Europe! Europe has been the perennial elusive dream, since I started earning. I say elusive as I might have made plans at least twenty times. And when I say plan, I mean hard core checking-out-flights-and-planning-the-itinerary sorta plan. The worst thing about staying far from your family is that, you end up exhausting all your leaves on your trip to your hometown. And for the married mortals, there’s a trip to your spouse’s hometown too. So our romantic getaways mostly included Goa and every other place within a thousand kilometers.
So, this time we knew we had to do it. It was time for a second honeymoon! And we started the royal plan! I somehow knew I had to hit Amsterdam. I had always wanted to visit Holland and Queen(the Kangana Ranaut movie) just made me fall in love with Amsterdam, even before I saw it with my own eyes!
So we took a train from Paris Nord to Amsterdam Centraal. We had booked the tickets a month in advance and had chosen Thalys(booked via ns.nl) and it was good ride, not very scenic though. We bought a chilled beer from the bar to keep us company! The first thing you notice after coming out of the station is how one third of the road is painted red! There are cycles everywhere! The red lane is for the cyclists.
Uber helped us reach our place of stay, The Hampshire Manor in the Linneausstraat area. It’s a beautiful hotel and the best thing is the location. The train station, three tram stops for three different lines and some amazing food joints are located nearby. They said they ran out of double rooms so had upgraded us to a suite and were we happy to hear that! It was already eight by the time we were ready to head out. We decided to meet our friend, who lived on a boat(which I absolutely loved) nearby, in Plantage Muidergracht. He taught us the basics of Dutch. I remember just one now, ‘ie’ is pronounced as ‘aai’, and they do use a lot of ‘ie’s. I was already loving Amsterdam. It was windy, cool and beautiful and there were so many canals, all lit up. We walked till Rembrandtplien, one of the many squares of Amsterdam. There were these bronze sculptures, many of them, but the major attraction was a small bridge nearby, which looked like a necklace.
We had heard a lot about ‘Wok to walk’ and decided to have the first meal in the city, there. They did not disappoint us and met our expectations, to the tee! The smell of weed, everywhere drew us closer to ‘The Bulldog’. It is the best place for the space cakes and joints. None of us knew how to roll, so we bought a joint and decided to smoke up later in the room. We were super tired by the time we returned back and two drags of the joint, put us to deep sleep! You know what I mean 😉
The next morning, we had a quick breakfast at Hallo, a small food joint just opposite our hotel. They had amazing ice-cream. And the owner, the lady, was super sweet. We met an old gentleman from Pakistan, who ran a supermarket beside our hotel. He spoke impeccable Hindi and was so warm. He gave us two freshly baked cake slices for the journey as we headed straight to Zaanse Schans and this is by far one of the three most beautiful places, that I have been to! The weather was just perfect. Blue cloudless sky, sparkling blue clear water surrounded by windmills. It’s like a small village with multiple windmills and cafes and lakes. The people are super friendly and warm. We walked from one end of the place to another and yet we weren’t tired at all. It’s quite close to Amsterdam, so travel wasn’t hectic either. We loved this place and it remains in top three tourist places in Europe, for us.
Post Zaanse Schans, we hit the hottest spot in Amsterdam. Leidseplein. This area is heart of the city with innumerable food places, coffee-shops and pubs. In Amsterdam, coffee shops are the ones selling weed. Cafes/coffee houses are the ones which just serve you coffee. We planned to try out the space cake after a good meal at an Argentinean Steak House. I had thirty percent of the cake as I was a little skeptic and my husband gulped down the rest of it. Obviously, it tasted great and it hit him pretty hard 😉 I had fun!
On the third day, we headed to another popular destination, Giethoorn. The best thing about Giethoorn is, you cannot walk across the village or even drive. You have to have a boat and ride in it. How cool is that! We floated across the village for an hour. There were flowers everywhere and the water looked so clear. It was enchantingly beautiful, magical! We returned back to Amsterdam and this was the day we wanted to hit the controversial area, the Red Light District(called RLD by locals). We weren’t allowed to click pictures and we didn’t dare to. The women are so so pretty and there were live shows! I just couldn’t muster up enough courage to watch two humans make out live, just couldn’t! Not sure if my husband wanted to, but he said no too! It was crazy! Pretty pretty women, all dressed up in sexy lingerie! It was any teenager’s dream come true.I had a gala time gawking at these femme fatales! And don’t even get me started on the toy shops! 😉
We had a quiet dinner at Mr Tongs in Liedseplein. And yes, I still had half of the joint, ready to go up in smoke!
The last day in Amsterdam, we planned to cover the local tourist attractions. IAMSTERDAM, being one of them. We couldn’t manage to get a clear shot as there were so many people crawling all over it. Everybody was excited about it. Next we checked out the Heineken experience. It was okay. A tour of the brewery with two free beers. Period. We just had an hour to cover the Van Gogh Museum and we ran! Luckily, we finished just in time. If you love art and you love history, then Van Gogh Museum will have a lasting impact on you. At night, our friends joined us at the Whisky Cafe L&B. Me and my husband both aren’t whisky enthusiasts, but the fact that the cafe had over two thousand bottles of whisky, blew our minds. The last tram of the night, was our ride back to the hotel.
Of all the cities I have been to, Amsterdam remains a favorite. It’s beautiful, just heavenly. After checking out, I desperately wanted to take a look at a cosmetic shop located just opposite to the Hampshire Manor. This was again run by another Pakistani gentleman who invited us over for coffee. He was friendly and we ended up chatting till our uber arrived to take us to the airport.
A small joke that I heard during our stay :
Why is the lane for cycles painted red?
It’s the tourists’ blood! (The cyclists apparently keep bumping into tourists and pedestrians.)
I can’t wait to go back to Amsterdam. It will always be a part of my EuroVacation! And yes, I got sick of seeing the three crosses all over the city!