Sunday, 11 June 2017

ABBIE GRACE TRAVELS | AMSTERDAM


One of my main goals for this year was to travel more, something I've wanted to do for a while. I was brought up on beach and package holidays, and whilst those are amazing and fab for a summer holiday, I have been itching to expand my holiday horizons for some time now. Until a few weeks ago, I had never, ever been to mainland Europe. In 25 years of living in Scotland, and I had never ever made it to mainland Europe (I've been to Cyprus but that totally doesn't count as it's an island). So when the opportunity to go Amsterdam with some friends came up, I jumped on that bandwagon so fast it made my eyes water a tiny bit.




Hotel
We stayed at the CitizenM hotel, which was very futuristic and cool - the lights, tv, and temperature was all controlled with an iPad, which my boyfriend geeked out about (the novelty kind of wore off on the second night when we couldn't switch the lights off, to be frank). Also, our shower did flood our entire room, but apart from that - I loved the hotel. It was a bit further out from the Centrum, in Amsterdam Zuid, but I honestly didn't mind the 20 minute tram ride. They were fast and frequent so it wasn't a hassle at all, and it meant we were away from the hustle and bustle at nighttime.

Shops
If you're looking for a shopping experience, then I'd head somewhere other than Amsterdam. It has a lot to offer, but shopping is sadly a bit lacking. Not that I was there on a shopping holiday, but who doesn't want to check out a few shops whilst they've got a bit of money to spend? I found that it was a tale of two extremes - either ridiculously high end or dirt cheap. There was a Gucci and Burberry around every corner (I'm sure I saw at least two Gucci shop's in the airport alone) and then a whole load of H&M's, but not much in between. Perhaps I was looking in the wrong place (feel free to comment if you know of the good shopping districts!) but I really did feel there was very little in terms of shopping. There were plenty of independent little boutiques, however, which I would have loved a little more time to explore and see their goods but there simply wasn't enough time.

Food
Probably the most important part of this post - where to eat. If you know me you'll know I love my food, it's the most important part of my day. I actually only had two dinners, which I'm ridiculously disappointed about (probably too disappointed). The very first night we arrived in Amsterdam, the trains were off and we ended up getting on a bus that took us on a sightseeing tour of the suburbs of the city. Long story short, a ten-minute trip ended up taking an hour and a half, and we didn't get into our hotel until nearly midnight after landing at half 9! So we only ate in the hotel that night, which was a disappointment. We did stumble across a lovely little cafe called Dwaze Zaken the next morning for breakfast, which served toast, pancakes, and crepes which were all absolutely lovely (although we had wanted to try Omlegg, which serves - you guess it, eggs, but it was jam packed full by the time we got there). For dinner, we found the smallest little pizza place, by oh my gosh, it was the best pizza I have ever tried. Ever. You HAVE to go if you're in Amsterdam, and although it only has about six tables - it's worth it. It's called La Zoccola Del Pacioccone Pizzeria, and it's to die for. The next night was Valentine's Day, which we left ridiculously late to book, and we ended up going to CAU. It was decent steak and decent wine, but it was a chain and there are probably tons of better steak restaurants in Amsterdam. We just panic booked as it was V-Day and we didn't know where we'd get a table. But my favourite food, by far, was the chips. Bought on the side of the road, served in cones, with plenty of mayonnaise. They were amazingly soft and fluffy on the inside and crispy on the outside, I don't think I had a bad bunch of fries the entire time I was there. There are tons, literally hundreds of little alcoves selling fries and they're so convienent to grab as a snack. Definitely something I missed when coming home to Edinburgh!









He looks so happy to be having his photo taken! 


Things to Do
There is so much to do in Amsterdam it can be a little overwhelming, especially for us as we were only there from Friday-Sunday. There was so much to pack in to so little time, that we had to come to terms pretty early on that we weren't going to get everything done that we wanted to do. The first day we went to the ARTIS, which is a zoo that was founded in the 19th century. It was fantastic to walk around and look at all the animals and check out some of Amsterdam's history too. It was massive and took up nearly the entire day! At night we went on a canal tour (I don't actually remember the name, which is horrendous of me! But there are tons on offer!) and at night it was lovely to see all of the canals lit up and it was so interesting to learn about even more about Amsterdam's history. On the second full day we went wandering around the city to find the Anne Frank House, which (rather naively I will admit!) we didn't realise would be so busy. The queue was roughly an hour's wait, and when we tried to book online for the next day, it was booked up for the entirety of February! We didn't end up going and it broke my heart a bit as it was one of the main things I wanted to do. If you're going to Amsterdam and you want to do the Anne Frank House, I'd recommend booking ASAP as it fills up pretty fast! Instead we went walking around the Prinsengracht which was lovely. We were blessed with lovely sunshine - it was bitterly cold, but the sunshine made it worth it! We also checked out the Sexmuseum (it was only €2 to get in, and was good for a laugh!) and, on a whim, the Hash Marihuana & Hemp Museum. It was again only about €2 for entry, and it was actually super interesting to learn about the history of hash and how it came to be known as a drug, and it's usefulness in curing ailments. On the final day we did a bit of shopping - there wasn't a lot to choose from that I found, in my experience it seemed to be really expensive or really cheap with not a lot in between. But I found a MAC and did some damage with some holiday money, before we hit the airport. 

Speaking of the airport - long story alert - my boyfriend and I had had a bad night the night before we were due to leave. We came in from our Valentine's Day meal and the shower had flooded the entire room. At 2am. All of our clothes that were in suitcases on the floor were soaked through, shoes soaked, everything. The night porter did an amazing job of trying to mop it all up, but they couldn't move us because they were full (on Valentine's night we didn't expect it to be anything but, so we weren't too annoyed). What was annoying was they deducted a 'generous' €40 from our bill, when we asked for the night for free considering we didn't really sleep that night trying to dry our clothes before putting them back into the suitcase. The manager of the CitizenM, Enrique, was actually really rude when we asked about this the next day and it put a slight dampener on the holiday, if I'm honest. So on the last day we ended up being a bit grumpy and unenthusiastic due to lack of sleep, and so headed for the airport quite a few hours early. We arrived at Schipol and while our friends were fine with the seats in the departure lounge, Lewis and I decided to use some of our leftover holiday money to book into the Airport Lounge 26. It was €30 each, and it was 100% worth the money. Comfy sofa seats, free charging ports, free wifi, free nibbles and drink and a fantastic view of the airfield. It was, in my opinion, a really relaxing way to end the holiday and well worth the extra money to sit and recharge and to catch up on some sleep that we missed the night before.

Trying to snap a picture outside Centraal - easier said than done!


Amsterdam was a dream, and I'll definitely be going back soon to do even more! Have you ever been to Amsterdam? What are your top things to do there? Let me know so I can put them on my list for next time!

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