Valentines weekend proved to be a fairly adventurous one for me, although I was away from my beloved for most of it – I did get to explore the beautiful city that is Amsterdam. My two friends and I booked our places on the trip via the Union’s Travel Shop for an inexpensive sum of £159; which paid for coach, ferry and accommodation. We arrived in the ‘Plantage’ district of Amsterdam at about 11am (it was freezing cold), but our rooms wouldn’t be ready until 2pm so we decided to explore. Naturally, being the mature adults that we are, our first stop was the sex museum (entry was the cheapest we’d encountered at four euros a ticket), I won’t go into detail – just know that some things can’t be unseen, enter the museum at your own risk!
We went on a stroll around the city, just to get a feel for it. There are so many canals, and it’s easy to get lost because they all look so similar. That being said, they are all absolutely stunning – almost as if they were right out of a painting with all of the multicoloured boats scattered along the banks. We came across a good number of house-boats too, which truly appealed to my inner hipster.
We headed into the centre of town, where we tried traditional Dutch ‘haring’ which is basically raw herring with diced onions and pickles. It was pretty good, though it did smell somewhat vile. When you arrive in Amsterdam you will notice that there are bikes. Thousands of bikes. Everywhere. It is also totally socially acceptable to put flowers on your bikes in Amsterdam. It’s fabulous.
On the second day of our trip we were planning to hire bikes but they required a fifty euro deposit per bike and none of us had that kind of money! However, what we did instead was equally amazing. We hired a pedal-boat. It took us about twenty minutes to actually get the hang of the thing, it took three of us to maneuver it – two people to pedal, one to steer. We only crashed five times and annoyed four other boaters.
It was great fun, and worth it at eight euros per head! We took to the streets again, discovering cute little hovels as we went. The best place we discovered, in my opinion, was the ‘Time Machine’ vintage store down one of the smaller streets. The place was filled to the brim with second-hand retro and vintage attire, it was spectacular to look at. I nabbed myself a seventies flannel shirt for just over twelve euros.
Chinatown was next on our list – we visited a Chinese temple and followed the Chinese New Year Parade to the Royal Palace of Amsterdam. The building was absolutely stunning, even if some of it was covered in scaffolding – a truly imposing sight nonetheless. Our evenings were spent in coffee shops and a few bars- the government is seriously chilled out when it comes to the use of marijuana in public places, most bars allow smoking indoors so you have to be prepared for a face full of smoke whenever you enter one.
A lot of my photos from these bars look like I have a crazy filter on them, which isn’t the case – the atmosphere was simply dense with smoke. We didn’t spend too much time in these bars though, at roughly six euros a pint we figured our money was better spent on food and souvenirs. There are a lot of outdoor markets in Amsterdam. Our favourites were the usedbook market and the seed market. I have never seen so many tulips in my life!
The used-book market was truly a beautiful sight to behold during the evening, since it was illuminated almost entirely by fairy lights that had been wound around the trees behind each stall. I would definitely go again, Amsterdam is a stunning city – brimming with life, art and culture. However, I will make sure that I have more money and more time to spend upon my return!