I’ve lived in Newfoundland for 20 years now, and attending The Gathering Festival in Burlington, NL last weekend...
May 15-16th, 2015
Amsterdam is a great place to be sick. Sure, the cold weather I faced probably didn’t help my developing sinus infection, but if you’re going to be sick while travelling, it might as well be in a city where people are friendly and the beer flows freely.
Being sick is the predominant memory I have of Amsterdam. And being high. Now when I say high, it was unfortunately a high from cold meds. But at least I can say I was high the entire time I was there (for street cred purposes, obviously).
Travel Tip: If you suffer from repetitive illnesses such as sinus infections, allergies, or other bad things you might need medication for, make sure you bring this medication with you in spades. My go to OTC cold and sinus medication was sadly left at home and boy is it ever difficult to find an equivalent when you don’t speak Dutch. Don’t make this mistake.
So, despite being sick, I loved Amsterdam. After a solo trip to the Van Gogh museum, I got to meet up with the American guys again and we hit up the Heineken Experience. And the tour is aptly named. I enjoyed this tour more than the Guinness Factory tour in Dublin, actually. We got to take funny pictures, learn about the brewing process, see horses (they seriously house horses in their building!), and there was a ride! When you’re high and tipsy, this quickly became a highlight of my trip. At the end of the ‘experience’, you can also get free tickets for a Heineken themed canal cruise. Did I mention it was included in your entrance fee?
Unfortunately my day kinda ended there. I spent some time back at the hostel (Van Gogh Hostel – conveniently located across the street from the Van Gogh museum, go figure) and meet the Canadian guys from Winnipeg in my dorm. However, when I went back to Leidseplein area to meet the guys for supper, I was overcome by the need to crawl back into bed and sleep for many many hours. So that’s exactly what I did.
My day started early. 4am early. And not because I wanted it to. I woke up because a guy flopped down across my legs, and the legs of the guy in the bottom bunk next to me. It was one of the Canadian guys and he was sleep swimming across our legs. At 4am. I obviously proceeded to flip out while my other dorm mates tried to get him back into bed. We also discovered that he had peed in the corner of the dorm, thinking he had made it to the bathroom. What an experience
Hostel Tip: This is bound to happen in a shared dorm in Amsterdam. It’s Amsterdam. People are going to partake in the drug culture. And while I will qualify this by saying I never felt that my safety was at risk, I did learn an important lesson from this experience. Two lessons actually. When in Amsterdam, book a top bunk. It’s inconvenient to climb up and down a ladder to get to your bed, but it’s added security. And, this was a hostel that had no large lockers for our packs, so our stuff was just laid next to our bunk (we were given small safes to store our expensive stuff/passports) so we were all lucky that random Canadian guy found a corner to pee in and not one of our packs. That would have been DISASTROUS. Otherwise, the hostel was the bees knees.
The one positive from this experience was that the jolt really seemed to scare away my illness. I felt much better when I got up. I had a lovely breakfast at the hostel and visited the Rijksmuseum while the guys visited the Van Gogh museum. I went there the morning before — it’s lovely by the way. I ended up getting there when there was no line; the guys were in the line for a longgggg time. I don’t know if it’s worth it (in my opinion) if you have to wait for 2 hours to get in.
After we went to our respective museums, we all met up in Dam Square before Joel and Pete left for Rotterdam. We bought overly expensive ice cream from a Nutella store and walked around the Red Light District. I was fascinated by this. As you walk down the canal or alleyways, ladies occupy small rooms, closed off to the street by a glass door, and they would just stand there, showing themselves off while people walked by and took it all in. Some of them were just sitting on a chair, waiting. Some of them tried to interact with passersby, while some of them were just texting on their phone. It really gave a new meaning to window shopping.
When Joel and Pete left to catch their train, Vishnu and I headed to Anne Frank House. I really struggle with trying to explain what that experience was like for me. When you get inside, you forget about the two hour wait outside, and you’re transported into Anne’s world. The house itself was devoid of the furniture and belongings it once housed, but it was still filled with the memories of the Frank family. I didn’t need the furniture to feel Anne’s presence there. In addition to Anne’s house, the Foundation had also purchased the flat next door and that is where I saw Kitty, Anne’s first diary. While walking through the attic was surreal, when I saw the diary, I wept profusely. The little red book, her small scrawl over the pages… it was heartbreaking. The whole experience left me emotionally drained actually. But so so so worth it.
To finish up my stint in Amsterdam, I booted it back to Leidseplein Square. My cousin Jamie and his girlfriend were in town for a long weekend and we met up for beers and burgers at Green Grill & BBQ.
Overall, Amsterdam is a city where you’ll never be bored and never hungry. Even though I was sick, I had a blast and cannot wait to go back.
Have you been to Amsterdam? What are some of your highlights?
MORE TRAVEL TIPS:
- The lineup for the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum were unbelievably long. I recommend booking tickets online in advance. Less time waiting in line. More time sightseeing. (See more tips on tickets you should buy in advance)
- The Royal Palace in Dam Square is open to the public and you need to see this place. The reception area is breathtaking and you get a full view of Dam Square from the second floor.
- May seems to be incredibly cold in Northern Europe. Pack socks and at least one heavy sweater. This saves you from making an emergency trip to H&M for such things.