I am a hypocrite.
I will categorically state to anybody that I am NOT a city girl; resenting the hustle and bustle of cities as I become engulfed within the mass crowds. It feels like an expedition to just manoeuvre your way along a path: people always seem to be swarming TOWARDS you, making you feel invisible as they leave next to no room for you to slip through the minuscule gap between them.
There are many cities that make me want to run for the distant hills. But there are the cities that leave you with a lasting memory of happiness and adventure. San Francisco, Las Vegas, York, Edinburgh and Dublin are all cities that I have adored. Amsterdam has been added to this list and is taking place towards the top of the rankings!
Chilled, casual and charming
I can honestly say that I have never been to a more relaxed city (not because of the “coffee shops” either). People aren’t in a rush. They amble around. They browse. They chat and laugh as they walk. They sit drinking coffee at any given opportunity. Yes, there are tourists but there are also many locals also. The Dutch people have an infectiously calming ambience about them. The lack of cars also adds to the chilled vibes of the city, with the majority of people on bicycles. The women are beautiful: they have mastered the natural look! Their lack of make-up and free flowing hair, reflects on their relaxed nature. I could walk round this city for hours and never get bored.
Inspirational History: Anne Frank House
We all have those moments in life where we are taken aback by others’ experiences. Experiences that encourage you to reflect on the past and to respect it. These moments for me, are most predominantly centred on history. As an avid lover or history- especially WW1 and WW2- I am always pulled to sites and places that link directly with the past. Like a powerful magnetism is drawing me to them, I cannot leave a city knowing there is a key site of history that I haven’t visited. The struggle of the Jews and other citizens during the Nazi occupation, is a part of history that captivates me. Anne Frank’s House did just that. Standing in the annex where the Jewish people hid with fear, an overwhelming rush of sadness bestows upon you. The sadness sits there as you feel your heart become a little heavier knowing their experiences and sufferings. Can you imagine living on one floor, in darkness and in silence for two years? Her posters of Hollywood movie stars scattered the walls as a reminder of the outside world and -most importantly- freedom. You can picture her biding her time, daydreaming about growing into a woman and living a full life after the war. But from it all – the extracts of her diary, the recounts of her father and those that fought to protect them- you acknowledge the incredibly inspiring amount of willpower that was prevalent within the Jewish people at that time, including Anne. She was just a normal girl who wrote a diary, with dreams like any other young lady that age. If only she knew how her accounts would live on to this day, inspiring generations to come and reminding them of the Jewish struggle and their powerful strength. I have to say that an hour in Anne Frank’s house, was an hour that will be embedded within my memory, leaving me with a lasting impression of Amsterdam and its history.
Beautiful by day, beautiful by night
Prior to visiting Amsterdam, I had seen pictures of the city on numerous pages on Instagram. Often, a place can be edited and appear to be more charismatic on camera than with what it appears to be with your own eyes: this causes such disappointment! However, Amsterdam’s beauty isn’t false or edited with the brightest Instagram filter, it is authentically and wonderfully charming; a real eye-pleaser. The iconic canals with their bold bridges lined the city. The narrow, unique buildings were flipped upside down in the ripples of the water, their differing colours casting a refection that looked like the most perfect watercolour painting. The colour of the cerise pink flowers lining the bridges add another pop of colour to the scene.
We wanted to explore this stunning city further and what better way to do so than by canal boat? We were shown Amsterdam from the water which was accompanied by an all-inclusive bar, which I owe for my first experience of Heineken! (We used boatamsterdam.com).
The beauty of Amsterdam doesn’t fade as the sun sets and casts a charming darkness over the city. Cradling a glass of Chardonnay and a pint of Heineken, we saw day turn to night. The twinkling lights sparkled in the black water and it was simply stunning.
Red Lights at night
I think it is completely normal to be apprehensive about the famous Red Light District. We stumbled across the street and funnily enough, I still don’t know what to make of it. What I can say however, is that during the day, the street almost blends with the others as the canals sit amongst the district, so you don’t notice where you are until you arrive. Then, on the night, it all changes. The window lights become brighter as the night draws in – the red standing out as it contrasts with the darkening atmosphere. It is the hub of night life (in many ways) with stag and hen parties lining the red light’s section of the canal. Seeing the ladies in the window was a strangely cultural shock. I couldn’t help feeling sympathetic to them stood behind the glass with thousands of staring eyes night upon night. I just hope they are safe, happy and are supported.
Lots to see and do
It is safe to say that Amsterdam can appeal to everyone, with there being many places to see, do and eat/drink in. Although we didn’t have time to do everything the city has to offer, we did the things that were on the top of our Amsterdam sightseeing list. As well as the Anne Frank House and the canal boat ride, we also visited two other tourist attractions, in addition to many cafes!
We couldn’t travel to Amsterdam and not venture to the home of Heineken! The museum was a mixture of history and sipping cold Heineken – what is there not to like? There were many authentic artefacts from the history of the company, as well as fun and exciting activities to keep you engaged! (My other half LOVED the football section, surprisingly I didn’t ha!)
Because we were already a few miles out of the city centre, we decided to have a (rather sweaty) stroll to the vastly green Vondelpark. Although not a top tourist attraction, I love to be surrounded by nature. It was my idea of peacefulness. Surrounded by trees and bushes that cascaded around us, I was happy to sit there just looking at the wide palette of greens accentuated by the summer sun. I have also never seen so many dragonflies as I have here. Their luminescent blue bodies skimmed across the water so delicately: it was lovely to watch.
If you have an hour to spare in Amsterdam, there are plenty of cafes and bars to sit and unwind in. The weather was fabulous whilst we were there so we took every opportunity to sit outside and watch the world go by. On the one occasion where it down poured, we sat cosily in a café by the canals with a soothing hot chocolate watching the rain hammer down: so snug!
Another important thing to note is the vast amount of food for veggies! I always worry about food in foreign places, but it is safe to say there were many cheesy dishes, veggie burgers, sensational sorbets and incredible Italian dishes for me to chomp on!
I didn’t realise how much I would love this city. There is something incredibly exciting about visiting somewhere new for the first time. Although I’ve ticked Amsterdam off my bucket list, I would always be ready for another Dutch adventure: I would return to this charming city in a heartbeat! Until next time Amsterdam!