After the usual early morning start (why do all my trips begin with a flight that leaves before 6am??), and the miraculous checking in of 46kg of luggage without charge, I had more than 6 hours between flights in Amsterdam. What with the trains being so very Dutch, I managed to spend most of the time wandering around the city, and in just a few hours I managed to catch many classic Dutch sights, including the amazing balancing act of an entire family on one bike and tourists being nearly run down by trams and bikes. Of course I also managed to wander into one of the redlight districts. Much like the first time I went to Amsterdam, it was mid-morning and I hadn't meant to be there. Most of the windows were unoccupied, but I did see one girl dressed and in her window, flicking between channels on an ancient tv. It was also good to see the fabulously well-dressed women on their creaky ancient bikes, and peek into apartments with curtains that are never shut.
I've always been glad I lived in Utrecht for my exchange year, rather than Amsterdam, and I had mixed feelings about the various day trips there. I still think the Damrak is one of the tackiest roads ever, but Amsterdam is a great place for wandering. Watching the city wake up on a Sunday morning really suited my groggy sleep-deprived state – and the very typically Dutch sandwich and strong coffee I had in Neiuwmarkt went a long way to restoring normal function.
Overall, it was a brilliant start to the trip. And a timely reminder that, after the initial culture shock and homesickness, I really did feel at home in the Netherlands.