I've just been on holiday! And it surprises me to realise, this is my first proper holiday in nearly 10 years. Husbit and I go away frequently for Blood Bowl tournaments, and visit friends, and go to Alton Towers most years, and occasionally spend a day out somewhere, and those are all great, but not the same as going on holiday purely for the sake of being on holiday. My last holiday like that was when my little sister took me to Egypt for my birthday, nearly 10 years ago!
One of my best friends - Vikki from circus - wanted to go to Amsterdam for her birthday. She goes on little city breaks from time to time. I mentioned I'd been for a tournament so hadn't had any opportunity to really see the city and really wanted to go back, and our other friend Emily (also from circus) said I should go along as well (she always worries about Vikki being away by herself) - and pretty much like that, it was organised.
We had a great time. Our hotel rooms were next to each other, as we'd hoped. We were pretty shattered the first evening, and the restaurant Vikki had earmarked for dinner had unfortunately closed so we ate at a random little Indian place that tasted great, then back to the hotel where we watched TV and had an early night. The view from our rooms was beautiful - right over a dancing fountain.
Waffles for breakfast. Mine was covered in caramel sauce that mostly ended up down me, so I went with plain waffles or croissants on subsequent mornings.
I hadn't heard of our first stop, the Stedelijk Museum, before, but wandering around there I finally understood modern art. I'm still not a big fan of a lot of it, but I'm discovering I do like some.
From there, we went to the Amsterdam Museum, getting lost on the way and wet in the rain. This was the one place we had on our itinerary that we didn't enjoy: the first bit, about the history of the city, was fantastic, but as we explored deeper into the building, we became more uncomfortable: the layout is awkward and we started to feel trapped and lost, and there was this corridor in a lurid orange and lined with mirrors that we didn't enjoy at all. After that, we went on to the red light district to investigate the Red Lights Secrets museum of prostitution. Of all the places we went, this is the one where I particularly recommend getting the audio tour: Inga, who narrates it, is quite funny, and the stories are shocking, funny - and sad: before she came to Amsterdam, she worked in Germany and tells of finding the body of a murdered friend there. Amsterdam definitely seems to have served her better.
We stopped at Lush for bath bombs on the way back to the hotel (my favourite is Intergalactic, which is the reason I'm still covered in glitter) (it felt a bit silly to go to Lush in a foreign country, seeing as we're from the same part of the world), and again had an early night. I'm very grateful Vikki likes early nights; I'm sure I'd have struggled a lot more with pain and fatigue if she had wanted to be out later.
The next day had a shorter itinerary and less walking; staying in the museum district, we started at the Van Gogh Museum (my favourite artist, so I was thrilled about this). We were a little early - pre-booked tickets allowing us in at a set time - so stopped for a coffee at the cafe at the Stedelijk Museum, with the most chilled out barman anywhere who taught me my name in Dutch. 'Varen', pronounced like 'Farren' when he said it. He said you have to be careful when you say it, because in other contexts the same word is used to mean you're taking a ferry.
I loved the Van Gogh Museum. I had no idea he'd been so prolific, nor started so late: at 27, he decided to become an artist and went off to teach himself how. Saw pieces I'd never seen before and fell in love with. Also found a new artist called Zeng Fanzhi - a few pieces of his that were inspired by Van Gogh were on display and were fantastic, really exciting. Looking him up now, discovered there actually was a whole exhibition of his there at the moment, unfortunately closed just for this week so we didn't see any more. But we missed the signs saying anything about it while we were there, so we didn't know we were missing out. We both loved his take on Wheatfield with Crows - so vibrant.
From there, we went to the Rijksmuseum, but found a market and explored that first. Met a lovely artist, Elles, and bought a couple of prints. Then the Rijksmuseum, which we liked but didn't get the whole way round: we were pretty museumed out by that point! It has a really nice looking library; one of the guards chatted to us because he liked my t-shirt (a picture of a cat, book, and cup of coffee, saying "my needs are simple", and he related to it), and told us how you can get access to the library. Unfortunately, it was locked then. If we;d been able to sit there for half an hour or so, I think we might have made it all the way round.
On the way out, we spotted a diamond museum so popped in there: she'd hoped to book us onto the free Coster Diamond tour, but they never got back to her. Shame, because I'd have liked to see that. The diamond museum included the worlds smallest cut diamond, complete with a magnifying glass so you can actually see it. Seriously impressive: smaller than a snowflake.
Dinner was at the noodle bar we'd eaten at nearly every night last time I was in Amsterdam, for nostalgia's sake. The staff weren't as good as I remembered: they messed up Vikki's order. Then another early night.
The next morning was the walk back to Centraal to see the Body Works museum that my brother had recommended. It was fascinating - I was a little worried it would be gory or make one or both of us squeamish, but actually it was great. I'd also wandered how they connected happiness with human body parts, but actually it worked really well. Also, there were swings and I haven't been on a swing since I was a kid and I'd forgotten how fun they are.
Flight home was really quick, but we were exhausted. Staggered to our hotel, collapsed in front of the TV then read for a bit - we were sharing this room and Vikki was worried she'd keep me up if she carried on reading after I'd taken my tablets, because she's very considerate like that. I think it would have been fine; I was more worried I'd keep waking her every time I became restless, even in separate beds (also, if I snore it tends to be loudly, I'm told).
Then we went shopping in London! Ostensibly, we were Christmas shopping, but we may have bought more presents for ourselves than other people...
Then the train home. I live really near the station, so walked the last bit and was met at the door by a Kitty and Husbit who were both very pleased to see me. As amazing a time as I'd had, I'd missed them both too. (I knew trains in the UK were more expensive than the rest of Europe, but this day really brought home to me how much more. It's ludicrous. The worst bit was how much it cost us to leave our luggage in the station lockup: £25, compared to €7 the day before.)
We walked an average of 10k a day including the day we went to Amsterdam (so a bit over 50k for the 5 days). I expected to be exhausted and barely functioning today, but the biggest reason I had a lie in this morning is that the Cat pinned me down (she's sat on me most of the day, when she hasn't been eating or tearing around like a mad thing). I think it's because we had restful evenings and early nights every day, and Vikki was very careful to make sure I was ok all the time, and she'd pre-booked most of our tickets which meant we didn't have to queue at all - a real blessing. I think a large part of why I was so exhausted after Alton Towers this year was the queuing (I was also fatigued before going to Alton Towers, but had largely recovered before we went to Amsterdam).
I'd love to go back to Amsterdam and show Husbit around. I'd also really like to go away for a long weekend with Vikki again. I had an amazing time.