After finishing the third semester (out of four) of teaching, I decided I’d like to travel again a little bit and since my friends had decided to go to Amsterdam, I decided to join them. This was actually my fifth time in Amsterdam so I have done all the touristy stuff before. All I wanted to do was walk around, enjoy the beauty and have a great time with my friends.
On the first Monday of the holidays, I caught the plane to Schiphol and arrived at the hostel after a much longer walk than I’d expected from Centraal station. Despite the hostel being quite south to the train station, it’s actually quite a good location. It’s very close to Leidseplein, one of the main bar areas in Amsterdam and also close to a lot of food places and then the shopping streets are a little further. All in all though, it’s a great hostel and I would recommend it to anyone going there: Flying Pig Uptown.
Anyone who has discussed travel with me knows that Amsterdam is my third favourite city in the world. It was my second favourite until Aix-en-Provence happened, and incase you’re interested, Glasgow is my number one favourite and always will be. As I stepped off the train at Centraal station, I knew exactly where to go and instinct took me to the main exit of the train station. Walking up to the exit, I had butterflies and as I stepped out on to Dutch terrain, I felt a sense of being at home. I will always love Amsterdam and seeing the narrow but tall buildings leaning on each other and smelling cannabis excited me for the trip ahead with my friends.
I settled at the hostel and had about six hours by myself before everyone else arrived. I took a little walk and strolled along and over the canals and around the main shopping area of Amsterdam. I’ve never stayed so far south when I’ve been there so it was great to explore a new area that I’ve never seen before.
That night, eventually, the other girls arrived and we decided to head out to get food and drinks (the drinks in the bar of the hostel were way too expensive). We stumbled upon a falafel place near our hostel and it was the best falafel sandwich I’ve ever had – with unlimited toppings! It’s actually a chain company so there are a few dotted around Amsterdam, and after a little looking I have discovered that it is actually an American company. If you’re ever there, you have to check it out: Maoz.
We spent a little too much money on alcohol and a little too much time trying to find a supermarket before heading back to the hostel to party. The rest of the night blurs too much to explain exactly what we did, but basically, we had fun.
Waking up the next day and discovering I was hangover free was a great way to start the day. We had arranged to meet up for breakfast before the free walking tour and then we’d decide what we wanted to do later in the day. The walking tour was really great, as it is in every city I’ve done the walking tour with Sandemans. I learned a lot of things I didn’t already know about Amsterdam. One of the most surprising things was the fact that weed is not actually legal, it is not even decriminalised in The Netherlands. Our guide told us however that if someone is walking in the street with a beer in one hand and a joint in the other, the police would ask them to get rid of the beer but not the joint. The police don’t really care about the use of it. And because of this, the shops must be called coffeeshops and not anything to do with cannabis in the name. Very interesting.
We got the same falafel for lunch again, and it was even better the second time. In the afternoon, we walked around a lot more and relaxed in the hostel. For dinner, I’d agreed to meet my good friend Ralph for dinner and luckily enough there was a Wagamama’s (!!!!) right next to our hotel which I was indescribably happy about. Don’t get me wrong, I love French food and eating out in France but I also miss normal, chain restaurants that we get in Britain. It was also really good to see Ralph, who I had met for the second time almost exactly a year before I met him this time.
The next day I woke up very, very fresh due to the fact I had went to bed early instead of going out the night before, so I felt great. We decided to wander down to the I am Amsterdam sign (statue, monument? whatever it is…) and the museum square.
We stopped inside a free diamond exhibition and learned about the different types and cuts of diamonds. It was actually very interesting, despite the tour guide trying to convince us to buy jewellery even though she knew there was no way we could afford anything in the exhibition. The most expensive ring in the building was €300,000 and it was disgusting.
We then decided to stroll some nearby markets. Well, just one market nearby because it was raining cats and dogs by the time we arrived there. But it was a beautiful one, I would recommend doing it if you have the chance. It is called Waterlooplein Flea Market. One thing (out of the many) that I love about Amsterdam is their love for cheese, like France. However, they have very different cheeses to France, more creamy and more to my liking than the strong, stenchy cheeses of France. Amory is the queen of samples and spotted samples from all the cheese, olive, nut and delicacy stalls so we got to try a wide variety of things for free.
In the afternoon, we went to an Expat store that we had spotted on the previous day so that I could stock up on things I won’t see for another four months. I bought ten creme eggs, and I will savour them like the gods that they are. I also got a can of Irn Bru and some shortbread and some digestives, all of which I miss dearly and cannot find anywhere in my bourgeois town. Dania decided to have an Amsterdam special which is something to do with fish and looked vile. She told us it was good, so I’ll believe her!
All in all, the trip was very relaxed but I still managed to do some tourism which was good. I explored new parts of Amsterdam I’ve never seen before and discovered an ever larger love for the city. I can’t wait until my next visit in April for Kings Day and the festival they’re having.
Actually, I am currently typing this on the plane to Barcelona which I am very excited to explore solo, leaving my friends behind on their other travels. I’ve never really explored the real Spain and Barcelona interests me a lot. I am also excited to have some time to myself and relax. (Mum you will laugh at this…) Originally, I had booked a hostel in Barcelona to stay at, so I could meet people from all over and have some different experiences. However, after sleeping with rowdy French people for the past three nights, I’ve chickened out and bought myself a hotel for just a little more money so I can bathe in luxury. I made sure that I have a double bed in the hotel – just to make my case of poshness a little worse. I also have a gym and a pool. Don’t judge me…
I will then return to Aix on Saturday (after having a changed flight and managing to work it out, stress!!) and my Uncle Michael and Mamie are coming to visit me which I am also very excited about. I have a lot to look forward to and I only have seven more weeks of work which I am currently looking forward to finishing, but I won’t go in to that right now.
See you after Barcelona!