On February 2 I decided that I needed to take a trip somewhere. I’d just gotten back from my visit to Birmingham with Kate and Richard (to see my first Blues match live – which was awesome) and wanted to keep with my plan to visit a different city outside of England each month while I’m here. I’ve been here four months, and have visited Barcelona, Dublin and Paris (December I went to the US, so I suppose that counts). Still on my list for sure? Edinburgh, Berlin and Amsterdam. I posted a request for ideas on Facebook, and Lesley-Anne said she’d join me if I went to Amsterdam. So on the 3rd we bought a package (round-trip tickets and two nights in a hotel) on Expedia for February 12-14. I don’t think I’ve ever planned an international trip so quickly.
We arrived at Schipol airport on time, and our baggage and passport control experience was completely uneventful. While all signs are in English, and we found the train easily, it was hard to figure out exactly what ticket we needed. But after some help we grabbed the train and were, 20 minutes later, in Amsterdam! We got on the tram and were soon at our hotel. Which. Was. AWESOME. Don’t believe me? It’s true
. We had a room overlooking Vondelpark, and had crazy cushy beds. I had a cold (shocking, I know), but I still slept better there than I have in any hotel since probably the fancy place I stayed in Belfast in 2007.
After we settled in we set out to explore the city. It was freezing, but sunny, so we got to walking. We went to the Anne Frank House, and it was as sad and infuriating and surreal as you would expect. Oddly, there is a gift shop (I understand the desire to sell the book, but postcards and Amsterdam tchockies? That seemed unnecessary), and outside there was … an Oscar. The one Shelley Winters won for being in the film adaptation of the book. Those suckers are large.
(Obviously I took away more from the visit than the Oscar encounter, but I’m still not really able to put it into words.)
After that we did some more wandering. The streets are so beautiful there. It’s a bit tough to figure out when one is on the sidewalk and when one is in a bike lane, but by the very last day I think we had some idea. We found some mediocre Italian food for dinner, then called it a night, because it was freezing, we were both tired, and the hotel was SO nice.
Saturday, after watching the replay of the Olympics opening ceremony (during which we were very confused as to what all the sadness was for the Georgian team until later in the day when we got some Internet time) we set out for a little walking tour (thanks, Eyewitness Guide!). We went up to the Red Light district, and then wandered through the older area of the city, to the eastern canal ring area. We stopped in the flower market, and paused often to get snacks and warm up. We also discovered a fabulous chain, called Wok to Walk. Seriously. So good. I wish they had it in London.
(But wait, they do
! Oh Google. Love you.)
So, the Red Light District. During the day, it was depressing and oddly normal. I mean, loads of sex shops, but I’ve been to the Village, so that’s not so surprising. But the women standing in the windows during the day were … well, they were probably what you’d expect if someone told you to picture a “daytime hooker.” At night, the place was so different. Every window either had the shades drawn, or had some crazy skinny, overly-made-up young woman in a bikini standing in it. We only saw one man leaving after his transaction – he seemed a bit douchey, and had his iPhone earbuds in before he walked out the door. The industry is regulated
, and I hear that some of the women are in unions. Such a different way of handling sex than in the States and the UK.
Sunday morning we were up fairly early to be out of the hotel and headed out to the Heineken Experience. I know, but whatever. I think that may be one of the only beers I actually like. The tour was great – you get one half-pint and two pint-ish beers, plus a fairly long and involved ‘experience’ learning about how beer is made, marketed, etc. It was very cool. Afterwards we were going to visit one of the many museums near our hotel, but they were pretty expensive, so we settled for some cafe time before setting out for the airport. We would have walked more, but it was still freezing and also snowing. Our trip back to the airport was just as easy as it was on the way in. They are effecient.
I really like Amsterdam. I’d like to go back in the spring, when it’s warmer and I can wander more. I do also want to see the different museums that weren’t in the budget this go round.
Oh, and one more thing (and this may be the most important thing) – everyone there is my size! Seriously, it’s like a city made for people like me. I loved it. I didn’t have to duck on the tram, I could stand up straight and not feel like I had to slouch to have conversations with people. Being in New York for so many years got me used to being the tallest person in the room. But not in Amsterdam. The average male in the Netherlands is 6’1″, and the average female is 5’8″ (both a full four inches taller than the US averages). Loved it!