Well, I've just got back from Amsterdam and I absolutely loved my stay there, granted it was a bit of a fleeting visit. I've not really been abroad much for the last 5 years, so it was nice to get away from Norwich for just a little while and experience a whole new culture. I'd never been to Holland before and I dore their way of life, so I thought I'd share with you the things I noticed when I was there:
1) Amsterdam style is super laid back, but so glamourous too.
As I walked around I noticed lots of tres chic ladies- some with skirts, black boots and gorgeous long oversized jackets, others were smothered in piercings and tattoos with dyed dreads. But what I noticed the most was the way they held themselves- not a single girl walked with their head down. They OWNED their style- laidback, bohemian and utterly glamourous.
2) The architecture is to die for.
De Dam is a sensory overload when it comes to architecture, the grand square is dominated by the Royal Palace, Madame Toussauds and The National Monument. Along the rivers, there are rows upon rows of tall, 17th century buildings, swirly renaissance museums and super-hi tech hotels with lots of glass and light. A gorgeous blend of new and old.
3) Marijana is smoked in literally every coffee shop...
The laws around marijana are pretty hazy (excuse the pun!) - it is legal to smoke in most coffee shops, and you may even be handed a menu with "specials" of the day. However- production, stocking and trading drugs is illegal. This technically means that coffee shops are committing a crime but the police seem to have turned a blind eye to this. For this reason, I was told not to take photos in a coffeeshop as the owners can get quite annoyed. Though I get get a great shot of The Bulldog- The first coffeeshop!
4) ... and the coffee is incredible!
I can only drink decaf, but boy what a treat! My partner, Simon, said it was the best coffee in the world, and that every cup got better and better. I certainly believe him!
5) There is a waffle house on pretty much every street corner with EVERY flavour of waffle.
It's like walking past a rainbow of waffles- all of them smothered in different icings, chocolate, some topped with fresh fruit and cream, others with chopped nuts and sprinkles! If you love your eye candy and foodstagram then this is the place to come! I tried chocolate with fresh fruit, strawberry icing and banana whilst out there. Delicious!
6) The Dutch are crazy about football, and it puts England to shame!
Holland wear bright orange and it's pretty easy to spot them at a football match. There are plenty of sports bars and people go nuts when their team scores. I mean beserk!
7) There are still windmills which are working mills- some are even used to make paint.
Although you probably knew that Holland was famous for windmills, you probably didn't know that many of them are still lived in and used as working factories and studios to produce goods. Not only do the workers produce flour, paint and mill hops but they are also keepers of these beautiful national monuments.
8) Amsterdam is a truly multi-cultural city: with Argentinian Steakhouses, Chinese Dim Sum, Japanese sushi bars and Spanish Tapas everywhere.
Steak houses are especially big news in Amsterdam, and the steak is insanely good. You'll also notice that resteraunt owners will stand by the doors and greet you to come in, they may even drag you off the street to try their tasty goods! I also took a little voyage into China Town and stumbled across plenty of noodle and dim sum bars, grilled ducks were hung and marinated in the windows. It really was like stepping into another world.
9) The flower market is simply magical.
For me, this was a highlight of the entire trip- the flower market is stunningly gorgeous. Lots of vendors sell different types of tulips- which for a short period were worth more than gold in Holland! There are also places that sell fruit trees, cherry blossom and souveneirs too. It's on the south of a city and a little bit of a walk, but it's absolutely gorgeous and well worth the wander down.
10) One of the following things will happen: You'll almost get hit by a cyclist, you'll accidentally end up in the Red Light district or you'll just get lost!
I ended up doing all 3 whilst I was there, it does take a while to get used to everyone driving on the other side of the road, plus there are tram and cycle lanes too so you have to be extra careful. The Red Light district is right next to De Dam, one minute you're walking past cute waffle houses and coffee shops then BOOM- there's a doorway with a red light and a half naked lady standing in it. In the daytime. It's a bit of a shock at first, but after a couple of days you start to get used to it and appreciate Amsterdam's particularly relaxed view on sex.
Me and Simon also got utterly lost at one point and spent ages consulting our map. Road signs are all written in Dutch still so it took us a little while to figure out where we were. You'll end up going around in circles a lot as nearly all the roads in the centre of Amsterdam look the same. All of them are cobbled too, so high heels are a massive no-no.