For months on end, Ellis and I had been planning on taking a trip together abroad before she moved to Ibiza and the Easter break granted us that opportunity. Amsterdam had been at the top of my travel to-do list for a long time, so to be going on a foreign adventure with one of my closest friends was an exciting prospect!
Day one (31st March 2016): Newcastle-under-Lyme/Manchester/ Amsterdam
On Thursday morning we woke up early and Ellis’s lovely mum Dawn made us a quick breakfast before we hit the morning traffic on the way to Manchester airport. I’ve never personally flown from Manchester before so this was a new experience for me too. We were out the door at 7:08am and made the airport with plenty of time to spare, having already checked in the night before. We went straight through customs, both of us tired out of our minds. I forgot to take my transparent bag of liquids out of my bag and had to wait about twenty minutes just to get my bag back. The security at Manchester Airport were probably the nicest I’ve ever encountered though, so I didn’t feel bad about my rookie blunder. After this we went spritz crazy in duty free and got ourselves coffee as Costa. As we waited at the gate, a toddler kept going over to a group of lads and asking them for crisps which was adorably amusing.
The flight itself was short and sweet. We chatted a bit and took photos of the wonderful countryside of North England. I love these views of England, it’s the small things like this that make me wonder why on earth I would want to leave this country on a permanent basis. I only managed a small portion of my book before we touched down in The Netherlands for the first time at Amsterdam Schipol Airport. And it was a HUGE airport! We went through immigration where the official noticed that it was nearly Ellis’s birthday. He didn’t speak much English but said to her: ‘almost…birthday’, which was highly amusing because it was unexpected. We then headed outside in search of a shuttle bus to our hotel when we were greeted with the huge ‘I Amsterdam’ sign, which I’ve seen so many times on my social media and was therefore glad to be able to get my own photo. We took some selfies before getting individual photos. Ellis said: “get in the d. In it, not on it” –innuendo fully intended. People were helpful outside the airport and it wasn’t long until we arrived at our hotel and checked in. After freshening up we bought day passes for the bus and headed into the city centre.
It took us about 30 minutes to get to the city centre on the bus but it was so great to finally be in Amsterdam! We were both extremely hungry so we got a hot dog (we’d read recommendations to try the street food and who doesn’t love a hot dog?) but this failed to fill a hole. We decided to have a proper meal and get a snack later on. We went to a fairly cheap Italian restaurant with me getting pizza and Ellis getting spaghetti bolognese. We sat for a long time talking before heading out and walking the busy streets of Amsterdam. Bicycles and scooters were everywhere and we saved each other’s lives many a time! We walked up to Dam Square as this was on our list of places to see. I got myself a replica Van Persie shirt before losing my cool at the sight of so many macaroons where a girl told me the shop had 21 different kinds of, so naturally we went in and Ellis got to try her first ever churro.
After this, we headed towards the palace which was truly glorious building. It was getting a lot colder outside so we needed to keep walking. We decided to head to Jordaan since Ellis had read about it online. We walked a fair distant before deciding to ask a shopkeeper of a fancy dress shop for directions and he congratulated me on the success of Leicester City in the Premier League. We had to backtrack on ourselves and eventually ended up in Jordaan. We saw some street art of Van Gogh and took some pictures alongside it as well as some giant plastic clogs. We sat in McDonald’s for a while before heading back to the hotel and staying up later than we had originally planned by watching True Movies that were too good to turn off.
Day 2 (1st April 2016): A Slice of Culture and a Slice of History
As a result of our film binging we ventured out around midday into the city of Amsterdam, heading straight for the Anne Frank House as we felt that it was important to visit such an iconic, symbolic and historic place after reading her diary. We queued for about an hour before finally getting inside. The staff had given around little booklets about the house whilst we were waiting in line and one quote from Otto Frank really made me think about how much society has and hasn’t changed since then and now. It made me think a lot about Donald Trump’s presidential campaign- using a religious group as a scapegoat for the nation’s failings.
Anyhow, the house itself was bigger than I expected and being in the house of such oppression and isolation was both humbling and harrowing all at once. Watching interviews of those who had known Anne Frank at school etc made my heart ache because their words really brought her to life. She was, by her own admission, not a saint and the raw quality of her diary shows that. I think what made the diary so successful is not just the tragic death of its writer but the fact that as someone said in of the videos played in the house, unlike other Holocaust narratives, you could feel Anne’s pain without seeing the horror side that was the cold and callous concentration camps. The most striking thing for me of all though was the actual size of ‘Kitty’ (her diary) itself. That tiny diary touched the hearts of millions. It opened people’s eyes to the suffering that propaganda, prejudice and persecution can cause. All that suffering just because of their religion. I wrote in the visitor’s book: ‘at the end of the day, human life must always come before any religious belief.’
After the house we headed back to the bustling city centre that we’d become particularly familiar with our time in Amsterdam. We’d got McDonald’s and eaten it on the way to the house so we went to a small café for lunch after a coffee in Starbuck’s. We decided to split up for a couple of hours to see the different things that we wanted to see. We’ve both travelled solo before so we didn’t offend one another by doing this. I headed to the Van Gogh Museum because although I’m no expert in art, I distinctly remember falling in love with Sunflowers in primary school. I noticed that Vondelpark was on the way to the museum and I’d read about it in Madison’s blog the night before so I decided to take a walk there first, in order to carry on our tradition of ‘walking in each other’s footsteps.’ It was such a relaxed and quiet place sandwiched in a bustling city and I really enjoyed such a simple walk alongside people just going about their lives, whether they were hanging out with friends, dog walking etc. what I enjoyed about it was that I could just simply BE for a while and not think or worry about what’s ‘next’, in every aspect of the word. I watched a dopey dog drop his ball twice in the pond and be too scared to reach for it and his owner would smile and come and get it for him every time (is that not true love right there?) Little things that made life enjoyable. ❤ When I eventually arrived at the museum, I was in awe. It housed not only the works of Van Gogh but also the people who inspired him and the people his work inspired. It was truly surreal to see his works with my own eyes and learn more about him too. I’ve taken to buying postcards of paintings I like on my travels since I can’t afford the real deal and I bought new Van Gogh ones for my room.
After two hours I left the museum to meet up with Ellis again but in typical me style, I got lost. I tried not to panic but when I realised I didn’t know where I was going I headed back to city centre so that I could use wi-fi to contact Ellis, and thankfully she wasn’t far away! Ellis bought some Chinese food and let me finish- all those memes you see about this in the perfect summary of our friendship. We took a VERY long walk to the Ice Bar, only to be told that they were sold out for the night. We’d been on our feet all day and by that point my knee was killing me. We instead decided to wonder over to the Red Light District to see the infamous place for ourselves. It says a lot about the representation of women in the media that we weren’t shocked by what we saw. It was basically just a live viewing of Mulvey’s Male Gaze. The way they were propped in the windows reminded me of Barbie Dolls in their boxes. Woman as commodities. I was surprised that there were no male prostitutes but I later learned from my cousin Lauren that it existed by wasn’t nearly as well known. We didn’t stay there long before heading back to the city centre again and getting the shuttle back to our hotel.
Day 3 (2nd April 2016): Flower Power
On our final morning we ventured out the church by the Anne Frank house as they offered view of the city from the top. However, only six people were allowed up there at a time and we couldn’t get a suitable time slot before our flight. We headed to The Bulldog for brunch and ended up staying in there for a while. We walked over to the Flower Market after lunch and just strolled around looking in various shops despite not being able to buy much because we only bought rucksacks with us. We bought some sweet treats after some more walking. The day ended up being very relaxed as we knew we needed enough time to make our flight at the airport. We sat by the fountain for a while, talking and eating our churros and pancakes. It got cold fairly quickly and as Ellis was telling me a story I got stuck in my snood but didn’t want to interrupt her story- it was very amusing. As the evening dawned, we made our way to the bus and went to the airport. We took a final selfie before we boarded and my rucksack and I accidentally sent a man “flying” as I snapped the photo.
Although our break was short, we had a lot of fun and it was our first trip abroad together. I liked Amsterdam a lot despite the overwhelming smell of weed!