“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world” – Gustave Flaubert
I have very fond memories of my layovers in Amsterdam, here are some of the best.
1. Amsterdam Tall Ships Festival
This festival is incredibly sentimental to me and evokes a feeling of both happiness and sadness. I didn’t realize how emotional I would become while writing this entry. On my first flight to Amsterdam, a senior Flight Attendant named Val, took me under her wing and brought me to see these beautiful ships. The excitement, the atmosphere, the aura of this event was unique. It was an incredible experience to witness this parade of spectacular vessels. My eyes were opened to other majestic modes of transportation besides airplanes! Sadly, I bumped into Val a few years later and learned that she wasn’t well and was walking with a cane. More recently, I learned that she had passed away. I was heartbroken. If I have learned anything in this life, it is that there are certain people that are meant to cross your path and make an indelible imprint on your life. Val did that for me. Thank you Val for being so kind, caring and generous to me.
2. The Anne Frank House
We all read the Diary of Anne Frank in high school, it was one of those books that was part of the high school curriculum. I read it, but admittedly, superficially and without enthusiasm, I thought it was boring. Then I visited the Anne Frank house, and realized my immaturity. What was I thinking?! There is nothing more enlightening than seeing something first hand. I flew home, reread the book, and gained a newfound appreciation.
My friend and Flight school classmate, Melinda, and I visited this must see attraction in Amsterdam. It is said to be one of the most famous museums in the world and I completely agree. The museum is located in Amsterdam central on the Prinsengracht 263-267. It is the actual home where Anne Frank lived during the second world war. Anne’s family were in hiding from the Nazis and it was there where she wrote her famous diaries. It was a very moving experience to be in the actual secret room where Anne had been exiled to. My thoughts were immediately directed to Anne not being able to splash in a puddle after a recent rainstorm. Experiencing the sweet smell of spring flowers. The warmth of the sun on her face. The simple act of going to the corner candy shop for a treat. No freedom to roam, no freedom to explore. Constantly living in fear of being captured and killed, the uncertainty was palpable. Living for so many years with only a window separating an inquisitive, young mind and the vast outside world. I cannot even begin to imagine what she had gone through. Melinda and I came out of that museum different people, grateful for our freedom, grateful for the experience. These kind of moments are the gifts of being a Flight Attendant, the privilege of having your eyes opened. It can’t help but change you.
3. The Rijksmuseum
The Rijksmuseum is the Netherland’s national treasure. It is dedicated to the arts, culture and history of Amsterdam. On one trip, I sacrificed sleep because I was determined to see and experience the very famous “Nightwatch” by Rembrandt. The museum is enormous and I wanted to cover as much ground as possible on our short layover. I did this one solo, because art appreciation can be an intimate and personal experience.
The Nightwatch was everything that I expected it to be and more, it was incredible. I stood in awe of the magnificence of this masterpiece. Did you know that the Nightwatch is a colossal 12 by 15 feet! An oil painting, it was completed in 1642, at the peak of the Dutch golden age. Contrary to the title, it was set in the daytime, not at night. Vandalized three times, the first in 1911, slashed with a shoemaker’s knife. The second in 1975, by a Dutch schoolmaster, who believed that destroying it was his divine mission. In 1990, the Nightwatch survived an acid attack by an unemployed Dutchman. Today, it is protected by strict security measures.
4. The Amsterdam Flower Market
The Dutch are gifted gardeners. They grow some of the most beautiful, most unique and colourful varieties that I have ever seen. The Dutch Flight Attendants introduced me to the flower markets of Amsterdam. No trip would be complete without bringing back a bouquet or two. I would always bring Mum roses or tulips or gift bouquets for the special people in my life. Transporting fresh flowers was always a bit of a challenge because the aircraft has limited storage space. Plus trying to keep them fresh for the flight home. I recall that on one of my flights, my dear colleague Jim Callaghan was working the galley. Jim so kindly and generously offered to store them for me. He knew the galley so well, that he just knew the perfect spot to store them. Needless to say, they arrived into YVR in excellent condition! Jim is another one of those amazing humans that made an impact on my life. He was my in-flight trainer extraordinaire (I shadowed him) and the best flower storage person. Always laughing, always smiling and always telling us jokes, Jim made our flights so much fun. Thank you Jim for everything you taught me and congrats on your retirement. xo
5. Amsterdam Canal Ride
No trip would be complete without taking a canal ride through the Amsterdam waterways. Whenever I visit a city for the first time, I would always seek out these types of excursions, hop on hop off or bus tours. It is an excellent way to get to know the city and get your bearings. We learned that Amsterdam has 165 canals that were created for trade and transport. The canals boast more bridges than Venice, Italy and home to 2500 houseboats!
There we were, five crew members on this city canal cruise, it was memorable. Amsterdam was never the same lol. Truly one of the best layovers I have ever had.
Last but not least…..everybody loves food right? One of the things you MUST do when visiting a new city is to explore its food culture!
If you are going to try one sweet Dutch treat off the street (hey great rhyming huh!) make sure it is the famous Stroopwafel!!! It is made of two very thin waffles with a sweet molasses type syrup in the middle. It kind of tastes like a cross between a waffle and a cookie. It is said to have originated in the late 18th or early 19th century in Gouda. That is quite an interesting piece of trivia because as you all know Gouda is a famous Dutch cheese! Wow, two famous foods from the same city! Personally, I would probably put Gouda cheese in between the two waffles. That is my Asian culture coming out, combining salty and sweet…hmm a new creation perhaps? Make sure to grab one off one of the many famous street booths. And yes, I would always bring a few packages of these yummy cookies home as gifts.
One more for good luck…Dutch Chocolate milk! I don’t know what it is but it is not your typical chocolate milk. Forget the Nestle’s quik chocolate milk or the powder stuff. Dad would always bring us chocolate milk from Amsterdam. I don’t know if it’s the glass jars, dutch cocoa (that must be it) or the milk itself. But Dutch chocolate milk is amazingly rich, creamy and very chocolaty. It is a must-try when visiting Amsterdam! I am not much a chocolate milk drinker these days, I have matured into a tea and cappuccino woman, lol. But it sure brings back fond memories of when I was a little girl. I couldn’t wait for Dad to come home from his Amsterdam trips. We would immediately raid his flight bag for goodies the minute he walked through the door! Thank you Dad for instilling the love of travel into me, teaching me how to have an open mind and introducing me to the wonders of this amazing world we live in. Oh and of course chocolate milk. Love you Pops xo
I opened this entry with a quote from Gustave Flaubert. His words resonated with me and struck a chord. Travel can’t help but humble you. Travel takes you out of your comfort zones, opens your eyes and changes you. Travel makes you patient, tolerant, accepting and adventurous. One swiftly realizes that we do only occupy a tiny, tiny portion of this globe. Go travel, explore and see who or what makes up the rest of it…
Thank you all for taking the time to read my blog. A heartfelt thank you goes to Alisha for being my second set of eyes and my brilliant editor.
I would like to dedicate this post to Val. Val, I hope you know the impact that you made on my life. Thank you for inviting me to see the tall ships and not leaving this rookie alone on my first trip. Thank you for opening my eyes to a place that I could have only dreamed of. You made me a better person and I will always try to pay it forward. You made my first trip to Amsterdam memorable and I will never forget you. Bless you.