My sister and I went to Amsterdam for a weekend to run the half marathon there. We like to run, but admittedly, we were also looking for an excuse for a quick getaway. Amsterdam is a great city for such an escape. Actually, it’s a great city, period. I do recall saying, “I could live here.” I was never quite sure whether I was really loving Amsterdam, or if it was reminding me so much of Copenhagen that it was pulling at my heartstrings with a little extra tug.
Our trip also happens to be a particularly good example of how one can choose to travel more responsibly. If you’re wondering what that means, you could look at responsible travel as the opposite of mass tourism. It’s about respecting the environment and the local people in the place you are visiting. Treading more lightly, benefiting the local economy and not leaving a negative impact. It is far more complicated than that, but this post will give some examples. Unfortunately, the post that will follow this one (our trip to Tenerife, in the Canary Islands) will give a slightly contrasting view of responsible travel…because I guess, sometimes, you just need a beachside resort. <Sigh>
First of all, we decided to take the train to Amsterdam. Slower, but a lot more fun. We boarded the Eurostar at St. Pancras International station, in London. it was about 2 hours to Brussels. Then we took the Thalys train about another 1.5 hours to Amsterdam. Maybe they were running a special when we booked, but somehow we ended up with premium service (=food!) for the same price as standard. We weren’t complaining.
Secondly, we booked an apartment through Airbnb. I’ve mentioned this company before, because we have used it in Croatia, Montenegro, Bornholm and a few other places over the past few years. If you want to know more about why Airbnb is such a great choice for responsible travel read this. I love the opportunity to meet local people, ask them about their home town and to stay in a comfortable place that is a bit off-the-beaten-path. And look…they left us a bottle of wine. Awww…
We also rented bikes. It was about 10 Euros for a couple of days and is hands-down the best way to see a city like Amsterdam. I would have absolutely said the same thing about Copenhagen. If you visit a place that has remarkable bike-culture and do not get on a bike, you are missing a significant piece of the experience. Not only is biking environmentally friendly, but it also makes getting lost a little more bearable. Get on the wrong tram and it’s a rather expensive and timely mistake. If you go the wrong way on a bike, it’s all part of the tour.
This was my third time in Amsterdam and my sister’s second (I believe) so we skipped the Anne Frank house since we have both already been. The queue coiled its way along the canal on this gorgeous, Saturday afternoon, so we were happy to opt out. We chose canal strolls, market food and coffee breaks instead.
(We bought these sweet little clock lockets for our daughters.)
LOVE this 4-person bike we spotted along the side of the road. Even in a bike-heavy community, this is not something you see every day.
A hidden little museum gem is the ‘Our Lord in the Attic’ museum. Concealed in a 17th century canal house, is a secret church. In 1661, a merchant bought the house and converted it into a church, during a time when Catholic masses were forbidden. The museum is very well done, with an audio guide and an abundance of historical information about the church and the rest of the building, where the merchant lived with his family.
And of course there was also the matter of running 13 miles or so…
It was a trip of many good things.