Hello! This past weekend I left behind my usual ordinary existence and headed over to the Netherlands (as you do).
7am on a Saturday morning we waited by the terminal. Soon enough we were informed that ‘there was a technical issue with the plane’ (always reassuring) and we would be using another plane instead. We shuffled towards another gate and after standing on our feet for another 15 min we were finally allowed to board the plane (if you haven’t already guessed, it was a Ryanair flight). Taking off into the sky 40 minutes behind schedule wasn’t ideal, but we still managed to land in the Netherlands on good timing.
The first thing that’s to be noted about the country is how efficient everything is. Due to maintenance works on the tracks, there was no direct train from the airport to the city centre. If this was Ireland you would have the following conversation with an information desk:
“ah sure a bus should be here in half an hour or so”… “but then you’ll have to transfer to another bus”….”depends when that arrives”….”don’t worry you’ll be grand, sure what rush are you in?”
Not here though. We were directed to a bus, which after taking our seats, swiftly brought us to the nearest train station and within 5 minutes the train arrived to bring us to the central station. There’s no messing about, which let me tell you is a breath of fresh air.
After dropping our bags off at our lovely hotel we eagerly began adventuring so see what we could find. A word of advice, always go off the beaten track. Don’t follow the stream of people heading straight, take a left down a side alley or a right towards a canal. Amsterdam is made up of endless side streets that all bring you to the same area, so you might aswell take the scenic route and get a glimpse at all the pretty houses
UH! Let me tell you about the houses!
Going down these side streets and walking past typical, straight out of a postcard type buildings, you’d be mistaken to think these were quaint cafés tucked away from the busy madness of the main streets. Look closely and you’ll see they’re actually people’s homes, the windows allowing a glimpse into their world. And those people sitting outside on deckchairs and tables? They’re not waiting for a coffee order, they actually live here and are having afternoon chats with friends.
Can you tell already how much I love this place?
After a short search we found a local farmers market, buzzing with people and smells. We grabbed some local cheese, fresh bread and sun dried tomatoes and sat down by one of the many canals. I finally was able to take it all in for a moment as I watched the boats sail down the canal and hear two people close by having a conversation in a language I didn’t understand. Blissful is the appropriate word.
We spent the day exploring, then in the evening we put on nicer clothes and headed for a late meal. Before our dinner we went to the Red Light District just to say we saw it. It’s honestly nothing special, I’d go as far as comparing it to O Connell St on a messy night. Passing the windows where the girls stood in their underwear looking passive and bored sums up how exciting the district is.
Since since we’re on the subject of the Red Light District, I might as well touch on the topic of weed. Since it’s a legal drug, it’s easily accessible everywhere. And not just in the usual style, you see everything from cannabis ice cream to grow your own cannabis pots. The smell is also everywhere and I found it kinda sickly.
Going out in Amsterdam is not a dressy a fair, no one from what I could see wear heels or dresses. It’s more casual clothes and a pint of beer in a pub.
Dinner was had in a small Italian with a bottle of wine (oh how fancy) followed by cocktails by the canal.
In the morning we rented bikes from the hotel and set out to live the through Amsterdam experience. I was nervous to say the least, I’m not the best with multitasking, so trying to navigate my way through the city, avoiding other cyclists, cars, pedestrians, mopeds and just death in general was going to be tricky.
Spoiler alert: I didn’t die
All jokes aside, cycling was probably my favourite part of the whole trip. Everyone cycles to get around the place, at one point I saw a woman holding a suitcase in one hand and using her other hand to steer herself. Also cyclists have the complete right away in Amsterdam, ring the little bell and everyone jumps out of the way (it’s great).
We cycled to Vondalpark and afterwards stopped to have bagels for lunch.
At around three o’ clock we headed to the Anne Franks house.
TOP TIP: buy your tickets beforehand if you’re planning on going. Otherwise you’ll be waiting in an insane two hour long queue. Luckily we had already pre booked ours.
Visiting the house has been on my bucket list for a while, and I would highly recommend it if you’re thinking of doing it. A chilling and sad fact I learned during the visit was that Otto Frank, who had control in the creation of the museum, insisted that all the rooms would be left unfurnished. This is to represent the emptiness in the lives of everyone who was effected by the Holocaust. It was a sober experience but one that needs to be done.
Before leaving to catch our train we stopped at a cocktail bar my friend had heard about, named Tales and Spirits. Probably the most detailed cocktail bar I’ve been to, the menu which was wooden and bound together was full of all different concoctions. The service was warm and welcoming and every cocktail was delivered with a small bottle of water, because they support responsible drinking! Wouldn’t see the likes of that in Ireland anyway.
We arrived back in Dublin late that night. Thinking back to it, the weekend happened so fast it feels like it didn’t happen at all!
The trip to Amsterdam was quick but we squeezed a lot in for our short time there. Though saying that, a return journey to the Netherlands would be something I would do in a heartbeat.
Have you ever been to Amsterdam? Or are you from the Netherlands yourself? Any other place in your lovely country you would recommend for me to visit?