Tuesday, 6 December 2011


Sometimes I wonder if visitors to Amsterdam pass through the city in a bleary haze of hash and red lights, because I've never heard someone rave about the city. So prepare for some raving, because I just got back from a long weekend there, and it was wonderful. The city - beautiful. The people - amazingly friendly. The tram driver, the cashier, the ticket inspector, the shop keepers, people on the street...I've never met so many smiley, helpful people. It made my trip.

My friend and I stayed at a hotel by the lovely Vondelpark, a long stretch of green gardens bordered by beautiful tall slim houses. Our room had a high ceiling, long grey sheer curtains, and an extremely modern (and therefore confusing - for me anyway) bathroom. The carpet was hideous (orange, with purple sports), but when lying on the king sized bed I couldn't see it!

We hired bicycles on that first afternoon, and then didn't get off the bikes for what felt like two days. We cycled everywhere on dedicated bike lanes, eating frites and peperstek, sketching by the canals and wandering through late autumn markets. Pedestrians AND cars giving way to cyclists, and I felt completely safe zipping around.

Perhaps because we kept to the outer ring of canals, and the areas surrounding, we were able to avoid the tourist ridden area. We saw only 1 star bucks, no MacDonald's or H&Ms, but dozens and dozens of streets filled with independent stores. The kind of streets that you travel across London to visit, but here in Amsterdam they were everywhere.

There were cool little cafes, gorgeous clothing stores and those designery knick-knack shops where you walk in with a mind to browse, and walk out with a pack of 5 letterpress cards, a hand blown glass ornament in the shape of a moustache and a soy candle that smells like Christmas. I ran out of time to enter every little boutique, bakery and gourmet produce grocer I saw, and had to resist the urge to cart hard rubbish back to the hotel - who could throw out a pair of chairs this beautiful?

I stopped and sketched until my hands froze, and then rode on until I warmed up again. I ate frites at least 4 times, with pepper-mayonaise. Can you blame me? It was HEAVEN.

On the second afternoon we cycled out to open fields along the wide river to the Rieker Windmill. As it grew dark (at 4.30pm) the lights in the little apartments on floating pontoons in the river switched on. They had such clever designs - little mezzanines, and big open living spaces, and half-submerged bedrooms.

I returned reluctantly home on Sunday with a backpack filled with my bodyweight in stroopwaffles, a non-stick frying pan and a book full of sketches. 

See Amsterdam in my Etsy store, soon!

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