Last weekend, I flew out to Amsterdam with my friend Becky for a whirlwind tour of the Netherland’s capital. If you’re picturing red light districts and ‘coffee shops’, think again. We are grannies on tour.
Saturday 14 April
After a very early morning, an airport croissant and a rather delayed flight, we make it to Amsterdam. Almost every other flight got cancelled, so we’ve beaten the odds to get here – now we’ve just got to make the most of it.
Time to brush off the Amsterdam wish list…
I’m going to be honest, the walk down from the station (via an avenue called the Damrak) showcases the worst bits of Amsterdam: crowds, casinos, and hazy green clouds. There is one silver lining, though: eff loads of cheese shops. YAAAAS.
It might be the tackier tourist bit, but some of these buildings are actually really beautiful. There’s a green marbled corridor that looks like Oz, and old street reminiscent of Diagon Alley.
ACCIO MY HOTEL.
Dam Square is first on the list, just a 10-minute walk from the station.
There’s a woman blowing giant bubbles and a breakdancer who didn’t get enough attention as a child: ‘if I position myself even a little bit wrong, I could break my neck and die!’.
Maybe don’t do it then, mate?
In case you’re wondering, he was fine.
Dam Square is home to a royal palace, which looks very grand. And a Madame Tussauds, which looks slightly less so.
OK, we’re done with the tourist bit, let’s go.
Just a short walk from Dam Square lies the Amsterdam you’ll know from photographs and film. There are beautiful canals, those classic tall, thin buildings, and far fewer people. (I’m not a huge fan of
humans crowds, so this was good news.)
According to Instagram (I half-planned the day by searching #Amsterdam, tbh), I should head to a cafe/boutique called Pluk – it’s only a few minutes away and it sells beautiful chocolate bars. I’m sold!
OH MY GOD, PLUK IS THE BEST SHOP I’VE EVER SEEN IN MY LIFE.
Imagine: hip glassware and ceramics, chocolate bars in photogenic wrapping, adorable notebooks, gold jewellery, and freshly baked cakes.
I could happily spend all my Euros right here.
Laden down with paper bags of confectionary, we head to Bloemenmarkt (the flower market). If you ever find yourself feeling bored, Bloemenmarkt is a super fun word to say. Try it.
En-route is Anne Frank’s house. It’s a little surreal to see tourists smiling and taking selfies with the front door, although I might just be bitter because tickets to the house sold out before we booked our trip.
Round the corner, we see a band of musicians, just starting up. One of them looks remarkably like Daniel Radcliffe.
They’re now singing In Spite of All The Danger, a very low-key Beatles song. So low-key it’s not even the Beatles, but the Quarrymen (pre-Ringo Beatles). I wish I wasn’t singing along, I think it’s scaring the musicians.
‘THIS IS MY JAM, BECKY’
Bloemenmarkt has about 15 pretty sizeable flower stalls along the road. The road is lined with cheese shops. The cheese shops have free samples. My middle-aged fantasies came to life.
April is apparently tulip season, so Becky is in heaven and buys a whole load of silky blooms for her flat.
If I’m brutally honest, we get bored a few stalls in.
‘Once you’ve seen three, you’ve seen them all’.
Silk tulips, for those of us who can’t bring real flowers home
Once we’ve had our fill of the multi-hued tulips:
‘Nikki, do you want to eat?’
‘Eat? Why? It’s 4pm’
‘All you’ve eaten today is half a croissant’
Lesson #1: Get yourself a best friend who reminds you to eat when you’re too distracted to remember human things like that.
We spot Calf & Bloom across the canal. It’s a beautiful brick building with vast windows and a waterfront terrace. Inside, it’s an interior designer’s dream.
Admittedly I’m starving, but I think this toastie is the best toastie I’ve ever eaten.
I’ve never been to Italy, so I’ll take their word for it.
Sunday 15 April
My favourite part of the experience was listening to the two American girls on the next table trying to explain what ‘eggs over easy’ means.
We’d only booked one activity before heading to Amsterdam: a ride on Europe’s highest swing. And by swing, I mean a metal contraption that swings you over the edge of a building, 100m in the air.
It’s meant to rain this afternoon, so we have to do it soon. Maybe we’ll just let breakfast go down a bit first. It’s not that we’re nervous or anything…
Suddenly, we’re at the top of the A’DAM Lookout.
We’re feeling confident and brave, not slightly nervous and regretting our life choices.
We don’t go straight to the swings, we spend a little while wandering around the top deck and enjoying the sweeping views.
‘Come on, let’s do it.’
After queuing for ten minutes, we’re sitting in the red metal chairs and getting strapped in.
Yep, we’re about to swing off the edge.
Do you want to see a GIF of the event? Of course you do.
‘I’m SO glad we did this!’
We decide the best way to get there is via Amsterdam’s famous canals.
Lesson #5: In Amsterdam, the canal boat is a valid form of transportation.
‘Do you want to go back to the hotel and chill for a bit?’
‘Oh my God, yes’
Lesson #6: Go on holiday with a fellow Nana
‘Hello, could you tell me where the museums are?’
‘Just over there!
Becky, that lady just asked for directions! Do you think I look Dutch? Like I live here?’
‘Um, no… I don’t think so.’
Rampant with hunger because some silly sausage (me) had only eaten a pastry for breakfast and an ice cream cone for lunch, we head out to our dinner venue.
Only a 20-minute walk away, excellent reviews and –
‘Do you want to go leave and go somewhere else?’
Do you ever walk into a shop and think ‘this doesn’t seem legit’. That.
FAAM, a small restaurant that specialises in pizza, was only a few minutes away. I am pleased to report it looked very legit and the food was delicious. Plus, I get the feeling the diners are locals rather than tourists – which I like.
Monday 16 April
We’re eating breakfast in a library because obviously.
This is Cafe Belcampo, a friendly little reading cafe in the Food Hall. Like most of my favourite eateries here, it’s full of Amsterdam regulars rather than tourists.
Time to plot our next move – there are a couple of things left on our to-do list and only a few hours left.
We’re in Vondelpark. It’s warm and sunny – perfect for a couple of hours of strolling.
Feeling incredibly de-stressed from park walking and cat cuddling, we’re ready to travel back home. It’s time to walk back to the train station and weave through the Damrak area (ugh) again.
‘Ladies! Come in here, have a drink, smoke. Weed is good for you!’
‘I don’t think it is!’
Do you ever hear a shrill posh old woman reply to things and then you realise that voice belongs to you? No, me neither.
Goodbye, Amsterdam! Thank you for a wonderful 48 hours.