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Adventures of a short vet

Arriving in Amsterdam

NETHERLANDS | Friday, 21 May 2010 | Views [698]

Just in case we forgot where we were

Just in case we forgot where we were

I managed to wrangle a three-day weekend and drove over to Kent where I joined a couple of mates from Uni, Ben & Han, for an short road trip to Amsterdam.

We left at some ridiculous hour on Friday morning to catch the train through the Eurotunnel. Having left all the organization in Han’s capable hands, this went to show how uninformed I was about our trip as I had absolutely NO IDEA the car was to be loaded on a double decker TRAIN. In the end it was a bit of an anti-climax as we entered the tunnel and it went dark for 30 minutes. It would be so much cooler if it was like Kelly Tarlton’s, a giant Perspex tunnel through which you could see the fishes! Also probably a lot more nerve-wracking expecting it to crack any minute.

Finally we arrived in France, where the border control guard didn’t even bother taking out passports, let alone stamping them. I have to admit I was disappointed as this was my first trip to the continent & I didn’t even have a stamp to prove it! We blitzed through France, entered Belgium without even knowing it, and were soon in Holland. We stopped for a drink & I got to try out my rubbish Dutch (i.e. Afrikaans). She seemed to understand me and I was now officially the translator for the trip.

We’d been told to park at the Olympic Stadium, where you can park for 3 days for only 6 euros (as opposed to about 50 euros per day in town.

  • TRAVEL TIP – you need to go to the guy in the booth & pick up some paper tram tickets that will convey you into town & then bring you back again. DO NOT THROW THESE AWAY – you will need to hand them in again when you leave in order to have your ticket validated so that you qualify for the reduced rate. Otherwise your ticket will try to charge you about 150 euros and the guys at the counter are VERY unhelpful about it. They will tell you to get your ticket validated when you return but will neglect to tell you to save the tram tickets which will need to be handed in for ticket validation. Be warned. Several tourist were caught out by this loophole (luckily we were in too much of a rush to chuck the tickets) and we even heard one woman yell, “I’m DUTCH and I don’t understand you, let alone these poor foreigners!

So we had to sit in line for about 45 minutes waiting for the underground carpark to empty out – as each car left another was let through and the line grew longer & longer until it started interfering with traffic in the main road. For entertainment we watched as some cars tried to push in from a side road & others refused to let them in, playing a slow game of chicken as they attempted to out-maneuver each other. Finally we entered the carpark to find half of it empty, so unless most of those sites were reserved it seemed they just liked to make people queue.

We caught the tram into town (fun fun!) and managed to find our little B&B apartment without much hassle. It was a really cute 1-bedroom, lounge & kitchen apartment on the second floor with a pull-out bed for me. The American manager showed us around, told us the rules (no smoking of ‘any kind’ inside) and revealed to us just how much food was included in our breakfast supplies. I was expecting cereal and some toast, boy was I wrong – a dozen eggs, 2 packets bacon, a whole triple-decker tray of an assortment of cheeses and cold cut meats, 2 loaves of bread, cereal and biscuits. YUM! So that was breakfasts and lunches sorted.

We didn’t want to waste any time and decided to hire some bicycles to see Amsterdam the only way it should be toured: on two wheels. This is the city where the bikes rule the road, and on such a beautiful sunny day there was no other way to tour the city. We had great fun hooning around the city trying to avoid being run over by trams, cars & other cyclists. After a few detours courtesy of an average tourist map & the struggle to see road signs, we found ourselves in a big sunny park full of locals chilling out with ice-creams, wine & cheese & the ever-present pervading smell of weed filling the air. We took the hint, bought some ice-cream & relaxed in the sun by the lake. All too soon it was time to head back to return our bikes, and we had to rush to make it back courtesy of another unplanned detour.

That evening, after dinner at a scrummy pizza place, we braved the red-light district where our eyes were well and truly opened. There is a definite pecking order, with the young & ‘pretty’ (or what we call in South Africa – ‘mooi van ver, mar ver van mooi’ i.e. pretty from far but far from pretty!) in the main street with a definite trend towards older/heavier/don’t even go there down the side streets. I wonder if half those women are even hookers or just hired to stand in the windows for gawking tourists to look at. Most of them looked pretty bored. Ben wanted to adopt one to take home & re-educate & show her a better way of life…I said they probably earn more than we do, plus there may be issues getting her over the border! We wandered up & down the main drag, but without much eye-candy for us two girls soon decided to hit a local café for a couple of space-cakes (had to be done). This was followed by a visit to a funky bar for several mojitos. Funnily enough, the rest of the night was a bit of a blur.

Tags: amsterdam, cycling, red light district

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