First Impressions of the Netherlands

After three flights and a day and a half of traveling, we were very excited to land in Amsterdam and make our way to the apartment we were staying at. Upon first impression, the streets in Amsterdam are a little intimidating with a lot going on- trams, buses, cars, bicycles and pedestrians going every which way.

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I knew Amsterdam was a city with an impressive bike system, but it takes some time to get used to the bike lanes everywhere. I’m from the suburbs and there aren’t many bike lanes so it definitely took a while to get used to making sure I was standing on the sidewalk and not in the bike lane. Luckily, I figured this out pretty quickly before I got hit by an angry local. Yes, they will hit you if you don’t move.

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One of the things I was most looking forward to seeing in the Netherlands was all the canals. For months, I’ve been looking at pictures of gorgeous canals on Pinterest and pictures just don’t do them justice. Amsterdam is a maze of canals, each one just as beautiful as the previous. Although every street looks virtually the same so I don’t know how anyone knows where they are going. I would probably spend the first few months constantly getting lost if I ever moved to Amsterdam.

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One of the first things we did after arriving in the Netherlands was take a trip to see Holland’s amazing flowers. We ventured about an hour away to Lisse to go to the Keukenhof Tulip Gardens. Even at the end of tulip season, the park was incredibly gorgeous with extremely vibrant flowers in every color imaginable. I would definitely recommend Keukenhof to anyone that loves flowers or just loves to look at beautiful things! I’ll write a more detailed post about our time at Keukenhof when we return home from our trip.

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After a few days in Amsterdam, we decided we were ready for a change of pace so we took the train to Haarlem. Haarlem is a neighboring town about 15 minutes away so it’s a great, quick day trip to get out of the city for a while. Biking in Amsterdam is extremely intimidating and we had really been wanting to try biking in the Netherlands, so we decided to try it out in a smaller town. We rented bikes at a shop close to the train station and set off without a map or any idea where we were going. We played some impromptu games of follow the leader and began winding our way through the streets of Haarlem. If you want to bike in the Netherlands and it’s your first time, I suggest doing it in a smaller town or in the countryside because the Amsterdam locals have no mercy on tourists when it comes to biking. Haarlem was the perfect town to start biking in- it’s not too crowded or too big and the biking locals are much less intimidating. We had a great time biking up and down random side streets, although it’s quite possible we were just going around in circles. Biking around Haarlem has been one of my favorite things that we’ve done so far on our trip. I’m pretty sure I just had a stupid grin on my face the whole time! I could definitely get used to living in a city that has a better biking system, I think it’s awesome that so many people bike everywhere instead of using a car. It’s great exercise and is good for the environment.. win-win, right? Although it probably helps that the Netherlands is flat as a pancake (literally!) so it’s not necessarily as physically demanding as in other countries.

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We have done so many fun things during our time in the Netherlands, but I just hit some of our favorites. I will be writing much more detailed posts on all the different things we did in each country after the trip is over so stay tuned for those!

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So far, the Netherlands has set some pretty high expectations for the rest of the trip. Amsterdam is such a diverse city and you really can’t get tired of walking past endless canals. It’s hard to believe our time in the Netherlands is already coming to an end, but I’m excited to see what the other countries have in store for us. Next up is Belgium! Stay tuned for more updates on our adventures. For day-to-day updates, follow me on Instagram and Twitter.

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16 thoughts on “First Impressions of the Netherlands

    • I think it’s pretty impossible not to get lost! I swear every street looks the same haha! I loved Amsterdam too, especially when I finally learned to watch out for the cyclists. There are so many of them! Thank you so much for reading, Alex πŸ™‚

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    • I definitely agree, Michael! We are both good cyclists but all the other cyclists and lanes and rules in Amsterdam was really intimidating. Haarlem was much less stressful! Thanks so much for reading πŸ™‚

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  1. Bike friendly cities are so awesome! I totally understand the thrill you got, I feel the same whenever I take my bicycle out on the bike lanes in Burgos.

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    • Cycling is so freeing! It’s fun to get out and join the locals. I wish my hometown was more bike friendly because I would definitely take advantage of that. Thanks so much for reading, Ashley πŸ™‚

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  3. What a gorgeous start to your vacation! Those flowers were positively stunning!! The biking sounds hazardous but fun. Your mention of Haarlem made me think of a favorite book of mine. There is a Christian author named Corrie Ten-Boom, she and her family lived in Haarlem and helped Jews during the Nazi occupation and ended up in a prison camp. Sounds depressing, I know, but the first half of the book – called The Hiding Place – is all about her idyllic life in Haarlem. πŸ™‚

    I look forward to reading the continuation of your journeys!

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    • Thanks so much for reading πŸ™‚ Yes the flowers were gorgeous and there were just so many of them! Such variety, too. That book sounds really interesting! I’m really fascinated by the holocaust era so I will definitely be checking out that book! Thanks for the suggestion πŸ™‚ Haarlem was such a beautiful town.

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      • I think you would enjoy the description of her life before the occupation and the house they lived in was quite fascinating. Her father was an amazing man, so wise. Her time in prison camp was awful but the book is filled with the incredible things God did through such a tragic time.

        Your photos were all wonderful and gave me a view into a world I will probably never see, so thank you! πŸ™‚

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      • I enjoy learning about the holocaust and the Nazi camps (I even got to visit Dachau several years ago which was eye opening). I think it’s so important to continue to educate people about that horrible time in history so it never gets repeated! I will definitely reading it when I get home. I’m so glad I’m able to give you a glimpse into European life/culture. I love to travel and share my experiences for those that might never get to see the places I’ve been πŸ™‚

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