On my way to Spain, my flight started from Manila to Taipei. From Taipei, it was a 12 ½ hour long-haul flight to Amsterdam. With a few hours to spare in the Amsterdam Airport Schipol before my next flight to Madrid, I decided to head downtown and see what Amsterdam had to offer.
Although I am usually happy to stay in airport cafes to watch people and write, I was enticed by an outing downtown. Amsterdam Schipol Airport is well connected, with only three stops taking you directly to the heart of down town Amsterdam. I was jetlagged and sleepless, but I desperately wanted to stretch my legs and walk. I deposited my carry-on bags in the airport locker and took the train.
Feeling overwhelmed and uncertain where I was headed, I asked the guy standing next to me. Lucky for me, Robert kindly entertained my question on which train to take. He was non-committal though on where I should go for the best breakfast in Amsterdam. He said was just bread and coffee. Our conversation then progressed to Asian breakfasts involving rice. Robert was fascinated by the concept of rice for breakfast on his recent trips to Thailand and Cambodia. “So what do you do?” I ask Robert. I wasn’t surprised when he told me he was a Finance guy. I got off the train when he did. “Just keep going straight he told me,” Robert told me as he bid me goodbye and walked off to work. But I stood right outside the Amsterdam Centraal station in awe even just by the building of the train station.
It was early in the morning. The air was nippier than I had expected. I smile at iconic Dutch images like the wooden shoes and tulips in stores. The foodie in me melted at the sight of Old Amsterdam Cheese store, devoted to hundreds of Dutch cheeses. But I did not even tempt myself. I knew it would be impossible for me to walk away from the store, without buying wheels of cheeses I could not bring with me to Spain.
In the train, I asked Robert if selfie sticks were allowed in Amsterdam. He smiled, “Everything is allowed here.” He wasn’t kidding. I remembered his comment when I saw the Sex Museum.
I continue walking until I reach the Royal Palace of Amsterdam. There I stood in the plaza in awe. The sky was the perfect hue of blue. Dating back to 1648, originally built in the Dutch golden century, today this Palace is one of the three palaces used by Dutch Monarch. It is used for state visits and official functions, with exhibits open to the public twice a year.
Traveling solo and still resisting the use of selfie stick, I survey the crowd seeking a potential photographer to hand my phone to for a photo. I spot a mom of three toddlers and hand her my phone. She utters some words I could not comprehend. I nod and thank her profusely.
Now feeling the cold temperature, my injured knee complaining, and my tummy demanding for breakfast, I walked back to the train station. But before I left, as if on queue, this truck stopped before me to ask me a question, “See you again?”
The answer is a big resounding, “Yes!” My quick stopover was unplanned. If I had planned it, I could have had breakfast with friend Ginger and Xavier living there, or researched places to eat, or even what to see. Thanks to KLM’s inflight magazine’s map, the friendly flight attendant who encouraged me to head downtown, and the helpful Schipol Airport information guy, I went for a quick walk in downtown Amsterdam. Given more time, I would have hit the Van Gogh museum.
Before leaving Amsterdam Airport Schipol, I buy a box of Stroopwaffels. Filled with caramel, it was perfect souvenir of my short and sweet stopover in Amsterdam. And when given a choice to sit it out in an airport for hours or go on adventure, here’s my piece of advice. Live a little. Take a little excursion. Go stretch your legs. Talk to a stranger. Feed your tired eyes with a gorgeous building to see. Experience something new. I did.
Life is short. And if you’re stopover is long, go for it. Just make sure, don’t miss your connecting flight!
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