Amsterdam. Lots of people I know have visited Amsterdam. Most of these people:
a. Tried the ‘magic brownie’
b. Had an raucous time in the bars
c. Ate a pancake
d. Visited the Anne Frank House
I guess it really depends who you are traveling with. In our case it happened to be my parents who are in their 60’s - don’t get me wrong, they can still get pretty raucous in the bars, but I certainly don’t want to be around to watch it. The last time my mum made brownie, it definitely wasn’t of the magic variety either. So you can guess what two activities we had on the agenda during our long weekend in Amsterdam.
Things got off to a bit of a bad start really. After making our way through Amsterdam to meet the owner of our apartment, we were greeted with a locked door in a deserted building. We checked and re-checked our hostel-world.com booking but mobile calls got us nowhere. We spent an hour sitting in kabab shop before Chris was able to get hold of the owner. It turned out that a booking system error meant that we were in
Amsterdam during the busiest weekend of the year with nowhere to stay. Stink.
After hours of dragging our sorry backsides through the narrow streets of Amsterdam for what seemed like hours, we finally ended up in Novatel which is absolutely not the sort of place we normally stay. We are usually budget B & B backpackers. Ironically, our friends from New Zealand were staying only a few doors down the hall from us - sorry for crashing in on your weekend guys!
After an early start and hours of hassle, the parents were happy to rest up with a cup of tea in their room while Chris and I hit the streets and explored the canals in the old town.
Amsterdam was truly buzzing - we were in town during Queens Weekend which is a pretty big event in The Netherlands. Queens Day had taken place the previous day and the streets were still covered in piles of rubbish and more Heineken cans than I had ever seen in my life. Still it didn’t distract from what is a really beautiful town with an amazing vibe. People were having a great time - the streets were fill
of people, dogs and bicycles - everyone chilling and enjoying the sun. Later that night we met up with our friends and had a great meal out. Ironically, not pancakes or brownie - but Indonesian!
The next day we all set out to visit Kukenhof Gardens which will defiantly remain in my memory for a very long time. This is the largest bulb flower park in the world and covers an area of 32 hectares. With over 4.5 million tulips in 100 varieties, it really is one of the most beautiful man made places I have ever been. It really was spectacular despite the fact that it was grey and for the last few hours - cold and rainy. Check out the photos - have you ever seen tulips like this before?
After a night eating the biggest pancakes I’d ever seen - we were off early the next morning to visit The Anne Frank House. In all honesty, I wasn’t even interested in visiting this place as I really hate those commercialized, over hyped tourist attractions and I didn’t really fancy the prospect of waiting hours in a queue either. Despite getting there just after opening time,
we still spent nearly an hour standing in the rain, trying to shelter four adults with two floppy umbrellas. I was feeling pretty peeved by the time we got to the entrance and quite determined not to be impressed!
After stepping through the doors though, I was forced to eat my words - the house where Anne grew up is filled with simple reminders of her life. I could just imagine her sitting in the attic, desperate for a little ray of sunlight from the untouchable world outside. The growth chart is still on the wall where Mrs Frank marked the children’s height in pencil during their confinement. I spent the first half of the tour fighting back tears and the second half just letting them flow. It really is worth the hassle and absolutely sobering.
Our final afternoon was spent checking out the rest of the sights on our list. The flower market, the red light district (tracky - ew!) and the cat boat. The cat boat is a cat sanctuary with a distinctly Dutch twist. It’s on a canal boat of course!
Overall, despite the terrible weather on the last two days, Amsterdam really did
meet our expectations. One of the most interesting European cities we have visited for a long time - and just as well since it will probably be one of our last since we are starting our big trip back to New Zealand in August!
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