Salut à tous!
Last weekend I got to visit somewhere I’ve wanted to go for ages: Amsterdam!
One of the best things about living in continental Europe is how much cheaper/easier it is to travel and I’m keen to make the most of this opportunity. This weekend, which we only booked a couple of weeks ago, cost us less than £100 each for transport and accommodation- not bad for a last minute trip, right?
Our savings were mainly due to our glamorous transport: a seven and a half hour overnight Megabus journey. We left Porte Maillot coach park at half eleven and arrived, having had about three hours broken sleep, in Amsterdam just before 7am. I’m far from a good traveller, but this journey was fine. I was prepared with my neck pillow, eye mask and nytol sleep aids, the bus was on time and it wasn’t too busy so we were all able to have two seats to ourselves. Coming back was a totally different story. Erin had to take an earlier bus back to Paris, but Katherine and I both got the 23h bus home. We arrived at the coach park at 2220 (because you’re advised to be there at least half an hour before) and there was light drizzle which in about ten minutes turned into torrential rain accompanied by the strong winds the weather forecast had been warning us about all weekend. We were standing along the (locked) toilet block which was the only shelter in the coach park. It wasn’t until midnight that we were finally on the coach, after the bus driver shouting and taking ages to park and a lot of pushing and shoving from the Frenchies around us (and me, I had my angry eyes on). It was really busy and everything and everyone was soaking wet and it was just miserable. I felt travel sick and struggled to sleep and consequently I’m now a bit poorly. It was worth it for the financial savings, but it’s not an experience I’m in a hurry to repeat!
But back to Amsterdam itself. I loved it! It’s a beautiful city and it has a character about it in the way Paris does too. My expectations were surpassed and I had a fab time!
We did a free walking tour (after our success in Brussels) to begin with, which again I’d totally recommend. It helped us get our bearings and we learned lots too. It’s so much better to be told about something when you’re standing in front of it than hours later when you’re reading the guide book in bed!
For example, our guide pointed out that all the buildings have hooks at the top, and most of them look like they’re leaning slightly forwards. This is because the buildings are very narrow and it’s easier for people to hoist their belongings up through the window than try to take them up the staircase. I’ve seen this a few times in Paris too! The buildings are leaning so that the windows wouldn’t be broken by whatever was being pulled up. Clever!
The tour finished just round the corner from the Anne Frank House and we made the decision to visit then (which was a good idea as we only queued for about 45 minutes).
We were all really impressed. For me, it’s somewhere that everyone should visit once. The rooms are stripped bare, as they were when the Nazis emptied the annexe. Otto Frank made the decision to keep it like this in order to symbolise the void left behind by the millions who were deported and never returned. There are displays throughout, leading from the warehouse all the way up, and these help you to imagine how different it once was. To walk through the building was an incredibly moving experience. You follow the stories of the eight in the annexe, as well as the unbelievably brave people who helped them. I was concerned beforehand that the museum would lose sight of the bigger picture, but it balanced perfectly. At the end there was a temporary exhibition themed around the idea that “all her would-haves are our opportunities”. It was a series of videos of writers, actors, museum visitors and people who knew Anne talking about what Anne and her story mean to them, and the relevance to modern day. I thought this was a perfect way to finish and I’d like to emphasise how tactful, insightful and well put together the whole visit was.
After this we wandered around some of the canals. We headed towards a restaurant called ‘De Rozenboom’ which was highly recommended my guide book! It was here that we had our first apple strudel of the weekend!
We packed in a lot more sightseeing over the following two days. We visited Vondelpark, which was gorgeous and I bet would be even prettier in the summer!
Really I just loved walking around the city. The bikes were a bit crazy so I felt safer with my feet on the ground than on pedals! We were able to see loads.
We had a look round the Bloemenmarkt, which is the only floating flower market in the world! The stands are on houseboats and are very much secure now, but they’re still on the water.
I actually brought back one of those ‘tulip in a can’ things- apparently in six weeks my tulip will flourish! Will keep you updated on that one!
Do you remember my blog post about Brussels and how amazing their chips were? Well guess what we found in Amsterdam…
And just to prove that the Dutch are super friendly, here’s the sign outside the bar opposite:
Every time I’ve left Paris I’ve been amazed and how kind and hospitable people are! It’s not that the Parisians are rude, I think they’re just disinterested. But all the Dutch people we spoke to were absolutely lovely, it made such a nice change! Collectively there seems to be a ‘if we can do it, why don’t we’ attitude, which greatly differs to the ‘not my problem’ attitude here!
Continuing eating our way through Amsterdam, we sought out ‘Winkel’ (which just means ‘shop’ in Dutch) to try out what is apparently the best apple strudel in the city.
If you get a chance, try it! We arrived in the evening and weren’t sure if it was okay to just order apple strudel, but literally everyone else in the restaurant was doing the same thing. It’s totally worth it!
We also squeezed in a canal tour at night, definitely recommend this too. There was an audio commentary in several languages (from this we learned that ‘brasserie’ also means ‘brewery’ in French) and I loved seeing the city from a different angle! Since it was dark you could see into all the houseboats, which was just a bonus for nosey me…
We had a quick whizz around the Van Gogh Museum too. We arrived pretty late so had to prioritise, and I wish we had been able to spend more time there. There was lots of information about Van Gogh’s short and tragic life, and you walked through his paintings in chronological order. There were also some paintings by his contemporaries- I walked into one of the rooms and said ‘Oh wow, I love that!’ only to find out it was by Monet! The building itself is very modern and unlike the other architecture in the city.
The time went by really quickly and I would love to go back, especially in the sunshine! Also, I made it back without purchasing any clog slippers and I’m now slightly regretting this decision…just a little!
I’m sadly back to uni life now, after the traumatic bus journey home. Today I had a realisation that actually I’m only enjoying one of my classes this semester! However, we’re over halfway through the semester now. Whilst this is good news for me with boring classes, it’s a bit scary- I’m not ready to start thinking about going back to Edinburgh! I’m definitely intending to make the most of my remaining four months here. Katherine and I are hoping to meet up with Sasha (who is now in Spain) in May which I’m really excited about! And in June I’m going to Cologne to see Taylor Swift…can’t quite believe I booked tickets but I’m so glad I did! I’m going with Katherine (hopefully not by overnight coach again) and we’re meeting my T-Swift-super-fan friend Martha there! I’ve only been in Germany for an afternoon before, on a day trip from Austria, so I’m very excited to see what Cologne has to offer!