam, over the river. Apparently this area is not as “hip” to live in as southern Amsterdam, but we found it to be just right for us: easy to get to the center, but super relaxing. The bar they took us to was what seemed to be the hippest place I had been on our whole trip, something called Northern Lights. There was a small outdoor stage, in front of which was sand and a fire pit. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think I was on a beach in California. Just around that, though, was a grassy outdoor eating area with a ramada. The building itself looked like it had been an old storage place before its renovation. The walls were of a heavy duty plastic-looking material, and one side was entirely window. Seeing as it was a Tuesday evening, we had the entire upstairs to ourselves. We shot some pool, Lauren and I danced a bit when some old jazz came on, and enjoyed our last evening in Amsterdam very much.

Lauren’s flight left quite early on Wednesday, so we said our goodbyes and Marijn and I spent the day together. We went to eat real Dutch apple pie (YUM! WOW!) and we walked to Tijmen’s work, where I got to check out some sweet finds from their recent excavation (he’s an archaeologist). The weather had flipped a switch, because that morning it was beautiful and then it was a horrid downpour, and finally cleared up again in the early afternoon. Basically all I did that morning was eat. The pie, then we went to lunch with Job, Job’s girlfriend, & Tijmen, and I had this enormous melt with goat cheese and arugula and a number of other yummy ingredients. I wish I could remember them now, because I had thought about trying to replicate it at home. Alas. Eventually I had to catch my flight. I departed Amsterdam with such wonderful memories. I am so grateful I got to spend time with such incredible friends, who are not only Good People in the utmost sense but also excellent hosts.