If you have limited vacation time, I recommend Amsterdam and Bruges. You don’t need a lot of time in either of these places, but its great fun. Plus, you can try all the foods they are famous for- pancakes, waffles and chocolate. Here is the journey through the eyes of a student currently studying abroad in London.
Amsterdam and Bruges. I didn’t really know what to expect from this trip.
Originally, I signed up to go with my roommate, who was more than excited for the both of us, and I wanted to go because I love traveling, but I didn’t know much about either location, other than Belgium Waffles of course.
However, we mistakenly signed up for two different weekends and she ended up going the week before me.
I was ok with this because she was able to tell me a little about the trip and what things there are to do there.
This time the traveling was easy, long, but easy.
We arrived at Waterloo station at seven in the morning, way too early in my opinion, and hopped on a coach bus that drove us to Dover.
From there, we boarded a ferry to France, which was smooth and the first real boat ride I had ever been on.
Once arriving in France, we hopped back onto the coach and drove through Belgium to Amsterdam.
It was fairly late when we arrived in Amsterdam so we didn’t have much time to try and do things around the city.
However, we did manage to go to the Van Gogh Museum, with no line mind you, which was really neat.
I was a little disappointed that we couldn’t take pictures, but that’s understandable, and it was really neat seeing many of his paintings and drawings up to the very day that he passed away.
The I Amsterdam sign was nearby so we went ahead and stopped for pictures even though it was really dark out.
After that we headed back to the hostel through the blustery wind.
After a good night’s sleep, we were ready for our road trip to Edam and Volendam the next morning.
Edam is really popular for cheese and even has a cheese factory museum you can go through and receive free cheese.
However, the museum was not included in our tour and was not free either, so we unfortunately skipped this.
We did wander through the cute little village, though, and bought a couple of souvenirs, tried on wooden clogs, and stopped at a cheese shop.
We only had an hour and then it was back on the bus to drive 10 minutes to Volendam.
Here, we were able to walk up to the sea, buy a few more souvenirs, walk through the market, and buy a couple of stroopwafels.
We weren’t able to do much, but I enjoyed these trips because it let us see the culture of other smaller towns in the Netherlands outside of the big city.
Once we were back in Amsterdam, we stopped at a pancake place for lunch.
Amsterdam is famous for their pancakes.
I like pancakes, but they aren’t my favourite. However, these pancakes were so delicious.
I bought a ham and cheese pancake and it was a thin layer on a pretty big plate, about the size of an Italian pizza, with melted cheese all over it and ham mostly at the center of the pancake.
If you are ever in Amsterdam, get a pancake.
It’s worth it, and that’s coming from an extremely picky eater.
Next, we got in line to see the Anne Frank House and of course as soon as we got there it started to rain.
It was now, cold, windy, and raining and we had to stand outside in line, but none of us were going to back out.
The Anne Frank House was on the top of all of our lists of things to do in Amsterdam.
It’s typically about a two hour wait, but we got in in about a half an hour.
We warmed up a little, but it was still pretty cold in the house.
I don’t know how the Franks did it.
I was freezing and it wasn’t even the coldest part of winter.
On top of it being cold, they had a very limited amount of room to move around, and they had to be extremely quiet during the day.
We couldn’t take pictures, but this was definitely a must see.
If you like history, and even if you don’t, this was a good visit.
The Holocaust was a big part of the world’s history and it really puts into perspective what it was like for Jews in those days.
If you’ve ever visited any other Holocaust museum or site, this adds to your thoughts during this experience.
I had visited the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C., twice actually, and that made this visit even more impactful.
Once we left, we decided to eat dinner at the Hard Rock cafe.
Not worth it.
You can literally get Hard Rock cafe anywhere else in the world, and though the food was delicious, it was a two hour wait to be seated and expensive.
By the time we got out of there, it was so late that we decided to call it a night.
Since we wanted to do a couple of other things in the daylight, we decided to get up and do them first thing in the morning before leaving for Belgium.
First on our list was going to the bench that was used in the making of “Fault in our Stars.”
Even though I had never seen the movie or read the book, I had to do it for all of my friends back home who are diehard fans of the story.
It was located right along a canal and had several locks on it, put there by fans, and many of them said “okay, okay” on it, which is apparently a big line from the book and movie.
After that we headed back to the I Amsterdam sign to take some pictures in the daylight.
Once we were satisfied, we went back to the hostel to check out, get on the coach bus and head back toward Bruges.
Once in Bruges, we only had a couple of hours to eat and see the town.
Of course, the first thing on our minds was food.
And more specifically, the Belgium waffles.
Now, I unfortunately can’t tell you how they were because I did not get one.
I was running low on money and really wanted to try one, but wanted to make sure I had a big meal to last me the rest of the day, so I could skip supper, buy some Belgium chocolates and a few souvenirs from Bruges.
My friends did get waffles, though, and I can tell you that they looked delicious.
After that we walked around admiring the beauty of the town and looking through a few chocolate and souvenir shops to see what we could get the most out of.
I bought a little box of chocolates and a set of chocolate snowmen, which I can’t wait to try!
I also bought a couple of souvenirs, including a picture frame, which I try to get everywhere I visit so I can put a picture from my journey in it.
Our time was up, and we rushed back to the bus to begin our long drive back to France.
The good news, we arrived early and was able to get through security fairly quickly.
However, due to strong winds, all the ferries had been delayed an hour.
We had no luck getting onto an earlier one and had to sit on the bus waiting.
We watched a whole movie and thought we would be able to board soon, when they announced they were delayed another half hour.
When we finally did board, I don’t think you had ever seen us so excited.
At this point we couldn’t wait to get home to our comfortable beds and sleep before class the next day.
Once the ferry started moving we realized just how rocky it was with the waves being affected by the strong winds.
My friend and I were good until about 40 minutes in and we started to feel a little seasick.
At this point, we knew we would be coming to shore soon, so went to the bathroom to ensure we would be good for the bus ride back to London.
I’ve never been so wobbly in all my life.
It probably looked like a drunk person trying to walk in a straight line.
After almost crashing into several people and tables, I finally made it to the bathroom, and back through all the sick passengers to my table where I laid my head down feeling more sick than ever.
Laying my head down on the table helped, until the captain came on saying we were 4 miles away, but wouldn’t come to shore for another hour due to how many boats were waiting to make port and leave.
However, when we go two miles away, I felt much better when the captain came back on saying we would arrive in the next 10 minutes because he was able to negotiate an earlier arrival time.
Finally, on land again, we were all so happy to be back on the coach bus and headed toward London.
Because of all the delays, we arrived too late to take the tubes home, so I hopped on a bus and finally arrived back at my flat at one in the morning.
I ate a quick bowl of rice, having skipped dinner on the notion we would be home by 10, showered and fell into bed where I almost overslept for class the next day, never hearing my alarm go off.
Don’t worry, I made it.
Minus the trip home, the rest of my journey to Amsterdam and Bruges was absolutely wonderful and I would suggest you go if you have a short amount of holiday time.