Saturday, 28 March 2015


The view from our balcony
So I've been out and about again. This time I have been to Amsterdam! I've been before but only briefly, so this time I was going with 3 days and 3 friends to properly see the place. I went with the friend I went to Croatia with, her friend, and a girl I had many university adventures with. So none of us knew everyone which was a nice way to set out on a trip: both meeting new people and seeing new places.

We flew out on Friday morning which meant being awake at 4am to start the journey to Gatwick. I was starting from Cambridge.... maybe I should explain that first?


So I spent Thursday in Cambridge seeing a friend and having a job interview. Which meant I took the 4 hour train down on Wednesday afternoon. Yes that's right, 4 hours! How is Manchester so damn far away from everything?! Goodness knows what I've spent on trains in the last 18 months . So yes I went to work Wednesday morning therefore packed everything Tuesday night. So in effect I packed for my trip 3 days early. My life is ridiculous. Never intentionally. It just happens that way.

What is this?!
Where was I? Cambridge. So yes I spent a very random day on the busway (don't get me started on the busway. It is the strangest form of public transport ever, and I've taken a mule across the brazilian subtropical rainforest. Its a bus that runs on concrete mini roads only as wide as each tire with nothing between like a train, but they have tow paths next to them like a canal but they're cycle lanes, and its still a bus!). It was great to be back with my friend, isn't it strange how you can feel totally at home somewhere completely new just because of your company? I wasn't completely on leave yet, I had been writing a joint presentation with a colleague so I was working on that in the evening then off to bed early so that we were up and out in the very early morning.

How is this house so wonky?!

A very quick flight later we were out of Schiphol and on Dutch soil. We had directions to our
appartment and set out on the bus. It became quickly apparent that my sense of direction was the best and for anyone who knows me will realise that means we were doomed! After waiting for 5 mins for GPS to load I asked what number we were looking for:113 and realised we were standing next to 117. The flat was gorgeous with two bedrooms and a lovely lounge and balcony overlooking the canal and 5 mins away from leidseplein - perfect. Wandering round the little streets you can feel the history of the place that has been lived in and maintained for many years. The buildings seem to have grown organically as each one is a different width, height, and style even though they are physically joined.

You have to imagine I amsterd.... that comes before
Of course we found the I amsterdam sign and after realising that british style queueing wasnt going to work, we adopted a more european style of just standing there till people moved. We got some good shots even if there are other people in all of them! Next we went to the Rijks museum which defeated all of us. Three floors doesn't seem like much but it was vast! Some of the artworks were truly impressive and there were artifacts from war to fashion too. On later reflection we realised that we had only seen just over half of the museum but with flagging feet, rumbly tummys, and sleepy eyes we retired back to the flat.
You even got to sit in a window and see what it looks like!

A power nap later we were looking for somewhere to eat dinner and came across a well reviewed restaurant nearby called in de buurt which ticked us immensely in our sleep deprived groggy state. I was glad we went as the steak was great and 2 bottles of wine later we were all feeling much better.

We then set out to tour some of the famous (and less seloubrious) aspects of amsterdam. I've seen the red light district before so I was prepared for the unique shock that it brings. Some of the rest of our party were a little more shocked and it certainly was busy! We went to  red light secrets which is a perfect mini version of the area, it seems glamorous and exotic but in real life is actually seedy but a giggle if you don't think about it too much.


The next day feeling much more refreshed we decided to tick some more tourist boxes and see Anne Frank's House. The line was comically long and given the bitterness of the wind we nipped round the corner to see the house itself and then waited for a riverboat tour. The sign for the boat tour said we could buy tickets on the boat, so when the boat came we tried to buy them and were promptly turned off the boat and told to buy them in the shop. Disgruntled we went to the shop and then had a half hour to wait so found a hot chocolate out the wind.

Finally on a boat and enjoying the greenhouse of the windows I settled into a snooze and let the world literally pass me by! I seem to make a habit of falling asleep on boats having fallen asleep whale watching in Sydney!
La Garcon from the baclony

Later on we headed out onto the town. We uber-ed a taxi and after two failed attempts we gave up and walked towards the square to get a drink and try again. On the walk in we heard live music coming out from a bar and decided to pop in. It was actually great! The place was cafe cox and it was a guy called La Garcon playing. We got a spot on the balcony and stayed for the rest of his set. We were particularly impressed with the flower in the bucket hat of the keyboard player!

While milling about we were told about some good places to go afterwards that were nearby. So we headed to Melkweg which turned out to be just round the corner from where were were staying! A Mackies later we were all home in bed at goodness knows when.

Melkweg Encore

The next morning we were checking out at 11 which was easier said that done with a thick head. We headed out and found possibly the most appalling breakfast. Today we were headed for the tulips which we thought we could get to from central station. Our journey went like this:

12.00 - request taxi from square
12.15 - cancel absent taxi
12.16 - find cancelled taxi but cant get in it as its uber
12.30 - taxi leaves after several attempts to rebook the same taxi
12.32 - next taxi requested, cancelled, requested, waited
13.10 - get in taxi
13.40 - arrive at central station
14.00 - discover how to get to the tulips
14.05 - get on tram back to the square where we started
14.30 - get bus to airport
14.25 - store luggage at airport
15.00 - wander round trying to find and get different bus from airport
15.45 - arrive at tulips!!!!

So having spent a redundant 2.5 hours going in a rather large circle (I said my life was accidentally ridiculous) we arrived and happily bimbled round this lovely tulip park keukenhof. There were clogs, and a windmill, and waffles, and everything you associate with traditional Netherlands. It really was lovely! However at 5 we had to head back on the bus to catch our flight home.

All in all an excellent trip! Amsterdam seems to somehow balance being a fabulous mix of historic culture, rustic beauty and exciting nightlife. No idea how it manages to do it but I completely enjoyed it!


After a drive back to Cambridge, a sleep, and then three trains I was back in Manchester to rejoin my life of masterclass Tuesday, interview Wednesday, presentation day Thursday and final day at work Friday..... nothing like a quiet week!