It’s not exactly an original joke, I know. I’ve heard it many times before, as I’m sure you have too.
But when I read it off a towel early one morning last week as I was cleaning dishes, it cheered me up just that little bit. You see, I wasn’t looking forward to going back to work. It had been about a fortnight since I had last gone in, and in that time-period I had been away for a week to Amsterdam with a couple of friends. And my attention span being what it is, in that single week my enthusiasm and confidence regarding my job had all but drained away.
But this isn’t a post about work. This post (despite WordPress’ best efforts) is about Amsterdam.
When my friends first floated me the idea about going away for a birthday holiday to Amsterdam, I agreed, but wasn’t entirely sure about how enthused I was. At the time, my conception of Amsterdam was a little ignorant; I believed it to be a simple city where people went only to get blazed. That’s not an entirely inaccurate assessment in a lot of cases, but as the more enlightened of you will know, it’s not the whole story.
And so, when I was discussing the upcoming summer holidays with a friend, and she asked me whether I would be perusing the various museums and cultural destinations after I informed her I probably won’t be having a booze-y week away, I thought she was joking. So I laughed.
Turns out she of course wasn’t joking, which encouraged me to find at least some basic information about the city I was travelling to. It was then that I learnt that Amsterdam was famous for many things beyond the ‘wacky backy’, such as the Van Gogh museum and the Anne Frank House (What? I never read the book as a child. Sue me).
This, coupled with my holiday in the States left me eager to get away again, and excited to visit these various destinations so I could experience another culture different to my own.
Unfortunately, in the end, we spent most of our days getting side-tracked, and none of those places were visited.
Fortunately, I enjoyed my holiday anyway.
For the rest of the post, I’ve decided to split things into three topics that pretty much sum up my experience in the Netherlands. Plus, shows and articles that are set out as a trio like the one to follow usually works quite well. Y’know, kind of like Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents.
Except this probably won’t be as funny, awkward, or intimate. Although it might make my mum slightly suspicious.
I didn’t really branch out in what I ate during our week away. One of the most exotic things I ate was chips with mayonnaise. Clearly, I live a sheltered life…
To anyone else, this would be normal. But for me, it was something special; if memory serves, they dealt out some pretty tasty chips, perfectly complimented my the rich mayonnaise, and tasted as if they had infused some of their passion and effort into them, rather than just sticking them in a deep fat fryer. Or at least, that’s how I like to remember them. At this stage, I’m just romanticising chips, and the reality was probably that they tasted the same as the British variant, but I enjoyed them more due to the rather lovely change of scenery.
Another big part of my diet was waffles. Oh, the waffles. I ate so many, whether they were from the supermarket, the bakery or the sweet-shop across the street from our apartment. It probably wouldn’t be a lie to say that waffles (usually slathered in chocolate) made up about 75% of my diet. It was a rather unhealthy week.
And to round-out our week long binge, the five of us went on an all-you-can-eat ‘pancake cruise’ (although apparently ‘all I can eat’ is six pancakes; turns out I wasn’t very hungry when we got down to it). Why was this particularly memorable? Well, besides the fact that you can get as many pancakes as you can eat in 75 minutes for less than €20, it was memorable because of the toppings accompanying the pancakes.
I like my pancakes with bacon and banana, and perhaps some syrup if I’m feeling particularly decadent, but ham on a pancake never occured to me before. Neither had salami. Or brie. Or minced kebab meat…
In the same way that I didn’t branch out in what I ate, I also didn’t really get a chance to branch out in what I did.
For the majority of the trip, we’d spend our time making a plan, visiting a coffeeshop en route to our destination, getting sidetracked, and repeating the process.
And so, as you can imagine, we became pretty well versed in the varying establishment, as we spent a few of our days hunting down one particular establishment that apparently had ‘billiards, hot chess playing local girls and a juice/smoothie bar with a fantastic selection’. We never found it. But some of the places we did visit made up for that.
My particular favourites were Het Ballonnetje, the newer (and better, on account of the more relaxed atmosphere and actual space to sit down) Dampkring, Blue Bird, Dolphin, Picasso and De Tweede Kamer. All of them had a pretty cosy set up, were staffed by friendly locals, and were clearly popular joints for regulars.
The feng shui was appreciated.
As was the feng shui of the city as a whole. There were a few destinations we did actually make it to, and in our time there, we covered quite a lot of ground. In fact, me and Ross alone made it round most of the city centre several times on our last day with our rented bicycles (which you have to get if you go; easily the best day of my holiday).
So I may not have done what everyone expected me to do. I may not have checked out the party scene or had my photo taken on the ‘I Amsterdam’ sign, but that doesn’t matter, because whilst we may not have gone to seek out all the major tourist destinations, we probably experienced more of the city on a level that many do not. Because I did visit the Artis Zoo. I did wander through the Red Light District. I did hang out on Vondel Park. I did cycle amongst the locals. I experienced Amsterdam, and thanks to a city where even the most basic of scenes look beautiful, my desire to go traveling and experience everything has only been reinvigorated.
I may do shit-all with my life usually, and the fact of the matter is, I’m not sure I’m quite in that mind-set to get on with what will be the hardest part of my time in the education system, but for now, it doesn’t matter, because as my friend Jagen pointed out when I was telling him what I’d been up to these past few months, I’ve ‘bossed’ my summer.
Edit: After my blunder with the first draft, I thought I’d just save and double-check everything. Re-reading my conversation with Jagen, I now realise that he actually said I ‘nailed’ by holiday, rather than ‘bossed’ it. Personally, I don’t think that sounds as good, so I refuse to change it.
Deal with that.