Prior to leaving New Zealand last April, I did a very scientific market research study to determine how I should best prioritize my visiting of European destinations – based on a Top 3 study. Basically, I asked everyone “What were your three favourite cities in UK & Europe?”. So scientific was my research, I even had a control base of respondents who had never even been to the UK or Europe… which really wasn’t much help (Scientists do like to make unnecessary work for themselves methinks). Warning: the following results may shock you… well… not really.
Girls, for the most part, would let their minds wander dreamingly back to cities that were “beautiful”, “gorgeous”, “cute” and… other such bandied-about adjectives that are over-utilised by the female species. They’d get lost in fond memories of bridges, cathedrals, quaint food stalls and charming cottages… before forgetting what was asked and eventually isolating 5-10 places they’d consider as possible Top 3 contenders. Whereas, approximately 99.9% of guys (which would necessitate me having asked at least one thousand males… I know) thought for all of a split second, grinned widely and stated “Amsterdam… definitely Amsterdam” as being in their Top 3. Then they’d usually go on and agree with their respective girlfriend/missus/fiancée/nearby-female-person about the other two that made up their list.
I’ve always wanted to go to Amsterdam. When I was younger I read a biography of Paul McCartney and my favourite part was the chapter on the Beatles resident gigging in Amsterdam. Well… I was eleven so, more specifically, I enjoyed the detailed descriptions of half-and-fully-naked girls lining the streets in the Red Light District (RLD). Then, as I grew older, I learnt of their kind views on the green stuff and, despite not having tried it until I was eighteen, thought that these Dutchies must be pretty cool. So it was a feeeeeew years later when our kind friend’s Jess & Glen decided they’d like to show us some Amsterdam-age.
Amsterdam was awesome. Everything you expect is there – the RLD is lit up in full-length windows that are lit in… well… red light – a rather flattering shade that enhances whatever features the scantily clad women (and she-men… eeeewww… in blue light) have (For the more… discerning gentleman there’s also “Ugly Alley” and “Fat Alley”). Coffee shops are everywhere, with windows hazed from a mist of pleasant-smelling smoke – I can confirm that it looks even hazier looking from the inside after an hour or so. The canals are… everywhere, bikes are also everywhere and (whilst still under the hazy effect of either/both alcohol and, ummm, coffee) be very careful crossing ANY street which, after modes of transport already being on opposite sides of the road, has designated lanes for bikes, trams and cars. Be especially wary of cyclists – from what I can tell, bicycles in Amsterdam are donated to native Dutchies and tourists afflicted with colour blindness, and therefore are at huge pains to abide by any directive lights.
The Heineken “Experience” is worth €15 Euro too (order online – saves you 1 whole Euro). Especially seeing as a pint will set you back at least €4.50 – you get two free at the end of the tour. A complete history of the brand and brewing process underlines the self-guided tour which is both informative and interesting… who am I trying to kid… I was hanging out for the free beer. Next time you see the Heineken label or brand name, have a look at the “e”’s. They’re “smiling”… or rather, tilted on an angle to appear as such.
Amsterdam. A must-see city. Chilled out, socially in harmony (apart from edgy Polish frite vendors who mistook my comment on the shop’s name – “Chipsy King” – as an attack on his possibly gypsy-like background) and supplier of red-lit professional services, world-renown beer and comfortable surroundings to indulge in a spliff. Everything you’re told it is and expect… and more. Get there.