My partner is a travel agent at Virgin Holidays, therefore the majority of our vacations are long-haul. Whilst this allows us to venture to the other side of the planet, it also means European trips are scarce. Cue a last-minute getaway to Amsterdam through the power of Groupon!

I have always wanted to explore this city for a long list of reasons. From the history to the food, the art to the canals, the cycling to the 'coffee' shops and above all else... Stroopwafels! If you know, you know.

I mapped out the usual touristy attractions and hit up the Van Gogh Museum, Rijksmuseum, Vondelpark, Heineken Experience and Dam Square -- all of which were fantastic. On top of that, the Anne Frank house is truly something else and should be experienced by everybody visiting. Make sure you book ahead of time, however, as it's very busy.

Whilst all of this stuff was awesome, it's not the reason I came to love Amsterdam.

After working our way through the majority of the above list on day one, it was time to combine two common sayings: 'when in Rome' and 'what happens in Vegas' -- and adapt to Amsterdam. Let me start by saying the coffee shops are not seedy, nor intimidating. Whilst there is an obvious stigma for weed in England due to its legal classification, coffee shops are common-place in Amsterdam. I was almost expecting them to sit as part of the red light district and attract a 'certain type of person', but that couldn't be further from the truth.

We visited 'Original Dampkring'; a conveniently located coffee-shop in the heart of the capital that also featured in the movie 'Ocean's 12'. The environment was incredibly relaxed (who'd have thought?) and we quickly felt at home, joined by the resident cat who must be on a permanent high.

We opted for the 'space cake' out of the simplicity of only having to consume a sweet treat. We were told to consume it in moderation as the high can be intense. After a few hours of sipping on Coca-Colas, talking to a cat and nibbling away at our snack, we honestly felt nothing.

It is perhaps worth noting that Dampkring was not the first coffee shop we had visited on this day. During lunch we had enjoyed a previous space cake at another coffee shop called Abraxas. Under the impression that this one also hadn't had any impact, we decided we would wait until the evening to try again. In hindsight, we did spend the rest of the afternoon simply walking around Amsterdam eating. We shared a bucket at KFC, self-served some authentic Dutch snacks from FEBO, devoured some incredible fries from Vlaams Friteshuis and then rounded it off with a two mile walk to an award winning apple pie cafe named Winkel 43. And of course, following all of that, we failed to realise the impact of the space cake, ultimately leading us in to Dampkring and where I resume my story...

Second space cake down within the same day, we then decide to depart from the coffee shop and make our way back to the hotel, which just so happens to be an hour's walk. I am adamant I am feeling nothing still, despite consuming roughly one and a half space-cakes overall, considerably more than my partner.

Not too far in to our walk back, when crossing a road, I turn to find my fiancee standing on the edge of the curb looking bewildered. She looked up at me confused at the prospect of what was about to happen. "Are you coming?" I uttered a little confused. A few bikes went zooming past her and she looked back up at me with a devilish grin. And then she started laughing... for about five minutes.

I finally got her moving again and we headed into Vondelpark for an evening stroll. At this point she decided she had found John Lennon and started pointing furiously over to a man walking in the opposite direction. He did not look like John Lennon. He did not even nearly look like John Lennon.

Whilst still under the impression that the effects had not hit me, I spent the next twenty minutes trying to convince my partner that her eyebrows were not moving and were still on her face. I could appreciate her concerns though.

Suddenly we came to the realisation we had absolutely no idea where we were. Vondelpark is stunning day and night, but it is also huge. Luckily this was not an issue as it frankly didn't matter. There were more pressing issues to be worried about such as "what if we aren't really here right now, but still back in the coffee shop instead thinking about this happening?" -- a question we pondered for twenty more minutes.

The high for me reached a new level after roughly an hour of walking. My mouth was stuck with the widest grin I have ever achieved. Walking around looking like the Dark Knight's Joker, I begin telling my fiancee that this felt natural now. I must maintain this huge grin wherever I go, likely for the rest of my life. It's my new resting face.

And then somehow we were in the lobby of the hotel ordering a Coca-Cola. The guy serving us was staring at me so intently. I think he knew. He definitely knew. Am I going to get thrown out of the hotel? Maybe even arrested? Luckily, my partner is able to convince me otherwise and we walk away with our Coca-Cola without being sent down for life for consuming a legal drug.

The hotel room was an interesting place to be. My mind was convinced we shouldn't turn on the television. We couldn't risk it this late in the night. Instead, I sat on the bed staring at the lamp which arched over the bed. There was something going on with this lamp that I couldn't put my finger on. I think it might be the devil.

I turned to my partner who was caressing her face with a wet-wipe, thoroughly enjoying the experience. Thrilled at this basic task, she exclaimed "these face-wipes are amazing. This is one of my favourite things to do". I couldn't absorb this information, however, as I was still determined the lamp was up to something.

Closing my eyes was intense. Giant numbers bounced around my mind counting down to something. Every time it reached 0, it restarted again from 9. Now I need to figure out what I'm counting down to in order to give these numbers purpose. I wander in to the bathroom to brush my teeth whilst pondering this further.

After getting myself ready for bed, my fiancee is still wiping her face in pure joy. I am ready to retire for the evening, though I'm going to keep a close eye on that lamp tonight, that's for sure. I just need to get back up to check the tap isn't leaking first though. It isn't. Nor is the shower. Good.

Dozing off took a long time as the countdowns wouldn't stop and I'm fairly sure my fiancee was still wiping her face.

But morning did eventually arrive. The high was certainly at a considerably lower intensity, but I'm still shocked to find I have concerns over the devil lamp and the possibility of the shower leaking. Luckily my partner feels fine now and is determined the answer to our problems can be found in Starbucks.

After a more reasonable walk back in to the city, we enjoy a coffee and attempt to plan our final day, ahead of the evening flight back to Birmingham. Despite having a list of attractions yet to conquer, there is only one place that feels right... the zoo.

It is crazy that over 12 hours on, we still felt the effects of the space cake. Luckily it was now a mellowed experience with the odd important question to contemplate, such as "do you need a zoo map for £2?". Of course we need a zoo map for £2 -- how else would we be able to navigate around without one? We would be lost in here forever.

For me, what's truly great about Amsterdam isn't the fact you are able to get high, nor is it the food or attractions. It's the people, atmosphere and general warmth you feel in and around this magnificent city. No matter where I was I felt safe, no matter what I was doing I was enjoying the experience and the city feels so inviting, tolerant and relaxed, even in times like this where major cities are constantly threatened by terrorism.

Anyway, let's talk about food. I had intended on enjoying three burgers in three days, but as we floated around eating snacks for two days instead, I missed this opportunity. Here's my breakdowns on food:

Lombardo's Grachtengordel 9/10
Winkel 43 Noorderkerk 9/10
Stroopwafel Truck Rijksmuseum 8/10
Vlaams Friteshuis Voetboogstraat 8/10
Toastable Koningsplein Heiligeweg 8/10
Hard Rock Cafe Max Euweplein 7/10
Bagel & Beans Grachtengordel 6/10
KFC Damrak 4/10
FEBO Dam Square 4/10
I managed two burgers, actually on the same day: Lombardo's and Hard Rock Cafe. The former soared its way in to my top burgers I have ever eaten, so I highly recommend it. Good luck getting a seat in there though as it's tiny and very popular! Luckily they do takeaway. As for Hard Rock, whilst the burger was not fantastic, we enjoyed the atmosphere in the restaurant, which also overlooked the canal.

For sweet treats, make a trip to Winkel 43 for the apple pie or seek just about any food truck serving Stroopwafel -- make sure they're made fresh and served hot though and you won't regret it.

We had far too many portions of fries around Amsterdam. Unfortunately I did not record every one we ate at, but they are quite common around town and almost all of them are delicious. You'll be blown away by the choice of sauces.

On the other end of the spectrum, as expected, was KFC. In addition to this, FEBO, which I scored at 4, is still worth checking out. Serving traditional Dutch snacks from a hot vending machine, the quality is certainly not great, but the unique experience is worth it. We tried the beef croquette (rundvleeskroket) which was deep fried and filled with a strange gravy-like mush. I realise now that there were actually burgers in there too, so I'll need to return to check those out.

Amsterdam is a city that I already crave to return to. It is unique, fun and relaxed offering a rich history, a diverse culture and fantastic food (so try and avoid the KFC). If you are going to take advantage of the 'coffee shops', always read up before hand and don't do anything unless you are comfortable with it. Oh and my last tip... don't stare at the women in the red light district! What a city!

Search This Blog

Popular Posts