Our Favourite Place

Thursday, 28 July 2016



I haven't done a Monday post this week. Just because I've literally been doing the same things, working and socialising and there's only so many times you can talk about those things without sounding so mundane. Instead I thought I would share some photos from a glorious, spontaneous day on the shore with some of my favourite people. It was a wonderful day and, apart from one of my friends getting stung by a jelly fish! Kind of perfect:











Where's your favourite place?




5 Days in Amsterdam

Saturday, 23 July 2016


Last month my two friends and I set off on a little jaunt to The Netherlands for 5 days. I have always wanted to travel to Amsterdam, the city has always interested me, especially the difference in culture and the architecture. We began to plan this trip in March and when we were finally on the plane that's when the excitement  kicked in. I was so glad that we planned 5 days in the end because I have heard about people just going for a weekend but as soon as we landed in the city we found out that there was so much to do and we wanted to do it all! We decided to make a vague itinerary but nothing too strict so we could work around it if we wanted to, this allowed us to choose a place we wanted to go each and made it fair for everybody and apart from 2 places, we completed our itinerary to a tee'. We decided to stay in a hostel in the end and although to was pretty basic it contained everything we needed and the staff were so lovely, we felt safe in the city and our experience was incredibly positive. I took so many photos so I'm going to pop them all into this post in diary form, I hope you enjoy:

Day 1____________________________________________________________________________



After landing (and dealing with the plane exceptionally well Ciara 1 anxiety 0) we took a train/tram journey into the centre of the city and found our hostel pretty easily. And after the initial shock of our tiny room we soon found that the bunk beds were pretty comfy and everyone was really nice. We took our map and planned our locations and itinerary and then headed out to explore. 








Vegan restaurants were pretty easy to find because they were literally on every street! We found a gorgeous restaurant and bar called Zest I had a plate of triple salad which was potato, sezska and a homemade hummus which was to die for. It was the loveliest meal and a delicious and friendly introduction to Amsterdam. 















After our meal we decided to explore Vondel park which is apparently the largest park in Amsterdam. We bought a bottle of white wine and sat next to the huge pond, taking in the atmosphere and admiring the scenery. There were so many herons just wandering around looking for food, I have never seen a heron that close. The park was beautiful and we met a lot of interesting characters while we were there. After finishing our wine, we decided to turn in, plane journeys and travel caught up with us and we all went back to our surprisingly comfortable bunk beds. 





Day 2____________________________________________________________________________













We decided to hire bikes because when in Amsterdam you must ride at least one bike. I hadn't ridden a bike in around 3 years so I was a little wobbly, much to the preferred entertainment of the locals. We also rode on the wrong side of the bike lane for about half an hour before being informed and I think sworn at in Dutch! After getting lost many a time we finally found our first location;














We parked our bikes on the corner of a canal and set off to find the market we were looking for, on the way we met a cat in a window, a cat outside and some lovely photo opportunities. The market we found was the largest street market in The Netherlands and it really lived up to its name. The atmosphere was really welcoming and the stalls were very intriguing, we met some lovely people including a photographer from New York who wanted to take our photo because I quote we look 'incredibly English'. Alas most of the items we loved were too big and bulky to bring back with us, like the quality cheap vinyls one stall was selling which I couldn't take my eyes off. After looking around the market we sat down by the canal and had our lunch, it was a lovely and calming place to sit and a van nearby added to the atmosphere by playing The Madness full blast, it was such a buzzing friendly atmosphere and we felt so chilled out. 

After the market we travelled to our next port of call, Papa Bubble a candy shop that we'd heard a lot about. This candy shop was different because you could watch them actually make the candy, it was amazing and the people working there were so lovely. I was so enthralled with the making of the sweets that I forgot to take any photos, but I did buy a packet of watermelon sweets that had been made that day and they were honestly the most authentic tasting watermelon sweets I had ever eaten and I just wish I bought two packets!

Next we rode to The Anne Frank House but once we parked up we realised that the queue was just too big to even try and get in. It was such a shame because that location was on our list and we couldn't complete it, but we just couldn't wait for that long and take up almost a whole day probably waiting to enter when we could be ticking more things off our list. After scoping the queue we turned our bikes around for home and it was then we realised that it was now rush hour in Amsterdam! There were bikes and cars flying everywhere and so much traffic, it was genuinely scary and at some stages I did think one of us was going to get injured, but we got back all in one piece, had a group hug and a selfie or two and popped our bikes back into the hire shop, phew!




   We ended the night with a lovely meal at a really nice facilitating restaurant, the waitress was super nice and even though they had nothing vegan on the menu she supplied me with a gorgeous warm cooked salad which was so filling. I love it when restaurants actually make an effort to a vegan's needs, there's nothing worse than being starving and being given a lettuce leaf. I also tried my first Liefmans beer and was completely sold I love the taste, it's so unusual and sweet for a beer and so refreshing. We ended the night with a trip to the famous Bulldog Coffee Shop (tee hee) and a few more drinks.   

Day 3 ____________________________________________________________________________



We headed to The Museum Quarter and planned on hitting them all in one go, well the ones we wanted to visit (no interest in Van Gogh here sorry) but when we entered our first museum The Stedelijk Museum of Contemporary and Moder Art, we found out it was pretty expensive and there was a student discount choice so we decided to bring our student Id's back and come back another day which was a little disappointing but there was still so much to explore. 
















We headed to a small museum where they were holding a Banksy and Warhol exhibition, it was strange to see Banksy work in a museum environment and even though it was a great experience to see it, I couldn't help but think that the work just didn't belong there, Banksy made them to be on the streets, to make their mark as graffitti and taking them away from that environment in my opinion removes its meaning of being there in the first place. I don't know it did make me feel a little un-comfortable and the gift shop made me feel even more strange because it was so commercialised, every Banksy piece was on a Tshirt or a tote bag and they were even selling DIY Banksy masks and gift packed heart shaped red balloons, ugh it was just too much!

The Warhol section was much better, I was able to see a lot of his most famous pieces although it did focus more on his pop art instead of his earlier Polaroids or darker pieces. The little GCSE art student inside me was fangirling so hard at his famous Liz Taylor piece!  




After leaving the odd exhibitions we had another little wander around The Museum Quarter, but found out everything was pretty expensive. So we just gazed upon the free exhibition pieces in the entrance hall instead! 








Because it was absolutely pouring down outside, we decided to do something incredibly touristy, because we hadn't done a lot of that yet. We purchased discount tickets to The Heineken Museum from some lovely men in a small store that sold rain ponchos. The Heineken experience was quite an experience! It was very commercial and very well thought out so when you leave the building you are left with an endless want and need for Heineken beer, brain washing in a sense. But brain washing aside, it was fun. It was very interactive and also surprisingly quite creative, you also got two free beers! I'm quite glad that we went here in the end, if ever you're having a rainy day in Amsterdam go and experience the experience and drink a beer, a Heineken beer, that's all.   

We ended the night with more coffee shops and more beer and much more sleep because walking around a rainy Amsterdam was proved to be tiring. 

Day 4____________________________________________________________________________



We headed back to The Museum Quarter, student Id's in hand. We entered The Stedelijk Museum where we saw so much inspiring work including interactive exhibitions and more traditional ones such as Riechenbach's chair which was also the face of my GCSE graphic design module. We also had the absolute pleasure of seeing Damien Hirst work, he's not my favourite of modern artists but his work still is striking when you're inches from it. And then it was time, Tracey Emin, she's one of mine and Ems all time favourite artists and her neon lights were right in front of us! I was aw struck, they were so beautiful and so full of meaning, if you want to see them check out my instagram

After being aw struck for hours we decided to get some lunch at Bagels and Beans, the best franchise cafe in Amsterdam it was lush. 










After the museum we headed to one of Amsterdam's famous flower markets. It was such a great photo opportunity because there were just bunches of flowers everywhere. There were also so many tulips, like too many tulips I'm not the biggest fan as you can probably tell. The flower market was an interesting splash of Dutch culture, it was so colourful and so bustling and I don't think my photos did it a lot of justice because I was just trying to take it all in, I also wanted to buy so many plants but alas, with the plane home they wouldn't have gotten back in one piece. But it was so lovely to take in all the culture and the array of flowers and bulbs sold there, so many bulbs man.

We then headed to another exhibition which was situated in a large house. It was a comparison exhibition so there was some older works and modern work compared next to them. The older work tended to be portraits of grand looking people who I'm guessing lived in the big house (you can tell we didn't really do any research for this) but next to the portraits there would be a modern piece by a photographer and even though they were modern and much more colourful, the comparisons were un-canny and the photographer or whoever set up the exhibition definitely thought about the room and not only the portraits because the colours were so similar.

After looking at more things we had another break and then headed to The Happiness Project. Now The Happiness Project was on all of our lists and all though it's not always situated in Amsterdam we thought that because it was in the city we would go and see it while we can. The Happiness Project is a very famous exhibition piece which looks intimately into the physical human body and also the psyche of a human to gather what makes us happy. The twist is that the exhibition pieces per say are actual dead bodies, stripped of their skin so everything is exposed. This exhibition is indeed incredibly controversial but so, so interesting. I loved it and found it so fascinating, but I kept having to step back and remind myself that these people once were actually alive like you and I and that thought did make me go a little weak at the knees. It's all consentual and everything and you can actually sign up to be in the exhibitions when you die (shivers). Because they were real (gulp) dead people I obviously didn't take any photos, you could but I thought it would be disrespectful. It was quite an experience and incredibly interesting but I wouldn't say it was for the faint hearted, we definitely needed a stiff drink afterwards!

That night we also visited The Red Light district, that too was an interesting and slightly un-settling experience which I wont go into but I will just say seeing women in glass cases displayed like that did leave a bad taste in my mouth, although I did do my research and found that they are basically business women who had the power and all that jazz. But still seeing them in that environment was shocking, all I could think of was what would happen to them if they didn't pull that night and where would they go and so many questions were in my head. The red light district as a whole though is actually quite beautiful and the image of the red lights reflected in the canal will always be in my mind from our trip to Amsterdam.

We ended our last night in Amsterdam with Tapas. Sangria and more coffee shops. We went to see a very talented jazz band and drank the best vodka, lime and lemonades ever, it was such an amazing night and the best way to remember Amsterdam as this bustling city full of music, laughter and love. I fell in love with the city that night.

Day 5   ___________________________________________________________________________



We didn't have much time before our flight so after checking out of the hostel, we bought some bread and some of that gorgeous tahini hummus and sat and ate it all in the park. It was a great end to a great holiday although I did feel like I was about to explode after all the bread!  I will definitely be coming back, I've even thought about studying there so we'll have to see. Gareth and I are already planning on coming back really soon so he can see it for himself and I can't wait to be back here!

Have you been to Amsterdam?
What did you do?






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