Have you ever been to Amsterdam? I don't smoke, so I must say it's never really appealed to me as a top holiday destination - in terms of European cities, Berlin and Barcelona have always been much higher up on my list - but it was my old roomie's 30th birthday and she decided that a long weekend in the Netherlands would be just the thing, so off we went! It was way back in June (how the time flies!) but I've been meaning to write about it ever since, as it was most definitely a blog-worthy trip!
We ended up flying, as it was much cheaper than the Eurostar (although you will hear me rave about how magical the Eurostar is in my upcoming Paris post), so after an hour drinking champagne on Easyjet (yes, yes we did) we arrived at about 9pm. Straight to the pub for medium-sized Heinekens - beer in three different sizes? Ingenious!
Several hours later, we were buying burgers and sausages from a vending machine - from a VENDING MACHINE!!
It was such a novelty that I think we stopped off for one every night on the way home, they were the perfect late-night snack! Oh, if only chicken shops did this in England...um, have I ever mentioned my indefensible weakness for fried chicken? It's a running joke amongst my friends: I am positively helpless in the face of a KFC. Or indeed, an LFC, Morleys or similar. I make no apologies. We all have our vices.
Anyway, back to Amsterdam. We woke up to a gloriously sunny Saturday (late) morning, and went for a wee exploration of the Vondelpark, which was right next to our hostel - incidentally, we stayed at the Stayokay Vondelpark hostel, which was rather nice as far as hostels go. As there were ten of us, we had two private rooms to ourselves, and the rooms were spacious, the reception was staffed 24 hours, and it was all nice and clean and new. Plus, they had their own bike hire scheme, which was much cheaper than all the ones we'd seen in town (only €11 for 24 hours), and of course, one simply must hire bicycles in Amsterdam...
It was loads of fun riding around the park and then into town (and luckily most of my companions had visited before, so we vaguely knew where we were going), although I spent a little too much time worrying about avoiding cyclist, pedestrians, cars, motorbikes, and freakin' trams, as you can see from my Concentrating Face, above! But we stopped for tea, then rode on and found a market, where I bought some new sunnies for €3 (Result! I'd been hunting for a new pair for ages), then rode some more, stopped for lunch, rode some more...you get the idea. Overall it was jolly pleasant, despite the tiny bit of fear!
We went out for dinner and (numerous) drinks on Saturday night, then it was raining on Sunday so we went out for breakfast (BACON PANCAKES!) then strolled around picking up souvenirs (mostly cheese and stroopwafels), hit a few vintage shops, then found a cafe to while away the time before we had to get back to the airport. So, definitely a flying visit to the Dutchmen! (Appalling pun, I know, but I couldn't resist.)
The thing is, now I've spent a hectic party weekend in Amsterdam, I really want to go back and do it properly - it is SO lovely! The people were beautiful, cheerful, and friendly (must be all that cycling), I loved the food (ham and cheese all round), and, although we didn't have time to visit any museums or galleries on this particular weekend, there are hundreds to choose from (the Van Gogh Museum, Anne Frank's house, the Stedelijk Museum, and the Filmmuseum are all on my list for next time). Plus, in case you've never been, let me assure you that the city is beautiful. Look:
The city is intertwined with canals, which gives it a gorgeous sense of calm and space:
Houseboats abound, and you know I have a thing for houseboats...
I love the architecture as well. There are a few gabled buildings like this around London, tucked in amongst the modern ones along The Strand, but I never realised that it was a Dutch style. Pretty much every building in Amsterdam is in this rich dark grey, brown, white-window-framed colour scheme, with a pretty little roof like this:
And, of course, the obligatory Clog Shot:
So, thanks a lot, Amsterdam, you were a very pleasant surprise, and I hope to see you again soon.