Alright, I know I said I was going to do fewer small European trips this year in the hope of saving some pennies, but guys… when your art history extraordinaire friend flies around the world to stay in Amsterdam for a couple of weeks while she interns at the Rijksmuseum, and you are THAT CLOSE that you could be there with her in a short one-hour flight… what to do? Obvs, you take that flight, and you have a girls’ weekend in one of Europe’s dreamiest cities.
A Canadian friend of mine who has recently relocated to Edinburgh also made the trip, so this was a reunion of sorts, not to mention the Europe trip our group of friends has been dreaming of for a long time. Just writing this, memories of our very numerous wine nights from our university days come to mind, when we would dream up European trips and sigh, “one day…” The only thing that would have made this trip better was having a fourth, much-missed member of our crazy crew there, but alas, we have come to a stage at which it is almost impossible to all be in the same place at the same time! It will happen one day though (here I go again, dreaming of “one day…”)
Amsterdam is a dynamic city; quaint brick buildings line the canals creating quiet scenes pretty enough to be put on a postcard. Walk a few more blocks though, and you arrive in the city’s infamous red light district. Walking past coffee shops where customers smoke weed in the open, you come across countless scantily-clad sex workers as they stand behind full-length windows, attracting clients and being gawped at by scandalised tourists. For anyone visiting for the first time, it’s bizarre to say the least.
I had been to Amsterdam once before – last summer – when the atmosphere was something entirely different from the wintry city I found myself in this time round. I felt I’d had the “Amsterdam experience” that so many people visit this city for, and was happy this time just to be with my two girlfriends whose company I had so missed; honestly the fact we were in Amsterdam was like a bonus.
THE BEAUTIFUL JORDAAN DISTRCIT
The weekend was full of simple delights offered by wandering around the beautiful Jordaan district, which is full to bursting of stunning boutiques. Its shops sell products so lush and of such exceptional quality you just want to lie in a bed made from it all and never leave (did I go too far?). We stumbled across so many book stores, cafes, wine bars, skincare shops and clothing boutiques that we literally found ourselves entering every second door we came across. Every now and then when one of us thought that maybe the others might not be as enthusiastic anymore, we’d walk past one such dreamy shop slowly, cast a sideways glance and say, “I mean...” We’d then kind of just nod at each other, pivot abruptly and walk inside Shop of Dreams no. 47.
Shopping in the Jordaan isn’t the frantic kind of high-street shopping most of us are used to; it is a genuinely lovely experience. It is calm and enjoyable and ultimately really fun. After having visited just a couple, my friend Em rightly said, “It’s going to be so hard to go back to New Zealand after this!” It just doesn’t compare, and needs to be experienced to be believed. One of my favourite shops was the beautiful Nuvo Niche boutique where I made a purchase of dreams (post dedicated to said purchase on its way… IT IS BEAUTIFUL and deserves and entire post to ensure ample appreciation).
A NOTE ON DUTCH BOYS
Good news for tall girls: Dutch boys are taaalllll. Gloriously tall. So are Dutch women though, which means taking a stroll amongst the gorgeous giants of this city can be a bit of a knock to the old confidence, but still… the male population makes for a delightful addition to the already lovely surroundings. After appreciating them all day, and drinking ample quantities of gin between the three of us, we headed out to experience the local nightlife and have a dance (and more gin. Always more gin).
Pretty promptly we became aware that we received about as much attention as the pot plant in the corner of the room. There were zero eyeballs directed at us All. Night. Long. Now I’m not saying we are girls who are accustomed to being looked at – not at all – but between our shared experiences of nightlife in Auckland, London, Vancouver, and anywhere we’ve ever been on holiday, there are usually at least some glances... some sort of attempt at making contact. It’s kind of a presumption of going to bars, isn’t it, that people there are keen to meet others, or at least open to being approached? Not in Amsterdam. We felt more than a little miffed about this (there was much drunken ranting on the subject as we made our way home in the rain) but upon speaking to a local woman the next day, Em learnt that Dutch men are notoriously unapproachable, and will stick with the group they have come with, not venturing outside to speak to people they don’t know. Absolutely fine, just good to know going in, so you don’t have a whole night of exasperating “what’s wrong with you, we look hot, dammit!” moments.
There are a few things worth of mention, for anyone visiting this beautiful town:
Wine is cheap, averaging €3 a glass. It was good times all round for us winos;
Bikes outnumber people here, and there are designated bike lanes throughout the city. Locals on bikes are quite honestly a force (not to be) reckoned with – they will not slow down for anyone or anything, so when you hear that aggressive bell a-ringing, get out of the damn way, and save yourself some trauma;
The Anne Frank House, the secret annex where Anne and her family hid during the holocaust, from where she wrote her famous diary, is one of Amsterdam’s main attractions and well worth a visit. I don’t have any photos as it’s simply not a place I had any desire to photograph, but it was undoubtedly one of the most powerful experiences I've had. Here's a tip though: book online. If you don’t, you can only visit from 3 pm everyday, and even then, the lines are so colossal that you’re unlikely to get in. Tickets are €10 online, and allocate you a 15 minute window during which you have to arrive. Highly recommended.
In summary, Amsterdam is a PERFECT city for a low key girls’ weekend. The majority of my photos comprise of two beauties strolling ahead of me as I dragged my feet, stopping to photograph every cute street I glimpsed (i.e. every street). If you ever get a chance, visit this city with friends, it’s so full of fun things to fill your time with... I couldn’t have asked for a better reunion with these two!