Hello Internet Peoples! I trust you’re feeling gelewdig* today!
*(Today’s blog post has a Dutch theme. You’ll see why.)
Today, I’m going to talk about my Amsterdam experiences, because I’ve now been twice, and both times have been absolutely amazing. I would say indescribable, but then there’d be no blog post, would there? Going to Amsterdam was a dream of mine for the longest time, and I vowed that whilst being in France, I would not pass up the opportunity to go, seeing as it’s so close by. And here I am, it’s been two months, and I’ve been twice! I’m so so gelukkig, and I know it. Alors, let’s start from the top.
My first Amsterdam adventure was in October during Toussaint (a two week break from school, how glorious!). Myself and my friend Bekah (another English language assistant) decided to use our holidays wisely, and so we booked a four day trip to get ourselves from the land of cheese and striped shirts, to the land of weed and red lights. Ahhhh, sure a wee change of scenery is nice, so it is.
Our holiday started at 5am, when we had to make our way from the lycée to the train station. For whatever reason, my insomnia decided to do it’s worst, and so I didn’t sleep at ALL. One sleepy kerfuffle with a broken bank machine later, we were literally sprinting to make the train on time- the train which turned out to be delayed anyway. THANK GOODNESS!
We got to Paris Nord, where we’d opted to take another train to get us to Amsterdam. There’s a company called Thalys, who do tickets for around €50, and reduced prices for younger travellers. It takes about 3 hours in total, but it’s totally worth it- you go through France, then into Belgium, and finally, you’re in the Netherlands! I should probably have slept, but when we left Paris, the stars were still out, and I watched the most beautiful sunrise I’ve ever seen in my life blossom as we sped through Belgium. By 10:30, we were in Amsterdam. A very cold and damp Amsterdam, but still, Amsterdayum!
(Just a quick side note- my favourite thing about the Thalys trains is the announcements- maybe it’s a nerdy, liguisty thing, but whenever they get to Belgium, they start doing every announcement in 4 languages; French, English, German and Dutch. It’s so so amusing, because it’s the same guy doing all the languages. Love a good polyglot).
We spent the first day walking around and getting to know our surroundings. In general, Amsterdam is a really easy city to navigate! After finding a McDonalds and grabbing our lunch (and unashamedly using the wifi for a disgusting amount of time), we marked out our route and our plans for the day. We ventured into a Starbucks (mostly because my hands were like literal icicles) which was really cool because as lame and terrible as it sounds, I really miss coffee shops (and the coffee shops Amsterdam has to offer are a teeeeeeeny bit different). France hasn’t really got on board with the whole idea of take out coffee (unless you’re in a sizeable city like Paris) so this was an exciting moment for me! Also, every Starbucks in the Netherlands is just beautiful. Awe-inspiring, breathtaking and beautiful. Definitely the kind of joint you can imagine someone sitting in to pen their next bestseller!
We stumbled upon the Bijenkorf, a HUGE shopping mall in the very centre of the city which had literally everything in the entire world for sale. I found the American Apparel section, and got myself a cheeky wee jumper on sale, so I spent the rest of the day feeling incredibly smug and snuggly. We also found a really cool record shop, where I found Fleetwood Mac’s Mirage on vinyl. Now, I know that Rumours is the typical “everybody wants it” purchase, but 1, this only cost me €10 (compare that to Urban Outfitters ridiculous €30!!) and 2, Mirage has what is probably my favourite FM song ever- Gypsy. Why am I trying to justify this to you? I don’t know. I’m totally happy with my choice. Just listen to this and you’ll get it.
Eventually, we decided it would be a good idea to try and find our hostel, because my brain was slowly turning to mush after having been awake for more than 24 hours. We’d seen on GoogleMaps that we somehow needed to get across a stretch of water to the north part of the city; eventually, a kind tourist office lady told us that we had to take the ferry to get over there. The free ferry.
For most other people on trip Advisor, this free journey seems to have been the bane of their existence. Personally, I thought it was adorable and I had a whale of a time (whale because, water? Ferry? I like to think I’m funny. I know, it’s not).
We stayed in a hostel called the ClinkNOORD, which was honestly amazing. Having never stayed in a hostel before, I was slightly terrified about the idea- you only ever hear horror stories about them… But this one was a definite exception. We stayed in an 8-person mixed dorm, which was absolutely grand. The beds were comfy, the showers and toilets were clean, and for €20 a night, you couldn’t really complain. I would 100% recommend it to anyone who’s heading to Amsterdam any time soon, regardless of age- there were even families staying there with little kids! You can opt for a private room if you want, too!
The first night, we decided to eat in Wagamama, because I miss it terribly and it’s so delicious. There’s one in the back of the train station, right beside the ferry port, so it was super fast, conveneint, and delicous. And I might add, the ramen was especially tasty. That night, I slept like I’ve never slept before. It was amazing!
On day two, we decided to be better tourists, and so after a Starbucks breakfast, we headed off to find a canal tour boat. Any of the canal boat tours seem to be good, but ours was €9 a ticket (ie one of the cheapest!). It was a really cool way to see the city (despite the fact that at one point, I was convinced the driver was sailing us out to the middle of the ocean and got very scared), and to learn a little bit more about the history and the culture- did you know that house in Amsterdam are so narrow because they used to be taxed on their width? There’s your interesting fact for the day.
That evening, we joined the huge queue to visit the Anne Frank house. I’ve never read the diary, but it was really interesting to see- very sad and poignant. The part that got me the most however, was a little video of Otto Frank at the end, talking about how much the diary impacted him, and how he couldn’t believe his sweet little daughter had written something so profound, so touching. He said something along the lines of “Parents never really know their children”, and it hit me right in the heart.
Afterwards, it had grown dark, so we decided to head back to get some dinner. We loved our first Wagamama so much that we decided to go back again (I know, how unoriginal and sad)! It was literally so amazing though, and Bekah and I spent the entire night lamenting how much we’d missed vegetables. France has vegetables, but we’re just incredibly lazy when it comes to cooking… Once back at the hostel, we hung out in the bar for a little bit, which was really cool, and there we discovered our new favourite drink- Peach schnapps with bitter lemon. Divine!
On day three, we had a full English to start the day! This was swiftly followed by quite the trek to find the Rijks museum (aka the I AmSterdam museum)***, which was huge and verrrrrry expensive. Word of advice: unless you adore art or history, don’t spend the €17 euros. Bekah is much more artistic than I, and so she had a great time, whereas I am uber uncultured, and so it wasn’t quite my cup of tea. Oooops! We then found a little cafe where we had some Ducth waffles, and afterwards, we headed back into the central part of the city. It was here that we stumbled across a cool market with an awesome thrift shop, and THE bridge (ie the one from ALL the pictures)! One million photos later, we walked about all of the main shops, and absorbed the lights and the crowds and the people and the smells and everything else in between. It was so gorgeous.
***Insider hack- the I AmSterdam is, as you can imagine, covered with tourists and so it’s really hard to take a picture with it without having ten million other crazy people in the background. HOWEVER, there is another in Amsterdam Noord, where the hostel is! You won’t be able to get a shot of the whole sign, because it’s right by the water, but you could always take a picture beside the first letter of your first name?
That night, we hung out in the hostel bar and had drinks and pizza, with our cool new Canadian friend, Ronny! We chatted for ages before settling down for our final night in the Clink*.
*Originally, it was deigned to be a prison. Incase you were about to make some kind of funny dad-joke 🙂
The final day was reserved for last minute tourist shops and travelling. Our train home was at 13:15, and I’m not going to lie, I had a wee cry on the way back. I think I’d just had such a good time, and it was so nice to have a break from the necessity of speaking French all the time, and I was probably incredibly sleep deprived too. Little did I know, I’d be heading back in less than a month!
I knew my great aunt wanted to come and visit me in France, but I was surprised when she said she was coming so soon! She casually mentioned that it’d been a life-long dream of hers to visit Amsterdam, an asked if I’d go with her. I was like OH JAH!
Similarly, we left on an early train, and stayed in the ClinkNOORD- this time, we stayed in a single sex dorm, which was fine, except our roomies were a little but noisier… But alas, we did the same kind of things. We shopped, canaled, we ate a lot of Wagamamas and McDo’s, but the difference this time, the aspect which made the trip ten times better…
IT’S SO CLOSE TO CHRISTMAS
THE LIGHTS WERE ALL UP
THE BIJENKORF WAS STUNNINGLY GORGEOUS.
Seeing as it’s almost that time of year, there were Christmas decorations everywhere! It was actually amazing, and I felt lost in the midst of sparkles and baubles and little tiny deer statues. But it was beautiful and I had a great time just strolling and admiring everything.
On a side not, my aunt can’t eat gluten, so we spent a lot of time debating between restaurants because if you’re coeliac, you’ll know how hard it is to find somewhere to eat! Wagamama was however incredibly accommodating, and made her meals which weren’t on the menu. What a lovely bunch of lads and lassies!
I think if you’re going to plan a trip to Amsterdam, closer to Christmas is the time to do it. The city is already stunningly gorgeous, but it means that everything is wrapped in a blanket of lights every night, making it ten times more special.
The strangest part of my trip was definitely the fact that people thought I was Dutch- in France, they know I’m foreign from a mile off (normally they guess German?) but tourists would come over asking for advice because they thought I was from the city. How strange! An English teacher once told me I looked “very Bavarian”. Maybe that’s it.
All in all, 10/10 would recommend going here. It’s the best city I’ve ever visited, and I am sure that I’ll be back again in the future!
Thank you so much for reading, I hope this inspired you to jet off- if not to Amsterdam, at least to somewhere else in the world!!
I’ll leave a wee link to the Thalys website down below sure, just so you can have a wee parouse. 😉