The next day in the city was started off with rotten weather, it had been raining. Now I know what you’re thinking, you’re from London you must be used to crappy weather. While I am used to it, I certainly do not like it. Due to this grey start to the day, I lounged in at my friend’s place for a lot later than I usually would. But one of the major perks of staying over at a friend’s place as opposed to a hostel is that the bathroom is left in a much better state, even if you get up a little later.
After I had finally gotten up, I got ready and had some while being deeply engrossed in this cooking show called ‘Chopped’. Truly riveting stuff. Thankfully I had been given an OV-kaart (Amsterdam’s answer to the oyster card) previous day so that I wouldn’t have to pay the scandalous price of €2.90 for a single ticket on the bus again. Heading back to Amsterdam Centraal, I loaded up my card and went walkabouts in the direction of the Basilica of St Nicholas.
One thing I definitely do not love about Amsterdam is the transportation system. With each day that passes by, I am not sure if I will be run over by a bicycle, scooter, tram or car. They are literally everywhere you turn. Now of course, one of the first things that springs to mind when you think about the city is that there are a lot of cyclists. But I don’t think that I will ever get used to fearing for my life every time I cross the road.
Usually when I go on holiday, I have a vague idea of the things I want to see and do and have a map handy at the very least. But I just decided to walk around and see what was there. One of my first stops was the very amusing ‘Condomerie‘, which is a speciality condom shop that dealt in all things prophylactic. Including artworks, at least that is what I could see from the outside. After realising that you could get free WiFi through their network, I was stood outside for quite a while and will probably be featured in many people’s holiday snaps. I did thank them for the free WiFi on my Instagram post.
Leaving there I found myself in Dam Square which was reminiscent of Trafalgar Square, filled with people and pigeons. There was a fairground in the Square with lots of rides and sweets that could put holes in your teeth. I didn’t stay there for very long as there was a guy flinging seeds around and I just could not risk actually getting pooped on. Especially after having accidentally sat in bird poop on the previous day!
Whenever I go exploring, I just walk around until I tire myself out and need to sit down, so I pick a restaurant that takes my fancy and recharge my batteries, as well as my phone’s if there is an outlet nearby. However, I had planned on seeing Michiel, a friend of mine that I had met in Long Beach during my semester abroad in California. Walking through the bloemenmarkt (flower market), I saw several missed calls on my phone from him. Choosing a spot to meet up at the other end of the market, I waited to see him. What I was not prepared for was that he would be picking me up in a freaking sailboat!
With a little help from him and his friends, I was able to get onto the boat and have my very own private canal tour through Amsterdam, a short video of which can be found here on my Facebook page. It was surreal being inside one of the boats that I had looked at from the various canals across the city. It was great fun catching up with my friend and getting a little history lesson along the way. And seeing some of Amsterdam’s more expensive locations in Prinsensgracht, which is the longest of the main canals in Amsterdam and named after the Prince of Orange.
It’s worth noting that during my tour we went by the famous Anne Frank House and during my last time in the city I had been there. While it is difficult to navigate, especially with the stairs getting more and more difficult the higher up you go, it is very important to visit sites like these so that we do not forget what happened. And most importantly, so we do not repeat history, as I had mentioned in my video when I saw the Holocaust exhibition during my visit to the Imperial War Museum in London.
Even though the weather was still trying its hardest not to cooperate, I had a fantastic time seeing the city from the water and hanging out with my friend. With the added perk of his lovely sister taking loads of pictures of us. After finishing my awesome tour, I was dropped off by Dam Square and quickly made my way over to Amsterdam Centraal to get a ticket for Rotterdam and head over to see some other friends of mine. Yes, I am very popular within the Dutch community.
Or at least that was my plan, it took a lot of walking around and trying to figure out exactly which train I needed, but I finally got onto the intercity direct going to Breda which stopped at Rotterdam Centraal. As previously mentioned, a lot of trains on the Netherlands network are difficult to get onto as there are 2 large steps between the platform and the train. With an awkwardly placed rail to assist you in getting on and off the train. But I always managed to do it by just taking one large leap down. Much to the stares of bystanders, but I have things to do and places to see.
Changing at Centraal for Blaak, I immediately recognised some of the old sights that I’d seen 4 years prior with one very big difference, the colossal new Markthall.
It was just magnificent from the outside and even more impressive on the inside. It reminded me of several indoor markets I’d been to in Belfast and Boston. And to a lesser extent Borough Market, but with way more stalls and futuristic looking. What I also found out is that they built apartments into the hall. So you could very well see someone doing their laundry when you’re having one of the many colourful cheeses.
Meeting up with my friend Jacqueline from my Nottingham Cleaves Hall days felt like we had spent absolutely no time apart. Walking through the main square we headed to this very hip and happening Vietnamese restaurant aptly named Lil’ V. The obligatory queue outside of the restaurant to get in assured me that this was definitely the place to be. Thankfully Jacq’s friend had pre-booked a table so we were seated not long after we got inside. While waiting for the 2 others to arrive, we took a fuzzy but long overdue photo!
When our other friend Ilan arrived we went straight back to being the same goofy people we were in university. All while dining on some very delicious food in the restaurant. I cleansed my palette with a lovely little Queen Wilhemina mint.
After that we walked to the marina where you could see the famous cube houses shining from the reflection of the water. A few silly pictures later, everyone headed to their own places. All 3 on bikes while I took the bus to Jacq’s place for a good ol’ fashioned sleepover. It is worth noting that the OV-kart that I’d used in Amsterdam was also valid on the bus in Rotterdam which is definitely a plus.
Making it over to her new place, we went to bed. But not before we discussed our respective quarter life crisis, the meaning of life and all those other great questions.