Easter break: the arts and vice that is Amsterdam

30 March. Bruges. Afternoon.

We were at the Bruges Central Station waiting for our respective transportation by 3pm. 4 would be taking the bus to Amsterdam while Maria and I will be taking the 17:05 train leaving for Antwerp. In Antwerp we change trains going to Rotterdam and from Rotterdam to Amsterdam. 3 transfers in total. We all decided to meet the others at the main entrance of Amsterdam Central Station.

Our train from Bruges was supposed to arrive at around 18: 26 in Antwerp but we arrived about 30 minutes late because it took another route. We’ve known this only because the old man sitting beside me in the train told us that during weekends the train takes a longer route because of repairs. He heard Maria and I speaking and Spanish and concluded that we were Latinas and he was guessing we were from Chile. We were quick to explain that Maria is Colombian and I said I was Asian. He then took a quick look from me and declared I’m from the Philippines. I was completely surprised. I asked him how he’d guessed. Apparently he deduced it from the fact that the Philippines was once a Spanish colony. Lucky guess.

The next train from Antwerp to Rotterdam doesn’t leave til 20:48. We decided to eat dinner by the train station but since there wasn’t much choice, we went out. Thank God there was a McDonald’s right outside the station. We ate and killed time there.

We arrived 12:20 in Amsterdam. The delay in reaching Antwerp caused us to miss the next train leaving for Rotterdam. This and the fact that we boarded the wrong train going to Rotterdam attributed to this delay. Our friends were getting worried since they arrived in Amsterdam at 21:30 and neither Maria and I had enough credit to call them. Actually my cellphone’s battery was dead too.

Anyway this first night, we didn’t have accommodations. That’s right. Hostels and hotels demand at least 3 nights stay for the Easter holidays. We have booked 2 nights at the Shelter City hostel but lack accommodations for the first night since the hostel was already fully booked. So with nowhere to sleep and arriving late that night, the only thing left to do was to party the night away. We had our luggage stowed in the lockers of the train station.

We met with the rest of the new students of Foro Europeo who were also in Amsterdam. Christian, together with two other boys, arrived there the previous day. He lead us on our walk in Amsterdam’s famed red light district. We were then discussing which area to go clubbing. In the end we opted for the nearest one but is quite a long walk.

We took a bike ride and this one comes with a driver. We each paid 5€ to take us to Rembrandtplein (Rembrandt Square). We entered a club named Bubbels, us girls got in free. 😉

 

31 March. Amsterdam. Morning.

This scenario of course just has one possible outcome: that we would be extremely sleepy in the day. The hostel was more or less a 10-minute walk from the station. It started snowing at this time. We were cursing the coldness!

Check-in at the hostel was at 1pm but by 9am we were there checking in early and hoping to slump by a sofa or any available chairs they have. Well we were really pleading, or rather they, cos I was already slumped by a chair by the reception area. They finally relented and had us stay by the available tables and chairs in the hallway leading to the dining area.

After napping sitting with my head on the table, I awoke from the sensation that the others around me have woken up. They were. Maria was saying that she doesn’t want to waste the entire day sleeping and that she wants to walk around. The others were to sleepy to do anything else. I decided to go with her since my sleepiness had somehow faded with my 30-minute nap.

We headed to Damrak or Dam Squarewhich, according to our map, leads to a couple of interesting sights.

We passed by their Madame Tussaud’s wax museum and right in front is the National Monument, the meeting place for the Sandeman’s free walking tour we were doing the following day.

Passed by the Flower market.

We also passed by a shopping district Kalverstraat.

By 12:30 we were getting back to the hostel to finally crash but got sidetracked when we passed by Leidseplein, another square in Amsterdam, cos Maria saw a coffee shop and wanted to get in.

Okay, this is Amsterdam so this is not your ordinary coffee shop. We shared a space cake which sells for 7€. Pricier than your usual brownie/cake since it has a special ingredient. 😉 Oh by the way we went in the Bulldog Coffeeshop. I wasn’t even aware this was the coffee shop we went into until the next day when we passed it again.

 

Zonked in the hostel for 2.5 hours max. Sleep deprived, totally, but then we have some business for that evening. 😉 By the way, the hostel we were staying at, Shelter City Hostel, is right smack in the middle of the red light district. It’s a strategic location for tourists and for a christian hostel, well, let’s just say it’s in very close proximity to temptation given that the next door apartment have display windows of women in bikinis. A popular Amsterdam attraction.

 

1 April. Amsterdam.

This day was reserved for the free walking tour I always do in the selected European cities where it’s offered. The rest wanted to do the tour in Spanish though I would have preferred it in English, majority wins, we did it in Spanish.

First, I didn’t really like this tour guide. At almost every stop we make she keeps counting her flock to see if anyone’s gone missing. I hated it. Plus she keeps calling us chicos y chicas which makes me feel I’m in a field trip in elementary school. Plus she doesn’t have that charisma so I didn’t really take in much of what she has said during the tour. Though I remember this bit about the narrowest house. She said that the property tax for houses depends on how much land space it would occupy horizontally. This is why the houses were more inclined vertically.

She informed us that both the Van Gogh musuem and Rijksmuseum, the Dutch national museum, are closed for renovations. Dammit! But there was hope for Van Gogh since his works were being housed temporarily at the Hermitage Museum but unfortunately no Rembrandt. 😦

After the tour, we grabbed lunch by Kalverstraat and afterwards walked to where the Iamsterdam signage is, at Museumplein.

This guy’s a character. On his boat it says music boat. Surely can’t mistake it for anything else especially when music started blasting off his boat.

 

As much as I would like to have a solo picture of me by this signage, it was impossible with the throng of tourists.

We just stationed ourselves a bit farther from the busy signage and took our photos from there.

 

2 April. Amsterdam

Last day. Aside from the fact that the hostel was ideally situated, the only other thing I liked was the breakfast. They follow a menu. The previous day we had French toast and today, Tuesday, it’s pancakes. They’re actually good.

 

We went to visit Hermitage where Van Gogh’s paintings are. Previously I’ve only known of his sunflowers painting and starry night. The latter because of a song entitled Vincent by Don Mclean which begins with the lines starry starry night. ♪♫

Vincent Van Gogh’s life and works were interesting. I’ve finally known why he cut his ear. He had a psychotic attack and cut it. :O

I learned to appreciate most especially how he was able to use light in his paintings. He had a lot of yellow paintings because it was his favorite color. Quite odd in today’s society to have a man with yellow as a favorite color.

Above was his famed sunflowers painting, the one hanging in the museum. I didn’t know it was forbidden to take photos inside the museum. I’ve already taken pictures of four different paintings until security approached me to tell me picture-taking is forbidden.

 

We passed by Rembrandtplein on the way to our next stop, Anne Frank Museum.

 

If you research online, it does warn that the queue can get quite long especially in midday. Best to go early in the morning or late in the afternoon. Well, the only time we got there was at 2pm so there’s still quite a long line. I didn’t go in anymore cos my flight back to Spain leaves at 6pm.

Besides, I prefer to read her diary instead. 🙂

We just basked in the warmth of the sun to wait. It was still cold in Amsterdam.

At 3pm I started walking back to the hostel. Was only able to say bye to Maria and Oscar, the rest were already inside Anne Frank’s so I wasn’t able to say bye to them.

I was also planning to stop by some souvenir shops on the way back to the hostel since haven’t bought any at this point. After 7 souvenir shops or so, found one for 2.95€, paid for it and made a dash to the hostel.

 

With my luggage in tow, passed by Nieuwmarkt. An outdoor flower  market was in full swing.

 

I was quite excited to be going to Schipol airport because it made it to one of the world’s best airports. Well, I was in Terminal 2 for my Air Europa flight. That didn’t impress me much. Perhaps I should’ve been at Terminal 1 or 3, I don’t know which of the two, to really see what made it one of the world’s best airports.

 
My curiosity for Amsterdam was satiated. Though I must say it remains somehow incomplete without the Rijksmuseum. It was a nice experience nonetheless, along with a not so good one which I’m keeping to myself. 😉 If I do come back to the Netherlands, I want to see Rotterdam and perhaps The Hague.

 

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