Okay, y’all…I absolutely LOVE Amsterdam! Super big thanks to Renee for flying over from London to hang out with me. This had to be one of my all-time favorite trips! The weekend was off the charts.
I’m not sure why (maybe it’s the movies & reputation of drugs & sex), but I expected Amsterdam to be kinda drab & seedy. In reality, it is a beautiful city with gorgeous buildings, lots of serene canals and lovely people.
I was amazed at how friendly the Dutch are! Even the guy who told me that black people were greedy [more on that later]. The only slight negative (which is completely my fault) is that I wish I had learned some of the Dutch language because we had people coming up telling us stuff in Dutch and had to tell them we were American and didn’t know the language. If they didn’t know English, they’d just smile and wander off. Thankfully, we came across some folks who could translate the funny/entertaining handmade signs for us.
So much happened so I am going to break this blog post into parts in an effort to remember most of it.
Our hotel was fab-u-lous. So funky & chic. We stayed at the Inntel Hotel in Zaandam which is only 2 metro stops from center Amsterdam (Centraal Station) and located right next to the metro!
It just so happens that we are there over Queen’s Day Weekend. Koninginnedag or Queen’s Day is a national holiday in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Celebrated on 30 April (or on the 29th if the 30th is a Sunday), Koninginnedag is the official birthday of Beatrix, Queen of the Netherlands. Queen Beatrix’s actual birthday is 31 January; 30 April was the birthday of her mother and predecessor, Juliana. The holiday remains as an April observance in honor of Juliana and in hopes of better weather than would occur in January.
The holiday was first observed on 31 August 1885 as Prinsessedag or Princess’s Day, and was held on the fifth birthday of Princess Wilhelmina, the heiress to the Dutch throne. With the princess’s 1890 accession, the holiday acquired its present name, Koninginnedag. When held on 31 August, the holiday was the final day of school summer vacation, and rapidly became popular among children.
With the accession of Queen Juliana in 1948, the holiday was moved to her birthday. When her daughter, Beatrix, took the throne in 1980, she retained the celebration on 30 April, but altered her mother’s custom of holding a parade near a royal palace, instead choosing to visit different Dutch towns each year and join in the festivities. Koninginnedag is known for the nationwide vrijmarket (flea market), when many Dutch sell secondhand items, and as an opportunity for “orange madness” or oranjegekte, when the normally-staid Dutch let down their hair, often temporarily dyed orange for the occasion (source, Wikipedia).
However, this year marked the last “Queen’s Day” for a while as Queen Beatrix abdicated the throne for her son, King Willem-Alexander to take over. This is the first new king in over 100 years. Going forward, it will now be known as “King’s Day”.
Saturday, 30 April
Renee and I met a couple of American ex-pats, Samantha & Tabatha (who currently live in London), as we were leaving the hotel. We ended up sitting next to them on the train to Centraal Station and got along famously…so much so, we decided to hang out for the day!
The energy of this city is unbelievable! All you saw were people covered in orange (from orange wigs & “crowns” to having their faces painted orange…it was fabulous)! I was told that there were over 1 million people in the city on Saturday! And, it felt like it. The streets & canals were packed. It really was like an upscale European Freaknik (especially when we were in the Red Light District).
As we leave the station, we come across our first street performer who happens to be a Dutch hip hop artist named Pharo. He was actually pretty good! Kinda puts you in the mindset of DMX (especially when he started barking).
We wanted to get a cd but he wasn’t selling any…which would never have happen in the US. They always have their street team out with folks selling their cds, t-shirts, posters, etc.
Next, we see a couple waving from a window pretending to be William & Kate.
Then, we head over to the pancake house to get something to eat. OMG, seriously? Who didn’t know about this? Me! Apparently, they are known for their many-flavored pancakes and pancake houses are everywhere!
It was even more delicious than the picture looks. Mmmmm! Mine was basically a chocolate sundae on a pancake. Renee & Tabatha had the banana split pancake. The pancakes are prepared in so many different varieties (from sweet to savory). I’ve never seen anything like it. I want one just remembering it. I mean, ice cream, whip cream, powdered sugar, and chocolate sauce on a pancake? Who needs Mrs. Buttersworth? You may require an insulin shot but then you are good to go!
After eating our pancakes, we start walking again. Because this is basically a big street party, all the streets in the city are closed so you don’t have to worry about traffic.
We ran into some guys selling €0.50 lap dances. Yes, 50 cents.
This was hilarious. You can see what you get for your money. Poor guy was doing all the work. He gave 1 guy a lap dance by taking a running start and jumping on to his lap. These folks are crazy. LOL
We then walk across a canal bridge and look at all the folks partying on the water. Clearly, that is where we needed to be!
The pictures can’t quite capture how massive an event this is but let me tell you…you WANT to do this next year. I promise you. We definitely need to rent a boat the next time. The funny thing was that even though the city was packed and people were high on alcohol and other substances, it was so civilized. Nobody was out of control and everybody was your best friend. I’ve never seen anything like it. I smiled the entire day! And, that isn’t the pancakes talking 🙂
After all the walking & partying, it was time to take a break for champagne & strawberries! We gotta keep our strength up to enjoy the party.
The Dutch are some talented folks as well. After getting our afternoon champagne, we come across another set of street performers. The kids have their hustles too. Queen’s Day is actually very kid-friendly.
Then we went to Vondel Park (which is a beautiful public park in Amsterdam). There were kids performing everyplace (from the violin to guitar to acrobatics & breakdancing). You can tell they have spent a lot of time practicing and more than likely perform throughout the year.
There was a kid playing the drums who was awesome. Like a little Travis Barker. He even had his hype men (who would pop out in some Michael Jackson dance spins then collect money). Then little boy in white strolls around the drum set and kicks that leg Michael Jackson-style? What? I cannot. And, he is only giving you a taster. He can’t expend all his energy since it’s an all-day performance. He’s gotta save something for the late afternoon blowout extravaganza. #toomuch
We then came across 2 little girls with sleeping bags on the sidewalks and a sign that read “Getting Rich to Sleep” (as translated to me by a Dutch guy). Basically, they had a jar out and you could pay to see them sleep (which was a little weird).
While at Vondel Park, we come across a couple of guys trying to sell everything but their mama. They started by telling us that we could buy a teddy bear for 50 cents but hugs were free. We declined but they were entertaining. Next thing I know, they have us doing shots of Tequila and chanting “PUT IT IN THE BAG!” I don’t even know how that happened or what the “bag” was…but clearly you needed to put something in it. Ha!
They also had this cool idea where kids can play inside these huge clear balls and tumble around on the water.
As we are walking, we see a vendor selling this:
Yes, those are rabbit ears with glasses and a penis as a nose. One of y’all almost got that as a souvenir.
Also, every block has Port-a-Potties and something for the guys –
I can’t tell you why these captured my attention like they did. I can’t imagine whipping my stuff out in front of folks just to take a leak. I wanted to get closer to figure out exactly how they were using it (bow chicka bow wow).
As we head back to the train station, we come across a carnival (which seems like a smaller version of your typical county fair).
We also went into some stores where you can pick up your “products” and other souvenirs (i.e. t-shirts and everything that is sex or drug related).
We then head over to the Red Light District (which I will cover in more detail later). The party is still going strong over here. We go into a sex shop which has more stuff than I’ve ever seen. There had to be at least 20 types of vibrators! And then I came across a “Doggie-Style Harness”. I wish I had taken a picture of it. I mean, it’s a piece of fabric (which lays across the woman’s mid-section, and 2 handles for the man to grip while he’s doing his thing. Seriously? If you need a harness to have sex doggy-style, then your ass is lazy and don’t need it to be having sex in the first place.
After spending most of the day walking around, we buy some french fries (which they serve with mayo) and head for the train station.
We head back to the hotel to shower and change for dinner. By this time, my feet are KILLING me, but I was determined to party it up.
We have dinner in Zaandam at a Japanese restaurant (which is the only place still serving food at 10pm). After dinner, Renee & I head bid good-night to our new friends, Samantha & Tabatha (who had a tour early on Sunday).
Then, Renee & I head to…
The Red Light District
It’s actually only a few blocks. I don’t know why I expected it to be the size of a mini city. So many observations.
First, there are actual “red lights”…basically red light bulbs that act as a “porch light” to the doors/windows the girls use to advertise themselves. You walk along these streets and come up on buildings that have doors that have huge glass fronts where the girls stand to advertise themselves to the potential buyers. Most of these little rooms had some sort of black light so the white lingerie the women were wearing was glowing.
If you are interested, it starts by sign language where the guys will ask how much, the girl holds up the amount of fingers to denote the cost (maybe 50 euro) and they negotiate that way. Next thing you know, they approach the door, the girl lets them in, and she shuts the curtains. Let me tell you this…there were a lot of closed curtains, y’all!
As we walked past some, the girls were actually in there cleaning (with mops, etc) and re-making the bed. I’d look at the guys congregating around these windows and give them the “you so nasty” look while I kept it moving. One woman (who was large & in charge) was playing aggressive with some small guy (she was double his size) and as she told him, “you know you want it”, he responded with “I’ll be back”…and walked approximately 7 steps before turning around. He was with his boys so I guess he needed a group consensus (or money) before he could walk over and complete the transaction.
Most of the girls look Eastern European. I’ve read stories about girls being sold into prostitution when they thought they were going to be coming to the west to find better job opportunities. What I found interesting is that the prostitutes have a union and benefits! There is even a prostitute museum. I would’ve gone in and looked around had it not been closed.
In between where the girls advertise themselves, you will find plenty of sex/erotic shops, sex clubs (where you can watch for 25 Euro or participate for 35 Euro) and coffee shops.
Coffee shops…they sell more than coffee.
From what I understand, most of the coffee shops sell weed (in pure form, mixed with tobacco or in cupcakes) but not liquor. So, you can get high while drinking a cup of tea. There was one spot that we found that did sell liquor in addition to other substances. If you don’t get down with the stickiest of the icky, then they do have non-drug items on the menu.
One thing I did find strange was how narrow the stairs are. I mean, if you are high, won’t you just fall down those suckers?
We also passed a Condomerie which sells an array of condoms. I didn’t understand having a condom in the shape of Shrek but hey, what do I know? You couldn’t take pictures so you’ll have to go to the website and then use your imagination on how the window display was set up. Because one thing I can tell you about Amsterdam is this…some of those displays can make you blush.
Sometime during the night, I came up with the phrase, “Sit down, Suzy Brown.” Which I think is GENIUS. Go ahead, start using it. After seeing as much as we could of the Amsterdam nightlife, we finally arrive back to our hotel at 4am.
Sunday, 1 May
Amsterdam is very different today. Things look to be back to normal and the crowds aren’t nearly as big. After checking out of the hotel, we store our bags and head back to the center of town for pancakes (again) and some sightseeing.
For some reason, we ended up back in the Red Light District (which looks totally different during the day time). The RDL is close to the train station so we walk thru there on our way to see the Anne Frank House.
Here are just a few things we see during our walk:
This may be my new mode of transportation if gas prices don’t go down
Anne Frank House
We packed as much as we could into 48 hours and had an absolute ball! Amsterdam is a riot and you will love it as long as you are open-minded and non-judgmental…which we should all practice on a daily basis.