So I'm skipping over our 2 day stop in London because lets face it, London is boring as hell and I didn't want to be there. Maurizio can attest as to how unhappy I was about leaving Iceland for LONDON of all places.
We pretty much caught up on sleep and meet up with some friends while we were there, but then took the train from London to Amsterdam via Brussels.
We arrived in Amsterdam around 6pm and took a shuttle straight to our hotel, Hampton by Hilton in Schiphol near the airport. We opted to stay a bit further away from the city as it was far cheaper and only 20mins by train to central Amsterdam anyway.
Arriving at the hotel, the receptionist was lovely and gave us a warm welcome. We were pretty hungry at this point so dumped our bags in our room and headed out to find food. The downside of staying outside of the city center is that it's harder to find food. We looked up a supermarket 900m away and walked through a lovely suburban park area to get there. It was quite pleasant and we even saw an electric car being charged at a charging station on the street, how novel!
At the supermarket, we had an interesting time picking out suitable foods. Unlike NZ supermarkets and American delis, there was no hot food available, so we ended up buying a loaf of bread, cheese, salami, rocket, as well as a few boxes of cookies, muesli bars and tea, all for 9 Euros, that felt like a bargain!
The next day we were planning to meet with our friends in Amsterdam central to have brunch at the very famous and very hipster Avocado Show. Unfortunately the Amsterdam transport system is super unfriendly to newcomers and very difficult to understand the different card types and lines, so we took a while to figure out which pass to get that would include travel from our hotel to town and back. This made us a little late to meet with people but it didn't even matter because there was a line out the door and the place was packed. It's ok, I didn't want to pay $20 for some smashed avocado on toast anyway.
We wandered through the markets instead and had some freshly made poffertjes with nutella and strawberries, and finished it off with some fries and cheese sauce (which was less impressive than it sounds - poutine is way better).
We met up with some other friends to do a Sandemans' New Europe tour. It was a strange experience I have to say, we did the tour on the suggestion of some friends and it wasn't quite what I was expecting. Our tour guide, Paul, made everyone talk to and then introduce someone new they met at the beginning of the tour. I did not want to do this.
Moving past that, the tour was fine, quite informative. We wandered through some of the alleyways, learned a little about the history of Amsterdam, and took a nice afternoon stroll through the red light district where some ladies displayed their wares in windows, right next to the old church...
For dinner we met up with all our friends, a mix of high school and university days and had a big group dinner, 12 people! We had an interesting time at Tap and Dine, where they actually have a beer keg on tap for each table.
The next day was meant to be the best weather wise so we planned to meet up at Keukenhof Tulip Gardens in Lisse. The recent weather has been colder than usual so we'd heard that the tulips hadn't all bloomed yet, but the garden was still worth the trip in the end.
The park is huge with a extensive range of flowers and gardens, you could easily spend a whole day there. They also had an indoor area dedicated to Orchids, tulips and all sort of exotic flowers, it was amazing!
We also visited the De Hallen, a market with a mix of design, crafts, food and coffee.
I found some rather interesting objects there, but it was quite a cool market and the food there wasn't bad either.
Amsterdam has many little streets and alleyways which make for an interesting time exploring.
I really liked the architecture of the houses, they are so charming, but I can't see myself living in a place like this. Everything is so crowded, it actually feels more crowded than New York.
Side note: We saw a Tesla Taxi. A Tesla Taxi. I may be wrong but if you can afford a Tesla then why are you driving other people around in it?
Other side note: The whole city stinks of Marijuana, it's not great. Especially if you hate the smell like I do. The tour guide gave us a run down on the history of cannabis in Amsterdam and it was very interesting actually. Apparently they legalised it to try and deal with a much bigger heroin/cocaine/meth (I'm not sure which one it was but it was a harder drug) problem.
One of our activities that we did plan to do was the Anne Frank Museum, but it was a little disappointing in my opinion. It was really interesting to see the house they were hiding in, but they let too many people in at the same time which made it really hard to see anything properly and experience things.
We concluded our time in Amsterdam with a canal cruise at night, and I wish we'd done it at the start because we saw a couple of cool places that would have been interesting to go to. It was a bit sad we didn't make it to the Moco for the Banksy exhibition, but there will be other opportunities. The main purpose of this visit to Amsterdam was to see friends.
I had a good time in Amsterdam, mainly because of the people I was with. It felt great to see all my friends, some of which I haven't been in the same place with in years. I'm in no hurry to visit Amsterdam again, there are other places that I'd rather visit first.