A love letter to Amsterdam

Amsterdam I love youuuu, oh yes I doooo.

This week I was lucky enough to have my day job fly myself and around one hundred colleagues out to the Integrated Systems Event at the RAI, Amsterdam. (I work in the professional AV industry). Whilst this doesn’t immediately sound riveting, it did allow me to pop my Amsterdam cherry so to speak and I reallyyy liked it there.

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If you’ve ever been to the ‘dam I’m sure you will agree with me that it’s easy to fall in love with; Tall beautiful buildings, canals with picturesque bridges around every corner and leggy sophisticated women on bikes gliding effortlessly on every road. The tulips, the boutiques, the coffee shops (and I mean the legit coffee shops where you drink actual coffee, I’m not into the green stuff!), the glowing red streets at night and more food than you can shake a stick at. 

I stayed at a hotel next to Central Station which made it so easy to get around, I would definitely recommend staying in this area – the trains/trams/metro/bus and cycle hire are all at your fingertips. That being said, I would also highly suggest getting around via tram as you get to see so much of the city, it’s such a shame to go underground and miss it all. I definitely learnt to keep my wits about me staying in this area of the city too – there are so many ways to get ran over!! If there’s not a tram or a car heading towards you then you can guarantee there’s at least one bike headed your way, definitely a place for the quick-witted!

I honestly couldn’t believe the scale of the bicycles in the city, especially parked up around the front of the station. Obviously I knew everyone cycled round in Amsterdam but I couldn’t have imagined the scale without witnessing it first hand, there were metres upon metres of bicycle parking and rows of them as far as the eye could see – incredible. I hope one day that major UK cities will get close to cycling on this scale, the difference to the environment and people’s health must be immense. Come to think of it, I’m not sure I saw many (if any at all) overweight people, no coincidence.

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During the day I was working at the trade show, the RAI is like London’s Excel or Birmingham’s NEC but five times the size, about half an hours tram journey from the centre of Amsterdam. Unfortunately due to this, I couldn’t do many ‘touristy’ things during the day, so I am already yearning to go back on a holiday with Daniel. In the evenings though I did have some free time to explore.
The first night I was there myself and a friend wandered the streets around Central, taking in the sights and sounds. We had the most amazing chips I’ve ever eaten; the little hole in the wall vendors selling these seem to be commonplace so if you ever see one I would urge you to try them! We couldn’t help ourselves but to wander on down to the Red Light District too, you cannot go to Amsterdam and not visit at least once! It wasn’t anywhere near as seedy or as grubby feeling as I thought it would be, the set up was really strange. We didn’t realise we were in the district to start with as the little windows are mingled with ordinary shops, cafés and food places. I thought it would be one long dedicated road and that was it, but that wasn’t the case at all.

Although we did feel safe being two women walking around the area alone at night (it was so busy despite being a random Tuesday in February), I couldn’t help shake the feeling of sadness for the women in the windows. To my surprise they were all absolutely gorgeous, 10/10 I would say! Every woman I saw could easily have been mainstream modelling and it does make your mind wander as to how they end up behind those red lights. It stopped being so lighthearted when we walked past a window with a few men leaving and kissing their ‘woman in the window’ goodbye and a few steps later a man knocking and entering a different window. What seems like harmless fun looking at the women becomes something different when you think about what happens on the inside. We swiftly left and decided to look at the bakeries and cheese shops instead!!

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Unfortunately the second night I was in the city didn’t end with chips and a pleasant walk, rather a face like the elephant man and emptying my stomach of the days contents (sorry). I had a really lovely time with colleagues at the infamous House of Bols, drinking the most expertly made cocktails and socialising – before moving on with the intention of having a few more drinks and ending in a karaoke bar – so far so good.
However on the way we decided to stop to buy some ‘pizza by the slice’, something else to Dutch seem to have become experts at. Long story short, I ate my slice of pizza and waited for my friend to finish hers, she had bought three slices. Realising she probably didn’t need all three, she kindly gave one to me and I am never one to say no to food. Big mistake.
I’m allergic to peanuts and this particular slice turned out to be satay bloody pizza. SATAY PIZZA! Who on gods earth knew that was even a thing. I’m normally pretty good with my allergy and avoid anything which has the potential to include nuts, I’ve never really had any issues, but I’ve never thought to check pizza. Within minutes, my face had swelled, my throat was closing, I was itching all over and feeling like I was going to vomit in the street!! Crackin’.
Luckily I wasn’t far from my hotel so I whipped back to my room to be sick in private, not how I wanted to end my stay in this beautiful European city.

So really what I’m saying is, I absolutely HAVE to go back now to undo the lasting memory of near anaphylactic shock in Amsterdam – pretty good excuse to me! I’ve also learnt my lesson of not being so nonchalant when it comes to my allergy and to carry around an EpiPen, something I haven’t ever had the sense to do until now.

So there you have it, my (kind of) love letter to Amsterdam – Did someone say Air B&B?

Just Hollie xox

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