The past four days have been an adventure, and I can officially mark Salisbury and Amsterdam off my list of places to go!
With a passion for art history, I have studied Stonehenge since I was a sophomore in high school. For those of you who know me, you know that I have been wanting to see these magnificent mysterious stones since I first saw them in my art history textbook (or, maybe the next day in class when the photo was projected up on the screen).
However, there is more to Salisbury than just Stonehenge. The quaint medieval town is not as quiet as it appears.
Walking from the train station on the narrow cobblestone roads to the Salisbury Cathedral, I felt like I was starring in the movie, “The Holiday.” Sadly, Jude Law was nowhere to be found.
As I said earlier, this quaint medieval town knows how to throw a party. As the sun started to set, the pubs began to fill up. The locals told us all about the summer solstice in Salisbury, which falls on the 20th of June, and apparently everyone in Salisbury and nearby towns start partying early in the morning in Stonehenge.
With Britain’s tallest spire, the cathedral houses one of four surviving Magna Cartas. Pretty spiffy. The one-page handwritten piece of parchment was definitely worth seeing, although I could not read one word of it. It is also the home of the oldest working clock in the world.
The worst part: our stay in the hostel. Mom and Dad: remember when I said I was allergic to cheap hotels? Yup, still true. I tried to find a five-star in Salisbury but it wasn’t worth it since we stayed out until midnight and had to be ready for Stonehenge by 4:15 a.m.
Standing in the center of the stones watching the sunrise was an experience I will never have again. It was literally a once in a lifetime thing. It was extraordinary. If I wasn’t so sleep deprived, I probably would’ve cried.
Once the sun had risen, the real adventure began. Three other girls and I headed to Amsterdam. Or, as my sister would say, “Hamster-land.” The funny thing is, as soon as we stepped outside the airport there was a huge spinning wheel that people were running around. For a second, I really thought I was in Hamster-land!
I don’t think I can put into words how much I truly LOVED Amsterdam. Although people associate it with coffee shops and smoking, the city has so much more to offer. (If you love architecture, you must go).
Not only is it the home to Anne Frank’s house, but people can also visit the Van Gogh Museum, Heineken Museum and the Museum of Amsterdam. Don’t forget the famous I am sterdam monument!
Though we were there for less than 48 hours we accomplished a lot. After walking along the canals, we settled down at a tapas bar. I was extremely hesitant at first but after devouring pan con tomate (brushetta), a cheese plate and chorizo sausage, I would say it was one of the best meals I have had.
We couldn’t have asked for better weather Saturday morning. We tried to rent bikes, but because everyone else wanted to enjoy the sunny day, there were none left for us. Can you believe it? There were NO MORE bikes in Amsterdam! Good thing we had walking shoes, because we sure were busy.
My day started off with the Anne Frank house. After my friend Lauren and I stood in line for an hour, we finally were let inside. As an aside, I have dreamed of standing in the annex of Anne Frank’s house since I read her diary at least 10 years ago. From the moment I read the words, “Dear Kitty,” I knew I had to visit Amsterdam.
As we headed up the stairs to her house, the walls were lined with excerpts from her diary and photos. There were also tables filled with photos of the Frank family, historic artifacts from the 1930s and 40s and a yellow star the Jews were forced to wear.
As I walked up the narrow wooden staircase, the bookcase that disguised the opening to the secret annex came into sight. On the other side of the bookcase was an even narrower flight of stairs leading to the space the four members of the Frank family and another family of four lived for two years. What was strange to me was how spacious the annex was. There were two bedrooms, a bathroom and a general area and then of course the attic space. The front rooms looked out over the canal, though I doubt the curtains were open that much.
Walking on the creaky wooden floors listening to the church bells ring made me want to re-read her diary. I vaguely remember her talking about how she had to be careful where she walked to avoid making noise.
Other sections of the tour included an area with her diary and other loose leaf pages. Before the tour ended, there was a video from Otto Frank, Anne’s father. As the only family member who survived the concentration camp, he decided he wanted to publish her diary and open his home up to the public. During the one minute and 40 second video, he said a parent never really knows his or her child. While he admitted he was close to Anne, he said he never knew her true emotions and feelings about living in the annex.
On the pamphlet handed out before the tour, Primo Levi, a writer and Auschwitz survivor, said, “One single Anne Frank moves us more than the countless others who suffered just as she did but whose faces have remained in the shadows. Perhaps it is better that way; if we were capable of taking in all the suffering of all those people we would not be able to live.”
I couldn’t agree more. Walking through the house, looking out of the windows, reading her diary and watching the videos left an impression I truly cannot describe. I am appalled at the people who do not believe the Holocaust existed as well as those who don’t think it was wrong. One trip to the Anne Frank Museum may change their mind.
On a lighter note, the Heineken Museum is probably the coolest museum I have ever visited. It’s a must if you go to Amsterdam. We looked up the museum hours before arriving in Amsterdam, and it said it was open until 7 p.m. We were greeted by a 6’5″ woman with a green tie who harshly told us that we just missed the last tour for the day. She informed us that the tours end at 5:30 p.m. but the museum stays open until 7 p.m.
We tricked ‘em, pretending like we were going into the museum, then took a slight left and asked a lovely lad if we could go on the tour. I think because four pretty girls were asking he decided it was OK. WOOHOO, we were in!
Literally, the time of my life. We watched a video on the history of Heineken, took face-in-a-hole photos, toured the brewing process.
During our 48 hours we also visited the Red Light District, which wasn’t sketchy, just strange. Women wearing only bras and panties would provocatively dance in the window. For those of you who have read “Redeeming Love,” it is all I could think about.
Lastly, if you EVER EVER EVER go to Amsterdam, you MUST eat a pancake. Though they are more like a crepe, they are mouth-watering delicious.
There is a lot more to say about Amsterdam but I shall leave some room for you to discover for yourself. My advice: book your flight now!
This week is a busy one back in London. We have a private tour of Parliament tomorrow, heading to Dover Tuesday and Scotland for the weekend.