This is the second part to a 2-part series of posts which captures my first trip to Europe!
Part 1 focused on the short couple days in Dusseldorf (Germany) for Dokomi, and this is the second part, which is about the travel to and from, and around Amsterdam.
Like the first part, this one is fairly long, but I hope it'll be an enjoyable read!
I didn't talk about this during the first post, but our airbnb, albeit nice and spacious enough to accommodate 6 people, was on the top floor of a building with many many flights of stairs. It was probably the exercise needed after spending a day sitting at a con and eating too much, but it was quite the trek to make after a long day.
I think the trek was even moreso tiresome when we had to make the march up after the convention with our remaining merchandise and purchases. Having spent the last three months going (nearly) daily to the gym definitely paid off haha, broke into a good sweat.
The morning after wasn't too bad heading down with our packed luggages, though I want to say many thanks to Oni for giving us a hand early the next morning (and also for being such great company during - she shared the airbnb with us, along with kiwi)..!!
Travel to Amsterdam
This.. turned out not to be the best idea.
The train ended up being very delayed (close to 35 minutes), and during the wait on the platform, I, needing to use the washroom and against my better judgement, ended up making the trip down into the station to do so. When I returned to the platform, I returned to seeing only some of the luggages, and a very panicked Li.
In the 5~8 minutes I had gone, the train had arrived and everyone was rushed on. Sush had gone on with her luggages and Li was helping load luggage into the train, in hopes that once I had returned, I could just hop on, but the doors closed shortly amidst the scramble - Sush on the train with three luggages, CP and Li on the platform with all that remains.. and me just not there. To make matters worse, I had Sush's phone. I had held onto it because she kept misplacing it during the convention. Oh boy.
I had a good gauge of the situation when I returned, and knew I was pretty useless since I didn't have service haha. I sent Li to go find CP (who had ran afterwards to go find me) and sat with the luggages while trying to see if I could connect to wifi in the meantime.
Most of our worries came from the fact that Sush was alone, without phone, and also had three luggages with her. Thankfully she had her ipad on her, had connected to the wifi on the train pretty shortly after, and found a kind stranger on the train who was willing to lend her their phone (and also from the UK surprisingly). CP and Li struggled to buy new tickets (which they managed, also thanks to another kind stranger), and when returned, I snapped a photo to Sush with our new gate number at the arriving station, along with the time.
There was discussion about possibly shifting one of us to meet her mutually at a connecting station since there was a lot of delays on the initial train (heard that there was someone who jumped on the tracks, and then the train engine broke down so they had to shift trains), but we agreed it'd be better not to risk separating and possibly needing to buy even more tickets to make up for the mess of plans. In the end, Sush arrived safely at the same gate around 15 minutes prior to the arrival of with our new tickets (which was 2 hours later).
The reunion was very heartfelt LOL.
Writing this out, I still feel so guilty about this tbh, and so very apologetic to Sush (as well as Li and CP), but I'm glad it ended up okay and we were able to get reunited. Many many MANY lessons learned. ||||OTL;;
Arriving at Airbnb (Day 0)
After the huge mishaps, we were both hungry and tired so we ate at the station, and bought tickets to take the train to our Airbnb. Earlier in February while plans were in the making, we had decided to book in an area outside of the main city because.. I think our initial thoughts were to use the trip as a workcation, but that wasn't really much of the case (mostly because none of us have been to Amsterdam before and didn't really know very much about the city).
The place we were at was around 30 mins train ride + a bit of a walk from the main city (in Bussan, super quaint and quiet), the Airbnb was quite a lovely and spacious place.
Our host worked at nespresso and gave us full reign to use his machine and drink coffee to our hearts content.
We bought donuts and bread in Germany before the train in hopes to enjoy these while on the train ride.. but that clearly didn't happen haha..
The rest of the evening, we walked around the quaint area hoping to find a grocery store to stock up on some healthier food, and maybe save a couple bucks by cooking ourselves with the super nice kitchen, but everything was closed because of the national holiday.
Sush was adamant about making all of us try eggs benedict and.. it was such a good choice omg. It might've been the combination of stress and travel from the day, but everything was especially tasty. The salad we got was amazing too; Sush got very passionate about the many layers of flavour in the single purple leaf (LOL).
We took it easy the first day and decided to just enjoy the airbnb, and also plan out the upcoming days for the trip. Opting for a canal cruise and visiting the Van Gogh Museum (out of the many museums), we bought tickets for the next and subsequent day.
Heading into the City (Day 1 & 2/3)
The rest of this post won't be very consecutive in terms of order of events, and instead will just be a bit of a summary of things that happened throughout the trip, and impressions. I feel like the pictures do a bit of their own story telling too.
First impression of Amsterdam - I finally understand what is meant by "Amsterdam is a biking city". There is quite literally.. so many bikes (so much so there are bike parking areas).
I was also surprised by how many canals there were too - I had thought Amsterdam was mostly streets and a single canal that ran through the heart, but the city was split into tiny islands connected with bridges.
It was amazing to see and walk around the history built into the architecture of the city; a network of travel via water lined with tall and quaint buildings of all colours and sizes. It was like a Professor Layton city irl. Personally, I feel as though a bit of romanticism could be tied down to it.. a mix of historical significance but also a quaint isolated city with its own happenings and stories.
We also took time to visit the Van Gogh Museum. All those that we asked about Amsterdam had told us that the museums were really good and highly recommended as areas to visit.. but also because of that suggestion, they always had to be booked ahead because of the amount of people that went to go visit them. We opted for just visit one of the many museums (and I can testify that it is so very good). While small, it still packed a great story and was installed really nicely, with enough space between pieces and ample areas for viewing/thinking.
Because of the unique waterways, the metro was super deep underground. Taking the escalators down to the platform was a long way.
Foodwise, we tried to vary the amount and of types that we ate.
From the mass amount of meat of cheese we had during the convention (due to a lack of time to scour the area for more options), we wanted to a bit of a break from heavy high caloric foods. Sush made the suggestion to wander into a farmers market/food court, and we also walked around in hopes to find things that were region specific.
We tried Dutch Herring (twice).. it was a bit of a salted, partially steamed herring that was eaten with chives, onion and pickles. The levels of flavours was so good!!
Guiltily, I think majority of us do like desserts so we definitely had our fair share of sweets, pastries, and ice cream/gelato.
I cannot even begin to say how much I love European desserts; not too sugary but still the rich flavours. While not usually picky with food, I felt like it was okay to say yes to all things offered because I knew it was never too intense of one flavour profile.
Sush also wanted to stop by this area which.. had a unique take on fast food. Similar to a vending machine, you just popped in a couple euros and grabbed your food.
We had to wander into the red light district for this fast food restaurant, but it also meant we had opened the door to all the unhealthy tourist treats haha. Churros and DELICIOUS CHIPS (fries), it was amazing.
I think cheese was amongst the top things that were for tourists to purchase because they were in all corners of the city, particularly close to the red light district. I didn't mind too much though.. definitely had my fair share sampling all the different types (and I brought some home too)!
We also took the time to head into some cafes as well and do our fair share of cafe sketching. This particular one was close to our Airbnb, but more on that later.
This restaurant was a chain scattered around the city that offered American style and Dutch (savory crepe style) pancakes. It definitely had the tourist-y trap feel, but I think it's part of the experience of just being there.
The FoodHallen area had a lot of maker workshop areas and a small shop that had the.. "etsy" feel.
And of course, no trip for me is complete without walking to paper and pen shops respectively.
Overall, I think the main city area was really fun to travel to, especially if you just have a lot of time and are in good company. When you got to areas with shops, it was quite nice to walk in and out of shops while passing through (which didn't work too well in our favour sometimes haha, we got distracted by everything).
There was wifi almost everywhere, and there was no real rush of the city to make you hustle between places, with ample seating outside if you wanted to enjoy the nicer weather. Might be the tourist in me, romanticized by my first time in a European city, but it was such an enjoyable time with good friends.
Old Holland (Day 3)
Amidst the travel to and from the city, we decided to use the last day to travel to the windmills and take a walk around the Old Holland area. We opted for this instead of visiting the Castles and Parks (which were more to the south east) because the weather was forecasted to rain a lot.
We took the opportunity to ride bikes! Some of us were less experienced, but overall it was a really enjoyable experience.. I haven't ridden my bike in years and definitely not alongside normal traffic conditions.
A short but very relaxing yet eventful day.
Cafe Sketching (Day 3)
Throughout the trip, we made time to sit down, catch up and also take the chance to draw together.
Two drawings in CP's sketchbook!
Drawing in Sush's sketchbook.
Also got the chance to collab with friends! I was so happy to get the chance to collab in person and with traditional media.
Collab with Sush in Li's sketchbook.
Another collab with Sush! We inked each other's sketches (top = Sush sketch, my inks, bottom = my sketch, Sush's inks).
We also took turns drawing each other hehhh (Me drawn by Li, CP drawn by Sush, Li drawn by CP, Sush drawn by me).
And friends drew in my sketchbook:
By CP! She drew our shenanigans haha.
Gonna treasure these drawings and memories so very much!! ;__;
Trip Back to Düsseldorf
As mentioned in the previous post, we had decided to make the trip back to Germany to take our flights because returning flights were a lot cheaper than taking a flight from a different country. So our last day was cut short since we had around two hours of travel and our flights would be setting out in the afternoon.
But this didn't go as smoothly, similar to our trip TO Amsterdam.
For some reason, Sush had mentioned twice that we'd be arriving at the airport for 10am.. and somehow all of us took that as our train would be setting off for the airport at 10am. So.. instead of being at the train station to take off for 8am, we all woke up to leave our Airbnb at 8am.... oops.
We had left this behind for the cafe owner who was really kind to us, and apparently in the frenzy of us rushing to the train station with our luggages, he had saw us walk by and ran to come out of the shop to say thanks for the drawings from the previous morning..!
In essence, we had wasted the tickets we had purchased prior in the midst of planning our trip, and should we do this again in the future, I'm definitely just going to buy the tickets at the station rather than planning ahead. Thinking back, it was amazing that we were able to catch all of our flights, despite the loss of time we had from not checking our tickets ahead of time... which was due to really good coordination between the four of us, with mentalities hardened, adrenaline running, from our previous experience of getting to Amsterdam in the first place.
When we arrived at the main station, we had looked ahead and saw there was just a mere 4 minutes to catch the next train on the route to Germany. It felt like time slowed down in that time, because while CP and Li were waiting for the lift to carry their heavy luggages, Sush and I took the stairs down - Sush took the lead and walked ahead, but me, fearing that the other two would not be able to see where we had gone, waited midway between Sush and the lift.
Turns out, Sush walked ahead and was holding another lift that went to the platform for that train; and me being the middle point between CP and Li, they followed my lead to the elevator, which, without a single word pushed all their luggages into the new lift and took the stairs to meet us up on the platform.
In combination of 2 extra minutes from the train being delayed, we managed to get ourselves and our luggages onto the new platform and onto the train.
It feels as though this post has gotten long enough already, despite being split into two parts, but I wanted to just do a bit of a summary and just an afterthought, now that it's been a while since the trip.
I'm really happy I planned this trip with friends. Going to the con was an amazing experience (with some regrets of not being awake enough to enjoy it fully), and also finally for the first time, take an actual vacation for myself. A couple days just to wander around and just be, rather than in the constant hustle to do more, be more.
I honestly couldn't have chosen any better travel companions, and ones who are overly understanding and patient too.. despite my own shortcomings and being so underprepared. Thank you Sush, CP, and Li-- I'm so grateful we got to take this trip and I really hope we'll get another chance to see each other again in the near future..! Let's not wait another 10+ years, haha.
Thank you so much for reading!