Amsterdam was definitely not top of my before-I-die list. I didn’t consider getting high on brownies and seeing women gyrate in windows experiences worth the cost of a plane ticket. But then I found out I needed surgery again and would be incapacitated for a good six weeks. So I did what I always do when facing a health crisis: I spent money. I have a warped, unrecommended feeling that I should spend what I’ve got before God calls time out or all of my hard-earned cash goes toward the deductible.
So I checked flights and found that I could fly to Amsterdam from Washington, Dulles for $420 round trip, straight shot. Better yet, I had enough miles to cover the flight and most of my hotel stay. God bless the off-season.
I have to be honest here and say that I’d always wanted to see the Netherland’s art museums ever since I’d followed my art history teacher around the National Gallery in London’s Trafalgar Square. I don’t recall her name, but what I do remember about her is a lot of fluid motion; long, wavy red hair, flowing hippy skirts, and dangly chandelier earrings, all pulled together with some fierce Doc Martens. In addition to enlightening me on my Gap kakis and bog standard t-shirt sense of style, she opened my eyes to the secrets of art—that oranges, sitting in bowls, held in hands, or strategically placed on a stable or windowsill represented sex. I’m sure there were many more hidden gems she let us in on, but this is the one that stuck with this Mennonite girl. To this day, when wandering art museums, I’m always looking for the oranges.
I only made it to two as it started snowing something fierce while I was there but it worked out all right as I never wanted to leave my hotel—see below.
For the more popular museums such as the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh museum, be sure to book tickets online as soon as you know you’re heading to Amsterdam. And the earlier or later in the day you visit, the better. For disabled visitors, all of the museums I visited were accessible.
Rijksmuseum: Housed in a magnificent building, Dutch art and history from the Middle Ages onward.
Van Gogh Museum: Home to iconic masterpieces including his Sunflowers, Almond Blossom, the Potato Eaters, and The Bedroom.
Tulip Museum: I wandered into this modest museum whilst window shopping on Prinsengracht.
Anna Van den Vondel: A Cool, Calm Oasis
Situated a stone’s throw from Vondel Park, this small boutique hotel is hands down one of the best I’ve experienced.
Upon arrival from my red-eye flight, I was directed to ‘the Living,’ the hotel’s form of a reception area, where I was served one of the best, strongest cappuccinos that I still find myself thinking about sometimes. With high ceilings, a fireplace, and the hotel’s breakfast/lounge area, it’s a public space that manages to feel so calm and peaceful, it’s like being at home.
As for the rooms, I would invite their interior designer into my home and grant them absolute free will. The palette, furnishings, modern lighting, marble bathrooms, plush (and I mean high-end, top dollar padding) carpet, and down to the smallest details of sprigs of eucalyptus leaves sprouting from svelte brass vases is perfection; nothing is overlooked.
This hotel is truly an oasis and an interior designer’s dream.
*The service is perfect; just the right amount of attention with discretion you seek while vacationing. Following the red-eye cappuccino, staff informed me that my room wasn’t ready but took me and my suitcase down to another room where I could rest “and please use all the amnesties” until my larger, first floor room was ready.
*I usually do not book breakfast when making a reservation as who wants to get up early while on vacation. However, I would highly recommend you pull yourself out of bed, gulp a Nespresso in-room, and head on down to the Living for a three-course breakfast.
*The only item I can fault this hotel with is the lack of access for disabled travelers. There are steps to the main entrance; however, their website indicates that there is an accessible entrance via the garden. Once inside, the hotel is fully accessible by lift.
Tack all of this onto it’s brilliant location, and I can honestly say that I would be happy making my home in this hotel. Rather than crossing the busy streets to reach the museum, you simply walk a few paces and you are in the tranquil Vondel Park, where you take a three-minute stroll through trees and around water until you’re in the middle of the museum mile with Van Gogh and the Rijksmuseum all within sight.
In addition to Amsterdam, this hotel has locations in Brussels, Zwolle, Ghent, and a second location in Amsterdam is expected to open in 2020.
Traveling Alone: I felt perfectly safe walking the city by myself. Obviously, there’s a lot of seedy activity in the city proper, but whether walking the streets, Vondel Park, or eating out by myself, I found Amsterdam to be a welcoming and sedately exciting city (by off-season, I’m talking January).