So, after seeing and experiencing such an amazing country and culture I arrived home. As wonderful as it was to spend time with my family and friends it only took 2 weeks to feel…hmmm…deflated.
What was I going to do now? Search for a job? Settle down in a career? Nothing really seemed to appeal to me…apart from one thing…packing my bags and going. Where? Anywhere.
So I started planning.
Any body who was foolish enough to listen was given a run down of all the countries I wanted to step foot in. Customers I served at the restaurant, Tescos till workers, taxi drivers, my hair dresser, my boss, and even her cat!
My friend from university suggested that she join me, and that we should go on a 25 day Contiki tour. I was up for this, as I’d never really booked a flight alone before (Mummy?!). So we started searching for a good deal.
It was only when our tutor told us that it’d be more tailored for what we wanted if we organised it ourselves. Rosie didn’t really fancy this idea, but was happy to let me organise it for the both of us. Something I was more than ecstatic about getting stuck in to…
…Ordering our Interrail tickets, googling the top 10 things to do in each city, what to try food wise, and even scheduling in toilet breaks. I had embraced the challenge.
First stop. Amsterdam. AKA ‘DAM BABYYYYYYYYY!!’.
When thinking of Amsterdam, I am taken back to an episode of Sex and the City when Carrie gets high, I quote, “smoking a doobie”, and caught by the police. This became the catch phrase for our duration in Dam, and by the time we left, there wasn’t a single person in the city who hadn’t heard us say it.
The destination is well known for its’ open attitude towards sex and for giving a whole new meaning to the ‘coffee shop’, but which has so much more to offer;
The Anne Frank museum, Van Gogh exhibition, its canals, Heineken factory, free guided tours starting from Dam Square, the Tulip museum…
…and the experiences it provides;
‘homemade ice-cream’ morning treats from Metropolitan Deli, test tube shots of Jagermeister on the Red Light District pub crawl, the Moulin Rouge sex show, De Dampkring ‘coffee shop’ (as seen in Oceans 12), trams and bikes coming at you from all directions, the constant business and buzz of the city, and a personal favorite…getting to your hostel and having to hawl your 10 ton case up 20 floors of steep, narrow, winding stairs, bruising every limb along the way. Thanks Dam!
After a hectic days travel, we searched for the closest decent restaurant we could find and came across a little Tapas bar, Cafe Del Mondo, facing De Waag (the old doctors public disection theatre) in Nieuwmarkt square. We grabbed a table outside and people watched as we ordered our first local taste of ‘Krachtlager’. On the second drink, we were presented with a wonderful variety of Spanish meatballs, Patatas Bravas, Sweet and Spicy chicken wings, Lamb Sausages, and Chicken Satay. The perfect start to an, eventful, evening…
…We enrolled on the bar crawl and knocked back the Jagar. All was well, we were on about the 4th bar, and joint. Just, urm…nobody warned B that it wasn’t correct proccedure to smoke ‘coffee’ and consume copious amounts of alcohol at the same time! Knees weak, she hit the floor and a bouncer rushed to carry her out. Rescued by the old sugared water and a large Mars bar technique, she was ready to go, back into the bar, but Rosie suggested home. Pity. The giggles hadn’t even set in yet!
Maybe I had the munchies, or maybe it was the damp walls of the hostel, constant strong smell of marijuana in our room, and sharing with 8 men, that made me glad to search for some of Dam’s food speciality.
Stampot is one of those real homely dishes, that closely compares to a Casserole; potatos (mashed with sauerkraut), beans, bacon, gravy, sausage and a meatball.
It was recommended that we visit De Keuken Van 1870, and as soon as I stepped in the door of this informal, traditional restaurant, I knew why. We were skurried to a raised table in the window that over looked the whole dinning area. ‘Great!’ I thought. ‘I can see what everyone is ordering’ 🙂
The menu was on a blackboard at the back of the room, I already knew what I came for, but I needed to have a nosey at what was on offer anyway. So I squeezed through the communal style room (long benches, with all kinds of parties, and people that didn’t know eachother, who had had to squeeze together to let more customers in). It was busy, and people came and went in such speed, the music was drowned out by loud chatter, and plates were clanging. The restaurant and its’ staff didn’t concentrate on ‘the perfect customer service’, but more, ‘lets get these people fed!’. They were giving tumblers out as wine glasses, the waitress slopped our plates infront of us, and we could hear the buzz from the kitchen coming into the dining area. Yet, the vibe was comforting, relaxing even, and I didn’t want to leave, especially afer tasting their food! Potatos (mashed with sauerkraut), beans, bacon, gravy, sausage and a meatball…Rich and filling…who wouldn’t want to scuff it down as quick as possible!? That…and we had a show to watch!
The morning after, hungover and well and truely flabbergasted at what people are willing to do on stage for money, we made our way to the station, stopping at Prins Heerlijk for breakfast, 10 ton case in hand.
As we ate muffins and drank our English tea, we reflected on the last 48 hours of craziness we’d just encountered, and the same tutors’ philosophy came to mind “If you’re not living life on the edge, you’re taking up too much room”. I smiled to myself. Two days in to our European tour…and it already felt like we were about to fall off!
Or maybe those weren’t ordinary muffins!? . . .