We went back to our original plans for my week off, and spent a long weekend in Amsterdam. I have wanted to go for years - it is an absolutely stunning city. We spent the days wandering around, looking at the beautiful canal houses, wanting to go in everyone to see how it was decorated.
It was pretty cold and snowed every day, but this made it more beautiful!
Our favourite area was the west of the city, an area called Jordaan. We found a few lovely brown bars (very different to coffee shops!!!) and spent a good few drinks drinking beer in the warm, cozy pubs. There is a dutch word - gezellig - which doesn't have a proper translation - its kind of intense coziness, and the brown bars really have it. They have dark wood interiors, no music and serve just beer and plates of cheese. The perfect place to be when its cold outside!
We did a few touristy bits - we went on a canal cruise, visited Anne Frank's House (always very much wanted to go - but was a little disappointed) and went to the fabulous Katten Kabinet - a very small museum in a grand old canal house with a floor devoted to cats - art, posters, pottery, a cat pinball machine and even 4 real life exhibits. You even have to ring the bell to get into the museum. Quite bizarre but I loved it! Phil took photos with his camera so I'll have to post them at a different time.
We ventured up to De Wallen, the red light district a couple of times. It really is quite surreal - rows upon rows of red lit windows with girls inside coaxing the men in, mixed in with bars and 'coffee' shops. I'm not really sure what I think about it - I know the women are all there because they want to be, and they are legit, pay taxes, etc, but it felt wrong. I guess its a lot better than places like Thailand, where most of the girls have no choice about getting into the business, and no choice about the men they are with.
Anyway, back onto our trip - Sunday we went to a brewery in a windmill called Brouwerij't IJ which has a small bar open for 5 hours a day. It sold 5 different beers ranging from 5 to 12% - we enjoyed quite a few beers there, they were absolutely yummy, and I'm not the biggest beer fan!
On Sunday evening we managed to find ourselves in another brown bar where they had an open mic night - we got chatting to an English guy who was singing and stayed drinking Amstel 'til closing time! So we had pretty bad hangovers on Monday when we came home!
It was a really good trip though, very relaxing. I'd love to go back again, probably in summer so we could sit outside and enjoy the beer terraces!
On another note - I am becoming a horrendous flyer - think in part to some bad flights in and to Thailand (7 in 2 weeks!) - the flights to and from Amsterdam were good flights, but I was pretty much scared stiff and hated every second. I need to be able to fly! I want to go to Tokyo later this year! Any thoughts on ways to overcome this? Hypnosis?