3. The Jordaan
While the party town nature of Amsterdam makes it somewhere that I would never want to live, the charm and beauty of the Jordaan made it my absolute favorite neighborhood on this trip.
This segment of the city was built on and between four major canals that served to expand the city beyond the historical center during the “Golden Age” of the 16th and 17th Centuries. The area is now an upscale, but lively, community that abounds in charm is a pleasure to walk.
The main attraction of this area may very well be the canals, but the beautifully gabled row houses and the atmosphere created by all the cafes and bicycling locals give the area a unique quality that would be difficult to duplicate anywhere else.
The area is certainly not devoid of tourists (the Anne Frank House and Canal Tours bring a lot of people to the area), but the Jordaan still feels predominantly authentic, and it was a wonderful base for our time in the Netherlands. We spent the majority of our days in the Netherlands traveling to other towns, but it was always nice to come back to the Jordaan at night and find a café or just stroll along the canals and soak it all in.
The row houses were extremely picturesque - tall, thin, and sporting different types of gables. There were also several house boats docked along the canals.
The canals at night were especially pretty.
2. The Cinque Terre
The Cinque Terre (“five lands”, in Italian) is a collection of five cities built on a mountainous and rocky segment of land on the shores of the Ligurian Sea just south of Genoa. These cities were once quite remote, and they still can’t be accessed by car. There is a train that runs between the towns, and footpaths (some more difficult than others, as we found out) now connect the entire area. This area was the birthplace of pesto sauce, and it featured heavily on the menus of the seaside restaurants that we enjoyed over the two days we stayed in the Cinque Terre.
When we scheduled the Cinque Terre for our last stop on the trip, we knew that we would probably be exhausted from travelling and would welcome a place to enjoy beautiful scenery and get some rest before we headed back home. Well, we did get to experience some incredible scenery, but rest wasn’t exactly in the cards.
When we arrived on the train with our massive backpacks, we stopped at a local shop to ask where we could find our hotel, and we were greeted with a laugh and a simple point toward the ceiling. He told us to turn around the corner and take the stairs up to the top. When we turned the corner, we understood why he was laughing. The stairway was incredibly steep and seemed to go on forever (to add insult to injury, the portion that we could see turned out to be about a third of the total stairway). There are other stories that I could tell that involve a copious amount of stairs, but they probably only serve to make my wife angry with me again, so I will leave those for another time.
The area was insanely beautiful however, and probably the most beautiful stretch of sea coastline that I’ve ever seen. The footpaths afforded spectacular views, and the quaint nature of the towns and the nice people that we met provided a really nice setting for the end of our trip.