48 Hours in Amsterdam: PART ONE

Thursday, 27 April 2017

 I stood nervously at the front of the queue. My bag was heavy on my shoulder, my passport was slowly soaking away in a pool of sweat in the palm of my hand. I was attentively analysing everyone ahead of me, watching them meticulously pick apart their luggage, neatly and efficiently dividing their belongings into separate plastic trays.

These seasoned travellers made me nervous, I had already been convinced that anyone involved in security at an airport is simply a bulldog in a suit, and was positive beyond reassurance that any fumbling about would certainly lead to my arrest and permanent confiscation of my passport. Shit.

 MY FIRST FLIGHT - London Gatwick to Amsterdam
 
 Of course, everything was absolutely fine (did someone say drama queen?) and I managed to make it onto the plane with the total avoidance of airport prison.

My sister has a tremendous way of keeping me calm without mollycoddling me. It's a technique that she's carefully mastered over the past fifteen or so years of having to deal with my ludicrous, and often irrational, anxiety. It's an art form that involves just the right balance of concern and sarcasm.

"You alright?" She says without making eye contact.

"I'm just a bit nervous" I reply, staring out the window of the grounded plane, wondering whatever made the Wright brothers think defying gravity was a reasonable idea.

"Well don't be, you're going to ruin everybody's holiday."

I smiled and grabbed a magazine from the netting in the chair in front of me.

"Fuck off."
-
If you can remember your first flight, then you'll appreciate how mind-boggling the whole concept is. I've always dealt with anxiety on public transport by studying the reactions of everyone else on board, I soon figured as long as no one is screaming, crying or desperately hacking away above their chair for an oxygen mask, I can just assume things are A-OK.

Of course, my experience would have been made slightly easier had we not been sat in front of a group of 'lads on tour' who insisted on spending the duration of the flight discussing Final Destination and the statistical chances of surviving a crash should the plane plummet into the English Channel.

To be honest, I barely had a chance to panic, by the time we had actually made any sort of altitude, it was time to come back down again.

Landing, I have discovered, is a tedious process, and I don't believe I have ever been so happy to stretch my legs upon solid ground, and will certainly never take my ears for granted again, after spending a good twenty minutes feeling like my head was stuck inside a barrel.

ARRIVING AT OUR AIR BNB
 The first thing I learned about Amsterdam is that everyone speaks English, which although incredibly convenient, lead me to feel slightly cheated out of my first foreign experience. We did, however, take our father's advice of speaking Dutch wherever possible to be polite, it wasn't long before 'Hallo' and 'Bedankt' felt like catchphrases.

The second thing I learned, as I threw my bag down onto the 'pavement' whilst waiting for Merrin, Abby and Tom to finish exchanging Euros for the Uber, is that bike lanes are a thing, not just for push-bikes, nope - actual motorcycles that can kill you... dead - and you really aren't supposed to stand in the middle of them.

"Careful mate, you don't have an EHIC card" my sister hollered as I attempted to catch my breath and simultaneously (figuratively) pick up the guts that had fallen out of my arse as a result of my near-death experience.
-
Packing ourselves into a glass elevator and ascending to the second floor of the apartment building, we excitably debated where we would spend our first evening, a discussion that took us all the way to the outside of our apartment door.

After what seemed like hours of attempting to get the door open - a task that became all the more frustrating due to a third of our group having full bladders - we were stood in the doorway of a large(ish) room - a very nice room I hasten to add, but a room nonetheless.

If it had been for two of us, it would have been perfect. But, as a group of four, two of whom were a couple, it wasn't the most ideal of situations and we quickly realised the importance of double checking the small print when booking through Air BnB.

Fortunately, we aren't a bunch of arseholes and we do in fact get on, so the only real issue was whether or not anyone was an aggressive snorer (plot twist: it was me)


DISCOVERING AMSTERDAM
 "Mate, can someone Google 'Dutch Oven?'"

"That is the last thing anyone should be Googling..."

It took a good half an hour or so to work out how to use the bizarre apparatus that appeared to combine microwave and oven (whoever thought of such a thing!) but we were soon happily sat around the dining table of the apartment, munching on croissants and sipping tea, fully aware that we seem to have got our cultured breakfast slightly confused.

As I gazed from the jerking window of the tram that was taking us to the centre of the city, I came to the instant conclusion that Amsterdam is best described as the lovechild of London and Brighton.

The universally recognised hustle and bustle, busy people with places to be and things to do, a handful of eccentric characters for every couple of square miles and quirky independent shops nestled between those larger, recognisable chains - a place offering vibrancy and charm but with much less pollution, and the additional exciting, yet terrifying, prospect you may lose a limb to a hurtling cyclist at any moment.

Countless market stalls decorated cobbled streets, some boasting large supplies of tourist merchandise, others displaying endless buckets of vibrant Dutch tulips - I have never seen so many brightly coloured petals in one place, from deep reds and electric blues, to sunshine yellows and blacks dark enough to match my soul.

I found myself resenting the fact I don't have a garden, or otherwise would have filled up a few bags with bulbs - although with my ability to keep anything alive, I can't imagine much would have thrived.

Whilst my sister found herself on the hunt of 'the perfect mug' I took in the scenery, enjoying people watching and just generally getting lost in the wonder of being in a different country.
After a while, we stopped by Studio 2 for lunch - a small, quaint cafe that offered a perfectly varied menu, and a good selection of beer - an important element when you've been on your feet all morning.

Over lunchen, we discussed where our trip would be taking us next, debating whether or not we should step forth into one of Amsterdam's infamous bars and the logistics of visiting The Red Light District that evening, an experience I had been told I could not visit Amsterdam without. We pondered our next move, peeking into the free guide we had grabbed on our way to the cafe. Merrin, Tom and Abby seemed pretty organised, they had been here before, they knew what they were doing.

I sat and stared into the bowl where my nachos had once been and hovered my hand over my empty Amstel bottle. One thing was certain - I needed more beer.

11 comments

  1. Bloody BRILLIANT elly, can't wait for the next episode ����������

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  2. Reading all your little anecdotes and conversations really made me feel like I was on this trip with you, Elly! I absolutely love your way of writing, it's so immersive and quite different to a lot of other travel posts! The food looks incredible, shame it was a bit of a squeeze at your Air B&B haha!

    Abbey 🍉 www.abbeylouisarose.co.uk

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  3. I love reading all the little conversations that you included in the post. I loved reading this as I am going to Amsterdam at the end of July so it got me really excited seeing all of your photographs. The food looks lovely as well!
    Great read,
    Lois x
    www.lifeasloismay.wordpress.com

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  4. "dutch oven" gave me the giggles, yes, don't do that!

    Glad it was a good experience though :)

    Hannah @ The Northern Writes | www.thenorthernwrites.co.uk

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  5. Amsterdam is stop number one for us on our Interrail journey this summer! We'll definitely be checking back on this post and all of your others for inspiration!

    Fantastic post! Thanks for sharing!

    Jessica & James | Food & Baker

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    1. Thank you so much! Hope you have a wonderful time, I'll keep an eye out for what you share! x

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  6. I've always wanted to visit Amsterdam it looks like such a beautiful place 💖

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    1. I really loved it, hopefully going back again in a couple of months!

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  7. Youre style of writing is phenominal, I felt like I was reading one of my favourite books and completely jumping in to the story with you!! Fab read and I cant wait for part 2!!xx

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    1. Thank you so much! Such a lovely comment to receive, glad you enjoyed it. You can find part two here if you're interested: http://www.ellymitchell.co.uk/2017/05/48-hours-in-amsterdam-part-two.html

      Thanks again! xx

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  8. Ah I love Amsterdam! It's such a great city for your first foreign trip!! While the Dutch are similar in some ways, they are completely different (and fascinating) in others and I love that feeling of being in a big, yet intimate big city.

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