“He was with us in the taxi to the airport. But he hasn’t made it. I can’t phone him because this iPhone I woke up with – well, it isn’t mine.”
So came the words from the row in front of us on our homeward bound flight. And a Bradley Cooper-esque voice echoed around my head.
Amsterdam has him now.
Mr Holiday Addict and I couldn’t help but quietly chuckle.
You see, we’d had a very different weekend to those boys we shared our journey home with, and swiftly moving to the top of my “I could move here tomorrow list”, Amsterdam has so much more to offer than the stag-do lads would ever have you think.
Two days is never going to be enough to really get to know a destination, but it’s enough to get a real flavour.
For our stay in Amsterdam, we chose a hotel in the museum quarter. It meant we were nowhere near lads-weekend-central, and were perfectly placed for everything we planned on seeing and doing. But what did that include? Well, here’s what our weekend was made of:
This was one attraction we knew we couldn’t miss. I remember watching the news after the museum had reopened following its multi-million pound refurbishment. It was then that we really decided to make our Amsterdam weekend actually happen.
A stunning building worth admiring in its own right, the Rijksmueum is home to a glorious collection including masterpieces by Rembrandt and Vermeer. It was busy on Saturday, so it might be wise to pre-book, though in truth we never queued for long. And even though there were plenty of people milling about, an afternoon of museum mooching in a new city is often just what I need to bring my brain a bit of peace.
A Family History
After we emerged from the Rijksmuseum, we just started wandering back towards the centre of the city. We fancied a beer and spotted a little bar on a corner. What we found was a place where the walls really did talk. Old family photos faded by the years were everywhere – even on the ceiling. There were little babies who probably weren’t so little anymore, family portraits, pets, sports teams. And where there were no old photos, there were new ones. These walls still had tales to tell.
I wish I knew what the bar was called so I could send you there, but the truth is that the details didn’t seem important as we whiled away the hours, watching the world come and go. From the lone old woman with the red lips and red wine, to the twenty something jogger who stopped by for a glass of water before running off again – we saw a glimpse of Amsterdam’s life story here, and we liked it. Very much indeed.
The Van Gogh Museum
The Van Gogh Museum was a real highlight of the weekend for me. Bright and early on Sunday morning seemed a good time to visit, before the queues got too long. Once inside, the opportunity to take photos was limited – but you’re here to immerse yourself in Van Gogh with your eyes, not through a lens, and sometimes it’s a relief to put your camera away and just enjoy the experience. Following the journey of such an iconic artist’s life through his work was a real joy. If you let them, these paintings will speak to your soul.
The House of Bols
Given my belief that no city break should feature culture without a side dish of cocktails, our next stop was a short hop across the road to the House of Bols. Telling the story of the Dutch spirit Genever, which ultimately led to the birth of the gin we know and love, this museum was a drink of history.
Bols are now renowned for their flavoured spirits, and in here you get the opportunity to see what floats your boat taste wise before enjoying a couple of samples in the swanky bar later and a Genever based cocktail made to suit you. Of course there was much merriment on our part when Mr Holiday Addict ended up with a fruity, pinkish concoction, while as he so eloquently put it, “You’ve ended up with something James Bond would drink.”
What can I say?
Walking in the Sunday afternoon sunshine took us from the museum quarter to the the De Pijp area of town. Filled with bustling cafe bars and galleries, I think this must be cosmpolitan Amsterdam at its best. Everywhere in this neighbourhood looked buzzy and inviting, with a distinctly welcoming local vibe. So much so, that we stopped for a spot of lunch and attempted to pretend we lived there, just for a little while. Later, we met up with Frankie of As the Bird Flies for a drink and some lovely chatter – she really does call this end of town home.
The Red Light District
I’m lost as to what I think about Amsterdam’s red light district really. I wondered what roads had taken these women towards being the equivalent of mannequins in shop windows, advertising nothing but themselves. Of course, you can’t take photos here – and you shouldn’t. But don’t feel uncomfortable about visiting the area as a tourist – it has its own value in terms of historical importance and there are tours if you’re interested in how it all came to be. Then you can draw your own conclusions.
One thing you shouldn’t do, however, is let this one side of Amsterdam convince you that the city wouldn’t be your cup of tea. Or coffee. And by coffee I mean the other thing Amsterdam is known for. Red lights and that particular variety of coffee shop are easily avoided. Trust me.
But what do you think? Does my weekend seem like enough to give you a taster of what Amsterdam is really all about? I hope so and I sincerely hope you’ll give the city a visit if you haven’t been already.
Now, to round off our trip I’ll leave you with a red-light inspired video which accompanies the song that I couldn’t get out of my head the whole time we were in Amsterdam. It doesn’t really fit, but so what? A great song is a great song, and as I really did leave Amsterdam on a high, let’s end in the same fashion here (no coffee shop required).