So I’m in Amsterdam, actually I’m sat in the departure lounge at the airport waiting for my delayed plane, I hate flying and I’m bombed out of my head on the diazepam that I have to take to stop my total anxiety about flying and as I’m looking out at the fog outside and the lack of any sort of a plane, suspect I might be here awhile. So what better way to take my mind off it than to write about my trip and the things I love about the weird and wonderful Dam.
Firstly it’s worth saying that Amsterdam is expensive. I’ve been here a couple of times and I always forget quite how much money we need, my husband and I have easily spent in two days in Amsterdam what we would spend in a week in Greece. There are ways to do it on a budget. We always get a nice big block of Dutch cheese and some nice bread from the supermarket and eat that for breakfast or lunch. We buy wine in the supermarket to drink in the hotel as it’s cheaper and I try and avoid drinking spirits in bars, they’re super pricey, stick to beer and wine.
These days we also stay a bit further out of central, there some hidden little gems of hotels for a bit cheaper. I like Leidseplein or the museum quarter. We stayed at Hotel Vondel this time, it was a short 20 minute walk to Dam Square and surrounded by restaurants, coffee shops and bars, we had a huge and pretty luxurious room with a bath (I love a bath) for half the price of a central hotel.
Anne Frank Museum – since childhood I have been obsessed with Anne Frank and her diary. The idea that they hid in that place for all that time, and that this 14 year old girl maintained such a positive outlook throughout what was one of the darkest events in the history of the 21st century has always been inspiring to me. I used to perform monologues from her diary for almost every audition I did when I was a teenager. We didn’t actually visit the museum this time but I did last time we were here. It’s so exciting to see the bookshelf hiding that door and really wonderful and harrowing all at the same time to walk through the rooms, see the place where the Franks marked their children’s hights on the wall as they grew and an overall very moving experience, it’s impossible not to leave crying and feeling very humbled. And an important reminder that we must never let anything like that happen again.
The queues to get in are always huge,but you can actually book tickets online before you leave which allows you to avoid the queue.
Say Cheese To Life – Amsterdam is full of cheese shops and as huge cheese fiends my husband and I end up going in all of them and buying stacks of cheese. They are total tourist traps and you can get some of the same cheeses in the supermarket for half the price, so we try and do that too, but we still go in all the cheese shops – there’s always samples to taste! My personal faves are Old Amsterdam and the cheeses from the Reyenaer cheese shop. We did a cheese tasting session which was 15 euros per person and a lovely lady called Pauline taught us all about the maturing process and we got to taste 6 different cheeses from a mild goats cheese to the extra strong reserve matured for 24 months – we could eat as much cheese as we wanted and we learnt about each one – we were also treated to 5 of 6 different glasses of wine and port, all to compliment the cheeses so we left feeling a bit pissed. It was way more fun then I expected and great value with lots of cheese and wine. Yum!
Canal Cruise – there are so many canal cruises you can do from sight seeing to fine dining – we went somewhere in the middle and chose a pizza cruise. It cost around 35 euros per person and there’s a choice of 6 pizzas and as much wine or beer as you can consume in the hour and a half that the tour lasts. The food and wine was great and we had a jolly captain, the self proclaimed Mayor of the Canals, he steered us around, pointing out the varying sights of Amsterdam. We had the added bonus that between December and January is the Amsterdam Light Festival so we got to enjoy the gorgeous light installations on our way round as well.
Coffee shops – I don’t smoke weed but it’s a way of life for my husband, so Amsterdam is like heaven to him with coffee shops around every corner. You can’t buy alcohol in them which makes most of them pretty chilled out. My husband loves picking out his smoke from the menus while I grab the coffees/teas/hot chocolate for us both. They’re not scary places at all as I thought they would be and I can quite happily sit in there with my hot chocolate while my husband enjoys what ever strain he’s picked up this time. I really think the dutch have got it right with the coffee shop/smoking culture. The stuff sold in coffee shops is regulated, tested and approved, and sold in safe and happy places. As I say, I don’t smoke pot but really wish the rest of the world had the same attitude to it as the Dutch. I believe it would make the world a happier place. Our favourites this time round were Abraxas, Siberie and Prix D’Ami.
Get lost – Amsterdam, as we all know, is full of canals and everything looks the same! I can never find my way around! It’s easy to get lost but that’s half the fun of it, its achingly beautiful and we spend hours wandering, and seeing what hidden wonders we can find, when my feet need a break from walking we pop into a waffle shop for a sweet treat or a bar for a drink or sit on a bench and watch the world go by. Vondelpark is a great place for people watching. Watch out for trams, but more importantly watch out for bikes!
There are loads of other things to do, obviously the Red Light District is worth a visit and always seems to be the busiest part of Amsterdam. I don’t really like the sex trade, but if you’re looking for girls, sex shops and magic mushrooms that’s where you’ll find them. Even if it’s not what you want from your holiday it’s definitely worth a visit.
There’s also so many museums to visit. We never seem to have time to do them and they all have entrance fees but whether you’re looking for The Red Light Secrets Museum of Prostitution or the Rijks Museum there’s definitely something for everyone.
The final thing to say before my flight is called and I have to lug my cheese and souvenir filled bag onto the plane is that the reason I love Amsterdam is because it’s such a happy place. People from all walks of life go there, from the group of teenage lads we saw queuing up outside a coffee shop this morning, fresh faced and excited to be on their first lads holiday and somewhere they could smoke weed legally, to the two girls off their head on mushrooms lost in Dam Square giggling hysterically, to the elderly couple sat outside a bar in Leidseplein watching the world go by for hours each evening, it’s a bit of a wonderland and I’ve not really found anywhere else like it, but it could teach the rest of the world a few things about happiness