We both really wanted to go to Amsterdam because it’s one of the only cities in Europe where it’s actively encouraged to get high as you like. Nah, just kidding, drugs are bad kids! Amsterdam’s Schiphol is one of the few overseas airports you can fly direct to from our local airport, Inverness. This meant cheap direct flights, always a winner, that take less than 2 hours. Throw into the mix the fact that it is a city brimming with history, an amazing array of canals and fascinating architecture then it was somewhere we probably should have gone to sooner than we did.
We arrived late afternoon, getting a train into the city centre and then walked to our Botel. Accommodation in Amsterdam can be quite expensive so we didn’t splash out on any lavish hotels, and staying in a cosy little cabin on a boat was a new experience for us so we were looking forward to it. We dumped our bags and went out to explore our surroundings for the next few days. It was a short walk, about 5 – 10 minutes, from the centre where you are spoilt for choice for places to eat and drink. We opted for a pizza; going on a walking tour shortly after we didn’t want to risk being held up and missing it. This was Randy Roy’s Red Light Walking Tour, sounds a bit seedy but something that you should check out when you visit here. If you take a wander round the city centre of Amsterdam then you are pretty much bound to come across the vast Red Light District, so going a tour there on the first night gave us a bit of useful insight and information on this area and helped us find our way around at other points during our stay. We then had a couple of drinks with other people we met on the tour, went to a pub that had a resident dog there (we love animals, so this was probably more exciting for us than it should be!), then strolled back along the canals and piers to our boat.
The Heineken Experience is another top attraction when in this city so we booked on that for our first full day. It’s a bit out from the main centre but we left plenty time to stop for coffee and take looooads of photos en route. It looked a lot different in the daytime compared to night. Cycling is the preferred method of transport for most people here it seems, and there are countless numbers of bikes tied up all over the city. The buildings are fascinating as well. I’m not talking big public buildings that are architectural masterpieces here, but the tall houses that all appear to be leaning to different sides and look like they are collapsing. (See here for an explanation why..)
There are plenty photo opportunities when you take a walk around, of the buildings we mentioned earlier, the vibrant cafe windows you could spend all day drooling at or the picturesque canals and walk ways round just about every corner.We enjoyed the Heineken Brewery Tour and they give you plenty beer tokens to use at the end of the tour. (Aimee didn’t want hers as she was rough so I scored there!) We wandered around some more to see some landmarks, take the obligatory photo at the Iamsterdam sign next to Museumplein, and stop at more canal-side cafes to relax and people watch. The chilled out vibe here is infectious even if you’re not indulging in the same substances as many others.
Despite not being part of our original plan, we stopped at the Sex Museum on the walk back to our boat. There’s some quite funny stuff there and some just plain weird.I wouldn’t exactly say it’s a ‘must’ but doesn’t cost much and is something different if you’ve got a bit of time to kill.
The day Aimee was looking forward to most as we were booked on a tour of Anne Frank Huis (Anne Frank’s House) and we were so glad we did this in advance. We had already walked past this way during the previous day and saw the queue stretching back round the corner from the house and up the street, round another corner and then another. Good thing we weren’t waiting in that or we’d have spent half our trip waiting to get in, so yeah definitely book a tour in advance before you go to Amsterdam if you can cause it will save you tonnes of time! The tour itself was brilliant and very informative, simply a must do when you visit here. Staying on the same kinda theme, next up for us was the Amsterdam in WWII Walking Tour. We’ve been on a lot of these tours in a lot of different cities across Europe and, although Amsterdam might not be the most involved city during this war, this one trumps all of them. Our tour guide, Peter, was fantastic, even sending out an email beforehand with snippets of info, Youtube videos and pictures that would enhance our experience. The tour itself was very well-informed, even providing personal stories and touches and comparison pictures showing Amsterdam ‘then and now’. 10/10, another must do if you’re interested in history at all.
After our tour we went to Manneken Pis, a little hole in the wall kinda shop that is voted to have the Number 1 chips (french fries) in the Netherlands. It didn’t disappoint! We had a bit more time to kill so went to a basement bar that looked kinda cool and had a few games of pool before our next and final item, The Amsterdam Dungeon’s. We’ve only been on one of these before, in Edinburgh, and wouldn’t usually do it but our trip was around Hallowe’en time so we thought we may as well.
Our final day and we were sad to be going home thinking we could maybe do with one more night to have some relaxation time having crammed so much into our trip.
While packing we had a surprise visitor poking their head through the porthole and into our cabin. No, it wasn’t a stoned tourist getting the wrong room but instead a swan coming to say hello (or maybe goodbye) to us. As mentioned earlier, we are animal lovers so Aimee kept our new friend entertained while I ran up to the top deck to fetch some bread from the breakfast buffet to feed it! We got some of our favourite pictures of our time there with that swan. Eventually we said our goodbyes and headed to the train station then onto the airport, but on the way there loads of people’s phones started going at the same time.. Such a weird experience! Most of us were being notified that our flights were cancelled due to thick fog disrupting flights in LONDON. We went to the airport anyway (I say that as though we had a choice but we were on a train headed there) to be confronted by the longest queues of people I’ve ever seen, even bigger than those at Anne Frank’s House! We queued for a couple of hours, staff handed out water and pastries and we moved forward about 50 yards. Eventually we got in touch with our airline direct on Twitter and came to an agreement that we would be booked onto the flight the next day, and if we booked a hotel we would be reimbursed for this. SO WE GOT OUR EXTRA NIGHT WE WANTED!! We stayed in a hotel close to the airport, it was about 8pm by the time we got there so we just chilled and had a few more Heineken’s before flying again the next day.
Unfortunately the next flight went ahead without any issues, there is worse places in the world to be stranded for a night I suppose. We learned on this trip that you should be careful what you wish for and that more pubs should have resident dogs.