21:19 Leila Gunn 0 Comments

I’ve taken a break from my blog for a while, as I’ve had so much going on school and work-wise since Summer that I’ve barely had time to sit down and write anything of length. If you don’t believe me, since I wrote my last post I have; applied to Uni, completed 2 weeks of work experience at a youth media firm, got a new job and passed my driving theory test… so basically, I’ve had my hands full.

Nevertheless, last week was half-term, which meant a week away from work and the opportunity to do something fun – and where better to do just that than in Amsterdam? Admittedly it wasn’t the kind of holiday we usually embark on as a family – it’s a very… liberal place. However we all found something we loved in the city and we tried to pack as much as we could into our 4 days.

Luckily for us, you can fly to Amsterdam from London Southend Airport, i.e. a very convenient 10-minute drive away from our house. There were no long queues, no last-minute dashes to gates a mile away – it was surprisingly leisurely. However, if you’re wondering why I’m bragging about an airport, it’s because I’ve developed a new-found respect for ours, after waiting nearly THREE HOURS for a late flight home from Amsterdam. But we’ll gloss over that tiny mishap on EasyJet’s part…

The flight only takes 35 minutes to Schiphol airport, so by the time you’re up in the air, it’s basically time to descend. We worked out that’s it’s quicker to fly to Amsterdam, in a different country, than it is to get to the other side of London… madness.

Day 1 was full of fun. By the time we landed it was early afternoon, which gave us just enough time to dump our bags in our ‘Boutique apartments’ *cringe* and explore the city a bit before dinner. For those who have visited Amsterdam before, if I say we initially walked around with scrunched noses and a sort of… air of disbelief, I’m sure you can relate. When I read in the travel-guide that there are a few coffee shops in Amsterdam which sell cannabis, I definitely underestimated just how many there really are. At night, the air and coffee shops stink of weed, which I can imagine puts some people off from visiting the city, which is both a shame and understandable… but hey-ho, that's my only complaint, and during the day it wasn’t nearly as bad.

There was a funfair in town on our first night, testing my fear of falling whilst being swung around on the tallest chair swing I have EVER seen. We then headed for dinner at 'Lieve’ a Belgian restaurant like no other. You don’t choose what you’d like to eat, you pick an ‘ambience’ in which you would like to dine. I’m still undecided as to whether I like this element of surprise-eating, but it was good fun and we got to try traditional Belgian dishes, such as horse stew and strawberry soup. Perhaps weirder than the cuisine was the décor, with your chosen ambience deciding what ‘kind’ of table you sit on. Thankfully, no matter what table you sit on, you have the opportunity to stroke the moss covered wall.

The difference between Amsterdam during the day and at night is quite striking. During the day, the city is swarmed by tourists, canal boats and cyclists (word of warning, crossing the road is a terrifying ordeal). At night, there is a darker side to Amsterdam, particularly in and around the Red Light District. We did walk through the Red Light District on our final night, just to see what all the hype was about. A family-friendly tourist destination it is not (taking my youngest brother with us maybe wasn’t the best idea) but it really wasn’t as bad as we thought it was going to be, and worth the visit if you’re looking for a more ‘lively’ side to Amsterdam.

Our best breakfast was in a little café called ‘Vlaamsch Broodhuys’. You can find the menu in the cafes morning newspaper, which was a nice touch, but not as nice as the home-made white chocolate spread! We even had to buy a jar and check it into the hold to bring home – it was that good.

There are a million & 1 things to do in Amsterdam, so we decided to go on a city sight-seeing canal tour, visiting the Tulip market, Cheese Museum and Van Gogh Museum on the way. One of our final visits was to the Bodyworlds museum. The exhibition showed various reconstructions of human bodies, muscles and bones in different contexts, explaining how each part of the body works, and how we can work towards living a happier and healthier life. There were even giant swings inside, so if that’s not a reason to visit, I don’t know what is!

But we didn’t just visit museums… cue blurry Ice Bar photos.

You’re only actually in the Ice Bar for a short time, which to be honest, you’ll be thankful for once you begin to lose all feeling in your fingers. But the bar itself is really cool (if you’ll pardon the pun.. HA HA) and is worth a visit, even if it’s only to have a photo with a polar bear whilst holding an ice cup.

I have always wanted to visit Anne Frank house, after reading 'The Diary of a Young Girl' a few years ago. The queue may have been hours long, but it didn’t disappoint. Everybody walked around the house in silence, absorbing every letter, video and picture, utterly stunned. It was a truly emotional and eye-opening experience, which further emphasised just how imperative it is that we never, ever let anything like that happen again.