Week two of travel began at 1pm when I met my travel companions, Sam and Patrick, at the bus stop. We took the National Express to Bristol Airport and arrived at 2:30. This was my second time in Bristol Airport and I was just as impressed with the modern security as last time. The trays lift themselves up onwto the table… ohhhh… so futuristic! We took a small bus to the small plane and walked on (all domestic and inter-Europe flights have you walk up to the plane via stairs). This was my first experience with KLM Air and I was very impressed. Free food and drinks (including alcohol) for an hour flight! I had a cheese sandwich and a coke- the first of many cheeses I would be eating over the weekend. We arrived at the beautiful Amsterdam Airport and were shown where to get our train tickets into town by a fellow traveler. I was impressed by Bristol Airport, but Amsterdam Airport was out of this world amazing. It was giant and beautiful and had an interesting security system (scan your passport and take a picture of your face). I never knew I was so interested in Airports.
We took Amsterdam’s fabulous transit system into the city and arrived at our Hostel, Cocomama, very easily. Cocomama was warm and cozy. It was in an old brothel that had been gutted and transformed into a backdrop for “Anthropologie Home.” They even have a cat named Joop. I stayed in the top bunk of a three-story built in bed system reminiscent of a cabin. I had my own curtains and enough privacy. Although it was much more expensive than a hostel ought to be, I was thoroughly impressed and very happy with our decision to stay there.
After settling in we started for the city centre. It was dark by now and we walked down a narrow street decorated with golden lights (presumably for Christmas) and crossed a number of canals. It was absolutely breathtaking. We found a burger bar and had a very tasty and gourmet burger topped with Old Amsterdam cheese and caramelized onion jam. Sam and I bid farewell to Patrick and went to the theater to see Fantastic Beasts. It was amazing, but I won’t say anything about it here. Unfortunately, I was very very tired from a long day of traveling and may have missed a few minutes. Oh well, I guess I’ll just have to see it again! We walked back to the hostel and I slept like a rock.
We started Monday in the best possible way…. with copious amounts of carbohydrates! We went to an old carousel house that had been transformed into a Pannekoek House. I had my usual, bacon with apple (thank you, Nana!). It was good, but strangely too similar to DeDutch. Come on real Dutch people, make these better than Canadian chains please. We went to the Albert Cuyp market located a stone’s throw away from our hostel. Here we had carbohydrate #2 in the form of a freshly pressed Stroopwafel. There were tourist stalls, food stalls, weird stalls that sold toothpaste and washing machines, and of course, the obligatory stoner stalls fit with all Bob Marly and dodgy looking cookies. Here would be a good time to tell the world that no, I did not partake in the one reason mot people go to Amsterdam. If you know me at all, you know why. I couldn’t be less interested in something that has ruined many of my loved ones lives. That said, I was fascinated by the culture. In Amsterdam, a “coffee shop” sells weed and a “café” sells sit down meals. How? I asked, does one get actual coffee? “Follow your nose,” said the woman at the hostel. She also just told me a few nice places to go… for the first time since arriving in Europe I had a delicious and real coffee.
We left the market and walked into the city, crossing the canals on the way. Although it was overcast and quite windy, the city took my breath away. Look in any direction and see beautiful old homes, canals, bicycles, and pets! I must have met at least 10 cats and dogs on this trip which was a real treat when missing Daisy, Polly, and Max so much…
All of our walking required more carbohydrates, so Sam and I found a small ramen
shop where I had my first real ramen in Europe! It was a tonkatsu-shio broth with an egg and fatty chashu. The broth was impeccable but I’m still longing for the Marutama egg at home. We left, hardly able to move, and hobbled down the streets. We went to a few boutiques and approximately forty-two cheese shops. My favorite cheese of all time, a vintage (3 year-old) Dutch gouda which at home is available as “Old Amsterdam” was abundant and each shop had their own version. I was in tyrosine heaven. We walked back to our hostel via the Red Light District. It was a very sanitized version of what I thought it would be. Yes, the content was “dirty,” but the streets were oddly clean… It most definitely was not the Downtown Eastside. Or if it was it was the new gentrified part of the Downtown Eastside that sold £200 vibrators. Sam crashed and Patrick and I had some “Thai” food and called it a night. 17km of walking according to my iPhone.
We started our final day in Amsterdam with another gorgeous pannekoek at the Pancake Bakery. This was a tourist trap and the line was about 45 minutes. I hate lines, but I looooove pancakes. Was it worth it? No, probably not. That said I have a low tolerance for lines unless it means I get some Anton’s Pasta at the end of it. Next, Sam and I went to Anne Frank House to stand in a line. Unless you pre-buy tickets weeks in advance, you must line up for over an hour and wait until 3:30 to get in. I would have been fine with this if, as I just said, I didn’t absolutely hate lines. Unfortunately, as it turns out, I do. The wind had also picked up and was blowing cyclists and Vespa’s over. I was not very pleased. However, a saintly man came and sold us his tickets for an earlier time slot so my internal temper tantrum was moot. The Anne Frank House was very emotionally toying. I’m very glad that we went, but I won’t lie, I found it an uncomfortable hour. The Anne Frank House draws in millions of tourists to inform us about one family’s life in hiding during World War Two. Many people are respectful, but I also saw a lot of selfies. We heard audio of a woman reading Anne’s diary describing Hitler and the Nazis, but without context, she could have been describing the President Elect. It was shiver-inducing. Absolutely terrifying.
Shaken up, we walked along the canals and looked for a cup of tea. We found an art gallery/coffee shop that displayed skulls against a stark white background. It was weird but fit our current solemn mood. We were served hot tea in handleless glass cups. After burning our hands slowly, we left and found the Cheese Museum. This museum was literally a tiny room in the basement of a cheese shop, but it had some interesting old machinery and best of all, free samples.
We took one last stroll through the city as the sun went down. The flocks of people there the night before had vanished and it seemed we had the city to ourselves. And what a beautiful city it was. Not only was it aesthetically gorgeous. It was very well run. The streets were clean; recycling and garbage bins on every corner. The public transit system was easy and ran frequently. The trams and trains were very smooth like butter. The streets had four lanes: pedestrians, cyclists, cars, and trams. Everyone also spoke English which was incredibly helpful.
Our whirlwind 48 hours in Amsterdam went by in a flash and soon we found ourselves back in the airport. I had an expensive airport salad because I needed vegetables, then I sat in the bathroom because I needed to charge my phone and there were no outlets. In the bathroom, I met a woman also charging her phone from Hull and we had a nice chat about the importance of museums in children’s education. This woman had three children but could not be more than 10 years older than me. She was not educated, but she was smart. Phones charged, we got on the plane and headed back to the UK. Our plane arrived just after another which meant the border was a long wait and we missed our bus. I had forgotten my BRP card and was given the eye by the agents. Luckily I was not deported so all is well. In times like these, I wish I had some Ativan or at least my Vitamin B-12s. After a long wait for the bus, and then an hour into the city, I was back home. My BRP card sitting right on my desk. Disaster averted.
All in all, it was a great trip (although not a drug one for me). I know I’ll be back.