Weekend in Paris and Amsterdam

Welcome back!

This past weekend was definitely an ambitious one, but it was definitely my favorite so far. We had been mostly traveling to more uncommon cities so far, with a few exceptions, but this weekend we finally hit some of the major “abroad” destinations. On Thursday we started out in Paris, France, and then on Friday we made our way to Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

Honestly, I didn’t expect to like Paris too much, because I had heard it wasn’t the nicest or friendliest city, and it was very touristy. So, I went into that leg of the trip with rather low expectations. I was completely wrong. In the one day I spent in Paris, I saw so much more that I thought I would, and the city completely surprised me. We got crepes, visited the Sainte Chapelle (so beautiful!), the Louvre Museum, and the Arc de Triomphe. From there, we finally made our way to the Eiffel Tower. This was much bigger than I expected, and was really amazing to see. As we were leaving, the sun was setting so they began to turn on the tower’s lights. Seeing the entire Eiffel Tower light up was definitely one of the coolest things I’ve seen abroad so far.

After a break at our hostel, we ended up going back to the Eiffel Tower to eat dinner at a nearby restaurant. Every hour, the tower’s lights twinkle for about five minutes, so we were able to see this before we ate dinner. Standing on a bridge in the middle of Paris, watching the Eiffel Tower light up, was one of those moments that you know is so special, even as it’s happening, and I’m not sure if I’ll ever be back to see that again, but I feel so lucky that I was able to experience it this week. In the end, I’m glad I went into Paris with low expectations, because it only continued to pleasantly surprise me, and I ended up loving a city which I didn’t even plan on visiting.

Friday morning was an early wake up, as I had to catch my bus to Amsterdam. What was supposed to be a six-hour drive turned out to be eight, so by the time I reached Amsterdam, I was ready to walk around. From the minute I stepped off the bus, I noticed how charming and cozy the city was, with restaurants and shops lining the streets, and Christmas lights strung everywhere. I reached the apartment we were staying in, which overlooked one of Amsterdam’s many canals. Sitting in the warmth on the couch looking out at the lights over the cold water felt like the holiday season, and made the weekend even more relaxing and homey.

We didn’t have too much time on Friday since we got in later in the afternoon, so once we were settled we headed out for an amazing pasta dinner at Spaghetteria, and then explored some of the bars and plazas open in Amsterdam at night. Again, seeing all of the Christmas lights everywhere, and everyone so bundled up in the cold, got me SO excited for the holidays.

Saturday was the only full day we had in the city, so we packed everything in. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get tickets to the Anne Frank House (they sell out really fast, so buy them FAR in advance!), so we started our day with a delicious pancake breakfast at De Carrousel Pannenkoeken. From here, we toured the Heineken Museum, as we had previously bought tickets for the “Heineken Experience”. Going into this, we expected a normal museum tour, explaining the history of Heineken, with a tasting at the end. We were completely surprised to find an entirely interactive experience, with films and music and lights and games, ending in a Heineken bar. I am definitely not a beer person, but the whole experience was so cool, I would definitely recommend the tour if you are even in Amsterdam.

After leaving the museum and getting a quick snack of stroopwafels, we made our way to the canal tour we had booked. I suggest touring the canals both by foot and by boat, because first of all, they’re so beautiful and you can never see enough, but also, you get a much different point of view passing through the streets in the water, and you get to see so many cool bridges and corners and pathways while relaxing on the back of a boat.

For the rest of our day, we walked around to hit some more sights while it was still light out. We passed by the outside of the Anne Frank House, we visited Dam Square and tasted lots of cheese, and walked by the Centraal Station of Amsterdam. Eventually we made our way to Casa di David for another delicious pasta dinner (we don’t get pasta in Spain), and then explored some more bars, including my favorite which had live jazz music.

We flew out early Sunday morning, so I had the day to catch up in Madrid. Again, I’m not sure how we fit Amsterdam into pretty much one day, but I definitely could have spent a lot more time there. This city felt so different from everywhere else I’ve traveled, and I think that’s why I loved it so much. It was definitely the right time of year to visit, with all of the holiday decorations out and the cold air, and even though it’s a pretty big city, it had such a personal, small town feel – I could definitely see myself spending a longer period of time here. It also felt like a much younger city, with lots of students and young families, where Paris had an older, more traditional feel. I will surely be returning to Amsterdam at some point while still in my twenties, hopefully for a few months so I can really enjoy the city.

The semester is finally beginning to slow down, so I will be staying in Madrid this weekend, and then only traveling a couple more times after that. I’ve been seeing and learning so much while abroad so far, and it’s crazy that I only have a few more weeks, but I’m excited to continue exploring Europe in this last month, and even after I return to the US.

I hope you’ve been enjoying my weekly updates, and I can’t wait to share more!



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