I met my friend Lauren in cosmetology school years ago, We quickly bonded over our love of House and Techno music, specifically Deep Dish. As I said, it was years ago! We were even roommates for a year after school. So when she messaged me and said she wanted to come to visit, I was over the moon! We had not seen each other in about 6 years since she stood by my side as a bridesmaid at our wedding. I mean, we had not even a conversation on the phone, not because of any falling out, just because life can get away from you.

I have to admit I was a bit anxious because what if we had changed so much that we didn’t have that “thing” that made us equally weird and awesome when we were together anymore? What if there are awkward moments? I decided that I didn’t care. I was so excited to see her. She only had a week here in the Netherlands, and we couldn’t go anywhere else. Because the following week we were leaving for Croatia. I was determined to give her the best week here in Utrecht and Amsterdam I could!

Lauren is a flight attendant, so she was able to decide to come about a week before she actually came. It doesn’t always work out that way, though¸ I didn’t have much time to plan, so I quickly made a list of my favorite places. She also was coming during a perfect week, Amsterdam Dance Event. The world’s best DJs were playing at parties all over Amsterdam and all times of the day! Given our love of the music, we knew we would be hitting an event.

Lauren’s flight got in around 6am on a Tuesday, I told her where to hang out until I could get to the airport around 7. When I got there, I was excited, anxious, and many other feelings were fluttering through me. I walked over to LaPlace, where she was waiting with headphones and having tea. When I tapped her on the shoulder, we caught the attention of everyone around us. We both squealed like a five-year-old on Christmas morning. Hugging each other, breaking to squeal, then more hugging. Finally, I was like we have to go, “we are officially the loud Americans at the airport.”

On the train ride from the Schipol to Utrecht, I was relieved. We did not miss a beat. It was like we had been in touch the whole time. I was getting more excited by the minute. The first day someone comes to visit is always the easiest. Not too much planning needs to go into it, because well, jet lag. We came back to my place, dropped her bags, refreshed ourselves, and decided just to stroll around Utrecht and grab brunch. There are a couple of restaurants that have good brunch, my favorite by far is Street Food Club. We just laughed and caught up and had the best avocado toast. Then more strolling and showing her the charm of Utrecht. That evening when we went to dinner at The Sandwich Club with Rob and Z, Rob suggested we take bikes. Lauren didn’t bat an eye. I was impressed because if you have been here, you know how intimidating it is at first to ride a bike to get around.

Day two, we were going into Amsterdam, the only plan we had was to shop around and go to A’DAM Lookout. It’s a rooftop bar with swings that raise you up, and you swing out over Amsterdam. We strolled around, taking in the beauty of Amsterdam. We even stopped to facetime two of my favorite people, Lauren’s parents, until it was time to catch the ferry to A’DAM. After boarding the ferry, we quickly became aware we were on the wrong one! We knew we were going to have to just go with the ride. Hopefully, it wasn’t taking us too far because we did have to be at the Lookout by 15:00 (3pm). It was not great weather, but something happens when Lauren and I are together, we find the positive in EVERYTHING. It is my favorite thing about us. We ended up going across the harbor where these really amazing ships and even a submarine were all around. All while dancing to our own little soundtrack Lauren had playing on her phone. We were literally dancing in the rain like no one was watching.

We made our way back, found the right ferry, and arrived at the Lookout just in time. I was honestly hoping we would get there in time to have a bit of liquid courage in the form of wine before heading to the swings, we did not. When you get to the Lookout, you go up the stairs to the elevator, which is basically a rave in elevator form. It’s a very cool light show with great music all the way to the top. There you will find a bar inside with panoramic views, there is also a bar outside for when the weather is nice. You then take your cue for the swing. I was hoping there would be someone going ahead of us to give me time to hype myself up. Alas, that was not the case. As we sat in our swings, I began to shake all over, almost in tears, I said I changed my mind. I could not do this! I have a kid, I don’t want to die today! (Not dramatic at all!) Lauren was so fearless, she was not going to let me back out. She gave me her hand, and the swing started lifting us up; with my face buried in Lauren’s arm, I could hear her saying, “You have to look, this is incredible!”

Finally, I lifted my head; she was right. The view was breathtaking. I could not believe I was swinging out over Amsterdam! We threw our hands up, laughing and taking it in. The swings only last one minute, I can honestly say I would do it again. After a few photo ops, it was time to get that glass of wine and a snack.

Day Two, we woke up a bit late because we “accidentally” sat up drinking wine and talking early into the morning. I was going to take her to Haarlem. However, after a plodding start, we decided we were going to take it easy and go to Kastel De Haar instead. Lauren had never seen a real castle, and it was right here in Utrecht. It was a perfect lazy day strolling through the castle and around the grounds. It’s a beautiful castle. I highly recommend checking it out when visiting Utrecht.

Day Three, we were most excited about. We had bought tickets to a boat party in Amsterdam. We had to pick a day event because it can be a bit tough to get back to Utrecht from Amsterdam at four in the morning when the night parties end. If I am being honest, that seems exhausting. We were not 22 anymore! While we were excited about it, there was another party we had our eye on. Unfortunately, it was sold out. Lauren’s friend messaged her and said he had gotten us on the guestlist, though! We could not believe it! Two of our favorite Dj’s Nick Warren and Hernan Cattaneo were playing together for nine hours, and it was a day time party! We were stoked. We tossed the boat party tickets (it was too late to try to sell them) and enjoyed mimosa’s and a cheese plate while we danced around getting ready. The next nine hours were incredible. We danced and danced, stopping only for water and beer breaks. We even got to go behind the DJ booth and finished the day off dancing with Nick and Hernan! It was a perfect day.

Day Four, we took it real easy. I mean we did spend all day dancing until we couldn’t dance anymore. Lauren even got to meet some of our friends here.

Day Five I was really looking forward to. We had other friends from the states who had come into town the day before and were staying in Amsterdam. So I planned what I think is a perfect day in Amsterdam for the four of us.

Lauren and I met with Rob and Aisha at Starting at Jacob for Brunch. It was my first time going here, on the recommendation of someone from an ex-pat Facebook group I am in. It did not disappoint. If you are in Amsterdam, this is the place for Brunch. We all just caught up and enjoyed fantastic food, complete with bloody marys and mimosa. It was time to make our way to the Moco Museum. One of my favorite museums in Amsterdam. It’s a modern art museum and houses Banksy, Warhol, as well as many other rotating artists. We took our time strolling through the museum admiring all of the fantastic pieces.

Amsterdam is a small city, actually. It is very walkable. So we took our time making our way to Cafe Wester, which is the meeting point for Those Dam Boat Guys. The absolute BEST canal cruise in Amsterdam. It’s much smaller than the others, you take your own drinks and snacks on the boat. There is a shop right next to Cafe Wester, where you can buy wine, prosecco, and beer. Those Dam Boat guys have their own beer you can get here as well. It’s perfect. We gathered our supplies and met our guide.

Your guide takes you to meet your captain at the boat, which is about a five-minute walk from the cafe. The cruise lasts about an hour and a half. This was my 4th time doing the tour. Every time I had a different captain, and every time, the journey has been different than the last. Be prepared to laugh until your stomach hurts, make new friends, and learn a ton of interesting facts about Amsterdam and it’s history. One of the things I love about this cruise is how relaxed it is. You can ask all the questions you want, and there is a lot of getting off track, but it is what makes it so fun! Rob and Aisha live in Denver, and the other people on our cruise were also from Denver, so we were already off to a fun start.

About twenty minutes in, one of the Denver guys said he saw something that looked like a wallet or purse floating in the water. Without hesitation, our captain Julian turned the boat around and went back. The guys fished what turned out to be a wallet out of the canal. Captain Julian found something with the name of the owner, which led to him finding her on social media. The guy from Denver who spotted the wallet was able to personally hand it to her when we finished the cruise at the dock! I genuinely love this city and Those Dam Boat Guys!

Our final stop in Amsterdam was to a tiny but great beer bar called Uiltje. They have only beers brewed in the Netherlands and an extensive selection. We sat and laughed, shared cheese plates, and several beers before it was time to part ways.

The next day and last day, at the airport, Lauren went one way to head back to the states, and Rob, Z, and I went to meet Rob and Aisha to head to Croatia. As we hugged goodbye. I was almost in tears. So thankful for the friendship that I made all those years ago in cosmetology school. Grateful that no matter how much time or distance had been between us, we were still, in fact, us. The awesomely weird friends who love to dance, be silly, and find the positive in everything.

Stay tuned for more Adventures of Rob, Z, and I… and maybe a few friends.

“A thing is mighty big when time and distance can not shrink it”- Zora Neale Hurston

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