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Europe » Netherlands » North Holland » Amsterdam
October 15th 2018
Published: January 6th 2019
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I guess that’s why they call it the bluesI guess that’s why they call it the bluesI guess that’s why they call it the blues

A lovely Amsterdam view with a blue hue
Traveling is addictive. I know, because I’m willing to spend money I don’t have, dismiss my family and my job to disappear on a whim, and tolerate loads of discomfort and pain just to get my fix. I’m so deep in, there’s no kicking it now.

Hello, my name is Andrea, and I’m a travel junkie.

According to the cartoons of my childhood, teleporting should be a thing by now. But it’s not. So, layovers have become my essential travel tool. Those long haul 18+ hours flights, seated in coach, are the true definition of hell. But.

Can’t stop. Won’t stop.

I love Amsterdam and it has become my preferred halfway point for any African or Middle Eastern excursion. Years ago, I loathed this stopover and I simply referred to Schiphol as Shit Hole.

Then one day I ventured out of the terminal and discovered Amsterdam is layover gold!

Autumn is definitely the most beautiful time of year to visit Holland. The briskness of the air, the fall foliage reflecting off the dark waterways, the way the sun sits low in the sky, with everyone bustling about, bike bells clanging, gloved hands carrying steaming cups
Amsterdam - Not Just Cheese & DykesAmsterdam - Not Just Cheese & DykesAmsterdam - Not Just Cheese & Dykes

Red light district in full swing on a Sat night in October
of tea.

And I quite literally will never get enough Stroopwaffles.

Winnipeg, my travel buddy, insists we spend a few days in Amsterdam before heading back to Canada. I was chuffed. Still riding the high from my fantastic Barcelona 50th birthday week, I wasn’t quite ready to go home yet.

Upon arrival, we take the airport train to the waterfront station and board the number 13 tram to take us further aloft. This is where it all went pear shaped. We made the mistake of relying on Google maps to narrow down our Air BnB. We wandered around Oud West for hours with heavy luggage trying to find Farffenuggensloop Straat or something like that. Simultaneously, our phones run out of charge.

We walked past farmers markets and children playing in parks, anyone Dutch we encounter is abrupt until they realize we are Canadian. Then they switch to polite English and help us. In fact, one old lady takes me by the hand and leads us to an approximate destination.

I’m exhausted from dodging commuters, who whiz by on bikes with gigantic scarves wrapped around their obnoxiously happy faces. Everyone here is so fit and healthy, and they know it. No matter where I stand, I’m in their way. We finally locate our Air BnB.

Little did we know the owner was a complete nut job.

I should have guessed from his profile picture. It shows him cheek to cheek with himself in a mirror. Honestly, when I booked it, I thought it was a picture of a lovely gay couple. Nope.

It was Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

He scolds us for being late but chivalrously grabs my huge backpack and hauls it up his steep staircase to the second floor. My charged phone chimes with 26 messages from him.

Our room is a comfy, minimalist space with the softest of twin beds. And in the hallway are two water closets. A tiny shared toilet and a tiny shared shower. Adequate, but just don't try to shave your legs in there.

Overall, well worth the $80 per night.

Dr. J opens the fridge to show off his stash of cheeses, bread, condiments and meats, with milk and yogurts. Help ourselves. A fully stocked coffee and tea bar too. Actually, you could cook a gourmet meal if you were
Cheese MuseumCheese MuseumCheese Museum

My kind of place
so inclined. Dr. J, hands over keys and departs, telling us he’ll be back for our final night.

We spend the next couple days exploring every nook and cranny of Amsterdam. Museums of wartime, cheese and sex, Anne Frank house, Van Gogh gallery, Heineken brewery, we also rented bikes to tour the dykes and windmills, hung out in parks & coffee shops, tried on wooden shoes, and did a few hop on hop off boat rides.

Even all around our quaint Air BnB neighborhood were lovely ethnic restaurants and shops, cozy pubs, and flea markets. We had a tram pass, but we preferred to walk everywhere. The weather was beautiful.

Our last night, on a crisp clear Saturday, we left the house late to grab the convenient tram just around the corner, and were quickly deposited right into the seedy underbelly of the Red Light district.

Winnie insists on visiting one of the Bulldog coffee shops to buy a t shirt for her brother and perhaps to check out the botanicals on offer. I don't partake usually, but I'm willing to sit for a beer and tolerate the hipster ambiance for a little contact high. Next
Wooden ShoesWooden ShoesWooden Shoes

How do you decide
a stroll to check out the sex and head shops.

This is Winnie’s first time here, so what she says goes. Her next request is for the Heineken booze cruise, but we can't find where to get on.

Some drunk dudes try to coax us onto their boat, saying their ride was a far superior experience. Wink wink. I would have boarded but Winnie has a strong stranger-danger reaction to them. Weird. It’s usually me.

Back in the Red Light district, I’m sorry to report, but it's a sad state of affairs. I actually felt sorry for the prostitutes standing expressionless in their velvety windows. How it must feel to be ogled by droves of men on a bachelor crawl. The girls are glazed over as they sway naked to music they can only hear, in a glowing red back light.

Winnie and I are mesmerized by this spectacle of testosterone, we stand aloft as men gather around the picture windows, only to have a door swing out, with one of the men clutched and dragged in.

His mates, left behind to hoot and cheer. A thick curtain draws shut and there is an anticipatory
Cheers WinnieCheers WinnieCheers Winnie

A great travel bud, I’m very lucky to know her
hush that casts over the crowd. They wait. Minutes later, the door swings open and the man stumbles out looking like he's been through a washing cycle. All theatrics, I'm sure. Lots of jeering and high fives as they make off down the lane to the next place.

Winnie and I casually push our way into a crowded outdoor pub to enjoy a plate of nachos with beers...for only 66 Euros.

Gasp! Is nothing cheap here?

On the plus, I do like how Amsterdam is geared towards a 4 season lifestyle, many local patrons circle heat lamps and cover themselves in the throws provided, hunkering down for long people-watching sessions out on the lively canals.

I’m fully aware I’m too old for nightclubs or raves, but Winnie talks me into one anyway. She’s 10 years younger than me, but even she came away feeling old and dirty. There should be a sign on the club entrance, No one over 30 allowed in. Yes even you, the one having a midlife crisis.

We return to our Air BnB, a feat in itself, as Google gets us horribly lost again. The trams won't go where we think
Smiley Happy CommutersSmiley Happy CommutersSmiley Happy Commuters

There are a lot of fit healthy Dutch in Amsterdam
they go, the little man in the information booth tells us construction detours are to blame. At least it isn't us.

I’ve said it before, I'm anything but directionally challenged. But I swear, every street and building in Amsterdam West has the same name and facade...further enhanced under my newly foggy haze...of the purple kind.

We are greeted by our new flat mate who’s taken up residence on the 3rd floor. He is a fellow Canadian from Hong Kong and is cooking up a pot of brussels sprouts for some reason. We open a bottle of Rioja and dig into our smoked gouda, when our host magically re-appears.

Dr. Jekll’s body language is odd, he’s a little off, maybe just high. He takes 3 glugs from his glass of wine, and transforms into this mad scientist. His face distorts. One of his eyeballs creeps to the side of his head.

Dr. J is now Mr. Hyde.

Both Winnie and I give each other that weary but knowingly glance. We are familiar with this level of crazy. Without speaking a word we’ve already mutually agreed to ride this one out and see where it takes us.
Red Light ChurchRed Light ChurchRed Light Church

If you can’t beat them, join them right?


Mr. Hyde disappears from his kitchen, returning with three more bottles of cheap white wine. Ok. Now I sense trouble brewing. He guzzles from each bottle while he holds us voluntarily hostage for the next few hours.

We are amused by him at first, it's all sarcastic Dutch banter and wit, very similar to playing a game of trivia. But we know it's only a matter of time before it gets weird.

At one point, he attempts to cram pickled herring with raw onions down my throat. Normally, I would consider such action an assault, but in his misguided, drunken defense he was super keen to teach me about Dutch customs.

And actually, the fish was very tasty.

When he isn't babbling mathematical gibberish, he’s proclaiming obscure quotes we know aren’t his.

Our Hong Kong flat mate is a financier by trade and is intrigued enough to naively challenge him. This just sends Mr. Hyde into a tirade of mathematical nonsense. He stands over him and yells incoherently. I glance over to see our young flat mate’s petrified eyes darting wildly. Mr. Hyde sees this too, and becomes defeated. He sits down hard and
strange days indeedstrange days indeedstrange days indeed

Nothing like a little hangover panakooks to start the day
gives himself a talking, as an attempt to normalize the room. No one dare make any sudden movements.

Five minutes later he’s screaming at us again because we don’t know the composer for Bausch's overture to Orpheus & Eurydice.

Winnie is first to tire of Mr. Hyde’s one man show and retreats to our bedroom. I go off second, especially when he starts to throw the empty wine bottles against the kitchen wall, yelling political rants between Dutch and English, and what I think might be Polish.

Our Hong Kong flat mate whispers fearfully through our locked door that he’ll provide protection for us girls. Not to worry.

We have to laugh. We tell him we are both prison guards in a maximum security lockup. Challenged daily by the criminally insane. We reassure him that Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a piece of cake in our eyes. Relieved, our flat mate retreats to his 3rd floor.

I did put a chair against our door before I crawled into bed. Winnie reports Mr. Hyde sat outside it all night reviling stories of his glory days. I had earplugs in.

The next morning, I walk
Where’s your ear?Where’s your ear?Where’s your ear?

Poor old Van Gogh, tripping on Absenthe. Paints amazing landscapes though
into the kitchen and Dr. Jekyll is there, sheepishly cleaning up the bottle shards and quietly muttering to himself.

His next guests have already arrived, four elderly twangy Americans that are already bitching about the size of the WC, and the steep staircases, and the distance they had to walk from the Tram. One of them suddenly realizes her wallet is gone, pick-pocketed on the metro. Drama ensues. If they hadn’t been "so American" from the get go, I would have probably warned them off about Dr. J and Mr. Hyde.

We call an Uber to Schiphol for our red-eye odyssey back to Canada. Our Hong Kong flat mate comes running out of the house and jumps into our car, I guess he’s not willing to risk another two nights with our charming host.

We all have a good laugh reliving our Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde experience. I’m not even sure if he should get a good review or a bad one. The Uber driver overhears our conversation and shares a few bizarre incidents he’s privy of from our notorious Air BnB host.

At this point, I’m starting to realize we may have escaped the
Local Dudes HangingLocal Dudes HangingLocal Dudes Hanging

Although I’m pretty sure they are selling drugs, they didn’t keep a very low profile. When in Amsterdam.
Air BnB without being dismembered, and eaten. Whew.


Additional photos below
Photos: 18, Displayed: 18


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Facade de DutchFacade de Dutch
Facade de Dutch

These little works of art are lovely
The Streets with Long Unpronoucible NamesThe Streets with Long Unpronoucible Names
The Streets with Long Unpronoucible Names

The sun sits low in the sky at this time of year, giving that doomy hue
Red is a lonely colorRed is a lonely color
Red is a lonely color

Very sad the illegal legal sex trade industry. No matter how you slice it, someone gets exploited
All the Houses look the same!All the Houses look the same!
All the Houses look the same!

Cookie cutter houses very confusing to this foreigner
Dutch FacadeDutch Facade
Dutch Facade

Loved the tile work in the doorways of individual houses
Food Glorious FoodFood Glorious Food
Food Glorious Food

The Dutch know how to live good. The fish, the cheese, the chocolate, the pancakes, I’m in heaven
still eatingstill eating
still eating

Much better to have a lunch on the canal than sitting in a airport all day


7th January 2019

AirBnB...Dutch style
Amsterdam has now risen even further up my wish list Andrea. We have heard many tales of that wonderful city now Anna-Louise has returned from one year in the Netherlands and her super nice boyfriend from Amsterdam is spending a few weeks with us. We want to see the Rijsmuseum, the canals and other famous sights. But we want to also visit the dark side...and your AirBnB recommendation gives us a clue where to find that!
8th January 2019

The Dutch Dark Side
Oh believe me if you are looking for a little dark and crazy you’ll find it in Amsterdam. With the new family connection do you might find yourself there more often!
7th January 2019

The many faces of Amsterdam
I'm very intrigued by your Airbnb host! Surely someone who leaves you a fridge full of cheese and other goodies can't be all bad right? If we visit Amsterdam in the near future, I'm definitely getting his details off you :)
9th January 2019

It rubs lotion on its skin or it gets the hose again. He was Silence of the Lambs creep level. if you like that kind of thing lol
7th January 2019

It's my turn
You always leave intelligent comments on my blog, so now it's my turn. I really enjoyed your account of Amsterdam. Like the poor guy being serviced in the red light district, I also felt like I'd been through the wringer. You accomplished a lot in just a few days and all of it was exhausting and hilarious. Liz
10th January 2019

Just the fact you are reading my silly blogs is flattering...thanks!
7th January 2019

An AirBnb to avoid
Love your observations on Amsterdam. We're off there later in the year, and about to try to book some accommodation. Sounds like there is an AirBnb to be avoided like the plague.....
10th January 2019

There’s always one bad apple in a bunch. Isn’t there? Please don’t let my recount repel you. Air BnB is the only way to do Amsterdam!!!! Honest! I can’t say enough, it is so fun and interesting there. Even though the locals seem to resent it’s hedonistic side, they tolerate it because they know it’s pretty great. Have a wonderful trip!!
9th January 2019

Welcome to Amsterdam!
You summed it up in a nutshell, there are a lot of nice people, creepy people, crazy people, bizarre people, naughty people and bad people, both local and foreign. As a Dutch person I am not overly fond of Amsterdam, it has become a bit too much Disney on drugs, with too many tourist and too few locals, too many souvenir stalls and too little simple grocery stores. This is, by the way, a problem the municipality is working on, because it is starting to cause irritations. Saying all that, it remains a beautiful city, and its museums and other attractions are always worth visiting. But next time you visit The Netherlands, perhaps you should stay in Utrecht or Leiden, both have direct train connections with Schiphol, and are about 20 minutes away by train. They are cheaper to stay, are not filled with tourists, and have plenty to see and do, and equally good bars, cafe's and terraces but without the hassles you get in Amsterdam. Plus if you really miss Amsterdam, it's an easy 20 minute train ride away from both, every 10 minutes or so... You can even party in Amsterdam till the wee hours of the morning,if you so prefer, and get back to both places as trains run throughout the night.
10th January 2019

Welcome to Amsterdam!
I loved Amsterdam but truly, I can’t wait to go back and explore more of Holland. The people are so amazing, food, landscapes, history, way of life! Shall I continue. You are so lucky to belong to such a diverse, tolerant, polite, trendsetting culture. Canada can only try to be what Holland is. Yes, a bit of a downer that Amsterdam is more like Las Vegas of Holland but if it’s being contained, who’s it hurting. It makes for a fun introduction if nothing else.
10th January 2019

Apparently Dr J gets nothing but 5 star reviews!!! Going back 10 years! So I’m hoping he only felt relaxed enough to unleash Dr. Hyde on us, and keeps him squirreled away in the attic for most of other his customers. Overall, it was a top notch rental, perfectly situated, and he was over the top hospitable and helpful. I guess Winnie and I bring out the worse in some people lol. This is why I travel.
10th January 2019

Life is an adventure..... and then there is Amsterdam
Your airbnb host is a whacko.... I hope you warned people in the review. Sounds like the poor boy has spent too many years in the bottle. Amsterdam has something for everyone.... the good, the bad and the ugly. Love the canals, boats and museums. Danger, danger watch out for those bicycles as they do have the right of way and will mow you down. I was laughing when you said your fellow Canadian baled out early. I think he might have needed the two of you to keep him safe.
10th January 2019

On behalf of the Dutch..
I thank you for all the praise you lavish on us, but unfortunately I feel it is quite undeserved. We are not as polite, or tolerant, or even as trendsetting as we make outsiders believe. This might have been true 20 years ago, but times have changed and, as in many places around the world, a rather nasty undercurrent has developed. If you would talk to a lot of our immigrant population about the Dutch you might not think the Dutch so tolerant. Thought, I daresay we aren't any worse than anywhere else. It's just that we aren't any better either. In many ways I would say Canada is ahead of Holland, but perhaps that is because, like you in regards to Holland, I only hear and see part of the story. When you don't live in a country you tend only to see the good, or perhaps you see what you want to see, who knows. Still, once again, I thank you for the kind words. It is a reciprocal feeling, I think most of the Dutch find Canada and Canadians equally amazing.
11th January 2019

You make good points Ralf. I highly suspect if Canada had the same migrant crisis currently faced in the EU, we’d struggle as a nation to maintain our sunshiny reputation! Hell our neighbour to the south continues his quest for a wall and it seems Many Canadians secretly like this idea, so we don’t have to look like the bad guy. Ugly humanity is just under the surface any where you go. I know this and chose to see positivity if I can. Hey. This sounds like a good discussion to have over a bottle of Rioja....!!!
12th January 2019
I guess that’s why they call it the blues

We also like Amsterdam
We also like Amsterdam. But next time we go to Netherlands we will probably try to explore bits and pieces of the rest of the country because we are sure there is lots of interesting places out there. We made a short road trip in neighbouring Belgium a few years ago and we loved it. /Ake
13th January 2019
I guess that’s why they call it the blues

What a great idea. Instead of considering Amsterdam just a layover, I think it’s worth a further explore. Maybe I’ll combine Belgium with the Netherlands next time. Maybe follow the coast to Bruges. There’s just so many places, so little time!
20th January 2019

View with a Blue Hue
Great photo of the view with the blue hue! And I didn't realise you had one last Travel Blog entry left of your trip. It made me remember how much I enjoyed your previous entries, and how light-hearted you're able to make the joys and the woes of the traveller's world! Hope you're nice and settled back home again now, and l look forward to reading about your next adventures, wherever they may be 😊
22nd January 2019

Lol I was home for a second, then back out again! Damn that travel addiction!

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