Feb 28, 2013

Audacious Adventures in Amsterdam

Unlike when I went traveling to Paris, before I went to the lands of the Nether I didn't really have any preconceived ideas about what Amsterdam was going to be like. Although extremely naive and narrow minded that sounds, all I really had in mind was smoking weed, walking around the red light district and sitting in coffee shops all day. Instead of flying to Amsterdam, my friend Zoe managed to find a cheap and different way of getting there, which was by ferry. On a Thursday night, my three American pals and I jumped onto the overnight ferry from Newcastle which arrived in Amsterdam on Friday morning.

When we arrived, it was raining and continued to do so for most of our time there... In saying this, I loved Amsterdam so much in the end that I would say it is probably one of my favourite cities I have been to whilst in Europe that the rain didn't even matter. Contrary to what I thought Amsterdam was going to be, it is a beautiful city which is filled with lovely people and lovely buildings and lovely cafes all situated along lovely canals. When we reached the city from our coach the first thing I noticed was that there were bikes EVERYWHERE! ...seriously, everywhere. They even had U-Parks just for bikes it was pretty crazy.

When we arrived into the city, the four of us went off to find our apartment which ended up being a loft basically in the city centre. It was really funky, appropriately named 'funky chicken apartment' and the lady who owned it was super friendly and helpful. When we settled in, she showed us a number of things we can do on a map she gave us and then left us to experience the city. The first day we decided to walk around the city and get a feel for where everything was and what the city was like. It is safe to say that I was instantly in love, and remained in love with the city until we had to leave. Our apartment was surrounded by an abundance of funky cafes and bars and a short walk to everything. 

After walking around the city for a while, we scouted out the red light district to see what it was like followed by settling in at a cool lookin' bar. The red light district was actually much more confronting than I thought it would be, walking past the windows where girls would literally be doing anything to get a passing person's attention. I say person because they weren't shy to even give the girls a tap on the window or blow them a kiss. I later learned that the eldest prostitute working in the red light district is in her 80's, and we really did see girls of every shape, ethnicity and age... The bar we went to claimed to have over 100 dutch beer being sold so we thought it was a pretty good place to experience a bit of Dutch culture! After the bar, we headed back to our apartment for dinner, wine and some serious chill out time. 


The first day of being in Amsterdam we also discovered that it was a city that loved it's cheese. Every corner you turned there was a cheese store which let customers sample all most all of their produce. Amazing for us, maybe not so good for the store as we never bought anything. But none the less, it was incredible. We all became so obsessed with the cheese and all wanted to take so much cheese and mustard home to our families. Unfortunately we couldn't, but a few of us bought a little bit of produce to sample back at home. Our next few days in Amsterdam were equally as good as the first and were filled with a lot of walking. On our second day in Amsterdam we decided to go to the Anne Frank Huis which was well worth it. Before heading into the line that seemed like it would take forever we decided to sample a dutch delicacy - chips with a ketchup mustard on top. There was actually stacks of sauces you could choose from for the chips including curry sauce and fried onion, but we chose the traditional one of the lot and it tasted soooo good! It ended up being a really good decision as the line to get into the Anne Frank Huis took about 45 minutes. After reading Anne Frank's diary when I was younger, it was amazing to actually see where her family hid out and what they experienced throughout their time in the hideout. It was a very sombre experience but definitely awesome to see a small piece of what was a significant time in history. One of the most interesting things I never knew before going to the Anne Frank Huis was that Anne actually wanted to be a writer when she was growing up, and eventually intended to use her diaries as a basis to a book she wanted to publish about her time during the war. When the war was over, Anne's father came across her diaries in the few belongings that were left of the family and after reading them, decided to publish them in her honor.

After the Anne Frank Huis we did some shopping and finally made our way to china town for some delicious Thai food. It was the first time I had Thai since being away from home and my god it was SO GOOD. Later that night we decided it was time to indulge in some typical Amsterdam culture and head to a coffee shop. We didn't stay too long in the end but it was pretty cool to chill out and delve into a bit of Amsterdam life! A couple of the girls decided to head back to the apartment so Zoe and I headed to another couple of bars before home. The first bar we went into was one down the road from our apartment as we thought we would stick close to home. Straight away, Zoe noticed that it was a gay bar so we bailed pretty soon after but it was something to laugh about! We ended up settling in at a super cool bar close to our apartment and had a few drinks and a bit of a chat to the not so bad looking bar tender before heading home.


Our last day in Amsterdam was an early one as we still had things to see and do before we got back on the ferry to Newcastle. On our way to find the I AMsterdam sign we came across a few markets that had some really cool Dutch souvenirs and other goods! After a bit of walking we finally made our way to the sign and loved it. It was pretty hard to get a good picture unless there were a bunch of other people in it, but it was still good to see! After the sign we walked to Rembrandt's former house which was simply an exterior unless you wanted to pay to go inside the museum but we decided it was good enough to just see the outside. Not only was it Rembrandt's house but it is also the oldest house in Amsterdam which was pretty cool. After a few photos and a quick look around the gift shop we meandered around a few more markets before lunch in a cafe along the main canal. It ended up being a really nice lunch and we were all full and satisfied afterwards. Before heading back to the connecting coach taking us to the ferry, we picked up our bags from our apartment and before we knew it we were back on the ferry to England. I would have loved to stay in Amsterdam for much longer because it is such an awesome city, but I know I will definitely be back one day!


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