So, the holiday was good. We only managed to get out of the country for 3 days out of 10, but they were good days and the rest were, on the whole, rather relaxing. Which is, of course, the point of a short holiday such as this. I’ll write up what we did, places and things we’d recommend, etc

We flew from Gatwick airport, which is a nice little airport, as airports go. Getting there by train was definitely the best plan — Woking to Gatwick return for ?12 each can’t be scoffed at! The train link on the other side was great as well — Schiphol seems to just become a train station at one point — and much cheaper, as continental Europe tends to be. We quickly got to the centre of Amsterdam.

There we discovered that the cheapest and simplest option for getting around was going to be a 72 hour public transport pass, from GVB who run all the buses, trams, night transport and so on in the city. It was great value at about 13 Euros for 3 days and much simpler than trying to understand the arcane strip tickets system.

From there we went to our hotel, the NH Amsterdam Centre Hotel which was very close to the Leidseplein, a nice district with lots of restaurants and bars and so on. The hotel was nice, but we soon headed out again to find sustenance and, it turned out, some lovable green cartoon characters. We had dinner at quite a good Thai place right near the cinema and then went to watch Shrek 2, which was good enough to deserve a separate review later. Although the Dutch subtitles allowed me much inexplicable hilarity throughout!

On Wednesday morning we found a pancake place and had a gorgeous brunch. Perhaps it is just the similarity to South African home cooking, but I really loved loads of the food in Amsterdam — both new variations (like pancakes with the bacon embedded in them, with syrup) and old favourites (Gouda, Gouda and more Gouda!). We then went on an hour long canal boat cruise, which was surprisingly rich given that it was being delivered in four separate languages.

A couple of hours spent wandering around the red light district avoiding the coffee shops (dope cafes) and prostitutes had the amusing highlight of finding what is possibly Elly’s favourite goffick shop in the world ever. Apparently it was all much better than in Camden (not that I’d know really) and the salesgirl found it hilarious how El was jumping around ecstatically and grinning all the time. I’ll admit it was quite cute to watch 😉

We then indulged in the horrendous sin of Vlaamse Frites — sweet real potato chips smothered in mayonnaise so thick it looks like paint. Niiiice….

On our last day we checked out of the hotel and went wandering around in the Vondelpark — a lovely large screen space with plenty of water, which is wholly unsurprising really since Amsterdam is below sea level! I found it unusual and lovely to have such a nice, relaxing place in the middle of such a cool & busy city. It was also good to get some exercise, what with all the pancakes, Vlaamse frites and good meat being consumed!

The afternoon we essentially spent wandering around the centre of town, stopping off in a flower market to buy some tulips for both sets of parents. In the midst of it all the weather suddenly changed (there was some sort of cyclonic weather front over Europe) and it absolutely bucketed down with rain and then hail, for a good hour and a half. Literally from sunshine to pissing rain in 60 seconds — now that’s real weather!! Anyone who knows me has heard me bitch about the pitiful weak rain in the UK (compared to the often drastic Cape weather anyway) probably thinks that I deserved to be rained and hailed on massively. Anyway, we ran for cover and ironically ended up in the only lesbian bar we even _saw_ on the whole trip! I think it was called Vivelavie and it was really quite nice.

Once it had stopped raining we wandered around a bit more and stumbled on another great find — a good tattoo shop! Everything looked clean and professional (something I often find is missing from UK tattoo places, which is why I am yet to get one there) and so we had a bit of a look, which of course ended in my getting (yet another!) tattoo just an hour before we had to head off to the airport. Curled between the panther and wolf I already have on my right arm, there are now two cute little lizards. I can thoroughly recommend BodyCult — everything was clean, they were very professional and took the time to understand what I was trying to achieve before giving advice. Sharp lines and great fine detail too!

Photos to follow when they’ve been developed & scanned in, since we went for hardcopy this time 🙂

All in all we thoroughly enjoyed Amsterdam, despite the concern that our non-consumption of drugs & alcohol might put us behind in the enjoyment stakes 😉 and would recommend it to anyone!