Amsterdam is on everyone's Bucket List right? It was definitely on mine ... for a long time! It's strange how it's literally only a few hours away and in all my years of living I'd never been before.
This year for my birthday, my sister Deb and I had planned to go away somewhere and have a mini break. Our intentions were to use the 'Lucky Trip' app to pick us a random destination, but we left this too late and there was nothing outside of the UK within our budget. I knew 'get high in Amsterdam' was one of my Bucket List goals, so I thought 'why not?'.
Rather than flying (because I despise the whole airport ordeal) we opted for the ferry from North Shields. One million percent would do this again! I had an absolute hoot on the way over; and that was without weed!
For those unfamiliar with the craic; you board the ferry in the late afternoon; you're free to roam about, have drinks, eat, go to the cinema, arcade, casino, whatever ... you sleep overnight on the ferry and in the morning you arrive in Amsterdam. One of our favourite notes was the fact you enter a different time zone on the boat; the boat goes by the time zone of the Netherlands, so even though you're still in the UK, as soon as you board you adopt boat time, and you're an hour ahead of yourself. It did get very confusing; as every plan made was followed with 'is that land time or boat time?'.
Deb and I had a couple of cocktails followed by a meal; scallops, steak and sorbet. We walked around the boat a wee bit, then retired for the evening.
The sea was very, VERY rough! I personally thought it was great but Deb, not so much. I spent the entire night in fits of giggles because the rocking was so violent and the boat creaked and banged like you wouldn't believe. Deb thought it was a nightmare, I thought it was an adventure.
We arrived in The Netherlands in the morning and boarded the bus to take us to Amsterdam city centre. For anyone travelling to Amsterdam by ferry I'd really recommend you pay for the bus transfer. It works out at about €60 for a private taxi transfer, but only around €15 for the bus. It takes just over an hour to get to the bus station, and it picks up from the same place every day at around 2PM to take you back to the ferry. Well worth it for the ease.
When we got off the bus and started walking towards our hotel, it didn't take long before the whiff of cannabis filled our nostrils. Our plan was to check in to the hotel, freshen up then go grab some food and drink.
We stayed at the WestCord City Centre Hotel and ended up not being overly impressed. When we arrived at our check in time, we were told our room wasn't ready but if we paid an extra however many euros we would be upgraded and would be able to check in straight away. After hearing this story being fed to another 2 groups of people when we checked out; it's evident this is a BS move to get you to pay more. Don't fall for it!
We declined the upgrade but dropped our cases off so we were free to explore. At first I was a bit disenchanted by Amsterdam as I expected a traditional, richly architectural little city ... but on first glance it could have been any city, but with a few canals running through the middle of the road. The weather perhaps didn't help my impressions; it was a bit grey and mizzly so the magic was a little dampened.
We walked around for a little while, ate at a cafe then randomly just took a tram to the other end of the city and back ... we were just killing time at this point until we could check in and have a shower! We also took a canal tour which resurrected my belief in what Amsterdam should look like! Some of the buildings were amazing.
After this we attempted check-in again, and after another failed attempt (repairmen in our room fixing the AC) we finally got in! We showered and changed, and I maybe had a nana nap. We dined at an Indian restaurant just a couple of doors down from the hotel and then decided to explore Amsterdam by night ... which is an experience and a half ... but one I recommend everyone having!
Amsterdam at night is incredible, beautiful, eye-opening, sleazy, mesmerising, sexy, free ... just bloody brilliant! We went through the Red Light District and into a few of the sex shops. Deb left with a couple of novelty gifts, I left with my eyes watering and legs crossed. Baby's arm holding an apple does not come close to some of the things on display. I really wanted to buy a cat-eared latex gimp mask, but they were rather pricey!
We went in a few tourist shops and head shops, and man I wish they would just legalise cannabis over here as that's what I'd have! Such a brilliant atmosphere, and everyone (for some reason) is just so chilled out. Ideal. We were looking for edibles, but me being a pain in the arse Coeliac struggled to find anything suitable. We could have just bought straight weed or spliffs, I know, but we wanted to try edibles.
After hell knows how long, I decided to bite the bullet and just buy ordinary space cake ... Amsterdam if you want to open up your market a little more please consider GF edibles!! We bought a huge slab each and retired to our hotel. We were both kind of tired so we decided not to waste it if we were just going to be asleep in the next half hour!
The next morning was my birthday (woo) and I'd really wanted to go to the Anne Frank museum. Tickets to this sell out incredibly fast ... 80% of the tickets are pre-sold, and the remaining 20% are released on the morning for that day at 9AM. I woke up at 8:55 to log in and try to get tickets; it said I was number 712 in the queue, and then basically stated if you're higher than position 200 in the queue you might as well give up as you're not getting tickets! So for anyone intending to go here, I'd really recommend you plan in advance as to not be disappointed!
With that plan dashed we spent the morning having a look around some more shops and landmarks, including Royal Palace and Dam Square (where I fed the pigeons and life was good), before having to head back to the bus for the ferry. That space cake was burning a hole in my pocket too!
We got to the bus station and I decided to eat half my space cake (after all, the plan was to get high in Amsterdam). I knew it would take about an hour to take effect, so I was planning on being stoned in time for boarding the ferry. Deb was holding out a little longer!
We boarded and made our way to our cabin ... I ate the rest of my cake still not feeling any effects and complained that I'd probably been sold normal non-space cake. Deb finally ate hers, and we decided to go for a ferry shop and a couple of drinks.
It was when we were having said drinks when the realisation that they hadn't been non-space cakes hit me ... and evidently hit Deb at the same time. My giggles ensued, but poor Deb wasn't feeling any of it. I was loving life again, she just wanted the ferry trip to be over ... she really wasn't feeling it, bless her. I recommended going back to the cabin so she felt a little more at ease and that's what we did.
I remember being in the bathroom of our cabin and convincing myself that I'd ended up in someone else's bathroom, and was trying to work out what I was going to say to said people when I left "their" bathroom ... fortunately I had used our bathroom and so this conversation never had to take place. Deb was in bed with serious munchies eating her body weight in Kinder bars, so I climbed up on the top bunk and chilled and giggled for the rest of the evening, my imagination taking me everywhere. It was fantastic.
I'd definitely give Amsterdam another go, but I'd stay for longer in a better hotel and have a better plan as to where I'd visit (and I'd book those damn Anne Frank tickets well in advance)! Oh, and obviously there'd be more space cake involved.