There was a curious sense of elation as our transfer pulled alongside our plane – more so when we realised it had propellers! Although at the time I didn’t see how apt the resemblance was, our tiny aircraft reminded me of a shuttle one might catch from parking the car to arriving at a theme park’s gates. It later became apparent how fitting this comparison was, for Amsterdam with its winding canals and clogs is the Disneyland for adults!
The wonky, leaning buildings towered over the thriving cobbled streets below. The atmosphere was busy with a raucous bustle of excitement. Paired with the buzzing commotion was the frequent waft of weed and tantalising smells which escaped from the door of ‘The Best Chip Shop in Amsterdam’.
Similarly, it seemed every third shop in the row offered doughnuts, macaroons, eclairs, brownies and churros (for which I developed an addiction), plus as many other sickly sweet pastries as you could wish to find.
Amsterdam is, of course, widely associated with getting stoned however I was surprised to see that it’s not forced or pushed upon you. I believe Amsterdam endorses the adult attitude of ” it’s here if you want it – if you don’t that’s cool too! We have museums!” Rather than capitalising on it as the drugs city of Europe in the same way that Aiya Napa does with getting smashed every night or Magaluf with one night stands, the Dutch built beautiful boutique cafes in which you can play cards and have a drink or a spliff if you wish. Sure, the Red Light District (RLD) draws Stags, Hens and Stoners from all around – but the promiscuous doesn’t detract from or spoil the underlying beauty of the city.
Speaking of museums I can highly recommend the Heineken, especially if you’d like three totally free half pints. And here’s a tip: if you’re after a branded glass don’t wait until the gift shop at the end to pay €6. If you’re willing to ‘carpe diem’ there’s an opportunity mid-way through… they may check your backpack on the way in but not on the way out – and that’s all I’m saying!
Away from the RLD the city has a calm, easy-going feel to it (possibly because everyone’s too high for raised tensions?) The Vondelpark – found around 15 minutes south from the Royal Palace – is charming and exquisitely maintained. Big enough to cycle round or sit in the sun on the grass next to the water feature, here the epitome of European alfresco life can be found in its true form. The exception to this suggestion, however, is the Dutch’s approach to public transport. I would heartily recommend you hire a bike as you will see so much more of the city than you can on foot. But in doing so be warned that you take your life in your hands – Dutch cyclists are insane. My advice to you is to find a Dutch who looks like they’re going in a similar direction to you and do not lose them! It will save you from much anxiety and stress in trying to navigate through the chaos. How right the gentleman commuting was as he shouted “Idiot!” toward me as I rode the wrong way down a one way cycle path…
There are far too many attractions, things to do, places to see and streets to wander in 3 days – I just needed more time! Still, Amsterdam is undeniably ideal as a mini break, whether you’re the rowdy kind or an artsy introvert.