So on Sunday I got home in the early hours from a twenty-four hour trip to Amsterdam. This involved a coach (twelve hours), a ferry (another three) and limited services dedicated to hygiene.
We got to spend around ten hours in the Dam and my hair started to look shit a few hours into the journey. I’d love to be one of those women who always look immaculate but I’m not going to hold my breath. My eyebrow pencil held out and I’m grateful for that.
I didn’t take many irksome stopping in the middle of a crowd to get cold fingers and take a photo that will inevitably have someone’s elbow or hat in it anyway. But for posterity and something pretty to look at –
A drinks coaster from Hunter’s Coffee Bar, a new souvenir fridge magnet and some Dutch cheese (I know my priorities)
Amsterdam is an incredibly busy city and is also full of bicycles – the preferred method of travel with an estimated 400 km dedicated to cycle lanes around the city. Generally speaking pedestrians and cyclists take priority over cars but cyclists take priority over everyone. It can be a little daunting at times, they come speeding from every direction imaginable (it feels like).
A typical Dutch ‘freight bike’ used for transporting shopping (and children).
Despite the crowds, the trams and the constant ringing of bicycle bells, Amsterdam does still retain a relaxing vibe and not just because of the coffee shops (wink wink nudge nudge and all that immature claptrap). It’s a typical European city – old architecture, lots of canals and plenty of cigarettes and graffiti. There loads to do and a lot to look at and I made notes as I walked round of amusing, interesting things I saw throughout the day:
A kid on a skateboard getting a free ride holding onto the back of a dustbin lorry. This was the first time ever I had seen this outside of Back to the Future (unfortunately Huey Lewis & the News didn’t start playing).
Someone getting hit by a bicycle. It’s the kind of thing I’d always imagined happening but never actually seen. Until then. We heard shouting in Dutch – presumably something along the lines of “my brakes aren’t working, my brakes aren’t working!” then heard a huge, loud thud followed by gasps. A middle aged woman dressed for the opera had been mown down and her husband was not happy. We watched them all argue for a few minutes (obviously) before moving on.
During a boat trip I spied super amazing floating houses on the canal. I want one!
Note not my actual photography but you know how I feel about that.
And of course – “Pissed Up British Blokes Wearing Comedy Outfits”. I have never been anywhere ever and not seen this spectacle. No-one does ‘annoying holiday thugs’ quite like us Brits. But is it wrong to be kind of proud of that?
“Let’s go fucking mental, chicken oriental la la la la weh……….”
Which brings us nicely to the Beer Bike. A table on wheels that tourists can rent and pedal around the city. It also has a beer keg attached, for extra fun and danger. When two pass on the street their respective passengers boo at each other cheerfully. Got to love that.
A lot of people say that Amsterdam is a really friendly place but I wouldn’t say it’s the friendliest city I’ve been to, especially if you’re British or American. And especially if you’re American. It’s not that anyone is rude exactly, it’s more a feeling of being underclass to the locals and slightly irritating to them, which I guess is kind of fair enough. Beer Bike and all that.
But Amsterdam does have other things to offer…
Sitting in the giant clog – a must do on your first visit, proper Tourist Wanker stuff
A visit to the Anne Frank Museum – which is inside the very same building where poor Anne and her family hid inside all those years ago. Prepare for a long wait though, the queue is always huuuuuuge.
Luckily Amsterdam is full of museums so if you don’t have enough time to wait, check out another one instead. You’ll find them everywhere, dedicated to loads of different things from beer and cheese to sex, art and handbags.
A stroll through the Red Light District – where fully naked women of the night stand brazenly in windows to entice potential punters to their door and bed or sink or whatever. You can’t do The Dam without at least one glimpse into their racy world.
On my first trip to Amsterdam seven years ago two of my male companions did more than just ‘window shop’ the red light district (cue hysterical laughter) but I won’t mention any names. We were a lot younger and to be fair – I did used to hang out with some right yobbos (as my grandad would say).