30 Apr Amsterdam: Hipsters & happiness
I’ve wanted to visit Amsterdam for absolutely ages. Whenever I’d talked to friends about going away for a weekend, I’d always suggested it, but unfortunately for me, everyone always told me they’d already been and promptly suggested going somewhere else.
After years of never getting my way on this one, this year I decided that enough was enough and just resigned myself I’d have to go on my own, booked a ticket and started feeling smug about my solo weekend away.
As luck would have it, a day or two after, my best friend from 6th form sent me a message on WhatsApp – we hadn’t spoken for ages and started having a catch up. At a certain point, I threw it out there that I’d booked a flight to the Netherlands and… she didn’t happen to want to come along? Well, yes she did. So she booked her flights too, and a mere 3 months of “is it April yet?” later, we set off on our whirlwind adventure.
I’d been so busy in the run-up to the trip that I’d barely even thought about what to do when we got there. So I hastily bought a guide book in the airport, and set about speed-reading it all.
My flight from Turin arrived in the morning, while Clare’s train (!) from France arrived much later, so I had half a day free to get a delicious green smoothie from STACH (expensive but great, which could actually be a slogan for Amsterdam as a whole, now that I think about it), wander around, breathe in some crisp Dutch air, buy my new favourite earrings from the adorable shop that is The New Label Project, and take approximately eight million photos.
I immediately fell in love with the Jordaan area and started picking out all the houses I’d like to move into when I’m a grown up, and only briefly and accidentally wandered into the red light district.
When Clare arrived, we went to our Airbnb to catch up and make a plan over some nice French wine that Clare had kindly imported. The apartment options were just too expensive, so we’d opted for a room in a shared house, hosted by a friendly young guy called Bastiaan, who had a great blackboard in the living room filled with handy suggestions for where to go and what to do.
That evening, we were feeling lazy so set out to find dinner somewhere near where we were staying. We saw a sign for some reasonably priced Thai food (don’t have a go about not eating local cuisine – we both live in countries where Thai food is depressingly bad), and went inside. What we found (entirely by accident) was a hostel-slash-restaurant which I’d actually written about on Feel Desain years before. It’s called Hotel-not-Hotel, and it’s basically a fancy hostel with really unconventional rooms: one is an old tram, another is hidden behind a bookshelf, another is behind a fake front door. It’s extremely cool, and the food and Moscow-mules-with-a-twist were extremely good too.
After a good sleep, next morning I (obviously?) insisted that we go to a cute place for brunch. I’m predictable, I know.
So off we went to Coffee & Coconuts, which apart from being extremely photogenic, is also incredibly cosy with deeelicious food. Lactose-intolerant Clare got me hooked on coconut-milk-cappuccinos while we sat on a cloud-like sofa upstairs, and there was avo and pancakes and muesli galore, so a great start to the day!
We decided to get some art in, but couldn’t afford to do too much, thanks to our miserable Mediterranean salaries, so thought we’d just pick one gallery. We went for the Stedelijk, and no, I don’t know how you pronounce it either. But whatever it’s called, it’s full of some great contemporary art including a range of temporary exhibitions, and I’d definitely recommend it. Special bonus: the queues were a lot shorter than for the other museums.
Afterwards, we walked up and down loads of canals, chatting and oohing and ahhing and talking about how we should probably just drop everything and move here now, and eventually decided to stop for some coffee (coconut cappuccino, please!) and cake at an adorable little place called Lavinia.
Feet rested, we went to check out some cute little shops we’d seen along the way, and then got in the queue for the Anne Frank House. We knew this wouldn’t be quick (think we waited about an hour and a half to get in), but were so glad we persevered – despite the grim subject, the museum is one of the best I’ve ever been to. All the tourists were so respectful, the audio guide is impeccable, and the tour lasts the perfect amount of time to be interesting but informative. It’s a really moving experience and definitely one I’d recommend, especially for those who have read Anne Frank’s diary. This is one thing I would put on your top priority list even if you – like Dann from The Dreampacker – only have a very limited time to see the city.
When dinner time came around, we spent a long time wandering to try to find somewhere affordable with something warm and filling to eat to compensate for the million miles we’d walked. We eventually settled on a place near where we were staying: a little hipster place called H. Burger. The burgers were pretty delicious, but they don’t have an alcohol license so we had to settle for a ginger beer instead of a glass of wine (probably best for the wallet though, knowing Amsterdam…).
Next morning, and Eggs Benedict was calling. We found it in a place near our Airbnb, yet another cute little café: this one was called Radijs and was pleasingly full of locals, with not a tourist in sight. Obviously the Hollandaise sauce was to die for – Holland, duh!
A spot of drizzle didn’t dampen our spirits, and we walked some more around the Jordaan area which Clare was yet to see, before heading down to the little port behind the station to catch a ferry to “Amsterdam Noord”. We’d heard this was an up and coming cool area, but must’ve just picked the wrong time to arrive. Once we got off the boat, we had absolutely no idea where to go so just wandered towards some warehouses, where we found the NDSM, which is supposed to always be full of cool happenings, but which actually seemed more like an exhibition centre under construction. It was abbbsolutely freezing, so we popped into a nearby café and enjoyed some delicious baked goods (I had my first sausage roll in about 12 years, and it was worth the wait!) before giving up and getting the ferry back to the centre.
Culture over, it was time for beer. We walked all the way down to Brouwerij ‘t IG, a.k.a. the windmill with a brewery inside it. I am not a beer lover – I actually hardly touch the stuff – but happily drank a few glasses here because it was really, really, good (and by “good” I mean that they’ve made some of it so fruity and delicious that you don’t even really realise you’re drinking beer at all).
Again, we spent a long time catching up and telling stories and being silly before meandering back to the centre, stopping for a delicious dinner of hummus and assorted Middle-Eastern treats at a place I sadly don’t remember the name of on the way. We had a little night time walk and went to bed early (featuring hours of chatting even after lights out – once boarding school girls, always boarding school girls!) as I was up at the crack of dawn for my flight back to Turin, while lucky Clare had half a day more to explore.
I will admit to downloading a “Learn Dutch” book on the free Airport WiFi, because sooner or later, I really wouldn’t mind ending up in the Netherlands for a little longer than a weekend…