Amsterdam: Levelling-Up My Human Skills
I managed to survive a journey to Amsterdam, a week in Amsterdam and the train journey back from Amsterdam without any major disasters. On the way back to Paris, I was sitting next to a man that used the train Wi-Fi and his Macbook Air to donate to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, but he probably would have done that anyway if I wasn’t there. Disaster though that is, I don’t think I should have to claim responsibility for it.
Amsterdam turns out to be a very nice place. It seems cleaner than Paris and is more laid back in virtually every way. The houses don’t care about fitting in with each other and so no one else does. Everyone does their own thing, in whichever language they happen to speak. Canals, bikes and boats are everywhere and the city looks pretty even when it’s raining. Which turned out to be most of the time.
I don’t think any of us realised exactly how far north we were going and that, as the trees, buildings and fields zipped past the windows of the train, the temperature was plummeting. By the end of the second day, I had bought myself an oversized, fluffy hoodie and the rest of the holiday brightened up as a result. I may look a stone heavier than I actually am in all of our photographs as a result of the layering, but that’s ok. I look a stone heavier and a lot warmer.
We did most of the touristy things. On the first day, a friend and I went to the Anne Frank house, which was very moving. It was hard to tune in emotionally to what must have been a terrible, drawn-out existence in the dark corners of the house, what with the museum being crowded with tourists and crying babies. However, the really emotional part for me was a video that played at the very end, where visitors were interviewed about the impact Anne Frank’s story has had on their lives. Author John Green and actress Emma Thompson feature; Thompson’s speech in particular was very emotional.
The next day, we went to the Van Gogh museum, where a sleep-deprived me leaned on the bannister of one of the staircases and watched the same informative video on loop for about twenty minutes while my friends looked at the paintings. Art expert that I am, I had decided that Van Gogh wasn’t really for me – they were a bit too blobby for my liking. That evening, we walked through the Red Light District, which was very disturbing and dystopian. Apart from that though, it was all pretty jolly.
I had a very good slice of quiche in a vegan café. The Dutch appear to be very health-conscious. Apart from all the cycling (I almost got run over about fifteen times by accidentally stepping in the bike lane) they also seem to be super-duper keen on vegetables which is great, but also slightly creepy. Where in the UK or France we have pop-up Pick n’ Mix stands or Crêpe stalls, in the Netherlands they have pop-up stalls where people make fresh organic juice.
I also had some very good Ramen at a place called Ramen-Ya. I had to use a fork, though, which was disappointing. One day, I’ll have to level-up as a human and learn how to use them without looking like an Ood from Doctor Who.
For me though, the highlight of the trip had to be riding through the tulip fields with my friends on rented orange bikes. I thought I already knew what a tulip was but I was mistaken. These bad-boys grew until they were roughly the size of a baby’s head. The colours were so vivid it looked as though they were spray-painted. This was mega-beauty, on a scale that is hard to describe. I will never be able to relate exactly how wonderful the hyacinths smelled but trust me; they smelled great.
The Dutch people also seem incredibly friendly. As we rode past a farm, a couple were on the driveway, using some kind of technical machinery. As we passed, they both looked up.
“Oh hi, bikers!” they called, waving.
“Hello!” I replied, unable to wave back because I knew that the instant I did I would lose control of my bike and plummet headlong into the nearest canal. But the thought was there. Again, I need to level-up my human skills before I’m ready to compete with the Dutch.
Though I am happy to return to Paris and the sun, I had a great time in Amsterdam. Though, after all, they say that it’s not about where you are, but the people you’re with. I was with some very nice people, so I had a very nice time.
Ellen Lavelle, YJA Senior Correspondent