Amsterdam

I love postcards. I always have. It’s just a great thing about travelling, although I do have a tendency to write too much on them (probably not a surprise to those who know me or or read this blog). A few weekends ago I took a little trip to Amsterdam, and since you can’t really send everyone a postcard I thought I’d do a little series of them for the blog – so here’s Amsterdam, through the mildly concerning (and highly over-caffeinated) voice of my inner monologue.

Well there are a heck of a lot of bikes here, aren’t there? But I think I’ve only seen one bike shop. I know a lot of them are old and rusty, but surely they need repairing? Holy crap, I really want a new bike. Must sort that when I get back home. Also I hear no chat about crazy cyclists getting caught in tram tracks and suing the local authorities – clearly much more sensible than back home. Damn I really want a coffee.

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Coffee, coffee, coffee. There’s coffee shops everywhere. I really enjoy this. Careful though, there are two types – Hippie and Hipster. 24 hours in and I’m already bored of the smell of pot (from outside the cafes, of course, I actually am sweet and innocent like that), so it’ll be the hipster sort for me. Actually there’re two types of hipster coffee shop – the old, delapedated/how-on-earth-is-this-allowed-under-EU-health-and-safety kind, and the sort that is a cross between modern technology and amazing Scandinavian design. Would I like a caramel waffle with my coffee? Well it would seem rude not to, wouldn’t it?

Did I mention there were lots of canals? Bloody love a good canal.

Canal Amsterdam

I’m just ambling now – camera over my shoulder and that weird obsession of looking up at all the architecture; remembering occasionally to look down to make sure I don’t accidentally topple into a canal. OK, so the walking tour would have been much more informative than this ambling, but it was just a huge group of tourists that were moaning before they started, can’t see it lasting 1 hour, let alone the advertised 3. Bleeping tourists. Oh wait, I’m totally one of those. Even when I’m at home – it’s the camera that gives it away.

Houses Amsterdam

Another coffee? Seems like a good idea.

Now for a museum. But which one? There are so many! Hmm, Nemo – the Dutch national Science Museum – wins. Clearly I’m still a geeky little scientist on the inside. It’s amazing. Never mind my inner scientist, my not-so inner 10 year old loves this place. So much to play with! Mess about with running water to make the water wheel move faster? Sort the different size and coloured balls that can’t be done by eye? Do quizzes to find out about my levels of perception, IQ, personality, yada yada yada? I’m totally in. Oh, and there’s a live demo! Excellent.

Turns out I’d be an excellent witness – top 5% apparently, according to the somewhat non-robust study of museum visitors – and I’m likely to find lots of things funny. Are they trying to tell me I’m immature? Probably about right.

Amsterdam

Time for dinner. A hipster bar/bistro in Haarlem? I guess the area was ‘up and coming’ about five years ago – now it’s full of bistros, beautiful flats (totally wasn’t looking in people’s windows…) and bars. It’s awesome. So glad my B&B is in this part of town. I think I made friends with the bar staff. Excellent.

The Red Light District. It’s kind of a must to walk round here isn’t it? Oh a stag party making poor choices, now there’s a surprise… It’s actually a lot smaller than I thought it would be – although in fairness I don’t think I’ve ever seriously thought about it. Is it tacky? A bit, but it all just feels a bit sad and seedy. Oh look – there’s a window space up for rent, wonder how many drunken prank calls they’re going to get tonight. Hmm, I don’t even know how to describe the contents of that shop window. I really had a sheltered upbringing, didn’t I? Well, I suppose, whatever people are in to…

Red Light District Amsterdam

Another walk along canals today? Think that sounds amazing. Should I stop for a coffee first?

Is that even a question?

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Ah, today is the grown up day – I’m going to the Rijksmuseum, home to the Dutch national art collections and beautiful exhibits. The building alone is stunning – although they still have an ice rink in February? My professional marketing brain is clicking in, the I AMSTERDAM branding is really very good.

Rijkmuseum Amsterdam

Oh wow. There is so much art. I know nothing about art. I am so uncultured. Note to self – I really must get passed the café and see some portraits in the National Portrait Gallery when I get home, it’s really not acceptable that I’ve been there four times and not seen a single painting.

OK, I’m a convert to art – the Rijksmuseum is amazing. The Night Watchman is an incredible painting, and some of these collections are just unreal. They even have the Royal Crest of the back of an old British naval ship (the old wooden type of ye olde days). I’ve been spotted by a German couple as British person – they’re asking why we have a horse on our royal coat of arms.

I think that they thought I was taking the proverbial big time when I told them it was actually a unicorn, not a horse. OK, perhaps a unicorn is a bit of an unusual national animal. I still think it’s amazing though.

Back to the art. So much art. It’s all beautiful, but I’m struggling to take it all in. Think I’ll miss out the gallery of more modern art – almost got kicked out of the gallery in Philadelphia once because I couldn’t stop giggling at the ‘art’/paint splatters. I’m going to need a coffee after this. Probably a pancake or waffle as well. Just because.

I don’t really drink Heineken, but my friend that lives in The Hague said I had to go to the Heineken Experience, it’s kind of a Dutch icon. My marketing brain is also very curious.

They’ve done really well. It’s brilliant. Sure, it’s one enormous piece of corporate propaganda, but I really enjoyed it. They definitely deserve all those marketing awards they keep getting. Fascinating story though. And I’m almost engrossed by their football stuff. I don’t even like football. You can do a simulation ride of what it’s like to be made into beer and bottled? Of course I’m going to do that. You get a ‘free’ drink at the end? Lovely. Yes please. Although let’s be honest, it’s not really free is it?

Canal Amsterdam

Now it’s definitely time for some more coffee. More pancakes. More wandering by canals. Oh look – a bike! Haven’t seen one of those for at least three steps. I do love all their cycle lanes though – wish we had more of those in Edinburgh, I love cycling, but really hate doing it in town. Wander, canal, wander, canal, drink coffee, eat, repeat.

And like that the long weekend is over. It’s back to Schiphol (the train to get here is super efficient and quick – perhaps it’s not so bad that a Dutch company is taking Scotrail over this year – the moaners couldn’t argue that this isn’t good).

Bike Amsterdam

You know, I think I really like Amsterdam. I even managed to stay out of all the canals – that I’m especially proud of. All that coffee I’ve drunk? I’m sure my body’s not quite so proud of that. Should you go? Most definitely.

And now normal Edinburgh service can resume.