After picking up our bags and snapping the obligatory shot of the city’s gigantic welcome sign, the first thing you notice about Amsterdam are all the bikes.

They’re everywhere, and when I say everywhere I’m talking every nook and cranny. They’re clustered together in a big metallic heap by all the ferry entrances, they’re occupying even more parking spots than their four-wheel counterparts, and just when you begin feeling okay about crossing the street, someone will whiz by you and quickly remind you of your own mortality.

Yes, in stark contrast to the States where bikers rarely catch a break in their own lane, they rule the road in Amsterdam, thank you very much.

Now I’ve never been much of a biker outside the safe confines of a gym but it didn’t take long for me to appreciate the cleaner air and decidedly quieter traffic. Plus, watching people attempt to pedal and text, well, that’s entertainment nearly as thrilling and dangerous as a first-rate action movie. Like an overprotective mother, I wanted to take several people aside and remind them “it can wait,” but then again I didn’t speak Dutch or German so…

Since I was much too chicken to take in this new city on two wheels (I left that to my daredevil husband who absolutely loved it), I opted for my two legs and found so much to admire along the way. Amsterdam is such a walkable city, and there’s something beautiful to see with every step. Whether it’s the canals filled with the bluest water you’ve ever seen or the rows of colorful houses that slope to the right, it’s a city practically begging you take its picture. And since the air had the faintest bit of chill, it was the perfect place to wear a sweater and a scarf and take it all in.

Like most of the places we visited in Europe, the locals are really proud of the city they call home, and that definitely came through in their hospitality. They were so excited for us to see and experience their hometown, and everyone from the concierge at our hotel to the captain of the boat cruise we took one evening to the local restaurant owners were more than happy, giddy even, to point out where we had to go—the places on, and off, the beaten path.

So in addition to the Rijks Museum and Will’s pilgrimage to the Anne Frank House, we went to some incredible restaurants (more on that in a future post), coffee shops and even got the best view of the city by climbing up the steep, creaky and wind-y, wind-y stairs of Westerkerk Church. Given that I’m afraid of heights and enclosed spaces, I felt like I was on the requisite trust-exercise date on The Bachelor.

But instead of repelling down a skyscraper or bungee jumping off a cliff, I would climb flight after flight of creaky, tightly coiled circular staircases until we reached the tippy, tippy top. And if I could make it through despite all my fear and inner protesting, that would mean that Will and I were truly “meant to be” because we accomplished it together. Or at least that’s how things roll on The Bachelor.

Since Will and I have been married for 10 years now and aren’t competing on a reality TV show, however, he didn’t care that he made it all the way up, and I was safely 15 steps or so behind. As it turns out, the last set of steps were the worst of them all, and Will snapped some incredible shots with his iPhone in my absence. All was well, and I made it safely back to steady ground while (almost) conquering two fears in the process.

Just to give you a visual, this was what I was dealing with…

IMG_2930Looks like fun, huh?

Despite not really enjoying the trek up those stairs, I really loved our time in Amsterdam and would love to go back someday. While there are certainly seedier realities that I’ll never forget seeing up close and personal, there was also so much loveliness all around in Amsterdam. It was a fantastic beginning to a month chock full of memorable moments, that’s for sure.