After dad suggested a weekend away for the Christmas holidays, debates ensued, but a compromise was eventually reached with Amsterdam. We’d been before, but not for several years, and it’s only 3 hours or so from Calais.
Staying in the Backstage Hotel was pleasant enough, with its central location suiting us perfectly and the quirky rock theme having a lot of appeal. Free fruit from a bowl at reception as well, so rock and roll. The 5-person room was a bit of a squish though, and the shower had rather a big flooding issue.
Non-fussed about seeing sight after sight after sight, and more interested in getting a general feel for the city, we toured at a slow pace and drank a lot of coffee. I was happy to avoid the museums, the brewery tours, and the boat trips this time around, though I have heard many good things about the more tourism-orientated attractions.
The flea market near Waterlooplein is something I’d strongly recommend. The place where, to my great surprise, my brother discovered vintage, entering the market as a big Topman fan and leaving a hipster. I also bought a giant vintage Hungarian flag for a fiver, nice. Amsterdam had a real hipster feel overall; on a late-night walk home, Zoe and I peered in through curtainless windows to capture some typically quirky Amdam scenes. A cat asleep in a fedora hat, a man playing the piano in the dark, a rockabilly girl drinking an espresso in her nightgown. You can’t make this stuff up.
As travel and couchsurfing are now more or less synonymous to me, Zoe and I made sure we attended a meeting. Having been pre-warned that the time of year meant it wouldn’t be very well attended, we were pleasantly surprised to be among 50 or so others in a bar in the Jordaan area of town. We drank plenty of Hoegaarden and stayed for several hours, meeting some typically inspirational crazy CS types, and of course the odd creep or two too. They meet every Saturday in Cafe De Vergulde Gaper from 21:30. On the topic of places to eat and drink, Die Eberling restaurant along Overtoom road was a strong favourite with all the family – stylish and minimal, though still with a strong Dutch feel.
In terms of sex and drugs, we had a stroll through the red light district at its busiest time, thus also passive smoking a pretty large amount of the green stuff. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but no trip to Amsterdam is complete without, even if you are with family! A high percentage of Amsterdam tourism is based on this sex and weed industry, there’s no doubt about it, but for me this is only one side of the city. The unique architecture of Amsterdam is what strikes me; with windows as large and airy as the staircases are narrow and claustrophobic, and canal-side town houses three times as tall as they are wide. The hodgepodge of buildings glued together and overlooking the calm water, with bridges home to myriad abandoned bikes and locals and tourists alike pouring out into the streets at all hours of day and night, Amsterdam’s appeal extends far beyond what it is most famous for.