Cue 5am the next day, and Judy gently but desperately pleading Tiff and me to get out of bed - "Friends, please wake up" - and all of us learning a lesson in overestimating our ability to do early morning flights. Mildly miserable start, but we made it to Arlanda Airport without a hitch, and onto our flight/two-hour nap to Amsterdam smoothly.
We landed at around 10am, and got to Lucky Lake Hostel (a name to die for) around 12:30pm, getting picked up from the metro station by the hostel shuttle, driven by an employee who, whatever else her merits, had definitely not been hired for her driving abilities. On the ride to the hostel she somehow succeeded in hitting not merely one, but four, bollards on the side of the road, causing Tiff to see her life flash before her eyes and Judy and I - who hadn't seen what happened but heard the four successive loud thwacks - to wonder uneasily how much of the shuttle bus we would reach the hostel with still intact.
Lucky Lake Hostel is easily the most adorable hostel I've ever stayed at. It's exactly what it looked like in the pictures that convinced Judy and me that we had to book it, even if it's a little farther out from central Amsterdam. A cluster of pastel pink and blue and yellow and white trailers with communal picnic tables in the center, an outdoor kitchen, and a "breakfast bus," for, well, breakfast. It's just all so cute. The bollard-murdering employee who picked us up gave us a quick tour after we checked in and it took all my self-control not to burst from the cuteness when she said, "This is the breakfast bus." From what we could see, though, there's definitely a certain kind of people who stay at this hostel, something we all immediately noticed - and we are not it, it seems. Continuing the trend we started at Tranan in Stockholm of sticking out like a sore thumb wherever we go, or rather three sore thumbs clad in black North Face jackets.
First destination in Amsterdam once we recovered from the cuteness of the hostel and the trauma of the drive there was Winkel, for their famous apple pie. We shuttled back to Holandrecht Station (thankfully with a different driver this time), took the metro to Central Station, came out from underground, and stopped pretty well near speechless once we emerged outside. At first sight, Amsterdam is spectacular. The canals, the grandeur of Central Station, the whimsically crooked buildings with big, white-paned windows. Too, too much to take in.
Winkel is in the Jordaan district, which was once upon a time a poor district inhabited by working class people and struggling artists and came near to being completely destroyed after WWII, but which was saved by "a few impassioned individuals," thank goodness. Today it is a hip, thriving hub for young people, artists, and plenty of charming boutiques, bustling over with life. But back to Winkel. Their apple pies are celebrations of the art of baking, and the toasted sandwiches we ordered alongside them were like manna for our ravenous selves. We left extremely content.
There was a market right by Winkel, so we finished off our afternoon lunch by sampling every possible type of cheese in sight, and then exploring the rest of Jordaan. Judy and I stopped at one shop for fresh oysters - only 1.60 euros each, how does one resist - while Tiff inspected every real estate window we passed to figure out when and how she can move here.
The other sobering part of today: walking through a section of the red light district on our way back to Central Station. It wasn't too active when we went as it was still early in the evening, but I saw enough in the neon light windows to feel a weight on my heart. Not an easy part of town to walk through, but important, I think, to see it, confront it, be reminded of what is happening in this part - and many other parts - of the world.
Back to the hostel after that (and a quick couple of stops for some stroopwafels for coworkers to appease them for disappearing for two weeks and dumping all my work on them), and settling into our cosy but cold little trailer. Amsterdam feels totally, starkly different from Stockholm, much more touristy and chaotic, but I can't help liking it despite this.