A Weekend In Amsterdam

Hey booiiiiiiiiiiz! I'm back with another post, and in true Maddi fashion it is one I have been intending to chuck together for a very, very long time. You see, an additional side-effect of the matters discussed in my last post (and also realistically a byproduct of who I am as a person) is that I have an excessive back log of posts to finish and publish, that should have gone out literally a year ago. For example, the more astute amongst ye may recall that this trip to Amsterdam took place in late 2018, which truly speaks volumes in testimony of my promptness. However, travel is a #timeless #gift, Amsty is a v photogenic city and I am quite neurotic about filing certain chapters of my life away in this lil digital diary regardless of how late they may be, so I am going to share regardless. Better late than never is truly my motto when it comes to my digital output, and in order to change that I will be sifting through my various drafts until everything is memorialised to my personal satisfaction. Let's bring this blog up to date by temporarily diving back in time, to Northern Hemisphere Summer 2k18.

Before we even get to the flooded majesty of the city, however, I need to tell you about the greatest overnight stay of my entire life. And I do not say that lightly. We landed in Amsterdam late on a Friday, so booked a hotel near the airport for the night. Little did I know that this booking would change my life. The hotel? CitizenM. The experience? Everything I could have ever wanted and more. CitizenM is a chain of hotels (of which I now keep vigilant track just in case one opens up in Melbourne or exists somewhere I plan to be, ever) with quite a simple, streamlined concept. The room itself is almost womb-like, in that is consists primarily of an enormous bed opposing a large flatscreen TV, and is set up with a bunch of hi-tech add ons and iPad controlled light settings that make the whole shebang feel very Spy Kids meets Japanese pod hotel meets boujie juice bar. Add in a giant window and the fact that the TV is loaded up with a wide selection of FREE movies and you're starting to understand my joy. That is right. It's just a giant bed and a giant TV and futuristic lighting and free movies with a view. I don't know why this affected me so deeply, but I truly reflect more fondly upon that night in my nest watching Coco than I do upon pretty much anything else on that trip. One day I will stay at the CitizenM overlooking the Tower of London. Maybe they'll let me create some #Spon content. Maybe I could visit every single one of their locations around the world and put together a definitive ranking. Maybe I will fly to Asia next year just to stay at one of their hotels. Who knows. CitizenM, if you are out there, please love me back. Moving on.

Amsterdam is one of those cities I like, but feel I haven't quite got yet. Similar to Florence, I've been more than once and enjoyed it both times, but each time I've left feeling there was more to do or see or understand. With Florence I've put it down to the fact that every time I've visited has been in sweltering heat, but with Amsterdam I really think I just haven't quite hit the right spot. Both times I've visited were quite different experiences - one was a couple of days with a big group of friends when I was 21, and this time was similarly brief but with Will - but neither included branching out any further than the central area, and I feel as though that may be one of the missing pieces. I have a few hypotheses, but regardless I do think that this time around I got a bit closer to finding what Amsterdam as a city is to me. We stayed at The Edison Hotel which seems to have now rebranded as The Melrose (it's no CitizenM, I'll tell u that for free), and while I didn't feel it was worth the money for quite a small room with no natural light, we were lucky to get anywhere decent so last minute, plus there was free coffee at breakfast (essential) and the location was great.

 The Jordaan area of Amsterdam is incredibly beautiful, and the canal nearest to our hotel was lined with some of the most stunning townhouses we saw in the entire city. We all know I love my neutral tones, so the monochrome vibe was a dream come true. However, it turns out that we had inadvertently arrived in the midst of Amsterdam's Pride celebrations, so the otherwise aesthetically flawless facades were obscured by an enormous amount of streamers and bunting and several dozen penis shaped balloons, which made for an interesting juxtaposition. It was all cleared up by Sunday though, and I'd also wager that celebrating and embracing the LGBTQ+ community is a bit more important than making sure I have a clear shot of some buildings for my instagram, so I very gracefully let it slide. That being said, love me the community, do NOT love me crowds, parades, markets etc. so we bypassed the majority of the festivities and headed towards the city centre. Not, however, before admiring a parade boat of very merry looking firefighters and one incredibly dejected stag party dressed as sailors, who had clearly arrived for some #LadsAntics unaware of the festivities and not realising their hilarious banterrific attire would blend in perfectly with the parade. It's the little things in life.

Amsterdam is a great city for wandering. It is necessary to keep your wits about you so as to not get nailed by a bicycle and thrown into the canals, but that particular brand of peril aside it has a v high 'walkability' score in my mental tally of European cities' various attributes. I'm an absolute fiend for bodies of water, so the canals are a dream, and there are instagrammable buildings on literally every street, which is a tried and true way to keep me trotting along well after I would otherwise have declared myself Done. There are so many interesting little cafes and shops, and I already have a list in my head of places I need to hit up next time I find myself there. One thing I do always find quite jarring is the presence of cars, because 1. they are generally quite ugly and detract from the #aesthetics, and 2. when I see canals I think Venice, and when I am in Venice I don't need to be super aware of my surroundings lest I be hit by a Volvo, so it takes me some extra brain power to safely cross the street anywhere that vehicles and waterways do indeed mingle. I know it's a functional city where people actually live and need to go about their days, so I'm not saying that cars should be banned from the Amsterdam city centre, but tbh cars should be banned from the Amsterdam city centre. At the very least ugly cars.

Besides the abundant h2o, another thing I love about Amsterdam is the greenery. There are barges covered in plants and trees lining every street and various vines and flower boxes hanging off every second bridge and building. It's a great time, and makes the entire city feel alive. I do really want to see Amsterdam in the snow (which I know is rare but I have seen photos so I know a. it's possible and b. that it looks baller) and I'd be interested to see how the vibe changes sans-greenery. Speaking of future trips, one major thing I am still yet to do is visit the Anne Frank House. You generally need to book tickets considerably in advance or first thing in the morning on the day you plan to visit as they sell out crazy fast, but this trip was super last minute so we didn't have time to plan for that this time around. I also want to go to the Rijksmuseum and spend some solid time exploring the other neighbourhoods outside of the main little tourist grid, so whenever I do go back I'd say it'll need to be for longer than a couple of days. This time we spent both Saturday and Sunday strolling around, which was fine by me since it was such a crowded weekend and we really just needed a bit of a break. Before we flew home on Monday, however, we managed to tick a Big Item off my life's grand To Do List.

Prior to my Big Meltdown of 2k18 I would often state that I had only two regrets in life, one of which was irreversible, in that is was 'not listening to Dancing Queen enough when I was seventeen.' The other, however, WAS redeemable, and I set out to do just that on our final morning in Amsterdam. After a breakfast of multiple free coffees, a couple of mediocre pastries and a couple of very not free beverages from a nearby pressed juicery, we trundled off along the canal towards towards the location I had reflected upon regularly since deciding not to stop by, four years prior: The Cheese Museum. Haters questioned my need to visit. Trip Advisor said it was just a weird room in the basement of a cheese shop. I heard the naysayers, I understood their concern, I knew it would indeed just be a weird room in the basement of a cheese shop, but I would not be deterred. I was going to Live My Dream, and the judgemental Trip Adviser owl could honestly do one if he thought his vitriol would dampen my spirits. Reader: live. my. dream. I. did. I flew down those cramped basement stairs. I shuffled around that dimly lit room. I admired the rotating Swarovski-encrusted cheese slicer in a perspex case. I stood next to a fake cow and looked at a timeline of cheese-related events and I banished that lingering regret with an absolute joie de vivre that can only be accompanied by several free samples of various cheddars, parmesans and goudas. That long-awaited accomplishment alone made the entire trip worthwhile; the cheese itself may be gone, but that smokey taste of victory lives on. Finally, after celebrating the momentous occasion with some french onion soup and a couple of brewskis it was time to head back to the airport, laden with terrible souvenirs but one regret lighter.