Sunday, 18 October 2015

An autumn afternoon in Amsterdam

I'd been meaning to go to Amsterdam throughout my whole six months in Brussels for my year abroad - it's so easy to get to! - yet somehow I failed to do so.

So this time round, despite only being in Brussels for a month, I was determined to hop over to the Dutch capital. And that, dear chums, is exactly what I did yesterday.
There's a quick train from Brussels to Amsterdam which, amazingly, takes under two hours.

I didn't get that train. It's expensive.

There's a slower train which is unsurprisingly cheaper but takes a fair amount longer.

I didn't get that either.

What I did get was the coach with FlixBus - it's quicker than the slow train and my return trip cost me a mere 22€! I was lured in by the price and the promise of on-board sockets and wifi. Unfortunately I was unlucky enough to be on older coaches for both my journeys which lacked both wifi and sockets, but the journeys were perfectly pleasant nonetheless and I'd definitely recommend you check out FlixBus for getting around Europe.
It was an unfortunately overcast, drizzly, grey day. Can we just imagine all my photos have bright blue skies and sunshine beating down, mmm kay? Cool. That's the central station above^... Pretty nice eh?

I was pretty wowed by all the architecture in the city though - very ornate, with lots of detail and gilded touches, especially in the main squares.
^That's a shopping centre. I know.

I started off wandering through the centre of the city, round Dam Square (there was a big, gaudy funfair in town which somewhat ruined its charm in my eyes) and down the main shopping high streets.

Amsterdam seemed GREAT for shopping, and I was surprised to see a whole host of British chains too - I managed to resist Topshop and River Island, but the lure of M&S was too much. I know. And I've only been away from the UK for three weeks. Nothing like home comforts!

I was also drawn into an interesting-looking restaurant-slash-food-shop called La Place, which I've only now learned (thanks, Google) is the most successful restaurant chain in the Netherlands.

It was super busy and I could see why!
The restaurant area was huge, but there was also an amazing take-away section. You guys, the salad bar was what salad dreams are made of. (Don't pretend you don't have salad dreams too.)
It wasn't lunchtime so I decided to make myself a huge salad to have for dinner on the bus home. And of course, as is always the case with pay-by-weight things, I ended up creating a rather pricey dinner for myself BUT IT WAS SO WORTH IT!


The main city centre wasn't really where I wanted to be. It was jam-packed with people, both tourists and locals alike, and I was in search of the parts of the city with a touch more character.
As you may know, Amsterdam is a city of canals, and I soon reached the main ones.
Even on a non-sunny day, they preeeetty! It was also slightly moody and atmospheric, and I loved the reflections of the trees on the water.
And guess what? You know that cliché of Dutch people cycling everywhere? Totally true. As a pedestrian you have to really watch out for cyclists whizzing past and there are bikes everywhere you look.
I ambled up and down the canals and soon found myself in an area full of little galleries, antique shops and cafés.
They're a stylish bunch, the Dutch, not to mention good-looking. It was pretty fab people-watching.

As I explored further, I found more and more interesting boutiques and quirky shops full of little-known labels and unusual presents.
I loved Mint Mini Mall, The Darling and Urban Cacao in particular. And I feel like I definitely need to go back to Amsterdam for longer so I can fully make the most of the fab shops and cafés.

Speaking of cafés, it soon reached that point in the afternoon where I was in need of a sit-down and a warm-up. As tempted as I was by a PSL*, I always prefer going to non-chains where I can. It was pleasing then to stumble upon De Koffie Salon, which has apparently won a bunch of awards for its coffee.

OK sure, I don't actually like coffee, but I can appreciate a nice coffee shop all the same. And I love me a hot milk steamer with syrup (yes, essentially a flavoured latte without the coffee.) Soya with hazelnut, please!
Mmm so tasty and warming and comforting.

I sat in the window seat for quite some time and just watched Amsterdam go by. It was wonderful. And just what I needed to fuel me up for a few more hours exploring before jumping on the coach back to Brussels.

Although I only had about seven hours in Amsterdam, it was a wonderful seven hours and more than enough to get a feel for the city. I absolutely loved it!

I'm simply going to have to go back for longer. And pray for sunshine.

What are your thoughts on Amsterdam?

*Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks, do keep up.

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