This time last week I was packing for a weekend away with the boyf for his birthday.
OK so it wasn’t all Reefas in the Red Light District, in fact, it was very little of that considering many of the recommendations we’d received before heading over there but it was a lot of fun.
My first plus point would be the super short flight – at just over 30 minutes from London we were coming in to land before I’d even realised we’d taken off! And with just hand luggage on us, we were out of the airport in no time at all.
I’d read that taxis from the airport could be expensive so we opted to get the train to Amsterdam Central Station – which should have been easy enough had I not relied on my taxi driver boyfriend to navigate us onto the right train. After a short diversion to Pumerend, which has a lovely station, we finally managed to get to the right place and began walking to find our B&B.
The originally named Amsterdam B&B was in the Jordaan area of Amsterdam and about a 15 minute walk from the station along canals and past cute bars, cafes and restaurants. Despite strolling around at 11.30pm the area felt incredibly safe and with the help of the map from the B&B staff we found it with ease.
Because of our late arrival it meant we had to pick our keys from a lively locals cafe around the corner. Filled with old Dutch men and absolutely packed even on a Thursday night it was nice to feel some of the laid back atmosphere of the area.
Keys retrieved, we climbed the two, incredibly steep flights of stairs and opened the door to our clean and compact room. With literally a bed, chair and en-suite shower but no toilet (that was across the hall) we had all that we needed really. Not for those looking for high-end luxury but for those planning on not spending much time in your room this is an ideal place to stay.
Up another steep flight of stairs was the shared living area. Complete with open-plan kitchen and full utensils, dinning table and sofa, TV and Ipod Docking station. What would be nice is if you had a group of 6 and booked out all 3 rooms meaning you would have the run of the place and be able to all chill comfortably in the communal area.
I found the B&B on Booking.com and was pretty cheap for 2 x people for 3 days.
As for the location, the Jordaan area of Amsterdam is home to a lot of creatives, artists and essentially like the East London of Amsterdam – or so I guess – with its vintage shops, quirky cafes and flea markets. The B&B was a 5 minute walk from the Anne Frank House and a 15-20 minute walk to anywhere else…Amsterdam is pretty small!
Our first morning in Amsterdam was actually my blokes birthday so I figured I would make it a day of doing what he wanted. Starting with Pancakes for breakfast!
Found at Berenstraat 38 this pancake house was little touristy – in fact it was filled with Americans, English and Chinese vistors – but it was so cute and the pancakes were amazing!
The boyfriend chose classic American Pancakes with maple syrup and bacon whereas I went for the Dutch Special of the day, Mozzarella, Ham, Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Creme Fresh. Amazing. A little bit like a pizza that is my kind of pancake. You also get a free clog keyring when you pay your bill. Ideal for your classic tourist.
After the Pancake/Pizza we headed down to the Flower Market to have a look (ok so not all the things he wanted to do) the market was nice but if I thought the pancake house was touristy, this was overload!
Clogs, Tulips, Gouda, inappropriate postcard where vaginas have faces (!!!!)…it was a bit much. I guess for us Brits/Londoners it’s like the Covent Garden of the Dam. However for a first trip I think you almost have go to the tourist spots and see these things.
Next we headed down to the Heineken factory/museum (back on boyfriend bday activities) to drink beer and see how it was made. It was pretty enjoyable apart from the drinking beer part (I hate Heineken) but it’s fun getting involved with the interactive parts…making your own bottle, stirring something that smells like sick but is actually what beer is made out of and of course taking photos the whole way round…ta da…
A highlight is also being able to get a personalised bottle made for your boyfriend. And an even bigger highlight though is the guy thinking it’s for you because Nicky is a girls name
in Amsterdam everywhere. (I may get dumped if he reads this.)
Once fully beered up and ready for more “culture” we decided to enter one of the infamous Coffee Shops. For those not in the know – a Coffee Shop doesn’t sell just cappuccinos. This is where it is legal to purchase Marijuana or weed
Not smokers normally we went for the ‘When in Rome’ approach and I have to say I found the whole experience seedy and horrible. Understandably the place was unbelievably smokey which was not nice in itself and the clientele seemed to be bunches of young dudes amazed to be allowed to smoke dope legally and in a shop.
The atmosphere just wasn’t what I was expecting or what I wanted. Had it not been raining outside it probably would have been much better advised to head to a nearby park for a smoke with our handy pre-rolled spliff. I’m just not a fan of the Coffee Shops.
Feeling pretty ahem, sleepy, we headed back to the B&B for an afternoon nap (scheduled naps come highly recommended if you’re planning on the smoke & a pancake tour) before waking to get ready for dinner.
As it was a special occasion – birthday celebratings – we managed to track down an amazing would-be Michelin star restaurant for dinner called Bordewijk (try pronouncing that!). After our amazing meal in Malta our standards were really high! So when the evening kicked off with a free taster of Raw Red Herring (apparently a Dutch delicacy) and I struggled to swallow mine while my boyfriend’s remained untouched I think we both worried we may have made a mistake.
But – on realising they had a couple of non-foodies in for the night who wouldn’t entertain the idea of a fish menu the head chef popped out to discuss other menu options for us and un-conventionally take our order.
We both went for a Ravioli starter (WOW) while I had Venison for the main and the boy had Irish Ribs. All insanely good but very rich and so, so filling. Not so filling though that I couldn’t go for a third course of cheese which probably was the death of me thinking back.
Don’t be put off by the cheap interior at around 150 euros for two it is a little pricey but in fairness that didn’t seem expensive for the quality of food and the portions sizes. A little tricky to find due to the leafy exterior covering the sign above the door…it’s worth the 20 minutes walking in circles.
After dinner we headed to the Supper Club which is all white decor and low neon lighting; located down a tiny alley not far from Amsterdam Square and guarded by an enormous but welcoming bouncer.
It serves food as well as drinks but we liked it because it has beds for seats meaning after our hefty meal we could lie back and relax while crazy bohemian waiters in tops hats and snakeskin shirts took our cocktail orders. The music was house, house, house but seemed to get a little heavier just as we were leaving (boo).
I’m not sure I would have wanted to eat dinner here as it was so dark and essentially a club more than a restaurant…it was actually quite bizarre having people munch their way through course two while the group next to them raved on.
The next day we woke relatively early and not too cloudy headed from the night before. We set off to find somewhere for breakfast and ended up having omlettes which were really good but not picture worthy.
The boyfriend then decided he wanted a “space cake” before going to my suggestion of the Torture museum. Nothing like a bit of gore on a romantic getaway!
The Torture Museum took all of 10 minutes to walk around and for 7 Euros each was…how do I put this…really shit. I was devastated hoping for a) much more gore and b) a whole lot more for our money.
We then walked up to the infamous Red Light District. This part of Amsterdam is really strange, some of the girls are really attractive however there are a few big mummas in the windows but it’s all a bit of a joke with even families strolling around pointing and laughing at these women in their underwear beckoning single men to, ahem, come behind the curtain.
It was all a little bit sad and I felt totally uncomfortable at the knowledge that many of these women probably aren’t behind these doors out of choice.
There are so many other parts to Amsterdam that are better to spend your days in. Anyway by this point we’d done a lot of walking so the boyfriend was really ‘tired’ we decided then to go to Amsterdam Zoo where we could chill out and look at some Baboons.
The Zoo was surprisingly good with the animals moving around the cages and generally being pretty entertaining. But I guess all Zoos essentially look the same, whether they’re in Amsterdam or London or anywhere other than the Gambia in which case pictures can be a bit more interesting.
When we’d had enough of the zoo we decided to head back to the B&B. We still had our boat tickets from the Heineken tour the day before so took it up the Amstel river to the Heineken brand shop.
On the way a tour guide told us some fun facts about the Dam, all of which I have forgotten. At the brand shop we got a super cool free gift, a Heineken necklace. As you can imagine, I haven’t taken it off since!
Dinner that evening was a simple Italian near our B&B followed by a few drinks watching the football where a homeless, drunk guy tried to hug us…several times.
All in all Amsterdam is a really chilled, beautiful city. I don’t know whether it’s all the water (it has 15 more canals than Venice) the bikes, or the fact that everyone is a little bit stoned from the smoke that pours out of each coffee shop on the corner but it’s all so laid back – which I loved.
I would absolutely go back and definitely think next time I will try and see a concert or gig as many have told me that Paradiso and Melkweg are supposed to be great venues and with flights from London only around £60 it’s a cheap trip away!
Thanks for reading!