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Come fly with me

Canals, bikes and red lights

Today’s blog post is all about my little trip to Amsterdam with my friend Laura.  We called it our one year anniversary, as around this time last year we were about to embark on our Ozzy adventure, plus the day before we set off to the dam, Facebook reminded us that we’d been ‘Facebook friends’ for seven years!  How weird!

So, having heard many stories about Amsterdam, all slightly different, all very similar, I was unsure of what to expect, but really excited to see the place in the flesh.  I’d heard tales of the legal prostitution, joints and ‘spacecakes’ so couldn’t wait to check it all out, and experience their culture.

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Our first day consisted of a massive, 2 hour queue to see the Anne Frank house! 2 hours stood in a queue is enough to make anyone grumpy, but obviously it was cold and windy that day too!  However we stuck it out and what an experience it was.  It was amazing to see the house where the families lived in hiding for 2 years, to actually see and touch the bookcase which concealed the door to their house, and to step into Anne’s bedroom and look at extracts from her diary.  It felt like we had flown back in time.  I’m really fascinated by anything to do with the war, so it was definitely a tick off the bucket list.

That evening we were in for another new and interesting experience, as we had our first night out on the red light district.  I’m not entirely sure how to describe the whole scene, but I think bizarre and surreal fit pretty well!  The whole area is lit up in bright red lighting, and there are three girls in each window, unless a curtain is closed which means they are currently ‘busy’.  It’s actually crazy to think that this kind of thing is legal and accepted as part of their everyday culture.  I’d love to be a fly on the wall for the day!

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We were the typical British tourists on day 2; first stop being the famous Van Gogh museum.  I won’t pretend to be an educated art enthusiast, because, well, I’m not.  I know next to nothing about Van Gogh other than his famous ‘sunflowers’ painting (which I managed to get a sneaky pic of!!), so I definitely walked out feeling all ‘arty’ and cultured!  I can appreciate a beautiful painting, and it was interesting to learn about his life and influences, which caused the drastic, wonderful paintings.

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Next, we headed to the famous canals; when I say ‘headed’ they’re everywhere, so we basically walked to the nearest one which was offering a boat tour.  Yes, like every British tourist, we wanted to enjoy a tour of the city, with a can of the local beer in hand.  I’d say we both enjoyed it, but Laura dozed off, much to the thrill of the young foreign girl in front of us, who gave the game away with repetitive cries of ‘asleep, asleep’… ooops!

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Our last stop that day was the sex museum, which was just funny!  Nothing particularly exciting to learn about the sex culture in Amsterdam, but funny photos and comical statues and pop out characters… here’s a photo to give you a little insight! Ha!

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That night we went to Leidseplein Square to eat Chinese food, drink wine, swig free shots and I may have danced to Bruno Mars ‘Treasure’ for a good 5 minutes on my own!

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I was super excited to hire bikes and cycle round the city on our final day; I’d seen so many photos of friends doing the same and it looked fun, I wanted to give it a go.  However a traumatic, ‘near death’ experience on a scooter in Australia should have warned me that my balance, road awareness and general bike riding skills were definitely not on point!  Why is it so hard?! I was a whizz on my bike as a kid, or at least I thought I was?  To be fair, the city is absolutely heaving; trams, cars, bikes, people – all bumping into each other and crossing paths, crazy scenes!

We cycled down one really narrow road, to come head to head with a huge lorry which was not budging.  I was literally crammed on the tiny path, up against my bike, stomach clenched, praying he could get through!

One guy called out to us, ‘Hey, you English?  You need to ride on the right!’  Oh, right, yeah that would make sense.  After an hour we called it a day, that was more than enough cycling for one day, or one year in fact.  I don’t think I’ll be cycling to work anytime soon!

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I think I’ve used the word ‘interesting’ about 5 times in this blog, but that really is the best word for it.  The city is beautiful and offers so much to tourists; another place ticked off the list.

I’m off to Krakow in Poland in October and I’m looking at either Milan or Brussels for a few days in September; I think I may have the bug?!

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