Dear Diary, today will mark the day as my first visit to Amsterdam – 11th May 2018. We left around noon, and took our Audi Q5 to the land of canals.
Like any other big city, parking is a challenge in Amsterdam and I recommend downloading Parkopedia (it’s an app that tells you about the closest available parking slots and respective hourly rates). We parked in the city centre, so we could walk around instead of having to move the car every few hours.
Our first stop was, as usual, for food. We parked near Leidseplein, and walked to the main square. There are many restaurants here, and all-you-can-eat ribs seemed popular. We found Casa di Sergio (Money Heist fans), liked the menu and got seated. Pizza, pasta and cappuccino, for approximately 25€. I had my eyes on the pancakes’ joint across the street, and headed for some serious indulgence after Italian lunch.
Satellite Sportscafé is one of the all-you-can-eat ribs restaurants, with an extensive pancakes’ menu. I ordered one with chocolate syrup, whipped cream and ice cream. Yup, went all out. They have a policy that every meal must be accompanied by a drink (ajeeb zabardasti hai!), so we ordered fresh orange juice as well. Pancake was absolutely delicious. Highly recommended. This indulgence cost approximately 18€ – seemed a bit much for single serving of a pancake and a glass of not-so-fresh orange juice. But the pancake was good.
Well-fed, we got on to exploring. Before the trip, I had research on places that I wanted to see and saved them in a list on Google Maps. This is another travel hack for you. Saving it on Google Maps helps you find the location, and if you are already in a certain area, you can also check what other things from your list are nearby and go for it.
Anyway. We walked around the square, said hi to Hard Rock Café, crossed the canal, walked past the infamous Vondel Park, and arrived at the Diamond Museum (destination 1). Coster Diamonds is part of the museum, free, and has a display that you can buy if you like. A guide walked us through the many kinds of cuts, colours and quality of diamonds (do you a normal diamond has 52 facets and red diamond is rarest of them all?), pseudo workshop, and beautiful collections. All that sparkle had me dazed, and salivating. Considering that it is free and small, I would recommend it. There is a full-fledged adjoining diamond museum as well, in case you want an immersive experience. It is ticketed, and costs 10€.
Right across Coster Museum is the I-Amsterdam sign, with tourists flocking around it like bees to honey. I have no idea how do bloggers manage to take those perfect pictures with the sign – I could barely get close enough to see it. Instead, after watching children hang precariously from T and D, I turned in the opposite direction and started walking towards Van Gogh Museum.
Also situated on Museumplein, the museum is dedicated the works of Vincent van Gogh and his contemporaries, housed in the stunning Rietveld building, designed by Gerrit Rietveld. The 45-year old museum’s collection is the largest collection of Van Gogh’s paintings and drawings in the world. If you do intend to visit this most visited museum in Netherlands, make sure to buy tickets online. We didn’t know about online tickets and couldn’t see the spectacular insides as it was sold out for the day.
Another museum in the square that caught my fancy was Moco Museum – housed in an early-20th-century townhouse, it is dedicated to contemporary and modern art, and features inventive works by Dalí & Banksy. It has a massive mickey mouse statue and steel bull-riding figurine, beaconing what awaits inside.
Once I crossed Moco and Van Gogh, I saw Stedelijk Museum – another institution dedicated to modern art, contemporary art, and design. Their library is incredible – you must visit and check out their amazing collection. Some are collector items, and available for sale. There are a few quirky gift items too.
Good to know
We needed to refill our supplies so made a quick stop at AH Van Baerlestraat (3 minutes from Stedelijk Museum). It is a supermarket, so you can get pretty much everything you need for the road.
Side note: On the way from I-Amsterdam sign to museums, we stopped to get water and tickets for a boat ride. There are many packages (and a few scams), so be careful. I wanted to see the prostitution museum and go for a boat ride, and got a combined ticket for the two for approximately 45€ (for 2 people).
Side note 2: We initially paid parking for four hours, passed the curfew and had to top up. The best part about parking systems in Amsterdam is that you can top up your account from anywhere, as long as there is a parking ticket machine nearby. You need to enter your car’s number plate and have a valid credit card (cash and debit cards don’t work).
Our boat ride was scheduled for 7PM, so we started retracing our steps. We went back to the canal we had crossed on the way earlier. We were the second last couple to board the boat, and you guessed it right – it was FULL. For a lover’s cruise, it was rather disappointing. We took seats across a seemingly nice Indian family (mom, dad, daughter and son).
The cruise was almost an hour long, and took us around Amsterdam. We were provided with headphones and could choose from 90 languages. That was impressive. We saw monuments, multi-storey parking lots for bicycles (seriously!), houses from 18th century with a price tag of 15 million euros and about 20 bridges.
I like boat rides and that is probably the only reason I would recommend it. There is something about guided tour of an unknown city. If you know how to ride a bicycle, then by all means tour Amsterdam on a bike instead of a boat. There are guided bike tours as well.
Also, the trip would have been much better if that son from the seemingly nice family didn’t kick me under the table throughout the trip. Once his mother noticed, she profusely apologised. But boy, that kid had me angry. I sympathised with the mother, so just smiled politely and kept my cool. It was so difficult!
We took a snack break once we got off the boat. Remember those supplied from AH Van Baerlestraat?
Refuelled, we got walking again. Another tip, please wear your comfiest pair of shoes ladies. There is so much walking to do in Amsterdam. So, don’t be ashamed to bring out the Crocs and Birkenstocks.
We crossed a few canals on our way to the Prostitution Museum (and took a few pictures). I also saw a beauty store that I have bookmarked for my next visit. It is called The Beauty Editor, and has curated collections of best in makeup and skincare. I stood outside the window display, willing the clock to turn back a few hours so that I can go in and check out all that they had to offer. Alas, I gave up and moved on. There were many shop-able stores on the way, so if you were to go, make sure it is in the afternoon and not after hours.
Red Light District
When you are close to the Prostitution Museum, you will know – you will be greeted by scantily clad women in windows, coffee shops, weed wafting through the air and a ‘relaxed’ crowd flowing in a direction.
It irked me a little the way some people reacted to windows and women around the street. You know exactly what the red light district is about. If it offends your sensibilities, don’t go. If you still want to go, please do not be disrespectful, make fun of or look down at women. I wish people would either steer clear or go without judgements.
Anyway. Back to the street. You have probably already heard that it is lined with ‘windows’ and weed is a favourite. Both are true. We pushed through the horde of tourists and finally arrived at the Prostitution Museum.
It was much smaller than what I had anticipated. I won’t give away all the details (those blokes have to make money as well) but here’s what awaited us – history of how the place was turned into a brothel, financial matters, different kinds of setups in a brothel, how do prostitutes manage clients and their own security, some shocking rules for those interested in offering services and mysterious death of Anne.
I would give it a 6/10 in terms of experience and value for money (and time).
Tales of Food
We again pushed back out way to the main road. Tired, we ate at the first decent restaurant that came our way. Burger Zaken (Oude Hoogstraat 2, 1012 CE) is right at the corner, open until late and makes a mean burger with fries. We rested our feet, enjoyed free WiFi and had a late dinner.
Then came the adventure – did I tell you that a coffee shop in Amsterdam is actually a place to buy weed and hash? Yup, that’s right. So, there was a coffee shop and I desperately wanted to try it. Mister is the biggest anti-drugs champion, and I am all about trying everything once. So battling disapproving looks, I went inside, pretending to know what I was doing.
An old man behind the counter greeted me. The tiny café was filled with smoke, and you could probably get a buzz by just being there for a few minutes. The man gave me a menu, of which I understood nothing. I randomly picked a name and he gave me dark-brown, tiny-pipe shaped, probably-firm-but-not-solid-something (I Googled it later – it was hashish). I had never seen that before, so I said if he had it in a powder form. Then he gave me another small ziplock – a gram of weed, which looked like blob of dirty, dried leaves.
He also gave me a rolling paper and card-paper for filter, and I walked away as a proud owner of a gram of weed. Now, how do I use it? I looked around and didn’t get much help. So I used whatever little imagination I had. I broke down the blob into smaller chunks, rolled it, borrowed a lighter and set it to fire. The paper burned and chunks fell out on the floor. Mister forced me to only use half of it, so I still had some for the second attempt. It was equally unsuccessful but at least I managed to salvage some before it all hit the floor. I brought it back as a souvenir.
Towards the end…
It was almost 2AM, and I had checked off a few things off my list. So, we got on our way back home. We walked a little over 2kms to our car, and would really recommend a stroll at night along one of the canals around the city centre. It is so beautiful. Picturesque. Right out of a heart-warming romantic movie.
Reached home, and slept.
This day would go down in my personal history as one of the firsts – first night in the city of canals.