I have my friend Elisa to thank for persuading me back to Amsterdam. She’d never been; I had spent a few days there when I was a student, having travelled over on the ferry from North Shields. Perhaps I still wouldn’t have gone back if it hadn’t been for the reopening of the Rijksmuseum – Amsterdam’s national art museum that had just undergone a ten-year refurbishment.
Unlike last time, I was to travel to Amsterdam by plane; I came up to Newcastle on the train the day before. Elisa picked me up at an unearthly hour the next morning; we drove to Newcastle Airport, parked the car in Car Park K (“K for Kardashian”) and began the tedious process of checking in, leaving our bags and navigating the maze that is the airport. I couldn’t decide whether I was horrified or impressed at the number of hen parties already dressed in matching pink T-shirts and accessories.
Though we felt pretty tired, we did recognise the advantages of getting such an early flight. Even after we’d landed, got the train to the city centre, taken the tram to our hotel and then packed, we still had most of the day left. The first stop was the aforementioned Rijksmuseum – I’d said that I would only go to Amsterdam if we could go here!
I was impressed by the building: it was huge, and stunning. There was a bit of a queue to get in, but once inside, there was lots of space and a huge amount to see. The great attraction is Rembrandt’s ‘Night Watch’ but there are lots of other paintings from the likes of Vermeer and Van Gogh. There is also a modern art section, which I found rather bizarre, particularly the ‘womb tomb’, a brightly-coloured, coffin shaped, fluffy object with a hole in the middle.
I got separated from Elisa and ended up wandering around the ground floor – which had the medieval art and the costumes – on my own. When I got back to the foyer she’d been sitting in the café with a glass of wine, having given up on the museum some time ago.
We still had plenty of time, so we decided to head to the Heineken Experience. Now, this was not somewhere I would have thought of going; I’m not the biggest fan of Heineken, and it would never have occurred to me to go here. Elisa wanted to, though, and I’m so glad she did, because I loved it! There was so much to see and do. The experience began with a short exhibition on the history of Heineken, followed by a look at the old brewing equipment and a look at the creation process. We got to taste some Heineken and then experience a kind of interactive presentation where you could ‘be’ the beer on its journey from creation to bottling!
The best bit, though, was when – slightly tipsy by now – we reached the interactive part of the experience. We got our photo taken on some Dutch bikes against a background of an Amsterdam street, and sang along to a music video showing us on a canal boat – which I promptly emailed to my mam!
We then had a free canal boat ride up to the Heineken Brand Store. Obviously this is all just a big ploy to get people to buy Heineken products, but it was fun nevertheless! We had a great day altogether, actually. It ended with drinks and Chinese food and frozen yoghurt covered in lots of amazing toppings.
The next day, we had planned to go to the Anne Frank House. Elisa set the alarm on her phone, but unfortunately hadn’t realised that it was still on UK time. So by the time we got up and went out, we were an hour later than we should have been.
Still, it was such a lovely morning that we took our time getting to the museum, having a slow walk along the canal with bagels. When we got to the museum there was a massive queue, as expected, but although we had to wait an hour, it didn’t seem that long. The museum is small, but as moving as I remembered.
Later we visited the Sex Museum. Again, this was somewhere I had already been, although it was just as entertaining this time around. The moving flasher in the foyer was still there, and I recognised several of the exhibits. This museum also has one of the fanciest bathrooms I have ever seen – it is inspired by Mucha and the Art Nouveau movement and the sinks are shaped like flowers. Afterwards we went on a canal boat trip which was really relaxing. We went for a walk in the evening, had some tea, and then went back to the frozen yoghurt store – naturally.
We didn’t have time to do anything the next day, as we had to go to the airport. I would definitely go back, though – even after two trips to Amsterdam, there’s so much to see and do there, and it’s such a lovely place, that I’d be happy to see it again.