Swinging Above the City



The first place I ever went in Europe was Amsterdam. When I left for my trip there were so many things I wanted to see, to do, and to try. And when I got there, there was so much more than I even realized.

I was only in Amsterdam for three and a half days – it was enough for a first trip to one city in the Netherlands. Even though I knew from previous experiences on previous trips that I would meet people along the way who would help double my itinerary – you don’t really know until it happens.

It was a bartender from Ireland in a small pub behind our hotel who told us about the A’DAM tower. She told us which tram to get on and how to take the free ferry across the canal to the building. She did not tell us how cold it was going to be once we got to the top though and my shorts were not good enough to keep me warm.

The whole building is an experience, so even if you’re afraid of heights it’s worth checking out. The ground floor is a gift shop and photo center, this is where we took the fun photo above – in front of a green screen obviously.

The elevator ride up is another highlight of this building. The elevator has a glass ceiling, and the top of the building and the elevator shaft is lined with lights. It’s some kind of light show that I couldn’t even begin to explain and you have to see for yourself.

You get off on the top floor of the building where the bar is located. It’s a bar/observation deck with 360 degree views. The views are also interactive, there are screens located in front of the window at various intervals and you can kind of ‘click’ on the spot you’re checking out to get more information on it.

Up the stairs to the roof, you’re now 100 meters above Amsterdam. It’s a wind tunnel and you’re freezing, but the views are amazing. It’s actually the second tallest building in Amsterdam, so you’re not at the tallest point but compared to the average height you can see over pretty much every building around. Also, being across one of the bigger canals on the outskirts of the city you can actually see the entire city spread out in front of you.

It’s not a basic swing that you’re on, it’s a carnival ride. The employee straps you in and the ride lifts you up even higher before you start swinging over the edge of the building. I even felt that distinct belly drop I remember as a kid when I went on rides at fiesta.

It’s not the tallest point in the world, or Europe, or even Amsterdam. But it’s the highest swing you’ll find in Europe and that’s pretty cool if you’re not afraid of heights. I wouldn’t say I am but the ride wasn’t short and I did get a little worried that the ride might fall apart and send me into the freezing canal below me.

Part 4 – I’m the Queen of the Castle and He’s the Dirty Rascal

Finally an early morning in Amsterdam. For me at least – I had to drag John out of bed, but I didn’t care because the one thing on top of my Amsterdam Bucket List was to go see a real life fairytale…. sorta.

I wanted to visit a castle and Kasteel de Haar was my dream come true; surrounded by a moat, flower gardens, and even a maze, it had everything.

It took us two trains and a bus to get there just to find out the castle was closed for a private event. Fortunately, the grounds were open and it still took us over an hour to see about two-thirds of it.

It was vast and amazing, with green everywhere you looked dotted with pink and purple flowers. There were swans roaming around the different bodies of waters and if we had had more time we could have wandered down to their deer pasture.

As predicted, I fell in love with the place and for the first time on this trip, took hundreds of pictures. If I had actually been let into the castle I’m not sure if I would have ever left.

Before heading back into Amsterdam we spent a couple of hours in Utrecht. The first hour was spent searching for the “perfect” pizza place – only one owned and operated by Italians would satisfy John’s taste buds at this moment.

After pizza and gelato we explored the St. Martin’s Cathedral – originally built and designed by Catholics and destroyed during the Reformation in 1580. Catholic symbols were literally chiseled off the walls, making this an interesting place to visit.

The other thing that makes this place so interesting is that the entire central hall collapsed in 1674 and was never rebuilt. There is now an open air courtyard between the tower and the main building – you can visit both sections separately.

I guess we saved the best for last because this was my favorite day spent in Holland and after arriving back in Amsterdam we only had time to grab our luggage from the hotel before heading to the airport to catch our flight to Iceland!

Zandvoort – Part 2

After an early night – I say early but I think we were up until 3 a.m. eating candy in bed and laughing at ourselves- and a not so early morning (oops) we planned on spending the day outside of the city.

It was 80 degrees and sunny and perfect for a trip to the beach.

The twenty minute trein ride to Zandvoort was scenic but uneventful – although it did spark a conversation about possibly hitching a ride to Paris later in the week. It was also cool to get out of the city and see some of the more ‘country’ parts of the Netherlands.

There were villages that looked exactly like how you would picture a quaint Dutch town to be. Old Dutch houses alongside small canals, horses and sheep grazing around huge green fields and even a couple old school windmills.

Our day was full of tanning, beer, and fried goat cheese. The croquettes were John’s idea- we just had to try some traditional Dutch food- but I knew it sounded bad when the guy said they take whatever they have in the kitchen and fry it. I’m honestly still not exactly sure what we were eating but the restaurant was an Indian-ish style, beach side bar. I wish I had taken a picture of it without me in it.

The thunder and pouring rain when we go back into the city brought our plans of a fun night out to a stop. Fortunately, John and I can have fun together regardless and we enjoyed our night hiding from the rain at the various pubs in the square right behind our hotel.

We even got some local tips from a friendly Irish bartender we met that we added to our agenda for the next day. I’m still disappointed at my lack of picture taking, though.

European Adventure – Part 1

I’m sure if I tried hard enough I could summarize our trip enough to write only one post about our time in Amsterdam, but instead of one huge, long anecdote I’m going to split it up a little bit.

Day 1 started off with our overnight flight from Boston to Reykjavik to Amsterdam.

I’m not sure if it was the stress of the overnight flight, or the stress of the chaos surrounding me on WOW Airlines that got to me, but the only thing I wanted to do when we landed in Amsterdam was nap.

Until this point I have never been on a flight where people were allowed to line up outside the bathrooms or shuffle through the overhead bins mid-flight.

I was slightly annoyed upon boarding, really annoyed after sitting at the gate for over an hour, and extremely annoyed at the people constantly hovering over me while waiting in line for the bathroom.

Thanks to the hour delay in Boston, our hour layover in Reykjavik quickly diminished into a five minute layover consisting of a bus ride between terminals and a nice sprint to our gate – thankfully, we made it.

Even through all our planning we somehow missed the part of our trip that consisted of getting from the airport in Schiphol to our hotel in Amsterdam Centre. Trying to read a bus map in Dutch with all of our luggage after a 10-hour night of traveling was not the highlight of my trip.

Sometimes I am thankful for John, and this was one of the times. He got us on the right tram, found the right stop, and carried all of our luggage while navigating the streets of Amsterdam until we found out hotel. All while dealing with me complaining the whole time 🙂

I would have gone right to sleep if I could have- but it was lunch time, and we were in Europe, and our room wasn’t ready yet.

Once I was cleaned up and luggage free I could actually enjoy myself. Maybe John’s positivity rubbed off on me a little and I woke up enough to wander the streets. We didn’t know where we were going and we had no plan, but that was just fine with us.

I wish I could remember what exactly we saw on that first day but I can’t. I was lost in the history and the architecture, as well as just physically lost in the city. I took my eyes off the scenery so little that I think I have less than 10 photos on my phone from that first day. I honestly don’t think photos would do the place justice anyway.

Our wanderings took us into the night – with a brief nap before dinner, I admit- with dinner across the way from a sex shop, some space cakes, and a stroll through the Red Light District. Whilst in Amsterdam, right?