Sunday, 2 August 2015


About an hour ago I slotted the key into my front door and hauled my suitcase in behind me for the last time this weekend. Arriving home after three days in Amsterdam. A friend suggested going away a few months ago and we got around the booking the trip about a month ago which is all very last minute for me. A few words to describe me would definitely include planned and organised but I would love to be more spontaneous. Feeling unprepared for something causes me to feel anxious and this trip was very unplanned. Due to the stresses of starting and learning a new job I didn't make time to research the trip at all, my research was limited to asking people who I knew had been before. I do think it's helpful to ask friends who have been to places previously because they can sometimes give you a more realistic view than the guidebooks. Although this may not be very helpful if you are interested in different things.

For me the benefits of my trip began as soon as I left work Thursday evening. I was able to place all my work stress into a box and leave it there for the weekend. Usually, I find I am not able to do this as well over the weekends when I am at home, I spend the time off thinking about what I didn't manage to get done and what I need to do the following week. Knowing I was going away felt like I had permission to leave everything behind and just enjoy the present. And I got the Friday feeling a few hours early!
My trip officially began at 3.30 am Friday morning when my friend arrived at my house and we made our way to the airport. I haven't flown for a few years and only remembered just in time about liquids in the hand luggage needing to be a certain size and in a clear plastic bag, I didn't realise I was only allowed to fill 1 bag, so things had to be re-jigged before we left. I did remember, however, that I could only take 1 bag onto the plane so I made sure my handbag could also fit into my hand luggage case. When we arrived at the airport we went through security, as my friend had already checked us in online, and through the other side to get bottled water and a coffee for the flight. Thinking we a lot of time we took our time until we realised it was 6.30, the same time our gate was due to close! After a mad dash to our gate and cramming our handbags into our main suitcase we were informed that there was no room left for hand luggage on the aircraft so it would have to go in the hold and we were asked to take out anything we needed for the flight (everything we had just crammed in from our handbags). After this start to the trip we enjoyed an easy, short flight to our destination.

Our flight was at 7 am, it was only an hour long and the time difference in Amsterdam is an hour ahead to we landed around 9 am but it felt more like lunchtime. We were warned about the cost of getting a taxi from the airport to our hotel but decided we would rather be taken to our hotel to begin with and then we would figure out how to get around from there. Luckily, we met a taxi driver who guaranteed us a price of 45 Euros for the 30 minute journey, when we arrived the metre said it should have cost closer to 80. We entered the hotel to ask whether we could leave our luggage somewhere safe as check in was not until 3 pm, pleasantly we were told that our room would be ready in 20 minutes so we ordered a coffee and made a plan for the day.

Image from Google
I really liked the building, it was an old orphanage, so although it was quite dark, which has been continued through the current decoration, it had character and was different to more modern hotels. I also love old buildings that are decorated in a modern way inside which this hotel did. A few things that weren't quite so great were the steep steps in the room to get up to the bed, the broken fridge door that came off in my friends hand when she went to open it to store and cool our bottled water and the small fire we were notified about by a member of staff and a letter apologizing for any inconvenience caused when the hotel had to be evacuated earlier in the day (this was when we returned Friday evening).

Traffic is also crazy over there, not only was the traffic coming in different directions (on different sides of the road) but there are cyclists and trams to watch out for! I was quite surprised how busy Amsterdam was, I think I had a mental image of the city being quite laid back and less busy. Even where we were staying, which was a 15-20 minute tram ride from the centre, there was quite a bit of traffic and people, seemingly in a hurry, on bikes. My favourite mode of transport was the hop on and off canal tour boats. Cruising along the canals was laid back, peaceful and relaxing and we found it was a great way to get our bearings and get around the city, although not a great way to travel if you have to be anywhere at a certain time or if you need to get anywhere quickly.

I found the city very picturesque and as I mentioned above I loved how it brings old and new together. The tree lined canals that are home to a number of houseboats and bordered by traditional slim, tall learning houses. The variety of bridges, often filled with bicycles lent against the railings. Very much the way I imagined it to be. Then you head towards the docks and there are the more modern buildings, different use of shapes, of colour and concrete.

I think Amsterdam is a great city and has something for everyone. It is steeped in history and culture and is very diverse. Gay Pride celebrations were concluding this weekend with a parade on Saturday along the canals (seemed very much like a carnival on water), the positive energy it created felt great to be around and be part of. Our trip ended on a positive note as we successfully made our way back to the airport after navigating the trams and catching a train when neither one of us is any good at using public transport.

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