Amsterdam 6th April-8th April 2012
This is an absolute must. There is no better way to explore the city than hopping on the saddle and pedaling your way into immersion. The tour lasted about 2.5 hours and the guide was great, stopping at De Otter windmill in Amsterdam West, Vondelpark and various other places of interest with anecdotes along the way. I think my favourite part of the tour was learning about and truly experiencing bike culture. They have an absolute blithe and carefree attitude towards bicycles; women perched precariously side-saddle with or without foot pegs; sitting, standing, clinging, whatever it took to hitch a ride; and surprisingly, all without helmets. I guess the supremity of their right to be on the road lends to their confidence: Amsterdam's traffic and road systems means that cyclists dominate the roads and cardinally, their culture. It is utterly their way of life, and something I was so envious of.
Having grown up watching more Groundforce than Teletubbies thanks to the floral-partisan that is my mother, I felt it my duty to visit Keukenhof Gardens. All the flowers were so pretty but I think my favourites were the Narcissus daffodils, you can really see how they acquired their name from the Greek fable. Inside the Flower House we discovered a building filled with kooky Cath Kidston-esque products in their organic form: hanging armchairs made out of bent tree branches, handmade wooden lanterns.. (see picture --). I tried so hard not to fall in love with the maidenly aprons, kitchen table cloths and other terribly domestic and overtly female products but I'm sorry girls! I took lots of snaps there for reference when styling my future home, it nailed kitsch-homeware down to a tee.
We ate at this underground pancake house for dinner on the last night; I ordered the Indonesian pancake filled with chicken, leek and onions in a peanut satay sauce, and for dessert I tried these miniature pancakes called poffertjes which came with mandarin oranges, whipped cream, nuts and sprinkled sugar. Deeelicious! An epicurean's dream. Apart from the odd waffle, this was probably the Dutch-iest meal we ate all weekend. We had a frutti di mare italian on the first night and some finger-licking-good ribs on the second. Hello Boyfriend Bloat, how I've missed you...
Being the philomaths we are, as you can imagine the Heineken museum was not originally our first port of call. It was only after learning that the Van Gogh queue would last up to 45 minutes (I could have cried) that we reluctantly wandered away from an afternoon of erudition and artwork to one involving pints of dutch beer. Wouldn't really recommend this place to anyone who isn't looking to be herded like cattle when perusing a museum (we spent about an hour queuing inside as well!) but the 2 beers we got at the end went down nicely at least.
Red Light District
Again, one of those things you just have to experience! Not gonna say much about it here, but all I will say is 2 minutes for 2 euros...
...and finally the coveted "Coffeeshops"
We were referred to supposedly the best coffeeshop in the city, aptly named The Greenhouse. Having gone to what is the highly (hello pun!) acclaimed city of marijuana, we were determined not to fall short of the standard "Ladsterdam" activities just because we were a couple. I think I let the team down though - after only 2 puffs of a 'mild mixed joint', I'd had enough! I don't think the Dutch 'mild' measures up with British definitions of it, but we had fun (I think). On a completely unrelated note, the Chocolate Fudge Brownie Icecream they serve is the best I've ever eaten...
The 16-strong group of lads on our Easyjet flight vouches for the assumption that the majority of people who would benefit from Amsterdam would be those going with friends, interested in getting drunk, or high, or laid. But you would be pleasantly surprised those who haven't visited would be pleasantly surprised. Amidst the backdrop of a rowdy, brothel-thriving city emerges a beautiful, (energy) efficient country filled with a fascinating culture. Whatever your modis operandi: bikes, canals, food, weed, whatever - Amsterdam offers it all.
Parka - ASOS
Black Shirt Dress - Pins & Needles via Urban Outfitters
Denim shirt - Topshop
Leather jacket - Miss Selfridge
Dress - Ark
Fedora Hat - Urban Outfitters
MOTO Leigh Jeans - Topshop
Grey tee - Republic
Brogue Boots - ASOS
Rupert-the-bear scarf - mother's own
Hat - Topman
Socks - Topshop
Rucksack - vintage via eBay
Tote bag - Dixi