21 Jun 2018

Amsterdam, The Netherlands (April 2018)

When I first suggested to Mum that we went away for a city break again, after Salzburg last year, we couldn’t think of anywhere we both really wanted to go together. After much consideration of Dublin (too much Guinness) and Copenhagen (too much money), I suggested getting high and getting selfies with dildos in Amsterdam. 

It was settled. Amsterdam.

The flight to Amsterdam from Stansted took 40 minutes. I could fly to Amsterdam quicker than I could go from south to north London on my morning train commute. I told my mum this approx 35 times when we landed in Amsterdam. 40 minutes.

We took the train from the airport to Amsterdam Centraal - €3.30 for a single ticket - and arrived at our hotel, A-Train, before lunchtime. Our hotel was (clue’s in the name) opposite the station which was incredibly handy. In hindsight, I need to stop being so obsessed with finding hotels that are easy for transportation to and from airports, because it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re near to the main sights. Despite Amsterdam being a small city, it felt like walking anywhere took a g e s from the station. 

We quickly realised that Amsterdam is full of bikes. “No shit”, I hear you think, but no. Really. The bike situation is out of hand in Amsterdam. I feared for my life. The bikes rule the roads. They rule the pavements. They rule the canals and skies and seas. Combined with the streets being small and narrow and very similar, I very quickly felt quite claustrophobic.

Battling our way from top to bottom, we made our way to the Rijksmuseum and Iamsterdam sign, going full tourist within our first few hours. It was absolutely impossible to take decent photos of the Iamsterdam sign with the hoards of people around, in and on it. 

Top tip: if you really want good photos of the sign, go to the other one by the A’dam lookout, by the station. There is no one there.

For lunch, we sat in the cafe by the popular Iamsterdam sign and had Old Amsterdam sandwiches filled with pesto, Old Amsterdam cheese, chutney and walnuts. It was damn good and damn expensive. 

After doing much more wandering through Vondelpark and creeping down the Red Light District for the first time with gasps of, “Don’t look but look left, there’s someone in that window I SAID DON’T LOOK did you see her?”, we went to Grizzly for dinner, which was basically a mini TGI Fridays. You can’t go traditional all the time. 

The next morning, Wednesday, we beelined straight to the Museum of Prostitution which is right in the middle of the Red Light District. It’s very good. You get an audio guide voiced by a sex worker and can wander around the museum for a good hour or so. It’s FASCINATING and so worth it. You learn a lot and see a lot and think a lot.

After a coffee stop (steady), we wandered down to Albert Cuypmarkt to find some tat and eat some stroopwafel for lunch. I don’t know where the ‘best’ place to get stroopwafels is, but this was damn good and would do.

We had tickets for the Anne Frank House booked for 16:45. IF YOU WANT TO VISIT THE ANNE FRANK HOUSE, BOOK MONTHS IN ADVANCE. I cannot stress this enough. Do your research, experience the stress. Tickets sell out in MINUTES when they become available two months in advance of the date you want to visit. We missed out with the standard tickets so had to buy ‘introductory program’ tickets which, in my opinion, are way better anyway. They're €15.50 each (slightly more expensive than a standard ticket), you get to skip the queue, and you get a half hour talk from a guide about Anne Frank before heading into the house. I thought I knew a fair amount about Anne Frank… turns out I had a lot more to learn. These tickets are available two weeks in advance and either way, you HAVE to book tickets online. You cannot queue on the day in person. 

After buying a selection of Tony’s Chocoloney bars from a supermarket and hiding them at the bottom of our bags so we wouldn’t eat them, we made our way to the Anne Frank House. We spent a good few hours there. It’s busy but it’s worth it. Annoyingly, they didn’t have Anne’s actual diary there during their refurbishment of the place, only a replica, but the place is a must-do all the same. Make the effort with the tickets.

For dinner, we went to Ashoka and had one of the best (and cheap) curries I’ve ever had. You get so much free food INCLUDING the rice, and the staff were so lovely. Highly, highly recommend if you want a decent curry in Amsterdam. 

As Ashoka was in the middle of the Red Light District, we took the opportunity to walk around at night. It’s busy and kinda weird but also great and definitely an experience. Within a few hours of being in Amsterdam you get used to the sex workers in the windows. It was way more odd seeing them during the day, but at night it was pretty cool to just walk up and down and watch what was going on.

On Thursday morning we popped around the corner to the Sex Museum. Friends, it is not for the faint-hearted. It is a massive building full of porn and dildos. It’s tacky and explicit and great, but if you’re with your mum, prepare yourself. I talk to my mum about anything and everything - I volunteer for Brook, the sexual health and wellbeing charity for young people - but even I felt like a prudish Victorian who wanted to deny the existence of my fanny and knowledge of dicks completely. It’s fun (and cheap at €5) but my gosh, read the room before you go in.

We needed something completely not-porn after the Sex Museum, so dived straight back into awful history and found the Anne Frank monument and Homomonument in the pouring rain. Balance is everything.

Back when I was 18, I used to work at Waitrose (this is relevant, I promise) and the first friend I made was Braby. Braby (Alex [Alexandra]) started on the same day as me, had the same shifts as me, and was exactly a year younger than me (by a day). We were very good friends. Braby now lives in Amsterdam for her nerdy word politics or something degree so we met up after many years apart and it was very cute and very wholesome. Aside from introducing us to some local experiences *look to camera*, she let us have a go on her bike (down a quiet side street where we could do no harm to ourselves or others). That was that box ticked.

The afternoon saw us in the Van Gogh museum which was alright if you like art. I’m not bothered by art. But some of it was nice, I guess? Then we went to Moeders.

Moeders opened in 1990. On opening night, the owner asked everyone to bring crockery and cutlery with them to use and leave there. These are the same pieces the restaurant uses today. Moeders has also collected framed photos of mothers over the past 28 years and the walls are smothered in them. You can still bring photos in and they’ll find space. It’s cool, and the food is good! It’s the only traditionally Dutch meal we had in Amsterdam and I’m glad we chose Moeders for it.

Friday, our last day, was typically the sunniest and warmest day. This obviously required a canal trip. There are a fair few companies to choose from in Amsterdam, predictably, but we chose Friendship Amsterdam where you get drinks and blankets. Our guides were great (and fit) and the tour of the canals lasted an hour. Highly recommend. 

The Moco Museum, next to the Van Gogh museum, had Banksy and Roy Lichtenstein exhibitions on in April. This was my kind of art and it was GREAT. I looked at every piece of art and READ THE DESCRIPTIONS and everything. 

We decided to have a proper meal mid-afternoon to fill us up for our flight in the evening and stumbled on Saturnino, an Italian restaurant. It was fantastic. The wine was good, the meals were ace, and the free bread was perfect. We were really lucky with all our meals in Amsterdam. None of them were mega expensive and they were all of wonderful quality with lovely staff. 

After buying some classic Old Amsterdam cheese to go with our Tony’s Chocoloney, we headed to A’DAM Lookout. This is too expensive for what it is: going up a fancy lift to the top of a building where you can see the whole of Amsterdam but the skyline of Amsterdam isn’t a sight to see anyway and you can’t see the canals, so??? But we’d run out of things to do and had some money left over. We skipped the chance (and queues) of the big swing at the top that hangs over the side of the building, and just had a glass of wine each in plastic cups as we tried to keep our hair in control in the wind for a bit… It’s not really worth it unless you want a go on the swing. 

Then, we got the train back to the airport and flew home. In 40 minutes. Did I mention it takes just FORTY minutes? Unbelievable. 

Amsterdam can be super expensive and super busy (especially at the weekends), and you have to be prepared if you want to do the legit touristy stuff. They also prefer card over cash which is annoying and weird. But it’s a really cool place and I’d like to go back with Ryan for more exploring, and a trip to the windmills and tulip fields. You can make Amsterdam as tacky or as wholesome as you like. Just mind the bikes.

No comments :

Post a Comment