Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Going Dutch

I first went to Amsterdam on a school trip when I was 14 (a busload of catholic schoolgirls in Amsterdam… <insert carry on joke here>) and having just experienced the pure patriotic craziness that is Queen’s Day I’ve fallen even deeper in love with the city. It’s not often I get to be part of an orange sea, what with gingers being in the minority and all, and any excuse for silly headgear is good in my book.

Patriotic pooch

Some of the things I love most about travelling are the little differences, like the way they serve beer in small (fluitje) or medium (vassje) glasses in Holland, which, in my humble opinion, is a better way to serve it. The beer stays cold and fizzy and for a ‘lady’ like myself it feels less like beer swilling and more like civilised refreshment (for the first few at least…)
When in Rome...
A baby beer or two also helps boost my confidence when trying out the local lingo. I am utterly dense when it comes to languages, but it’s only polite to know my alstublieft and dankuwels. I also like to think I provide a little entertainment for the locals as I try to wrap my gob around their words and avoid spitting on people/developing a sore throat.
Is there no end to its delights?
My very favourite thing about being away is people watching and Le Dam provides a melting pot of euro-fabulousness. This has its downsides however - some sights cannot be unseen. Coloured jeans have returned to the UK, but they never left the continent. As a result middle-aged men have amassed a fine collection of trews in all the shades of the rainbow, but unfortunately with a teeny tad of denial about the middle-aged spread that’s amassed at the same time. All this combines to bring us the delight that is men with coloured camel toe. Wrong. Very wrong.
Surprisingly something I find very right in Holland is cycling. Anyone that’s ever been in the car with me knows I am not a fan of the pedal pushers, but in the Netherlands it’s nice and flat, with separate bike paths and clever little touches like gutter-pipe type things on steps to push bikes up and down. They even have multi-story bike parks. The bike is king. 
Another unexpected treat is the Bitterballen. These little beer snacks are essentially round crispy pancakes (ick), so why do I like them so much? Maybe because they go so well with the little beers and the people watching of the café culture. Yes – café, not coffee shop…
On that note, the legal drugs and liberal attitudes of the Venice of the North definitely get visitors a teensy bit overexcited at times, which only adds to the people watching gold. It is slightly concerning though, in city criss-crossed with tram-tracks, canals and gravity-defying staircases, to see people who have lost any sense of which way is up. There are always a few bold children who ruin it for everyone and even the Dutch are at the end of their laissez-fair tether at this stage. There are plans afoot to stop the sale of drugs to tourists.
Who's going to tell the lion...?
But fear not stoner dudes – loopholes will be found. The smoking ban is noticeable by its absence in many of Amsterdam’s brown bars, which is the only thing I don’t like about them. Totally hypocritical as an ex-smoker, I know, but rolling over with a hangover to get a face full of your own smoky hair is far from pleasant. But I suppose if there wasn’t a downside I might never leave.
Have I mentioned I also love the buildings?

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