Amsterdam: Nothing but good times!
So after we left Iceland, Meghan and I headed off to Amsterdam for a few days. We arrived in the middle of the afternoon and were able to find our way fairly quickly to our hostel. (By the way, to anyone traveling to Amsterdam and looking for a good hostel to stay in, I recommend The Flying Pig. We stayed at the Uptown location and it was really good - clean beds with linens, storage lockers, breakfast included, and good showers. I would definitely go back!)
By the time we got to our hostel, we were starving! We hadn't eaten since early morning in Iceland, so after dropping off our stuff we went in search of some food and found a little pub with delicious falafels! So good! (But then again, by that point I was so hungry probably anything would have tasted good.) With full bellies, it was time to explore the city. We wandered around aimlessly, exploring the streets, excited to be there, and amazed at the old buildings. So different from Winnipeg, that's for sure!
The rest of the day was lots of just aimless wandering, and a trip to the Red Light District of course. You just can't go to Amsterdam without seeing that part of town, or at least that's my opinion. In fact, we went twice that day and again the next a couple times. Now that I think about it, we walked through there quite a few times. The first time we went through we went during the early evening - we were not sure what to expect so we figured we would go when it was earlier, and we found it kind of interesting. But then we were curious to see what it was like as the evening progressed, so we went back later in the evening after we found some dinner. It was busier, but still tamer than I had expected. It's a weird area. There is a church in the middle of it and a preschool (I think it was a preschool, although maybe it was a kindergarden.) and "coffeeshops" where all you can smell is weed as you walk passed and pubs and lots of sex shops and places with live sex shows. And you'll just be strolling through the area and you will see the old creepy men staring or making a deal with the ladies, or the young men, and then there are the curious tourists who just walk through to see what it's like (such as ourselves) and then there will be a mother walking through with her child. And it's interesting seeing the ladies - they all have their little doors/windows that they rent for €150 per day or per eight hours (I heard different stories so not really sure how it works exactly) along the street and they stand there in their bras and underwear, some blowing kisses at you or opening the door as you walk passed to try get more business, and then some look so bored as they just sit there. A couple of the girls were just texting on their phones as we walked passed, looking bored out of their minds. And the different streets have different themes - one would have blond girls, one would have girls with huge boobs, another was black women, one had bigger women, and so on. And for anyone who wants to enjoy some time with the ladies, rates start at about €50 for 15 minutes. (Can you tell I found it to be an interesting place?!?!?)
On our second day we booked our train ticket to Paris and just strolled around for a bit, then we went on a walking tour of the city. (I also recommend the free walking tour - great way to learn about and see the city for cheap!) Our tour guide was a guy from Duluth, Minnesota who was studying in Amsterdam for a bit. It was his first time giving a tour but I thought he did great! We learned some cool things about the city, like the fact that there is a church that they were going to build a huge tower on, and they started building the base for the tower, but things changed and they never finished it. (I forget the exact reason.) So now its there without the tower. Also, there are so many bikes everywhere, and it's not uncommon for younger people to get drunk and throw bikes in the river, so a few times each year the city cleans out the canals and then resells the bikes that they get. Side note: if you go to Amsterdam, beware of the people on bikes. They are crazy. And dangerous. And all over the place!
After the walking tour, Meghan, I, the tour guide and some others on the tour went for a drink and sat around talking. There was an American and a Mexican and another guy who were all studying in France, a girl from Russia, a Belgian girl, and a guy from Brazil, so it was in interesting group. Eventually, Meghan and I got hungry though so we said goodbye and left the group. As it turned out, though, after our stomachs were full, we bumped into the same group of people a few hours later and ended up hanging out with them for the evening. We ended up going through the Red Light District with the guys (the other ladies had left us by this time) and it was quite different having them with us. When the ladies would see the guys, they would open the doors and say stuff as we passed and they would press themselves up against the doors and tap on the glass or blow kisses - much more than when it was just Meghan and I. It was a fun evening though and we were glad we had bumped into the group again!
And on our last day in Amsterdam, we had a nice relaxing time. We got up, repacked our backpacks, went out for breakfast (we found a little restaurant near the floating flower market that served little Dutch pancakes - sooo delicious!) and spent a lot of time in Vondel Park, which was next to our hostel. The park was beautiful and it was so nice to just sit out in the sun in the gorgeous weather. And in the evening, Meghan had a job interview over skype, so we found a McDonalds since they have wi-fi and we have our iPods to use and sat there for a while. Then it was off to the train station to catch our train to Paris!
And that was our time in Amsterdam!