Lifestyle, pet, travel and teaching blog

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Amsterdam: European Adventure

For our summer holiday this year, Tom and I decided to plan a mini European adventure. I have been interrailing by myself before, and Tom flew out to meet me then in Amsterdam, my final destination. We had the best time, and I'd have loved for us to Interrail further afield together this time, but funds and work committments prevented this from being a possibility. Instead, we decided to return to Amsterdam as the flights were so affordable, and to investigate what Berlin has to offer, as this was the one destination that everyone I met whilst travelling recommended most highly. Thanks to Skyscanner, Agoda, Hostel World and a fair few evenings of bargain searching, a week later we were off!

This post in particular will focus on the Amsterdam leg of our journey...Berlin soon to follow!




Amsterdam



Day 1 - Most of our first 'day' was spent packing and travelling. Our flight was at 5:30pm from Gatwick so we spent the morning preparing, dropping Ayra with my parents and getting to London in time to beat the traffic! We booked my car in with Gatwick Parking using their Summer Special deal which was so handy - it cost £51 for the Monday til Saturday, and it was a super simple process of showing up, dropping off my keys and receiving a ticket to hand in for when I came back to collect on the Saturday. We then hopped on the shuttle bus and were at the airport in about 5mins. A really useful service!

The flight to Amsterdam itself was very cheap - £50 each with then £10 for a single hold luggage bag - and is super short. I didn't even have chance to nap! It's technically an hour's flight but that really does include take off and landing too. We travelled with easyJet and the experience was straight-forward; assisted by downloading and using their app throughout, which I would 100% recommend doing for any easyJet trip. The live updates about whether the flight was on time and the digital boarding passes were particularly useful.

Arriving in Amsterdam was again a super smooth process; the great thing about Amsterdam airport is that it has a train station attached to it, which makes getting to and from the airport hassle-free. We spoke to the information desk and got info about the tram system for the rest of our stay, but decided to grab a taxi as our hotel was closer to the airport than it was to the centre. We chose budget over location!

The hotel itself was the New Inn Hotel - we arrived around 9:20pm and by the time we had dropped off our bags and settled in to our room it was nearer 9:45pm. As the hotel was a little in the sticks, we asked at Reception where we should go for a bite to eat and they informed us that everywhere but the hotel restaurant would close at 10pm, much to our dismay! Do bear this in mind when visiting Amsterdam - their restaurants close early. We went for a quick stroll just to be sure and they were absolutely correct - nowhere was open. We grabbed some water and snacks from a little convenience shop and headed to the hotel restaurant for a quick bowl of pasta, ready for an early night so we could make a timely start exploring Amsterdam the next day.


Simple, functional rooms at the New Inn, Amsterdam



Day 2

If Day 1 was all about travel, Day 2 was full-on tourist sight-seeing. We packed so much in!

We began by grabbing a tram into the centre of Amsterdam and meandering through the streets, lusting after the delicious-looking waffles, cakes and cheeses on display.


We ended up grabbing brunch at a little cafe the next street over from the Royal Palace, and enjoyed  paninis and sandwiches whilst watching other tourists pass the window.


Bellies full, we strolled back up to the central square, with an informidably large Madame Tussaud's and the Royal Palace itself staring down at the crowds in the centre. There were the typical entertainers around, feeding pigeons, dressed as storm-troopers, performing comedy acts and magic tricks.


We decided to explore the Royal Palace itself, which was 10 euros each and included an audio tour and a free cloakroom to store your bags.





The architecture was beautiful and the audio tour was very interesting. The only slight let-down was how busy it was, which just meant we couldn't enjoy the rooms as much as we'd like!

We then went on a mission to find Patatje Oorlog, a Dutch speciality snack that essentially consists of chips, onions, mayonnaise and satay sauce.




Although about 4.50 apiece, these were probably the most delicious thing we ate all trip - and we ate a lot.


From our previous trip to Amsterdam, we knew that the famous Ann Frank museum was extremely popular and extremely difficult to get into. Tickets go on sale online 3 months in advance and unfortunately there weren't any left for our last minute trip. The only choice was therefore for us to queue; from 3:30pm every day more tickets become available for those who have been unable to buy online. We meandered through Amsterdam with our Patatje Oorlog and arrived at the end of the queue at the disgustingly early hour of 2:15pm. The queue was already substantial, but we were by this point committed. We ended up queuing for THREE HOURS.







Although Amsterdam itself is beautiful, that queue really did nearly finish us off...particularly when the rain started! Despite the miserable wait, the Ann Frank house and museum was our favourite activity in Amsterdam; it was so incredible to go behind the bookcase and see where the families hid, complete with pencil-scratch height measurements on the wallpaper and newspaper clippings of Hollywood idols pasted to the wall. It humanised their experience and was incredibly moving. Totally and completely worth the three hour wait. Be warned, though: the stairs are very steep so be careful with your footwear choices. Tickets are a bargain too at €9 - favourably comparable to all of the other museums in Amsterdam, despite its popularity.

After that long rain-soaked queue, we were famished. I'd read online great things about The Butcher, a burger joint, and it wasn't far away so we strolled over to give it a try. It works very much like a Five Guys, but is housed in a small lot with an open kitchen, a giant stuffed fake cow behind a glass case, and London underground-style white tiles everywhere. The burgers were utterly delicious, and I also savoured a thick, chocolate milkshake that was just divine. It was fairly pricey for essentially "fast food" - around €33 for just the two of us, so more of a splurge than your typical McDonald's.




Reinvigorated, we set off for the infamous Red Light District. We obviously exposed ourselves to the area on our last visit, so we decided to focus in particular on a tour around the museum - Secrets of the Red Light District. This is a museum all about prostitution in Amsterdam which was actually very interesting, although at the specific time we visited it was rather busy which made it frustrating - there was an audio guide from a former prostitute but it required you to scan a little hand-held device at certain spots to receive the audio and people kept getting in our way!

The history of the industry and the Red Light District were really interesting, and there was a section all about crime and the unsolved murder of a prostitute which was great. At the very end of the tour there was also a section for people to leave their own sexual secrets on note paper which made for a fascinating read! On the door tickets were €10 each but all over town shops were offering discounted tickets for €8.

As we were already in the Red Light District, we decided to try to find the Ton Ton Club. It's a great little bar that I found online, with old school arcade games everywhere and a laid-back backpacker vibe. Think Jenga, Street Fighter, Air Hockey, board games...it's all very 80s/90s nostalgic. Lots of fun.




We moved on from the Ton Ton Club to a nearby bar...only to be slapped with a €15 price tag for just two drinks. After an already expensive day, we decided to catch the tram back to our hotel pronto.


Day 3

The next day we had to check out of our hotel ready to catch our flight to Berlin that night, which meant carrying our backpacking rucksack around with us for the day. This definitely affected our choice of activities as it got heavy and irritating very quickly!

We thankfully didn't need to check out until midday, so after a luxurious lie in we slowly made our way to the Foodhallen. This is an amazing indoor warehouse-style space, filled with food trucks and exciting dishes to tantalize you. We wandered around, dribbling, before deciding to try some tacos from Lima Taqueria. We tasted both the beef and the chicken; the beef in particular was delicious. The chicken was a little ruined for me by the use of coriander but that is obviously down to personal preference only!








It was such a great way to pass an hour; there was beautiful ice cream, cakes, sandwiches, hot dogs, pizzas, and even a truck from The Butcher!

I also sampled an Italian meat sandwich from Iberio which was just divine, and Tom tested a Chocomel (it was delicious).







Stuffed to the brim, we hopped back on to the tram, huge bag in tow, and made our way to Amsterdam Central Station. We made plans for our departing journey later, and began a stroll along the river to the Science Center - NEMO.




Not only are we both nerds for Science, but we were also desperate for an activity that involved a cloakroom to drop our bag in!

Student discount was offered here (although neither of us qualify any longer...) and this would be a perfect family day out. It was absolutely rammed with kids. This somewhat tempered our fun, but being big kids ourselves we soon got stuck in and had a great time attempting experiments and playing with the interactive games. There was a live demonstration of energy that involved multiple domino-effect gadgets (very Wallace and Gromit!) and we had a lot of fun.







When the kids became a little too much, we picked up our bag and went for a stroll and a hot chocolate along the river front. We found a cute little cafe, sampled some infamous Dutch red velvet cake which was as moist as can be, and read our books for a peaceful hour to unwind.




All too soon it was time to say goodbye to Amsterdam's architecture, canals and multitude of activities. We headed back to the Central Station, grabbed a train to the airport, and prepared ourselves for our 7:30pm flight to Berlin and the next leg of our adventure.

We packed a LOT into 2 and a bit days and had an amazing time. I would beware of how expensive alcohol can be in Amsterdam, as those super cheap flights often fool people into thinking this is a 'budget' destination. Don't get me wrong, it can be, but to really soak up all it has to offer I recommend throwing yourself in and experiencing as much as you possibly can. We will definitely be back!





x.



Check out my other travel adventures here. Don't forget to keep up with my escapades on Twitter!




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4 comments

  1. Ahh you've just made me miss Amsterdam so much!
    I've only been the once but it was easily one of my favourite holidays ever - such a unique place :)
    I'm definitely going to be reading some of your other interailing blog posts!

    Dani x

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    1. Thanks so much Dani! We're planning on heading back yet again with friends in tow in January - it's just so much fun!

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  2. What beautiful photos! Looks like you had a lovely time. I've never been to Europe, I'm from the U.S., but it's stories and posts like these that make me want to board a plane and go exploring. One day!

    - Shannon | www.goingwithhappy.com

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    Replies
    1. We met loads of Americans and Canadians both times we've visited and they all seemed to be having a lot of fun - I reckon bite the bullet and go for it!

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