Europe

A Weekend in Amsterdam

by Jackie D on April 5, 2017

jackie desforges amsterdamI visited Amsterdam for the first time about 8 (!) years ago. It makes me feel crazy-old to say that. It was my first solo trip to Europe, and I was visiting Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, and Vienna. I chose these cities because I was just coming off a summer studying art history in the south of France, and I wanted to visit some of the art museums I’d pored over in all of my late night study sessions.

When I got to Amsterdam, I was tired. I hadn’t packed well — my suitcase was too big and heavy for me, and my feet were already covered in blisters. I was lost immediately. Just when I thought I might never find my hostel, I rounded a corner and made eye contact with a cute guy around my age.

He laughed and said, “You look really lost.” Grateful to hear a fellow American accent, I asked him if he’d seen the hostel, and he said he was staying at the same one, and he pointed me in the right direction.

jackie desforges amsterdamThe next morning at breakfast, I saw him again; later that night, when I returned to the hostel after a day spent wandering through the art museums, he was chatting with a few other travelers on the stairs in the courtyard. Later, he told me he’d been sitting there hoping I’d pass by.

We spent the evening traipsing through bar after bar, wandering the streets while I probably rambled on about art museums, eventually stopping in the park long after midnight to catch our breath and lay down and enjoy the beautiful summer weather.

He convinced me to stay in Amsterdam for one extra day. I changed my train ticket and we found a room on a houseboat on one of the canals. We toured the Heineken brewery and stumbled through more bars, and he tried to convince me to stay even longer, to cancel the Vienna portion of my trip and stay with him until it was time for me to head back to the US.

I refused. It was my first trip alone and I didn’t want to derail my first independent foray into the world just because I had met some guy — no matter how cute he was. For some reason, I was so terrified that I might never get to travel to Europe ever again, and so I didn’t want to ruin my only chance to see all of the cities and art I wanted so badly to see.

jackie desforges amsterdamSo I went on to Vienna, and I hated it. I was lonely and there was no one to talk to, and the streets were ugly and I was tired of art museums. I wished I had stayed in Amsterdam. Eight years later, I still wish I had stayed in Amsterdam.

I don’t think anything serious would have happened between us, but I don’t understand why I was so scared to change my plans, or why I was so stubborn about traveling alone. Why did I think that would be my only chance to do so?

Now, about a dozen visits to Europe later, I got to see Amsterdam for a second time. My suitcase and shoes were both more manageable, though I did still get lost on my way to the hotel. As I wandered through the streets — alone this time — I recognized a few of the places we’d wandered past together. The people were just as friendly as I remember, but the flower market had gotten more crowded and more touristy. There are still bikes surrounding you everywhere you go, and crossing the street without getting hit is almost an art form.

On this trip, instead of seeking out art museums, I wanted to be outside. I visited the famous Keukenhof Garden (only open for 6 weeks every year); I stopped by the sample sale of a local designer and got $300 boots for $50 (more non-blistering shoes!); I sought out a doughnut shop I’d seen on Pinterest; I passed by the Anne Frank museum (still too long of a line to get in); I popped into a few ceramics stores; I had a beer on a patio in the sunshine.

jackie desforges amsterdamThis past weekend’s trip was the one I had imagined when I was twenty — a relaxing, quiet, independent weekend in a beautiful European city, completely free of anyone telling me where to go or what to do — but I’m really glad it wasn’t the trip I got back then. That first weekend in Amsterdam is one of the best memories of my life, and I imagine it could have been even better if I’d been more willing to derail my plans for a few days.

The fact that no cute guy popped around the corner to help me out this time around reminded me how rare those encounters are, how it’s not actually normal to meet someone like that every time you venture out by yourself — and if you do, you should probably go with the flow.

I used to think that traveling by yourself meant that you have to be by yourself the entire time, and I was terrified that if I let someone else dictate even just some of my plans, it would somehow make me weaker or less independent.

jackie desforges amsterdamI actually saw Amsterdam Boy again about two years ago. Turns out we both ended up in Brooklyn, about a mile away from each other, and we came across each other via another chance encounter: this time, it was a dating app. We met up for a drink and marveled at how strange it was to run into each other by chance TWICE in a lifetime, on two different continents.

“It’s such a good story,” he told me, and I agreed, admitting that I’d often relayed it to groups of friends whenever the topic of epic travel stories came up. I’ve never written about it here — my most intense travel stories are the hardest for me to write about (read: the entirety of my Central America trip) — but revisiting Amsterdam this weekend made it impossible for me not to relive this one all over again.

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Glacier3000Someone recently asked me why I didn’t decide to call these job-related posts Work Perks instead of Job Perks. The answer? Of all the terrible dad-jokes and unnecessary rhymes that have ever crossed my mind, somehow this one never did. Also, never a good idea to encourage me to propagate dad jokes — this could easily spiral out of hand.

Anyway, my most recent job perk is the weekend trip I took to Switzerland to film some social media content. Here are a few brief glimpses — I’m saving my longer recaps for the videos/posts I have to put together for work because, you know, that’s the part I’m getting paid for.

IMG_9107Glacier3000Despite the fact that mountains and heights tend to scare me, the whole Glacier3000 experience was my favorite part of the trip. We took a cable car up to the Glacier3000 area, where there is skiing, a peak walk on a suspension bridge, dog sledding, Europe’s highest bobsled coaster (in the summer), two restaurants, and, because it’s Switzerland, a watch shop. I rode a ski lift for the first time (!) and walked across that suspension bridge even though every part of me was screaming NOPE the entire time.

GstaadGstaad was basically a fairytale town. And yes, you are correct: the driver of this horse-drawn carriage ride is, in fact, a dog.

Mount Rigi hotelOn Mount Rigi, which is just outside of Lucerne, we stayed in a hotel on top of the mountain. The hotel is known for its wellness activities and spa, and since the weather was so bad, we got to enjoy the spa for ourselves! (The good weather option for this day had been a hike, so needless to say, I embraced the bad weather wholeheartedly).

GoldenPass Line GoldenPass LineI rode a few trains on this trip, my favorite being the scenic GoldenPass Line. I’ve ridden it twice before, and it never gets old.

Next work trip: Amsterdam to see Keukenhof Garden!

More Job Perks:
A Week in France
15 Trains & 22 Cities in 10 Days

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French Lessons: Funny Words

by Jackie D on March 17, 2017

Today’s lesson is brief: I keep a note in my phone of all the little funny French words I’ve come across so far. I see them on signs or hear them in passing, or discover them while Google-translating a coworker’s e-mail. They all make me smile.

La poubelle: trash (I still think it’s so funny that the word for trash is straight-up gorgeous)

Pourboire: a tip (literally translates to: “for drinking,” because I guess in France people are honest about what tips are used for)

Trombone: paperclip (because paperclips look like little trombones)

Avocat: lawyer/avocado (these are the same word! what!)

Coucou: this is a greeting/term of endearment that my coworkers often use in e-mails, and I find it absolutely adorable

Cauchemars: nightmares (I learned this word during a conversation with a coworker, and it came up during an exercise in French class and I was like, “oh! Nightmares!” and my teacher looked at me like, you have the reading level of a six year old but you know what the French word for nightmares is?)

Etoile de mer: starfish (literally: star of the sea)

Guimauve: marshmallow 

Depaysement: describes the feeling of being in another country (full disclosure: I saw this one on Instagram when I was having a bad day and straight up cried on the metro)

Bague (a ring) and vague (a wave): because I always mix them up. Constantly telling girls I like their waves

Rire: to laugh (my favorite word in any language)

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