Friday, August 13
- Arrived in Amsterdam just before 9 pm
- Train to Centraal Station
- Walked around, got lost somewhere in Noordermarkt
- Dam Square and the National Monument
- Checked into my hostel in Red Light District
With my hostel being right there, I did manage to explore the famous red light district quite a lot, but none of the other nights really compared to the Friday – the atmosphere was electric until probablly 4 am. I didn’t get much sleep that night, but not for the reasons dirty minds would expect; my hostel room had big windows that were open to the street, and no one was in any hurry to close those because of how hot it was. There were also revelers coming into the 12 bed dorm until like 4 am; early risers were getting up and about by around 6 am. You really couldn’t help but take in the excitement.
Saturday, August 14
- Checked out some of the shops on Nieuwendijk
- Had coffee and breakfast on Damrak
- Took the Tram out to Artis Zoo to see the monkeys and chill out for a few hours
- Canal Tour
- A pint of Murphey’s Red and shephards pie in the pub below my hostel (one of a few Irish pubs in the Red Light District)
- More wanderings, this time south to Rembrandt Square
- The Torture Museum (you’d think it would be really interesting but it wasn’t)
I did a lot of walking on this trip. The zoo was actually pretty fun; its an old victorian design so there are some parts that are quite pretty even if it doesn’t smell great. Plus, a lot of people in Amsterdam go there for family outings, and there was a pretty good vibe throughout the place – nothing really seedy going on. Its the polar opposite of the Red Light District.
Sunday, August 15
- Vondelpark – lots of bikers and walkers and a free piano concert as a bonus
- Delicious Pannekoeken with peaches and powdered sugar
- Bill arrived and we watched a little football before heading out in search of other adventures
- More wandering around the Red Light District and the Chinatown
After a bite to eat we stopped at a little bar where we had a great bartender who gave us some very tasty shots, including a mini guiness and another flaming shot that i don’t remember the name of. Also, I stopped briefly at one of the coffee houses; good brownies, but the night was not as wild and crazy as that scene in the movie EuroTrip. He wanted to be sharp when he met his new boss.
It was good to catch up with Bill and with any luck we’ll meet up again soon in Africa.
Monday, August 16
Bill had an early flight and I was on my own again on Monday. Before he left, he dropped off an important gift. It made me feel like I was back in Canada: I spent 45 minutes of my Monday morning reading the Globe and Mail at what felt like a kitchen table. This day though I was carrying my backpack through my wanderings because I checked out of my hostel at 10 am and didn’t want to pay for a locker at the train station – I had to stop and rest more.
- Westerstraat (probably the longest outdoor market I’ve seen in my travels so far)
- Anne Frank House (I was there but the line outside was over an hour long so I moved on)
- Westerpark (I like green spaces, and this one is different than any other I’ve seen – would definitely recommend for anyone looking to relax outside the city centre) for an espresso and reading break
- A few areas near Westerdok (practically no cars, only a couple narrow bridges for access)
- There was this little outdoor cafe near Spuistraat that was serving organic food – I had a burger and fries (with mayonaise on my fries)
- I found a liquor store selling absinthe and other liquors in really trippy containers – I guess vodka tastes better when it comes out of a bottle shaped like a naked woman, I probably should have got one as a souvenir to be certain
- Amsterdam Oud-West
- Museumplein – plenty of restoration happening, but I wasn’t going to spend 17 euros for it especially since I was pretty tired by this point
I know its not just Amsterdam, but it would be really helpful if there were a few more public washrooms and public benches. Its annoying that you have you to pay 50 cents to use the washroom at KFC of all places. In this sense, I say screw the free market, supply and demand bull. As a tourist, sometimes I just want to sit somewhere and rest myself or use the facilities without having to buy anything. Its a minor annoyance I know, but there is a principle behind it. That’s why some of the best times are had outside the tourist areas; not only are you mingling with actual residents, but there are actual public services – less gouging.
A couple of other cool things I found about the city: most buildings have a lean to them (everything is near sea level and built on wooden piles) and because of the narrow staircases, all buildings have a wench (to lift furniture through the windows when people move)
I’m sure there is plenty more to Amsterdam that I didn’t see – maybe next time I’ll see if I can get into a bit more trouble. Now though, I’m back in Scotland.