Less than a fortnight ago I was lucky enough to escape London for the delights of Amsterdam; a city I had always dreamt of visiting but had not yet had the opportunity to explore. James earned himself top boyfriend brownie points when he treated me to flights there and back at Christmas. Although, I can say now that I'm back on London soil, I would have been more than happy with a one-way ticket to Amsterdam.
Now, I'm not the most well-travelled girl. My days of being a globe trotting lady of leisure are yet to come. I fall in love with almost every city I visit that isn't London. But, I just didn't realise how much I would become absolutely besotted with Amsterdam. Less than 24 hours after stepping foot off of the plane, we were sat in a crooked old pub, hazy under the spell of a few Heinekens discussing the reality of moving to this idyllc city. Even now I'm sat on my bed typing this back on my home turf, I feel a little sick to the stomach that I'm no longer in Amsterdam. As soon as we reached McDonald's at Victoria Station, I began to scour LinkedIn for job vacancies in the Netherlands. I have well and truly fallen in love.
Amsterdam has a somewhat seedy reputation as the infamous Red Light District and legalised cannabis laws attracts some of Britain's finest bellends who would refer to themselves as 'lads'. We were unfortunate enough to encounter a pack of these idiots on our plane out there who felt the need to echo football chants the entire flight. However, Amsterdam does not deserve this seedy reputation whether you agree with it's policies or not. The Red Light District hosts some of the most picturesque and breathtaking belt of canals lined with a juxtapose of lively bars, sex shops and erotic entertainment.
Whilst in Amsterdam, James and myself, were probably the worst tourists. We went with no set plan and every day we just walked as far as our legs could carry us without any particular destination stopping for coffee, food or beer wherever we discovered along the way. We didn't really cover much of the tourist stops other than the Heineken Experience, which was a bit of a bore, and the Sex Museum, which is totally overrated too but it only costs €4. Just wandering led us to chancing across a blooming flower market, as well as a strip of underground cheese shops. We managed to eat our way through every single sample of cheese including a marble blue and purple lavender blended cheese (which was a crime against cheese and humanity, if you must know!).
We spent one morning at the Waterlooplein Flea Market, because I'm a sucker for a flea market when I'm abroad even if my luggage allowance can't handle it. Unfortunately, as we went on a rainy Monday morning the stalls were few and far between. Luckily, there was one incredible vintage stall full of other worldly secondhand treasures, in where I managed to snap up two jackets for just €20. Just behind the market, seated beside the canal was a little vintage haunt calledEpisode, which you should pop by if you're in the Waterlooplein district.
Getting around Amsterdam is rather simple and efficient, especially compared to London. We each purchased a 4-day metro and tram pass from transport provider GVB, which you can pick up from any metro station at a self-service machine. Unlimited transport links around the city for the duration of our time cost just €21. Although you can discover the delights of Amsterdam on foot, it's also just as exciting to jump on a tram with a destination you cannot pronounce and see where you end up! When using the trams make sure you touch in and touch out with your GVB travel card to avoid it being voided and having to pay out for a new one. James learnt this the hard way, so I pass on this advice from firsthand experience.
If there's one thing I do regret, it's not renting a bicycle. Amsterdam is woven with a rat run of cycle lanes and the bicycles somewhat outnumber those on foot. If you do decide to rent a bike, be sure to rent from a valid rental company such as Green Budget Bikes rather than a stranger on the street.
Now, let's talk food bitches. Granted we didn't explore much Dutch cuisine. The most expensive yet delicious meal we indulged in was a wagu beef and bacon cheeseburger from Burger Zaken. It came to a round €35 for two of us for a burger with fries and a soft drink, but I can honestly say we did not need to eat for the rest of the day.
We paid a couple of visits to Wok to Walk, because it's so god damn delicious and convenient. Although there's a few dotted about London, this was my first Wok to Walk experience. The kebab shops of Amsterdam are the most enticing as they line their windows with devilish yet genius foods such as cheese and bacon topped hotdogs! Hello?! CHEESE AND BACON TOPPED HOTDOGS! Potentially the best yet regrettable drunk food that ever did exist.
Also, just to make matters worse these kebab shops offer up a range of sweet treats from cakes and brownies to sugar-coated waffles. When you're drunk, vulnerable and excessively hungry these kebab shops can be heaven on Earth.
Dotted around the city is fast food chain, Febo, with a garish yellow and red branding. Believe me, you won't miss it. Febo is every health junkie's worst nightmare as it serves up rubbery burgers and hot, processed snacks from a vending machine like contraption. Although I wouldn't recommend Febo based on taste alone (after one bite of my 'bacon cheese burger' I threw it in the bin), I would say waste the €2 just for the experience and satisfaction of a self-service burger.
Kokopelli Smart Shop is a little cove we discovered on our last afternoon after passing it continually throughout the week. Smart Shops are essentially stores that sell legal psychedelics including magic mushrooms. They are the 'safest' way to experience hallucinogenics whilst visiting Amsterdam, as you should never purchase drugs from a street dealer. Although we didn't dabble in psychedelic tendencies whilst away it was a great creative space to explore with beautiful handmade clothing and psychedelic art prints.
On our travels one evening we also encountered another little creative space at the Zeedijk of Amsterdam, The Emporium of Wonders, which was a treasure trove of vintage and secondhand clothing, art, music and drinks. I managed to pick up a sweet, fringed leather skirt from a girl selling her wardrobe to fund her world trip for just €6. The space is constantly changing and hosts a multitude of events so there'll be something different every time you visit.
We spent a fair bit of our time drinking our way through every single pub and bar Amsterdam had to offer. Every narrow cobbled alleyway is lined with neon signs inviting you in to sample a beer or two. What you have to bare in mind is the majority of pubs in Amsterdam are TINY. Like really tiny. Most of them won't be any bigger than your downstairs living room with a bar, two tables and a smoking room shoved in the corner.
We also spent a couple of fun, tequila-fuelled nights at American biker bar, Excalibur, which is located in the heart of the Red Light District and happens to be one of the cheapest places to drink. We had to admire the impressive collection of Americana inspired memorabilia that plasters the walls as well as coo-ing over the cutest pub dog and drinking with a collection of new faces from the other end of the world.
There's something quite cosy and quaint about sharing your overcrowded table with a couple of strangers from across the globe underneath a dimly lit lamp and listening to The Cure on a jukebox. It beats Saturday night at your local 'spoons having half a pint spilt over you by a brazen buffoon in a football shirt, anyhow. Can you tell how desperate I am to escape the UK again already?
Needless to say, I'll fall in love with London again someday. But for now London, I think we need a break. A 'Ross & Rachel kinda break'. We've tired of each other for now, we'll see other places and people but somehow find our way back together from time to time, but then we'll grow old together. Well, I'll grow old at least.
And for now my heart's in Amsterdam.
P.S. Cats just wander around supermarkets like they own the place. Can you get much better than that?
I'm Leigh, a vintage obsessed, twenty-something illustration graduate now delving into the world of digital marketing. The late 60s & early 70s are my era. I have a penchant for terrible horror movies and burgers.