I did not see a windmill, wear any clogs or smoke a joint. The tulips were looking a little sad due to some unseasonably cold weather and I had to wear more socks than conventionally necessary for a mini-break with ones boyfriend but despite this, I can categorically state that I am an Amsterdam fan. An Amsterfan if you will.
I loved (probably in a rather narcissistic way) the fact that everyone spoke English and seemed overjoyed when they found out that we were from the UK. That said, I also loved the Dutch words too. I was delighted to learn that the trams announce the name of each stop. I considered this to be an invitation for me to practice my Dutch pronunciation, out loud on each tram, much to Brad’s embarrassment. I was very excited by the stop named ‘Kinkerstraat’ thinking that it sounded cute and unusual. When I translated it later on (I would be an empty, uneducated, featherbrained shell were it not for Google) I was so disappointed to discover that it meant ‘Lower Street’. How decidedly dull.
I loved the fact that anything seems to go in Amsterdam. A selection of such things include:
Drinking at most, if not all, times of the day or night.
Riding a bike in any direction you fancy, on road, pavement or tram line, without a helmet naturally.
Claiming to have invented the waffle even though everyone knows that waffles are from Belgium.
Doing some scary thing with a banana (and there was me thinking that the most thrilling thing you can do with a banana is to cut it up and cover it with custard, such naivety). Oh, for the record though, I feel it necessary to point out that I did not pay a visit to the Banana Bar. I walked past it and heard stories about it which turned me alarmingly Mary Whitehouse-ish.
Parking your moped at the entrance to the shop you want to go into rather than the traditional method of using what we refer to in England as a ‘parking space’.
Having a smoke… actually, the smoking thing is probably the catalyst for everything else. Maybe everything goes in Amsterdam, because everyone is too stoned to care. I don’t smoke myself but I was constantly hungry whilst we were there, passive munchies perhaps?
The red light district was slightly unnerving but also fascinating in a weird voyeuristic way. There was a woman in one of the windows who had so much self tan on (and we’re talking EVERYWHERE) that she could easily have passed for a creosoted piece of garden fence were it not for her massive knockers. They really were quite a sight to behold. Put me right off oranges though.
What’s strange about the Red Light District is how normal it is, you have these beautiful cobbled streets with canals running through the middle of them and magnificent architecture with half dressed women in the windows. It’s like one of the old furniture experts on The Antiques Roadshow finding a secret drawer in a beautifully decorated, ornate, Victorian writing desk and discovering a vibrator inside.
I was telling a friend about the red light district and explaining how very normal and every day it was and I said “In one of the windows there were two women having a chat”. My friend looked aghast “A chat?!”. “Yes” I said, bemused by her reaction “A chat”. “Oh my goodness, what’s a chat?” she asked. “Erm, it’s what we’re doing right now, talking, having a conversation, you know chatting. I didn’t realise that you were unfamiliar with the term!” “Oh, phew” she said, clearly relieved “I thought it was some sort of kinky sexual thing that I didn’t know of and I was worried about how you knew what it was.” Good job I didn’t tell her about the banana bar.
Amsterdam: Weird, wonderful, irresponsible, striking, brazen, unique, delightful, magnificent. What’s not to love?