A Weekend in Amsterdam

It all started with a question between me and my husband:  what would be the one city that we visited in the last three years that you would travel to again before we move back to America?  Actually, it was a two-part question, the second part being:  what would be the one city that you would travel to on your own?

For me, there was one answer to both of these questions. I didn't hesitate. "Amsterdam," I responded. "You should just go, then," he said. And that evening, I purchased one set of tickets for me, and me alone, for a weekend away in Amsterdam.

A little background:  I lived in the Netherlands as a teenager, and, on the whole, my family wasn't overly impressed with the city.  Blame traveling with two angsty teenagers and a preschooler. I was determined to see it again with fresh (adult) eyes, and so I chose it as the first European city to travel to when we moved to England.  I loved it from the moment we arrived.  A vibrant, modern city in a historic, beautiful setting? With canals? And bicycles? What more could you want?

Apparently I wanted another weekend in it. And my husband, being the generous person he is, knew how much good it would do me. The pressures of an impending transatlantic move and the boredom (yes, boredom) of being a stay at home mom was starting to take its toll. So off I went at 5am on a Saturday morning to catch the early flight out. I had two days away, and I wasn't going to waste a minute of it.

I had two goals for the weekend:  one, I was going to move at my own pace because I was kid-free and could. Two, I was going to take as many photos as possible - which, let's be honest, is never really an issue for me. 

On my first day, I started in Jordaan and made my across the city, ending it at the Rijksmuseum.  Here is my journey, in photos:

The facades of Damrak disappear into the canal.

The dollhouses of Damrak.

It was one of those days that I wish I wore a step tracking device, because I climbed in bed at 8:30 pm and passed out from exhaustion. The best kind of exhaustion. The exhaustion that comes from being out all day in a city you love, doing exactly what you love to do. Sure, I was alone. But I didn't feel alone. The energy of the city was my travel companion.

I was up early the next morning, which, if you are a parent, you KNOW requires dedication when you aren't traveling with your tiny human alarm clark. I had a cup of coffee with the hotel staff (it was that early) and headed out the door before the sun was up. You see, I love to see a city waking up, particularly on a Sunday morning when there's no morning commute to be concerned with. It's a slow, sleepy process, and a city typically never looks more beautiful than in those few hours in between sunrise and when people start getting on with the business of the day.  Amsterdam did not disappoint (few cities do). I walked the length of the center of the city from my hotel in Jordaan to the Magere Brug bridge, and then meandered back. It was a stunning (and freezing cold) morning.

But of course, Amsterdam looks beautiful even when people are getting on with the business of the day. Perhaps that's the most important thing I took away from this weekend - the realization of how much I missed city life. That I feel more energetic when I'm immersed in the chaos and buzz of the city. That I like when people walk - or cycle - into my frame. That my photography work benefits from being in the city. I have grown tired of static scenery. I'm craving something else, something more dynamic. And the timing of this revelation couldn't be more perfect as we approach our last month the English countryside. These two days in Amsterdam felt like just the start of what's next for me.