Next up in the Travel Tuesdays series is the fair city of Amsterdam a really fun city I have had the pleasure of visiting four times. The first time I went I was 17 and had just finished my A level myself and two good friends stayed in a hostel near Vondelpark as our first real break for freedom. Later on that following summer I inter-railed around Europe with my boyfriend at the time for a month (no idea how I persuaded my parents to let me do that!!) and our first stop was Amsterdam. Then a few years ago I met up with good friends I had met in Australia and finally Rodney and I were there in January for a couple of nights.
(Hella, Mags and I - the Terrible Threesome)
Hella my friend from Australia lives on a houseboat on one of the canals; her house was amazing and surprisingly spacious. When staying with her we got around by bikes which was a perfect way to wizz around the city so this time one of the first things Rodney and I did was hire bikes from Mac Bikes near Liedesplein.
It was the best decision ever, our hotel was a 20 minute walk from the bars and restaurants around Leidesplein but by bike we were there in 5 minutes. We would cycle through Vondelpark (Amsterdam's massive park) alongside everybody else and there dog and would end up in the city centre and ready to explore. The Dutch are really into their cycling so there were cycle paths everywhere to make it easy for us, although they don't particularly like tourists on bikes!!
In Vondelpark they had this great idea for lost property - how clever is that!!
On the Saturday Rodney and I headed to a market at Waterlooplein that Hella had shown me on my previous trip. Its a fun place full of odd bits and bobs a bit like the stalls at the Meadows Festival. When I was there with the girls we had a great time trying on all the vintage stuff.
After the market Rodney and I went to a small independent brewery, brouwerijhet-ij,, it is built in what used to be a bath house, next to a big windmill.
We arrived just in time to have a tour around, it is really interesting to hear more about the brewing process and the struggles independent Breweries have in the Netherlands because of big, nasty Heineken. One of the things I especially liked was that the mulch that is left hops etc is given to a farmer on the outskirts of Amsterdam who uses it to feed his sheep, he then makes cheese with the sheep's milk some of which he gives to the Brewery and is sold in the bar there. I love the wee circle; nothing gets wasted. After the tour we tried a sample of some of their beers along with the cheese. We were so impressed with the place that we used a beer mat to create a bit of art for our gallery wall.
During our trip we also went to the Heinekein Brewery (even after learning about how evil they were) which was a much bigger more polished experience and therefore for me anyways not as enjoyable. However it has some interesting bits, such as the huge vats used in the brewing process and the Beer bottle ride.
We also wandered around the touristy areas of Amsterdam, along the canals of the red light district, which even on my fourth visit still amuses me. I find it fascinating how everybody's taste is catered for in various little clusters in the area. There are windows along the canals with ladies in them waiting for customers, some are doing their best to be alluring and tempt you in while others look bored and are reading magazines. Despite what they are there for the area doesn't really feel that sleazy, just north of the red light district is one of the busiest places to eat and drink that we found. That said I do feel sorry for the girls who have become a tourist attraction and wonder if the Dutch system protects them as it was designed to. I thought it was disrespectful to take any pictures, but the top picture of the canal is one street over from the main through-fare of the red light district and here is one of the surrounding streets.
As well as the girls in windows there is a load of sex shops, which again are more tourist attractions than anything else, but where else can you muck around in a willy hat :-)
Anyone else been to Amsterdam? Whats your favourite thing to do there? PS there is another great blogpost about Amsterdam here and here.