There’s a lot more to the ‘Dam than Mary Jane and ladies of the night (or, as it turns out, any time of day you want).
Although we booked Amsterdam straight after we got back from Toronto (what better way to cure holiday blues, amirite?), it couldn’t have come at a better time. Mike and I have a lot going on right now what with the house in disarray and work – we really needed a little time to unwind.
Living in the UK, I am a massive advocate of the city break. We’re so close to Europe it seems like too much of a missed opportunity to not try and visit as often as we can reasonably afford. Still, in the past our mini breaks have been a little on the hectic side.
And, of course, say ‘Amsterdam’ to someone and they will undoubtedly ask one of the following questions:
a) Did you get high?
b) Did you see a sex show?
c) Did you stay in the Red Light District?
d) Did you go to the Sexmuseum?
…or they simply look at you with a smirk.
It’s not that we actively avoided these activities or are even against other people doing them, just that we were there for other stuff. We didn’t even do the museums or art galleries, really.
You know what we did?
We chilled the fuck out. We were only away for three nights and yet I feel so relaxed and content. Amsterdam is where it’s at when you want to chill – for all these reasons.
There was many an occasion where I didn’t know where to point my camera, because literally everywhere was beautiful. Old, metal lamps line the slow-moving canals, while leafy trees soften the tall, ornate houses crammed along every road. There’s even a beauty in seeing different bikes – so ingrained in Amsterdam culture – chained to every available railing, bridge or post.
Just sit on the bank and watch the world go by.
The cutest haunts
Velvety curtains hang over doorways and give a welcoming feel to pubs, bars and cafés. Inside, we found vintage charm everywhere. From the worn leathery armchairs and brass beer taps, to the walls housing works of art and antique mirrors reflecting soft candlelight.
And yet, none of it feels contrived or ‘put together’. It feels very much like being at home – just take your time and soak it all up.
The best beer. The best.
I mean, we were on holiday. Heineken is everywhere for a cheap, quick drink, if that’s your thing – but for us, Amsterdam’s proximity to Belgium is the biggest of bonuses. We had access to some of our favourite beers that we just can’t find at home, not to mention some of the best beers Europe has to offer.
It’d be rude not to right? Nearly every time, we took our seats at the bar and carefully studied the chalkboards.
Mine’ll be a Lindemans Framboise, alsjeblieft.
The friendliest people
Whether it was the lady in the pancake house who chatted to us about music and markets, or the friendly waiter talking to us over warm chocolate milk, every Dutch person we met could not have been nicer. Far from making fun of our awful attempts at ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, they engaged with us and made us feel welcome – totally different to the ‘Brits abroad’ reputation we thought we’d be battling.
And, of course, the lovely staff at Cocomama – an amazing hostel housed in an old brothel – who made our trip memorable and us feel at home.
Cats to pet
This is a little controversial for me, because I am 100% a dog person. But I couldn’t resist Joop, our hostel’s resident cat. When he wasn’t sloping around as if he owned the place, he always seemed up for a little cuddle. Aww.
Even in the bars of Amsterdam you’ll find cats – as we did in the Gollem Beer Café in De Pijp. Amber skulked through the door, leapt up onto the bar and nestled down for a nap on top of the warm coffee machine. Even the bustling and commotion around him couldn’t stop Amber from having a nap.
And there’s something quite nice about that.
Treats on every corner
Frietjes, poffertjes, appeltaart, stroopwafel, warme chocolademelk… oh boy. I have almost definitely spelled one of those wrong.
Still, it seemed like every corner presented us with yet another dutch (or European) delicacy to try. The poffertjes were to die for. They’re these adorable little puffy pancakes, made in a special pan to give them their shape. Typically topped with butter and icing sugar, they’re like sweet, spherical yorkshire puddings. They were UNREAL. Despite all the walking we did, I’m almost certain we’ve both returned a stone heavier.
Get away from it all
Amsterdam is the kind of city that has everything. Sure, you can go and get high and have a lol in the Sexmuseum – which is a perfectly good way to spend time in such a liberal city. Still, I’d argue if that’s all you do, you’ve only seen the tiniest bit of what the ‘Venice of the North’ has to offer.
I went for the apple pie and came back a happy, chilled out woman. What’s not to love?