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 just 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 though so I’m grateful for that.
I didn’t take any photos because I’ve already been to Amsterdam anyway and I’m not a natural photographer. In fact I find it quite irritating stopping in the middle of a crowd to delve into my bag 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 place 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 and I’m not joking about them taking priority over people on foot. We have to move for them.
A typical Dutch ‘freight bike’ used for transporting children and shopping.
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). It’s a typical European city really. Old architecture, canals and plenty of cigarettes and graffiti. There really is 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 by holding onto the back of a garbage truck. This was the first time ever I had seen this outside of the movies!
Someone getting hit by a bicycle. It’s the kind of thing I’ve 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) and then moved on.
During a boat trip I spied super amazing floating houses on the canal. I want one!
And of course – Pissed Up British Blokes Wearing Comedy Outfits. I have never been anywhere and not seen this spectacle. No-one does ‘annoying holiday thugs’ quite like us Brits. Is it wrong to be kind of proud of that?
“Let’s go fucking mental, chicken oriental la la la la weh, la la la la weh!”
Which brings us to the Beer Bike. A table on wheels that tourists can rent out and pedal around the city. It also has a beer keg attached, for extra fun and danger. And when two pass each other on the street their respective passengers boo at each other cheerfully. Got to love that.
Everyone says 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 just a feeling of being underclass to the locals and slightly irritating to them, which is fair enough I suppose. We are irritating. And a lot of people go there for the pure intention of smoking weed when Amsterdam has a lot more to offer than something we can all do at home anyway.
Like what? I can hear you shouting. Well:
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 that 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, just 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. You can’t do the Dam without at least one glimpse into their racy world, which is a little sad to behold in some ways but also something you’re unlikely to see anywhere else. And on my first trip seven years ago two of my companions did more than just window shop (cue hysterical laughter) but I won’t mention any names.