I first came to Amsterdam when I was nineteen. In an era when England seemed so boring and stuffy, with archaic laws telling us how to dress and how to behave, Amsterdam, by contrast, appeared to offer considerable freedoms. I stayed in a squat close to Central station, with a bunch of other assorted misfits. I lived there for three months. I can’t remember why I left, but I think it had something to do with the need to register and become all ‘official’ after three months. Actually, I don’t remember much at all, since I spent pretty much the entire three months in what could only be referred to as an altered state of consciousness.
I went back a few years later with my (then) boyfriend. This time we stayed at the Amsterdam Hilton (made famous by John and Yoko’s ‘bed-in during the 60s, but by then a rather bland Trust House Forte hotel). I never told the boyfriend that I had been to Amsterdam before. Mainly this was because I’d then have to explain how come in three months I never went to a single museum or visited a single tourist site.
On that second trip we went to the main museums (Van Gogh and Rijksmuseum; I remember he sprinted me round the ‘must sees’ like we were in a race to tick all the boxes on his list). We visited Anne Frank’s house and also walked through the red-light area.
So this was my third trip. This time with nobody leading me through their idea of what we ‘needed’ to do.
I wouldn’t have minded going to Anne Frank’s house again, but queues were long and internet queue-jumper tickets were booked up until 16th August. The rest of it I had no great need to do again. The museums were relatively expensive for something I’d already seen, plus the weather was so nice outside that I really didn’t feel like being cooped up in a gallery. As for the red-light area, once you’ve seen it you’ve seen it really.
So instead I went to a couple of street markets.
I got lost along the canals, just wandering with no particular plan..
I Had a picnic in wonderful Vondelpark.
After making my feet so sore with all the walking on the first day (around 27kms according to my iPhone pedometer) on the second day I hired a bicycle. I have now come to the conclusion that I am as much of a liability on a bike as I am in a car.