Why Amsterdam Kinda Sucked

I may be the only person I know (besides my boyfriend who came with me) that didn’t like Amsterdam. Saying that, there were some contributors to this opinion. Firstly, I had a bad cold during our time there. Secondly, we went between Christmas and New Year so it was packed full of tourists and school children. Lastly, we were there for 5 days. It’s a small city in which you could easily enjoy in 2 or 3. With all that extra time on our hands, we were bored as fuck.

I was really excited to go because I had heard so much about Amsterdam. Smoking pot and prostitutes aside, I kept hearing that it was such a wonderful place to visit and there were so many things to do. With that, I stupidly didn’t do much research.

We got a good deal on Expedia for flights and a hotel during Christmas time. I, always taking advantage of free stuff, wanted to stay as long as we could because my office was closed so I wasn’t using up extra vacation time. Frank warned me that 5 days may be too long, but being a brat, I got my way. We were off to Amsterdam for five whole days.

Possibly one of the only good things about going to Amsterdam (from London) was that the flight was only 45 min. You literally take off then land. So we were there in no time!

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We arrived at Central Station in Amsterdam from the airport and made our way to the Movenpick Hotel. It was very nice but they wouldn’t let us check in for an hour. We decided to have some food at the hotel restaurant while we waited. I normally never eat at hotel restaurants because they are overpriced and the food is never traditional, but the hotel was located a little way out from the center so it was easier to just eat there then wander out, come back for check in, blah blah.

To my delight, the restaurant had ‘Dutch nachos’ on the menu which was described as ‘tortilla chips with Dutch sides’. I was weirdly really excited to be on vacation (probably because I hadn’t been on one in about 4 months) so that hindered my decision making skills leading me to order these. They arrived and were basically just tortilla chips with melted cheese. Nothing Dutch about them. I never waste money, so I ate them all. First disappointment. But I didn’t let that deter my enthusiasm for being there. The disappointment soon faded after we got into our gorgeous hotel room and wandered into the city.

At this stage I was really excited to see what Amsterdam had to offer. The cheese shops (fuck me, I love cheese), the ‘coffee shops’, and oh dear lord the Chinatown was enough to make me move there! But I really curious as to what was authentically Dutch?

What was authentically Dutch? Still to this day, I’m not 100% sure. Cheese? Pot? Those weird wooden shoes? I was on the hunt to find some traditional Dutch anything! But it would have to wait until tomorrow because by this time I was exhausted and there was a Thai restaurant in Chinatown calling my name.

Keep in mind I am not a museum kind of person. I find them very boring and Frank reads every plaque so we end up spending half a day there when we could be done in an hour or so. Saying that, I felt very strongly that we needed to see the Anne Frank museum. I looked up opening times but had heard that it gets very crowded so you should arrive about 30 min before opening to make sure you don’t spend a day in a queue trying to get in. This was probably the only thing I told Frank that we HAD to do while in Amsterdam.

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The next day we slept in because we were exhausted. And we have 5 days, remember? So plenty of time to see Anne and her attic. We wondered around the streets of central Amsterdam. We shopped, we ate (nothing Dutch tough) and still searched for our piece of culture. We also decided to get stoned. I had this brilliant idea to get stoned and then decide what we should get for dinner.

To be honest, it was kinda cool walking up to the counter at a coffee shop and saying, ‘I’ll have one joint of marijuana, please.’ But it did feel a bit weird sitting around getting stoned in public. We quickly smoked and left. Then as soon as the munchies came, we were at the nearest chip (French fry) shop each ordering a large funnel of chips smothered in mayonnaise. Don’t get me wrong, I love fries dipped in mayo but not mayo dipped in fries. Our stoned selves dived in anyway potentially OD’ing on mayo. We ended up with massive stomach aches and swearing off mayo forever, which ended up being about 6 weeks. Disappointment number 2.

The next day I woke up sick as a dog. We had set the alarm to get to Anne Frank’s house 30 min before opening, but when the 7:30 alarm went off, I thought I might die from this cold that had worsened overnight. So we decided to go back to sleep and would go the following day when I felt a bit better. We awoke around 10am that day and went into the center of town to do some more shopping and searching for something, ANYTHING Dutch. Still, nothing. We couldn’t even find this elusive Dutch pea soup we heard about.

It started raining on our walk to the Rijksmuseum so we popped into a Wagamama (Asian food, for those unfamiliar) for lunch. I love Asian food but why the hell am I eating ramen in the Netherlands? It doesn’t make any sense. Frank was so embarrassed he made me swear not to tell anyone.

After lunch we continued our journey to the museums. Reluctant as I was to go to any museums, there wasn’t much else for us to do. But on arrival, the line was about 150 people deep and the entrance fee was €17.50. A bit steep when you consider that all the museums in London are free. Disappointment 3.

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The Van Gogh museum was the same story, line for days and €17 entrance fee. Even that really cool ‘IAMSTERDAM’ sign was just full of people climbing all over it so you couldn’t get a pic of the ‘I’ if you tried.

We did, however, see a sign for something called the Bols museum. I had heard about this because my kiwi friend had mentioned it before my trip. We had literally nothing else to do so we gave it a go. This place had no line, a €15 entrance fee that came with a free shot and cocktail at the end. Definitely a better value than the other museums. To our surprise, the museum was actually quite fun. It gave you a history of Bols followed by little activities to get you to learn about the liqueur. There was also a room where you took whiffs of Bols flavors and had to guess which one it was. Then at the end you end up in a bar that has darkened mirror walls where you can stay and drink as long as you want. We enjoyed ourselves so much we even stayed post free drink.

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We left on a high and then happened to come across an actual Dutch restaurant on our way back into town. The famous Dutch pea soup was on the menu so we indulged in that with loads of bread to dip. How was it? Eh? Not bad but was fairly similar to the split pea soup my mom made me growing up. I still wasn’t wowed.

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The next day was our last chance to go to the Anne Frank museum because the following day we would be heading back to London. I set my alarm for us to be on time to avoid the queue. We were actually early so we took a leisurely stroll to our destination. There was also a market nearby that we planned on going to afterwards. All things looked promising until we turned the corner to where the museum was located. Shit. People. Tons of people. So many fucking people already lined up to go in and the place wasn’t even open yet. I asked the guard how long the wait was. 4 hours. 4 mother fucking hours. Turns out I screwed up the times. It opened at 9 when I thought it opened at 10. So by 9:30, the line was so long, we wouldn’t have gotten in until 1:30. Still sick, I decided this was not worth standing in the freezing cold for. At least the market was still there. Or was it? Turns out that was closed for the holiday season. So we actually had not a single thing to do that day. We went for pancakes (which were nice, but not filling) to discuss what to do for the day. A canal tour was probably our only option if we didn’t want to sit in our hotel for the rest of the day.

We headed back and got on a boat. I had high hopes for this but I wasn’t dazzled. Don’t get me wrong, it was pleasant but freezing and full of obnoxious tourists.

For our final night in Amsterdam, we headed back to Chinatown for one of the best Chinese meals I’ve ever had. We went to a place full of Asian people where you were served quickly so that new customers could be seated. The pork belly and roast duck was to die for. And the soup, oh god, the soup! But again, this was Chinese, not Dutch.

The following day we left Amsterdam feeling unfulfilled.  We had not experienced any culture on this trip to The Netherlands. No Dutch food, no Dutch traditions, not even a Dutch souvenir.

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I fully well accept that we may have just gone at the wrong time of year and my sickness plus lack of research didn’t help. But it would take a lot for me to go back to Amsterdam, maybe on a hen do that I have no say in the location.

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