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  • Writer's pictureMike Douglas

My City Break - Amsterdam

It's half term! Yay! Not paid for a week, booo!

However this half term I finally took some advice from my good friend Jess, who's been saying I should have a break / holiday for a while. I've always put off going away for working, house work, anything really. Even just sitting at home then moaning and hating myself for doing nothing. Not this time though! With Jess's inspiration and fellow Pompey Blogger Vicky's constant travels in my mind, I sought out short breaks. I have looked before, but getaways for one person always seemed hard to find. It's always based on two sharing. However Jess wasn't my only inspiration. Sam and Katy regularly post about cheap get aways, so I asked them a couple of questions to get some ideas and support. They were super helpful, particularly with pointers on cash and bank charges, which I hadn't thought about. I used skyscanner to look for cheap flights from Southampton. It's my closet airport (though I've never used it). A few European places came up. Amsterdam looked interesting. I quickly found flights for a two and half day stay for £55. Done! Next up was accommodation. I used Hostelworld, which I have used a few times before. It's quick, easy and simple. I don't have the money for hotels and to be honest and hostel is fine for me as I'm going to be out most of the time. When I'm in the hostel I'll be sleeping (hopefully) or charging my phone and using wifi. So my expectations and requirements are not high. Plus it means I get to be in the city centre. When I've been in hostles before. This has been the best part. Melbourne, Perth, Sydney, Adelaide, Manchester and London have all been great cities you walk round during both the day and the night. Being able to walk out the door and just be there is awesome. It's so different from the residential suburbs many of us live in (including me).

All booked and off we go. It's about four weeks later and I'm off! Southampton airport is small. I really didn't need to get there nearly three hours early. 90 minutes would have been fine. My drive to work goes past the airport, so it was strange to finally be one of the people in the plane going somewhere. I had a good window seat. However the plane was... well used. I tried not to think about it. But I'd already worked out if the propeller broke off, it would hit me or the person in front of me. Either way pretty sure I would have died straightaway, so no worries about crashing as I wouldn't make any landing. Have I mentioned I have an overactive mind and that I think about dieing a lot?

On my first afternoon / night I walked around the city centre trying to find my hostel. Which was way closer to the station that I thought (yup, I'd walked quite a bit past it). On arrival I dropped my stuff of in the hostel and went straight back out. The Christmas lights are up (I'm assuming their Christmas lights, but this could have been a light festival or something else) and the glow from shops street lights looked inviting. Unfortunately though it was later than I thought and many shops were closed. So at just after 10.30pm I had dinner in KFC.

I was interested in the Red Light District and couldn't believe that my hostel was actually in part of it. It's was a bit surreal to see families (with grown children, think in their 20's, not actual children children) walking through the main roads and paths of the District. Sometimes like in Manchester and Liverpool I question how safe some of the places I go are. Then I choose to ignore that and keep going. Now if only I could do that with my depression... There was a range of ladies looking to make friends, most of them seemed to want to play the flute with me, hahaha, but I kept walking. I learnt the blue windows are transgender ladies, I'm guessing at different stages of transformation, I'm not sure. There were some stunning ladies and some... less stunning.

My first day was a mixed bag. I'd gotten in at about 2am and slept for about 5 hours. Though I'd woken up about every hour. I had breakfast at the hostel, which caused some confusion for me. I mean I did not expect it to come like this. What was I meant to do with the egg?

First up I made my way to the Anne Frank Museum/House. However, there were renovations happening so it was online booked tickets only and there was none available for the 2-3 days I was in the city. A bit annoying, but what can you do? I found the Anne Frank statue and spent a minute or two looking at this little girl that experienced such horrors. Yet was able to use writing to help her cope and express. I feel a slight connection there, as writing can help so many of us, it can allow us to feel, even when we don't feel able to.

So I had a bit of time. I visited the nearby Tulip Museum, learning about Sultans, the Turkish, the Tulip Rush and took a couple of pretty pictures. Then I visited a Cheese Museum and the Sex Museum, which wasn't as big as I'd expected (insert joke). However I was again victim to 'works' happening with half a floor having renovations. I saw some lovely girl girl drawings and photos, not to mention a lot of veiny penises. Plus some scary as fuck old...devises(?) That would shread a penis to bits! The best bit about the sex museum was other people I know on twitter telling me about their previous visits. I didn't know I knew so many people that have been. It was an interesting day of just doing and seeing things I wouldn't usually.

One of my lovely followers, Dalindcy, actually contacted me after a checkin to say we should meet up, what was a super Coll opportunity and a kind offer. Given the Anne Frank non admission I'd gained half a day, so on day two I met up with Dalindcy in Rotterdam. I was very lucky as Marc also meet us there. He traveled across the country to come say hi for a couple hours, so a big thanks to Marc for coming over before work.

It was lovely to walk around Rotterdam on the second day with Dalindcy. Her tour guide routine was something to behold. "Heres the thing from the photos", "Thats a statue of a guy, I don't know who he is". I should have written the quotes down there were some hilarious ones! It was really nice to talk about some quite serious topics; politics, education, respect, consent, society. We have slightly different views, but are on similar wavelengths. Which made the conversation fun.

At the end of the day I made my way back to Amsterdam. I took a few more photos and just enjoyed being in the city centre, and experiencing the culture. I think I had the right amount of time, as I've come away thinking another day would have been good. Theres a couple of things I missed out on; Anne Frank, the Virtual Reality Experience and the Condomarty (which closed just as I walked past). I didn't do the 'cafe' thing. Two reasons, to be honest I didn't have time. Also I tried a 'green' lolly pop and it was vile, I mean VILE. So that put me off trying anything else. I'd rather have a Burger King thanks.

I loved the bike culture, its great. That along with trams makes such a difference, especially in a city. I still don't know why these are not more widely used in the UK.

One pub I visited had a smoking room, which reminded me of rooms airports used to have, they would be black with thick smoke, a bit grim. Then in the bar people were, I'm assuming, smoking non tobacco. It was kinda funny to see the separation.

My final day involved leaving my 18 bed hostel room, the girl that flashed her boobs and the friendly staff as I started my journey back home. I had a brief bit of fresh air before heading to the train station then on to the airport and home. I enjoyed my trip, I feel like I managed to do a lot in a couple of days and can see what Sam and Katy talk about now, when they say all the good things about short breaks.

I also really enjoyed having a camera and taking nice photos, its not something I have done while being away before. I feel like I actually looked at what was around me a bit more and appreciated it.

While I am in no rush, I would defiantly consider another short / city break in future.

Thanks to everyone that was in anyway part of my trip.

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