I’ve been to Amsterdam a lot. Most of the time it was simply passing through the airport, but often times I had several hours layover … enough to go into town for a visit. So, oddly, I have accumulated quite a lot of time visiting this city without ever having stayed a single night. While this might sound somewhat silly, it actually a great idea when you consider that the alternative is to sit around in an airport.
Amsterdam is an easy train ride from the airport, and doesn’t take long at all. I often would go into town for a quiet breakfast at one of the local cafes, before strolling along the picturesque canals, shopping if needed, and then jumping on the short train ride back to the airport.
Many years ago I nearly moved to Amsterdam to live on a houseboat, but choices were made and other paths pursued (like many watershed decisions we make throughout life). However, I think there’s something intriguing about the idea of living so close to the water, somehow separate from the very heart of the city where you may reside. It seems peaceful in many ways (like on the quiet mornings I would visit), yet it also seems that it could be loud and noisy from a vibrant city life (I am speculating). Perhaps I missed my calling, or perhaps I would not have liked it at all – I cannot say.
Did I say that there were a lot of bicycles in Amsterdam? What an understatement … they were everywhere! I liked that there were so many different types, representing the different character of the local residents. If I had been staying for any decent amount of time, I absolutely would have planned on renting one!!
To some the city has a reputation for certain activities, however, I found that morning life in Amsterdam started much the same as anywhere else in the world – with promise of adventure.
Get out of the airport if you have time on your long layovers! However, make sure you have enough time to get through any customs, immigration and security protocols … so check these things out ahead of time (if possible, ask someone who has done it before).
P.S. Don’t do what Matt Barnes and I did one visit – to take tons of photos, then lose the camera before downloading the greatest pictures ever seen!!
Paris, France is known as a popular tourist destination for many reasons, and much has been written about the historical monuments, culture, arts, shopping and fashion. These days we can easily go online to find photos of these sites and from the comfort of our home we can read about the history of the various places of interest. Those who stopover here during their travels can easily round the bases by visiting the Eiffel Tower, Lourve, Arc de Triomphe, and Avenue des Champs-Élysées, adding in obligatory stops for a photo at Cathédrale Notre-Dame or beside the Seine. A longer weekend (or week) is needed to visit the numerous other top attractions which are pocketed around the city (that could be a focus series for the future).
However, I want to encourage you to visit the lesser visited residential areas on your next stay. Dine in a café where everyone speaks French and not the international languages represented by the tourists who fill the tables. Walk the parks where the locals take their children to play and dogs to walk. Enjoy the off-the-beaten-path feel of the local markets and hidden alleyways. Take some time to relax and soak up the atmosphere, rather than scurrying down the list of ‘must-do’ attractions, ticking each one off with the shutters of our latest camera. In our attempts to not miss anything important, I think we can sometimes overlook the obvious; that living in Paris is an experience that can’t be captured on film – and we’ll completely miss it if we’re following the herd from one tourist stop to the next.
Look for opportunities to meet and interact with the local residents (this applies to anywhere you ever visit). Express personal appreciation to the locals, and you’ll find that they are nice and friendly – contrary to popular belief. A local resident who confides in you about something worthwhile doing, is worth more than any number of travel books.