Solo Flight: A Day in Amsterdam

Prinsengracht, Amsterdam May 2014

"I read so I can live more than one life in more than one place..." - Anne Tyler

My fondness of reading is actually brought  by my passion for travelling. I read because it takes me to a lot of different places, mostly to those where I haven't been to. I like forming images in my head and try to imagine how a place has been described and how the characters felt on those places. It is a different feeling once you've actually seen and experienced what you have read come into life. It's like stepping into the shoes of one of the characters and reliving the moments in a story.

I have read several books whereby the story or some parts of it has Amsterdam as its setting. So imagine my excitement when I have finally booked my flight to Amsterdam! I have already made mental notes on what I have to see based on the books I have read. I had a day by myself to explore Amsterdam so I decided to take this day to go to these places.

First was 'The Diary of a Young Girl' by Anne Frank. I actually just read it a month prior to my trip as I didn't want to visit the Anne Frank House without reading her diary. Reading it and just knowing a few details of it are entirely different. You will fully capture the gist of the house's story once you have read her diary. Good thing I was able to find an available slot and book a ticket online as the queue for this gets crazy long all day!

The Anne Frank House

It felt surreal to be actually inside Anne Frank's house. It was like walking through the pages of her diary and my mind was suddenly giving me flashbacks of what Anne has written. I was imagining what it must have been like for her, so young and full of dreams, to be trapped within the confines of this building they have called 'home' for a while.

It was more than just a house, it is a timeless story, a living reminder of what happened in the past and for us to not allow it to happen again. It is a living history on its own, through its walls, its floors. It holds so much story to tell.

Standing right outside The Anne Frank House

263 Prisengracht

Anne Frank Monument

Photography was not allowed inside so I bought some postcards of the bookcase that covered their hideout. The actual ring binders were still there. There were also some preserved pages of her diary on display.

Some pages from Anne's diary

The Bookshelf

Although they have made some renovations on it to convert it into a museum, it is still exactly as what Anne had written to be. This is definitely something not to be missed when you visit Amsterdam.

I have also read John Green's 'The Fault in Our Stars' (TFIOS) before flying to Amsterdam. He has also written about the Anne Frank House where Hazel Grace and Gus (the main characters) went to. As I was ascending through the steep stairs leading to the third floor of the house, I couldn't imagine how Hazel Grace was able to do it. She has very poor lungs and any little, physical effort that she would try to exert would be such a pain. At the back of my mind, I was thinking how in the world was she able to get up with her tank?! I have a healthy body but climbing those stairs was really a physical challenge for anyone, let alone Hazel Grace.

Cruising the waterways is a classic Amsterdam experience that I didn't miss to do. The book's movie adaptation was shown shortly after I have visited Amsterdam. Although they didn't take the cruise on the book, they've done it in the movie, perhaps to give a more romantic effect on the movie screen. So I decided to try the 'Canal Tour'. It might be something nice to be done with someone special. I was actually the only lonesome passenger on board amongst a group of couples. 

Cruising along Amsterdam

It was a beautiful sunny day of Spring so the views around the canals were fantastic. Amsterdam is like a painting brought to life.

While I was doing my research on places to see around Amsterdam, I have read about the famous 'Skinny Bridge'. Legend has it that couples who kiss on this bridge will be together for a long time. I wasn't aware that the part of our tour will actually be passing by this bridge. Once the captain announced about the bridge's story, I started looking around if anyone among the couples would actually kiss. The old couple in front of me started giggling, like old high school sweethearts. The man was nudging his wife for a kiss but the wife was too shy. I was about to look away when the man stole a kiss from his wife's lips just when we were about to make a turn away from the bridge. It was the purest form of affection I have ever seen, way better than romantic movies. I had a smile on my face and thought that it was the best part of the tour.

The Skinny Bridge

Going back to Hazel Grace and Gus's story from TFIOS, they also had long walks around the canals at night on their way to the Oranjee restaurant. Apparently, the restaurant was made up, despite all my efforts in trying to find it. It wasn't clearly mentioned too which canal they were at, there are a lot of nice spots near the canals anywhere in Amsterdam. The view at night is spectacular, with the street lights reflecting on the waters.

Amsterdam by night

John Green has also mentioned about the Vondelpark, one of the popular parks of Amsterdam.

The park is massive! I wasn't able to go around it. But it was a good spot to just rest after several minutes of walking. Everyone was out and about. A good day indeed to stroll around the park after a few days of rain.

I wasn't able to recall the part where they had coffee inside this park though. Nevertheless, even if it wasn't written on any book, I would still have visited this famous park.

Without actually giving an effort to find it, I stumbled upon this food vending machine called Febo that I have also read from one of Gayle Forman's novel 'Just One Day'. I actually forgot about this one yet I wrote it down on the things I will check out in Amsterdam when I was reading the book. 

Febo Food Vending Machine
Too bad I didn't have any change with me to try it out for myself. It's a famous fast food/vending machine in Amsterdam. Pretty convenient especially for having a quick bite.


On my last day at Amsterdam, I still haven't got the chance to find the hotel where the author John Green had stayed while writing his novel and in which he mentioned in the book where Hazel Grace and Gus stayed as well. The main reason why they went to Amsterdam was to find Van Houten, the author of An Imperial Affliction, which was Hazel Grace's favourite book. She wanted to meet the author face to face to ask him questions about the ending of the story. I already researched beforehand if Van Houten's house was a real address but apparently it was not. I asked my cousin to come with me to find the hotel instead. I can't leave Amsterdam without seeing it! 

The street were Van Houten apparently lived.

I was able to chat with some of the hotel staff. There were also a lot of fans of the book (like me) who came to visit this hotel. They even had a guestbook dedicated to the fans of the book. They were even offering to show us the actual room where John Green had stayed in but it was booked at that time. 

Perhaps Amsterdam will always be one of my favourite cities. Apart from its timeless canals, this city is so vibrant and tells a lot of story. It is indeed even more beautiful in real life than what I have read it to be.