I’ve just returned from a 4-day trip to Amsterdam with my girlfriend Lesley. It was the first time I’ve been there, and it definitely lives up to its reputation as a purveyor of all sorts of temptation, but Lesley and I were really there for the beer and food. We ate falafel and flemish-style chips (with mayonnaise and curry sauce) in the street, ate in Indonesian (sensational Nasi Goreng), Argentinian (steaks), Chinese and Japanese restaurants, had freshly-squeezed orange juice for breakfast every day, sampled an authentic Dutch apple pie, and it was all amazing, and reminds me of why Scotland is such an impoverished nation when it comes to food. We weren’t even able to escape Scottish misery because as we were eating chips on the Dam square, a bagpipe player in full regalia started playing for the crowds of tourists. Inexplicable, really. However, the weather was definitely not Scottish, with blue skies for the whole time we were there.
The city is astonishingly busy at all times, night or day, weekend or not, with trams and bicycles competing to run you over and hordes of stag parties roaming the streets looking for the next thrill. The nightlife is, as you might expect, jumping, but we still managed to find pubs where we could have a mellow drink and chat. Particularly good was a rock bar that Lesley had been to before that unashamedly plays classic rock videos and even some prog rock. The barman was so gratified to meet some British Focus (70′s Dutch prog rockers) fans that he gave us complimentary Amstel beers. At one point during our wanderings around the city, we saw some tour buses and roadies setting up for a Saxon concert (which thrilled Lesley no end, her being an avowed rock chick), and later that night we met some Irish people in the rock pub that had been to the Saxon concert that day (which also featured Golden Earing of ‘Radar Love’ fame, more dodgy Dutch 70′s rock).
We also did the more sober tourist things like visiting the Historical Museum and the Rijksmuseum where we saw much 17th century Dutch & Flemish art, most notably the Night Watch by Rembrandt. We also went on a canal cruise, which really is the best way to see the unique cityscape of street canals and narrow buildings (most of which seem to be leaning over at crazy angles), away from the crowds and traffic and with a comfortable seat. Bizarrely during the cruise, we also came across the Royal Navy aircraft carrier Ark Royal, which was berthed at Amsterdam for a visit, and was a surprise after we had navigated though the narrow canals that twist through the heart of the city.
Amsterdam (and the Netherlands) is of course totally flat in terms of the landscape – great for cyclists but not so good for someone who loves hillwalking . But it’s the opposite of flat in every other way and a great destination for a visit – short, cheap flights from Scotland and everyone there seems to speak good English (which makes it ideal for me as I am terrible with foreign languages).
My photographs from the trip are here.