I'll Take You to the Coffee Shop... But not for Coffee
Since I waited a while to start my London post, I kind of fell behind on the rest of my travels. We were on the go non-stop so it became more difficult to stay caught up, especially with not having wifi. I really apologize to those who have been patiently awaiting my blogs! So let's pick back up with Amsterdam. I'm sure many of you know of or have heard of Amsterdam for specific reasons, and let me tell you, it's exactly how you would imagine and much more.
Amsterdam is not only a place to mellow out and relax at a nearby "coffee shop," (not for coffee), where you can buy joints and marijuana legally; but it is also a beautiful Dutch countryside gem with interesting things that many people would never know. In Amsterdam, prostitution is fully legal. They have a specific district for it called the Red Light District, where female prostitutes display themselves through a glass window with a red light, letting the community know they are open for business. Amsterdam has legalized prostitution because they believe sex workers deserve equal respect and that it is safer to have it legalized so women do not encounter themselves in dangerous situations participating in it illegally. In the Red Light District, the female workers have emergency buttons in their workspaces in case something happens, the police will be notified immediately. I thought this whole concept was super interesting and respectable, but is something that will most likely never be seen anywhere outside of Amsterdam.
Now onto the coffee shops, which were located everywhere around Amsterdam, are like public bars for marijuana use. People go and hang out after work to smoke a joint or meet up with their friends to relax and hang out. The funny thing is that our tour guide said marijuana use is not widely common throughout the population Amsterdam because of its legalization. She said it's used more frequently in younger generations and also widely with tourists. The main portion of what we did in Amsterdam was just walking around, seeing the Red Light District, looking at the different coffee shops and the beautiful scenery. Many people also know Amsterdam for their means of transport... bikes. It's as hectic as you would imagine. We had to check both ways about 4 times before crossing the streets, and hearing a "ding-ding" behind you basically triggered an instant heart attack.
We also saw the "I amsterdam" sign, as all tourists regularly do but it was nothing different than an ordinary sign. Nothing to fret over if you don't make it here. Amsterdam was definitely colder and windier than most places we've been, but luckily we were prepared for it. It also rains all the time, so if you plan on going, bring a rain jacket and an umbrella! I was really annoyed that I had to pack a rain jacket in my suitcase for this trip because of how much space it takes up, but I would have been miserable without it in Amsterdam.
Something I really recommend doing is taking a canal cruise through the city's water ways. Amsterdam is known for the beautiful canals that flow through the center of the city, which makes it very accessible by boat. Some places further out into the countryside are actually only accessible by boat. We took a short daytime cruise through the canals, fully stocked with wine, beer, cheeses and an extremely knowledgeable tour guide. This was definitely one of my favorite parts of exploring Amsterdam! All in all, I really enjoyed my relaxed and chilled time in this city. It was a break from the fast-paced traveling we had been doing. I also think we spent the perfect amount of time here. If you plan on going, 2-4 days will be plenty enough since it's so small and there's not too, too much to do. One last tip: remember to make sure that if you want a coffee, that you go to a "cafe" and not a coffee shop :)
Belgium was just a quick pit stop for a few hours on our way to Paris. We stopped in a small town by the name of Ghent, a place that felt straight from the scene of a romance movie. To be quite honest, I would've been fine not visiting Belgium- but since it was on our way to Paris, it was cool to cross another country off of our list. I'm not sure what else there was to do in this city, but it was the perfect timing that we stopped here; for lunch. Like most of our other meals during traveling, this was not the healthiest of meals. If you even want to call it that. But being in Belgium, you can't not try Belgian waffles, fries and chocolate. So we did just that, yup all three. And let me tell you, Belgian waffles might have been one of the top 5 most delicious and memorable foods I tried in Europe, and that's saying a lot coming from me who eats everything in sight. The Belgian fries were not unique to any other fries you would order in a restaurant, but I wasn't complaining that I got to eat fries. After about two hours of roaming around here, we continued on our way to Paris.