I spent 24 hours in Amsterdam this week. It was only supposed to be 22 hours, but I enjoyed it so much I stayed on for an extra couple of hours.
Okay, so I slept in and missed my flight home.
Having never been to the Dutch capital before, I adopted the ‘when in Rome approach’ to my time in Amsterdam. It was to be my downfall, evidenced by the missed flight.
I was in Amsterdam courtesy of KLM who launched their newly re-opened daily route from Belfast City Airport to Amsterdam this Tuesday. It was the first time I’d flown with KLM and I was mightily impressed. It would have been even better if I’d managed to fly home with them as well.
After the initial panic having realised I’d missed the flight, I was left with two options. Firstly, I could have prostituted myself to niche clients in order to get enough cash to buy a houseboat and live happily ever after on a diet of weed and pancakes. The second option was to get a later flight. After much deliberation I plumped for option two.
Anyway, the main thing is I’m home, alive and able to tell the tale of how I spent my 24 hours in Amsterdam.
Amsterdam is famed for its museums, with the shrine to the one-eared painter being one of the most famous. Looking at a picture of the Sunflowers and seeing them in actual, real life are two very different experiences. Layer upon layer of vibrantly coloured paint, applied to the canvas with the artist’s rough, distinctive strokes gave the painting a sense it had just been finished minutes before you walked into the gallery. Other highlights included Skull Of A Skeleton With Burning Cigarette, Bedroom In Arles and Almond Blossoms.
2. Cruising the canals
When you’ve only a few hours to see a big city it’s always a good idea to get someone to drive you about the place telling you which direction to look and what you’re looking at. While most city tours use open top buses, in Amsterdam you can avail of the canal system in order to cruise vast swathes of the city. I’d really recommend the cruise with the Blue Boat Company, but it’s best if you can get up on deck so that your views of the stunning architecture are unhindered.
3. Eating out
I was amazed at how many people were eating out in Amsterdam on a Tuesday night. The restaurant we ate in, Brasserie Harkema, was packed to the gills. I struggled to find any Dutch specialities on the menu, but further research has led me to the conclusion that the Dutch aren’t the foodie type. Sure, they’ve got some famous cheeses and they do a roaring trade in pancakes and waffles, but in terms of main courses there’s no real signature dish. So I just went for a steak. And a pretty fine steak it was.
4. Spacing out
And now to address the first elephant in the room. Drugs. Amsterdam is famed as being a haven for cannabis users with its myriad of cafes offering people a place to legally get their highs. We attended one such establishment, which not surprisingly was a bit grimy, but at least they served beer in pint format (anywhere else we went to insisted on serving beer by the glass). I’m not a smoker but I am partial to a nice dessert. So when I was offered some intriguingly titled space cake I tucked in. It wasn’t a patch on Tesco’s caterpillar cake and it didn’t make dodging the hundreds of bikes whizzing along the city streets any easier.
5. Window shopping
And now to address the second elephant in the room. Prostitutes. In the same part of the city as you’ll find most of the weed-friendly cafes, you’ll also see lots of shops with semi-naked women for sale. It wasn’t the slightest bit sexy. These women couldn’t have looked more disinterested it they’d tried. Some of them were just sitting there in their bra and pants scrolling through their iPhones. They looked so cold and vulnerable under the neon glare. Perhaps I’m showing my age, but all I wanted to do was put my arm round them and offer them my coat. The strangest thing about the red light district is that no ‘trade’ appeared to be taking place, just lots of tourists staring in the windows at the exhibits, taking a few photos for posterity and crossing another item off their bucket list.
6. Sweet dreams
That takes us to the final elephant in the room – myself. When we got back to our hotel – Citizen M at Schiphol Airport – I conked out in one of the comfiest beds I’ve ever had the pleasure of lying on. I slept like the aforementioned elephant who’d been hit with a tranquiliser dart. I didn’t stir until the room phone rang and I was told I’d missed the flight. I thought it was a wind up at first then I clocked the time and realised what a faux pas I’d made. Amsterdammit!
I doubt I’m the first person to miss a flight home from Amsterdam and I certainly won’t be the last. It’s a city of darkness and light where your entertainment can be as high brow or as low brow as you desire. Whatever your passions in life you’ll find somewhere to celebrate them in Amsterdam. Just remember to set your alarm the next morning.