Amsterdam
Amsterdam

Amsterdam!

So I’ve been back from Amsterdam for a few days, and thought it was about time I shared the fun my boyfriend and I had! It was a last minute booking, so I’ll be honest, I didn’t really know what to expect – we didn’t even know how long the flight was!

Luckily for us, the flight to Amsterdam was only 45 minutes, so no sooner had we taken off than ‘cabin crew prepare for landing’ came over the tannoy. After landing we made our way to the train station, and I was wierdly excited because I saw a double decker train! I was hoping that I’d get to see one when we were in Berlin, but alas, it was not to be. However, the first train I saw in Holland was a double decker – a nice little surprise for my geeky self.

Double decker train in Amsterdam Schiphol station

After arriving at Amsterdam Central station, it took a few minutes to try and work out the way to the hotel. A nice 5-minute walk from the station, we dropped off the bags and went exploring! We headed off to Dam square, and started hunting out a nice spot to grab a bite for lunch. I’d like to say we stopped at the first place we saw, but we were in a new city and couldn’t decide which was a more pressing matter: hunger or exploring! We chose to look around, see what was about and eventually stopped in at the first place we had passed half an hour earlier. Delicious meal, but shocking prices for our drinks…a 200ml diet coke cost 2 ½ times as much as a litre bottle in the shop 2 minutes away. But hey, you pay for the service…apparently. I was then further shocked when I went to use the toilet to find we had to pay for it. I’m used to having to pay to use public toilets in London, but it was the fact that we had to pay in a restaurant?!

Anyway, post lunch we mustered up the strength to explore a bit further, and made our way in the opposite direction toward the neighbourhood of Jordaan. Lovely neighbourhood, with markets dotted in the squares. The afternoon was what I thought our entire time would be; typically Dutch – walks along the canal, masses of cheese and meat stalls in markets, people relaxing in pubs, epic amounts of boats. Lovely intro to a lovely city.

View of the canal in Amsterdam from a bridge, with lots of canal boats.

Market in Jordaan, with art, meats, cheeses and household items on offer.

As we made our way back to the hotel to check in, I saw something from one of the bridges. I have a habit of saying umm what’s that? and it is being something we’ve been looking for. On this occasion it was actually the Homomonument, which is a monument to commemorate homosexuals persecuted in the concentration camps. There are 3 large triangles of, I think pink stone, a short distance from each other, the first of which we spotted as we crossed a bridge. One stands above floor level, one is at floor level and one sinks down to the river. All 3 are connected by a single brick line, which joins the 3 in a massive triangle, representing the past, present and future.

Homomonument, Amsterdam

Homomonument, Amsterdam

Homomonument, Amsterdam

As we continued on, we spotted a massive queue, which we worked out was for the Anne Frank museum. Although I definitely wanted to visit the museum, I wasn’t up for queuing for that long, so we carried on and decided we’d come back at a later time. We made it back to the hotel, had THE best nap ever (we had been up since 3am and walked a good few miles), and whipped out the ol’ Lonely Planet guide to try and plan what we wanted to do. In there it said about visiting museums after 2pm to avoid queues, and I saw that the Anne Frank museum was open ‘til late, so we decided to try our luck at 6pm on a Saturday and see if it was still open. There was no queue. At all. This was excellent news, and as we made our way through the museum it was soon evident that we wouldn’t have gotten as much out of it if we’d been there when masses of other people were too.

You make your way through the reconstructed building, which shows how the warehouse and offices were laid out, and then you make your way to the annexe. The original bookcase is still in place, and you have to duck and step up to get through the hole behind it. I found the whole museum trip very eerie, not only because there were only about 10 people there, including us, but because I knew what had happened there. I’ve read Anne Frank’s diary, and to walk where she walked was very surreal. To think that all the things she spoke about had happened in that space was so wierd. The rooms have no furniture in them as they’d been stripped when the families were discovered there, but Otto Frank (Anne’s father) had helped the museum temporarily refurnish the rooms so pictures could be taken, giving an idea of how the room would have looked. I know my boyfriend really enjoyed it and he hasn’t read the diary, so you can appreciate the whole tour whether you know much about the Franks or not – but a definite must when in Amsterdam!

As we walked back to the hotel, we grabbed a few slices of pizza, meaning we’d spent a grand total of 30 Euros on food the whole day – lovely for the budget!

Sunday was our main day in Amsterdam, but we’d luckily ticked some things off our must-see list the day before, so we decided to do as the locals do and hire bikes. I don’t think you’ll ever really appreciate the amount of bikes there until you see it, but there are more than twice as many bikes as there are cars, and they’re well catered for with bike lanes nearly everywhere! We aimed to head for the floating flower market, which is the only market on the canal, but got a teeny bit lost en route and found ourselves in Remembrandt square. Another sight unintentionally ticked off – excellent! Found our bearings and made our way to the market, which wasn’t entirely what I’d expected. It is on the canal, that’s not a lie. It is floating, technically. But it’s permanently moored shops, and if you’d not seen from behind you’d think you were in an ordinary shop. Little bit disappointed, but at least all the flowers were pretty!

Amsterdam

Amsterdam

The I amsterdam sign was our next stop, and tricky to find because neither of us actually knew where to find it. Quick look in the trusty guide book and we soon stumbled upon it, just as it began to rain. Luckily for us, we’re English and a little bit of rain doesn’t put us off, so as everyone else ran for cover we took some pics with the sign, and must be among a small group of people who have pictures of the sign with no random people climbing all over it. Eventually though, even we had to give in and found somewhere close by for a spot of lunch, where we tried traditional Dutch croquettes.

Amsterdam

The Van Gogh museum was shut (I think for renovations) while we were there, but they had a temporary exhibition in the Hermitage museum, so we hopped on our bikes over there and lucked out again with no queue and hardly any people there as it was getting toward closing time. Very interesting, and I actually loved it, which I’m a bit surprised at as I only went because the boyf wanted to go! Even though we got there quite late (3pm ish), we managed to see everything before the 5pm closing time. Some fun facts for you: Van Gogh’s favourite colour was yellow, his nephew was named after him, and he once tried to eat paint.

Riding our bikes back to the hotel, we made our way along the only natural river in Amsterdam, the Amstel. Interesting thing – Amsterdam was once called Amstelerdam, but later got shortened to Amsterdam. After dropping our bikes off, we freshened up and made our way to the Red Light District. Pretty sure you already know what it is so I won’t give too much detail, but I was actually shocked at how many windows were occupied or reserved for ladies who are in the business. I felt bad that they were selling themselves to make money, but it’s much classier than I thought – they even have a union! Do you know why they use red lights? Because…it is apparently flattering. Nope, I didn’t know that either. If you’re in the area, check out Oude Kerk, which is a church slap bang in the middle of the red light district, and it has a little statue out the front paying homage to the sex workers of Amsterdam.

After what can only be described as the best nights sleep in…well…years, we had to pack up our stuff and check out. Leaving our bags at the hotel, we jumped on a hop on hop off canal bus and saw Amsterdam from a different angle. We got off at the Albert Cuypmarket, which I thought was THE market to go to in Amsterdam. If I’m honest, I was slightly disappointed. It’s a large market, with a lot of variety, but there weren’t a lot of foodie type stalls, which is what we tend to look for. We did manage to find a nice piece of white chocolate with cranberries, so wasn’t a wasted trip.

Amsterdam

We then made our way back to Dam square to do some last minute shopping, got the obligatory postcard, picked up our cases and made it Amsterdam Central in one piece with minutes to spare before our train. Trains run every 15 minutes, and we were on the platform, waiting, wondering if the train was late. It was only when we saw people running, that we realised we were on the wrong end of the platform. Needless to say we missed that train, and I’m doubly gutted because it was a double decker train, and the next one wasn’t! There will be other times and I will get to go on one eventually!!

All in all, a brilliant trip. Sorry for such a long post, but I loved it!

Top Tips

  • Have change, you will rarely find a free toilet.
  • Homeless people will give you really helpful advice, then ask for money. The guy we spoke to wasn’t rude, he thanked us for lying about having no change (we had none – I’d have used it to go for a wee if we had) and walked away, but others may not be so nice.
  • Hire a bike. Best way to get about, and you get to travel as the locals do.
  • Make sure you know where you can and can’t ride a bike – there are hefty fines if you get caught in a no cycle zone. Just ask when you hire your bike, people in Amsterdam are really friendly!
  • One train platform is actually 4, 14A and 14B will be on the same side, with 13A and 13B being the other side of the platform.
  • Try a stroopwaffel and eierkoeken and for a cheap dinner grab a slice of pizza or chips from one of the many stalls.
  • Most of all – ENJOY!

There are things we didn’t get the chance to do, so we’ll be going back one summer to tick everything off our to see list 🙂 The next trip is also already nearly upon us – Malaga at the beginning of March. Our next city break will hopefully be Paris, I’m looking into the when’s and where’s for that one at the moment so keep an ear out for news on that one!

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