11 September 2013

Amsterdam - Canals, Coffee Shops & Bicycles

Time waits for no one! Time for another adventure?! Me and my younger brother jetted off to Amsterdam. I've been busy with this international travel lark, but this Dutch escapade would be my final overseas trip for a long while. Leave the Tulips because they are not really Dutch, they're Turkish! You know Mary Jane Holland was with us! Wait for this lady of the dam!

Welcome to Amsterdam! This Dutch city has many a tale to tell, but we weren't looking for stories it was an adventure of some sort we were looking for. Our first port of call was Amsterdam Centraal, it was an interesting journey but we finally made it to our hotel that happened to be in the centre of Amsterdam's Red Light District. The weather was beautiful, a warm ray of sunshine engulfed the quirky streets of this unique Dutch city. I speak for the both of us to express that we loved Dam from the very first moment! Our first impressions of Amsterdam's quaint side streets and canals made us feel right at home. By the time we had made our way to Amsterdam's Red Light District it was time to check-in to our hotel. I had chosen for us to stay at the 'Hotel Royal Taste' a charming hotel which sits along one of the smaller canal avenues within the Red Light District. Boy, the view was on it! Brothers on tour!

This trip had to be epic because my brother had turned 18 in May so things were going to get a bit exciting. Amsterdam had to be the place for our last holiday before university, I really wanted this trip to be special, by what I mean this weekend had to be memorable! Dropping our bags we said goodbye to the confides of our hotel to enjoy the delights of Amsterdam. The Red Light District looked more like a jovial pantomime, the suggestive manner of the working girls made me laugh! Little did they knew I didn't get off their bus stop if you get what I mean? No! The canals were beautiful, the people were friendly but we were looking for some excitement. Bicycles are the way forward in Amsterdam, they are more dangerous than cars in my opinion because they are literally everywhere on the streets. Let me rephrase that please, the bicycles are crazy for they own the stress like a car would in London or Paris I tell you! I'll always be a gypsy, going from one place to the other!

A visit to one of Amsterdam's Coffee Shops is a must, whether its for a relaxing smoke or just to see what all the fuss is about. We choose GOA, a chilled and hip Coffee Shop that had a urban atmosphere with a fairly young catchment of participants. I would like to think I have a liberal attitude towards Cannabis but in Holland its legal to smoke Cannabis in a Coffee Shop. Mary Jane Holland was about so things were just fine, the wide selection of Coffee Shops in Amsterdam's Red Light District means that we were spoiled for choice but we chose GOA to be our favourite! You could say that the air has a chilled feeling its a pleasure to walk the cobbles of this city with a pleasant haze. It's about greener pastures for one reason I could see what products the Coffee Shops were selling, the menu was clearly layed for the least informed smoker. I enjoyed my time at GOA, it shows that a modern city can safely regulate Marijuana. 

We're so straight laced in Britain, we have so many laws that just don't make sense but the Dutch have it all covered! Coffee Shops in The Netherlands abide by the law to not serve alcohol in-favour of soft drinks such as juices, coffee and tea. One thing I didn't indulge in was eating the cakes laced with the green stuff because that would've just been damn stupid! I seem to be harping on about GOA but this Coffee Shop definitely feels like the 'Empress of Serenity.' I know that I shall be going back to the Netherlands in the future so I can sample other quirky and cool Coffee Shops as and when I return I might well spend one afternoon in Utrecht! Visit Amsterdam for something out of this world, its got that crazy and relaxed feeling all in one place. Plus Dutch is an interesting language to listen to after a few Mary Jane's! Throw caution to the wind like we did to enjoy something outside of the box? I look back with a relaxed demeanour to say the grass is really greener on every side! 

Amsterdam is most definitely the city of canals, with the never-ending avenues of water its not difficult to discover a new part of Amsterdam's vast network of open waterways. On the second day of our trip we decided to take a canal boat trip to be further acquainted with this charming Dutch city. I for one loved it, I'm not one for museums or art galleries so I know that this relaxing excursion was the perfect decision. We passed the Anne Frank house but I decided against visiting because I had already been to Auschwitz in Poland to pay my respects to the murdered Jews. On the whole I loved the winding canals that I saw on the boat trip, the iconic buildings that were once factories looked darling in the mild September sunshine. The weather was amazing for September time! I always find it very important to get to know a city's fabric, to further appreciate the little niches that makes a place pop! 

Another city that boasts some impressive canals springs to mind when I think about Amsterdam, no not Venice! Birmingham has that something special with its post industrial waterways but still makes them look trendy, so I got that vibe from Amsterdam with the waterside properties and boathouses. Captured above is the view I admired during the boat trip, a fact springs to mind that the apartments used to be factories and with a closer look the hook at the top of the building would pull the goods from the canal into the warehouse. The riverboat trip gave us a wealth of knowledge about Amsterdam's shipping boom and the part the canal systems played in helping trade boom. Amsterdam is just another working girl, serving forward to pay her way as a key European city of the world! Would I return to The Netherlands? Yes, I quite fancy a weekend in Rotterdam. We didn't really see many places pushing locals dishes apart from cheese, no apologies for that Amsterdam!

On the cultural note Amsterdam offers so much more, I'm a stickler for a historical monument that really makes a city pop! Captured to the right is Dam Square a magnificent wide open centre of energy. We saw Dam Square twice, on our first meeting I wasn't too impressed, the day must have taken its toll but on the second occasion. Of course it was cool! Amsterdam's got some real gems when speaking about architecture, some palatial sights for sure. The Royal Palace of Amsterdam takes pride of place looking over the centre of Dam Square. Backtracking to the beginning of our trip we took the the GVB train from Amsterdam Centraal to Nieuwmarkt but after looking at a map online we discovered that we could have walked to our hotel through the formidable Dam Square. Amsterdam's Centrum is currently being developed, to gain what benefit I'm not quite sure as it didn't disrupt our trip at all. Get your life!

I must confess that I first saw Amsterdam on an episode of MTV's Geordie Shore, I would say that the depiction of this city was perfect for our trip as we did see the working girls of the Red Light District knocking their glass doors to bring the punters in, I simply laughed because that's not my cup of tea! Embrace the twilight in Amsterdam because there's so much going on! Taking the alternative to a new height we paid a visit to the Condomerie, that was just darn bizarre! Firstly we choose to scout out a few more Coffee Shops, including the Bulldog and some others I can't remember the name of. It's an attitude free scene in Dam when the sun goes down, let's just say we were loving the twilight! To conclude our short break we got our pre-drink on ready to enjoy a buzzing night at Escape and I must say that we enjoyed it very much! I must admit that it would have been nice to have had a takeaway open in the small hours, clubbing makes me hungry! Oh no Amsterdam!

Amsterdam . . . Get Yourselves To The Dam ! ! !  

Joseph Harrison