Amsterdam

April showers bring May flowers.

I’ve always wanted to see Amsterdam in its full Spring beauty with flowers galore. The annual Tulip Festival in Amsterdam is during the months of April and May, so some friends and I made plans to go this past May.

We stayed in a lovely airbnb just south of downtown Amsterdam, easily accessible by metro. There was plenty of space for the four of us and the host’s adorable cat. This was the first time that I’ve stayed in an airbnb with an animal where the host wasn’t there. Once before, in Krakow, I stayed in an airbnb that I just rented an available room. There was an incredibly sweet (and gigantic) dog. But the host was there to take care of him. In this experience with the cat, it was easy. Cats are very low maintenance and my friends and I enjoyed the weekend with a pet since we don’t have our own in Madrid. Both animal + airbnb experiences were excellent (and don’t worry if you aren’t interested in pets during your vacation, the host will communicate beforehand if they have any).

Mary, Esme, and I arrived Friday morning. Kelsey would be joining us later that evening. We slowly meandered through the city center, eventually found a place to relax and drink coffee, essentially killing time before we could drop off our things at the airbnb.

Every inch of Amsterdam is picturesque. In any direction you look, you see the antique houses, never-ending canals, and numerous bicycles. There’s so much movement in the city, it’s amazing.

After dropping off our bags and taking a quick (much needed) nap, we walked around the city to familiarize ourselves a bit more with the various districts. At one point in the evening, we were in the Red Lights district. It wasn’t what I expected. I had heard and assumed so much that, in result, my expectations were all over the place. During the day when my friend and I were walking around, we noticed that the neighborhood has a clean, friendly atmosphere.

The name “Red Lights District” comes from the windows at night. If the women are available, they stand in the window with a red light. If they aren’t available, the red light is turned off and the curtains are drawn. In Amsterdam, prostitution, brothels and soft drugs (i.e. marijuana) are legal. That’s one of the main reasons that Amsterdam’s Red Lights district is so well-known around the world. Later, I learned that most of the women work independently. This means that they choose what they offer, for how long, and how much they charge. Amsterdam has various laws that they enforce and regulate in order to help protect and prevent those who are exploiting and sex trafficking.

I respect a country/city/neighborhood/person’s right to freedom. Whether that freedom takes the form of free speech, civil rights, freedom of religion, and even freedom to choose your occupation (no matter how taboo). Freedom isn’t simply defined by me, it’s defined by the individual seeking that freedom. It’s their right and privilege to choose.

The next day in Amsterdam was 100% flowers. We went to a huge garden that had every flower that could possibly grow in Holland, but the most populated was the tulip. The garden felt as big as an amusement park. We spent hours wandering.. and taking photos of course.

The last day we explored more of Amsterdam city center, ate yummy pancakes and the best Dutch cheese. We had an evening flight back to Madrid. It’s too bad that weekends aren’t longer.

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Our last trip together!
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