I woke up with an idea, I had nine days before I started a new job and didn’t want to waste the time off. I wanted to go to a theme park that I have not been to, I wanted an adventure.
While drinking my first coffee of the day I searched for the cheapest flights leaving my local airport. I found flights for the following day to Amsterdam for only £60 each way.
I booked them.
Next, I needed somewhere to stay, I hear Airbnb is popular so after a few minutes on their site, I found a cabin on a boat in a marina that was available.
I booked it.
That is the hardest part of travelling done, booking the tickets.
The following lunchtime I was on a small Dash-8 twin turbo prop plane heading out on my first solo travel adventure. As I am planning on flying to the other side of the world early next year, this week would be a test, a test to see if I am cut out for touring around on my own.
Arriving in Amsterdam
I left a small local airport only to land in Schiphol, a huge international airport, it took me half an hour to find my way out, then back in to find a train.
so I found a machine to give me a ticket and jumped on the next train that said Amsterdam Centraal. (turns out the Dutch can’t spell central) Amsterdam Centraal is the main train station in the city centre and also the bus station.
With the help of the nice lady who owns the Airbnb boat and Google maps I made it to the bus station and jumped on a number 32 bus that took me right to the marina on the north side of Amsterdam. about a 10-minute ride to the boat through the IJ Tunnel that links the north and south.
Within an hour of leaving the aircraft, I was at my new home for the week.
I was welcomed aboard by the owner’s son, A guy who reminded me of one of my best mates, we hit it off instantly. Within an hour I was on my way back to the bus stop to start my exploration of this beautiful city.
I hopped on the bus and the driver asked me to tap my digital ticket on the meter, the only problem I had with that is I did not have a ticket. I asked him if I can buy one on the bus and he said yes, I asked him if he takes cash or card and he said yes, then I asked him for a ticket and he said “no”, laughed at me and told me to go sit down. with slight confusion, I sat down and arrived at Centraal station 10 minutes later. That was the second bus so far that I didn’t pay for, so my next task was to work out how I pay for public transport.
I will write a short guide to public transport in Amsterdam and add the link later.
As I left the station and heading into town, the next challenge was not getting run over.
Amsterdam roads and traffic
Since I’m not in the UK, traffic comes from the wrong direction, that bit was easy to get used to. The pavements are cobble stone and any flat ground that is nice to walk on is, in fact, a cycle lane. The locals get annoyed by tourists walking in their bike lane and will be quick to ring their bell, whistle or sing to let you know that you are in their way, and if that fails they will pass as close to you as they can to drive home the fact you are in fact walking in their road. I recommend hiking boots as the pavements are hard to walk on, unfortunately, I only had soft sole trainers and after a few days of walking about my feet hurt like hell.
The traffic system takes some getting used to, motorbikes can ride in bicycle lanes, the roads have cars, trams and buses and small pavements separate the roads from the cycle lanes. so crossing the road means crossing at least 4 lanes of traffic, the cycle lane is the hardest to cross and left me feeling like I was playing frogger each time I attempted it.
I looked the wrong way and stepped out in front of a bike more than once… an hour.
Lucky most of Amsterdam is only canals and cycle lanes, once away from the station cars rarely venture in to city and when they do they drive on the narrow cycle lanes.
The following day I was in the city by 8 am, excited to get back to exploring.
I was there less than 24 hours when I witnessed first hand the damage the stag dos and hen parties do to the most scenic place I have visited. I was greeted with rubbish up to my knees on every street, wok and walk cartons, beer cans, take away wrappers, it was heart breaking.
But what was impressive was the amount of street cleaners working hard to restore the city to its glory before the tourists get back to trashing it again. by 9 am the whole place was so clean I was happy to sit on the ground out side a coffee shop chatting to the locals.
At that point I had decided to never come here on a stag do, it’s not fair. So please guys, stick to Magaluf for your crazy parties, the infrastructure is made for it there.
Bring sensible walking shoes
That day I really started to regret not bringing my hiking boots. As you can see from my pedometer I walked over 28km on that day and most days were the same. I spent a lot of time just walking around the canals taking in the breathtaking views. I did consider hiring a bicycle but I didn’t trust myself to cross the roads yet, I certainly didn’t want to be another tourist that was clueless on the roads putting others in danger, so I decided to stay on foot.
Once the weekend was over, so were the stag dos.
Now the city changes to a more relaxed experience full of visitors from all over the world. The different languages mix together as people explore the museums, pubs and coffee shops in a very European vibe.
I spent my time in the bars and coffee shops when not walking around taking in the views. Everyone was so friendly. I chatted to guys on tour from America, Australia, Spain, China and of course, the Netherlands.
I found a quiet bar near the red light district that was 50% locals and 50% tourists and soon called it my local. The girl behind the bar is a proper host and introduced me to her friends and customers, she got me involved with conversations and made me feel at home. I won’t give out her pub location as I feel that I would be ruining the vibe if 1000s of tourists suddenly ﬂocked to the small place but walk around De Wallen for long enough and you will find it.
it is the fault of this fabulous bar that I am already planning on returning in a few weeks time.
You may recall that my original reason for this trip was to experience a new (for me) theme park. On Thursday that desire was brilliantly fulﬁlled when I rocked up to the gates of Efteling World of Wonders. My Efteling blog post including a review of their roller coasters can be found here.
Hard place to leave
When I returned from the trip I only had one more day left in Amsterdam, so I got off the coach and headed back into town to make the most of the time I had left. That evening was emotional. I had been in Amsterdam long enough to not be paying tourist prices for drinks and coffee, but I had fallen in love with this city, Then as now I had a lump in my throat just thinking of leaving this beautiful city behind.
A weekend is great for an Amsterdam trip, any longer and you wont want to leave
That night I sat in my local bar looking for work online. If it wasn’t for my plans of travelling to South East Asia I would have started applying for jobs that night. I feel like Amsterdam was designed for me, in fact I can imagine myself happily living there.
One day I might just do that.