April 03, 2013-Amsterdam1-3947
Amsterdam, a city founded on it’s prominent ports near the river Amstel, has a rich history of trade and now tourism.  With a name based off the dutch words translating to Amstel River Dam, the city is the capital of the Netherlands and is in the top 15 countries in the world for quality of life.


Telling your body to go to bed half past 10PM is never an easy thing for me. Even though I knew my alarm would go off this morning at 04:18 this morning, I still don’t think I fell asleep till around midnight.

I hopped out of bed and tried to rally the troops for our two mile walk to Liverpool Street Station to grab the first train to Southend Airport. I was a little nervous, as the train seemed like the only way to get to the airport besides a taxi, and it arrived at 06:32.. For a 07:30 flight time. Either way, we hustled to the Station, initially giving us a little extra time to get the deposit back on the Oyster cards (tap and go system for the city’s transport system). Unfortunately the ticket counter wasn’t going to open till 05:30; our train departed at 05:28. Add that to the growing list of sunken costs from traveling.

The train arrived on time, and thankfully the Airport was so small (three gates!) that we made it to our gate in plenty of time. Being used to Ryanair, easyJet was already proving to be better with no inflight advertisements over the loud speaker and assigned seats.

A (short) 40 minute flight later, we were on the ground in the Netherlands! Immediately it was obvious how much smaller the city will be compared to London. No skyscrapers was definitely a big factor in this. We had to take a 20 minute train ride to Amsterdam Centraal station. Once you got out of the station, it was immediately apparent why the call it “the Venice of the north” as there area canals right in front of you. A short walk later, we were able to drop off our bags at our hostel, Durty Nelly’s Inn (even the information booth lady laughed at the name).

April 04, 2013-AmsterdamDurty-4086Durty Nelly’s

The Inn is located on the edge of the Red Light District and is a short walk from the central town square of Amsterdam, Dam Square.   The Inn’s Irish atmosphere is displayed through Durty Nelly’s Irish Pub, directly connected to the Inn.   There are plenty of tables to hang out at, or you could enjoy a game of pool while watching some sports games.  Makes it a great place to hang out after a long day in walking around the city.

April 03, 2013-AmsterdamGraffiti-3954There was some interesting graffiti around Amsterdam (unlike the vandalistic spray paint seen in many places around Europe).

We had to wait a few hours to check into our room, so we decided to do the Heineken Experience tour. The tour itself was very informational and interactive, but definitely glorified itself throughout the experience. They did have something that set themselves apart from the Guinness Storehouse, basically a 4D experience of brewing a batch of Heineken. Brought me back to the days when I went to Busch Gardens in Tampa and sat on a ride that ‘traveled’ through a mine of Egyptian pyramid.

April 03, 2013-AmsterdamHeineken-3960There were plenty of examples of “Heineken” branding.

April 03, 2013-AmsterdamHeineken1-3973Similar to the Guinness Storehouse tour, you were walked through the whole brewing process.

April 03, 2013-AmsterdamHeineken2-3982We were told how to correctly pour, taste, and quality check a glass of Heineken.  The head (or foam) of the glass is cut with a wet knife to put a thin layer of water over the foam to prevent carbonation loss.

April 03, 2013-AmsterdamHeineken3-3984The rings around the edge of the glass show each sip, which is a sign of a good, clean glass. 

April 03, 2013-AmsterdamHeineken4-3995They did whatever they could to highlight Heineken.. Including hundreds of bottles lit up on the wall.

On the way back to the Inn, we walked around through the canals and took in some of the sights. The city has a very distinct style, unlike other cities we have visited. Apart from the things Amsterdam is commonly known for (Red Light District, Coffee Shops, etc.) the city has a unique atmosphere as well. With a good majority of the city riding around the city on bicycles (it almost seemed like there were more bike lanes than car lanes), the city is very quiet and peaceful feeling.

April 03, 2013-AmsterdamBikes1-3949Plenty of bicycles chained up near a local university.

After checking in, we walked around aimlessly for some time, weaving in and out of the canals and streets. We happened to stumble into the Red Light District (even though our Inn/hostel was right on the edge of it) and was surprised a little by the girls in the windows. At first I honestly thought there was a mannequin, but nope. There are doors down alley ways with girls displaying themselves, for lack of a better expression. I’ll tell you something though, they all have truly mastered the wink.

April 03, 2013-AmsterdamCarnival-4020A carnival in Dam Square, one of the main squares in Amsterdam.

After freshening up, we went to a small restaurant called Van Kerkwijk that I had found on tripadvisor (13th out of 1,800). Their menu was basically a set of specials each night, so we started off with a plate of goat cheese wraps, sausage, and three spreads (blue cheese, a pâté of some sort, and a fish mousse). For the main course, I had a cod with a black olive quinoa. The table also got some fries and salad with the entrees. One of the more expensive meals I’ve had in Europe, but delicious none the less!

The Inn hosts a pub crawl every night, Party Kings Pub Crawl, so we joined up to check out some of the area’s bars. We weren’t sure how many people would be on it, but there was a big group of Aussie gap year kids who joined us (even an older gentleman and his partner). The older couple even enjoyed the first part of the tour where they walked around pouring some sort of schnapps in people’s mouths.

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