72 hours in Amsterdam

Monday

No adventure starts without minor delays or disturbances. EVER. And that’s exactly what happened at the start of my trip. With my suitcase in hand I made my way over to a friends house (Kloe or as we like to call her Klo Klo) in Manchester. Arriving at the station, my train was delayed. But this wasn’t the problem; the problem was that the route it usually takes into Manchester had changed. This would all be totally fine usually except today I was hungover and on 5 hours sleep. Remaining optimistic was a real challenge on that journey but after many deep breaths I arrived at Manchester Oxford road. I was greeted with smiles and laughter. Bags in hand we made our way back to our lodgings for the evening – Kloe’s student accomodation. For starters it’s a definite upgrade from where we was last housed. That girl is going up in the world.

Kloe’s room was decorated just as I had imagined. Elephants were everywhere. The smell of candles burning and hot wax dripping surrounded us. After an hour of deciding and then un-deciding what we were going to eat for the evening, we finally decided on somewhere cheap and near by. However when we turned up the kitchen was closed so it was a no go for that place. Treating ourselves we headed for Nando’s – I longed for the sunset burger from the moment I walked in. That is if I could get inside the door. It was a push door and I was pulling. Queue immediate uproar of laughter from my peers and the waiters at the till. When I did make it through the entrance, I saw a few chaps from home. Pleasant surprise.

Back in Kloe’s flat the kids aka Becky and Nick were camping out on Kloe’s couch cushions on her bedroom floor –

Nice and Cosy are we?

Meanwhile the parents aka myself and Kloe were nice and cosy in the warm double bed. The kids had trouble sleeping so I whacked on my ‘Sleeptime’ playlist. I slept like a baby, the others not so much.

Tuesday

Several hours later, I awoke to the chattering of teeth from Becky, who swore she caught pneumonia due to the window being open all night. But alas, we made our way to Manchester airport at 6am McDonalds breakfast in hand. If there’s one thing to know about us four, it’s that something wrong always happens to us and on this trip we encounter several of those wrongdoings.

Both mine and Nick’s bag were stopped for searching. It’s weird how even though you know you’ve not done anything wrong you still feel guilty thinking what have I done. But off we went to board our KLM flight to Amsterdam. The crew were one of the nicest airline team I’ve ever met. And it was also one of the shortest flights I’ve ever been on.

Finally we arrived in the city. We boarded our train and found our way to Amsterdam Centrall station. From here we took a ferry across the river to our hostel over the bridge. This place was very quirky from the moment we stepped on in. Dumping our bags off in our 4 bed bunk room we headed for the National Monument were I had booked us in for a free tour. Only we never actually made it onto that tour, silly old me forgot what company we had booked with and had no idea of what or who to look out for. Instead we decided it was best to grab something to eat and try again tomorrow. Italian was on the menu for this evenings meal with Kloe forking out a mortgage to pay for her 6 euros coke. My lasagne was delicious. After filling our stomachs we trotted on over to Anne Franks house; the queue was enormously long. All in all, we waited 2.5 hours in the cold weather but we did warm ourselves up with hot chocolates. Kloe and I went for a communal wee together, its safe to say we both contracted std’s from that toilet seat.

Stepping inside the Anne frank house we were greeted by the most gorgeous guy I’ve ever seen in my life. Honestly the Dutch boys really are quite special. He gave us our audio guide and off we went exploring the biggest hiding secret in the world. This house was full of history and its story is very much relevant today. Around the world there are people hiding everyday, whether that be because of their sexuality or simply because they’ve had to flee their home in fear of what might happen next. The rooms were all rich of emotion and compassion. I walked out of the tour overwhelmed and moved. It was definitely worth the 2.5 hour wait. So if ever you’re in Amsterdam please go and check it out, you wont regret it.

The cheese museum was our next museum. Although, in truth it was a shop with a fun downstairs section. The free tasters were good. And the picture opportunity downstairs had us dressed like a farmer in no time. If it is one sentence I will not miss hearing from this trip it is ‘this is the bridge.’ By ‘the bridge’ what we really mean is the bridge with all the padlocks on that everybody takes pictures on. I thought that was in Paris but hey ho here we go and so we asked an ongoer to take a picture for us and this was the result.

Don’t we all look stunning, ey???

It’s safe to say we didn’t quite get to find ‘the bridge’ but we did have an awful lot of fun saying it about Amsterdam’s many bridges – they’re everywhere. After a fun, but long day we made our way back to the hostel to wind down. Here we had pizza and cocktails and played cards against humanity. The setting had a very student hub type feel to it but there were visitiors from all ages and backgrounds.

Wednesday

Ready for the day, we went down for breakfast and actually made it onto a tour this morning – result. Our tour took us all through Amsterdam sharing its history and culture with us every step of the way. Axe, our tour guide, taught us so much and we got to take a sneak peak at the red light district during the daytime. It’s so interesting discovering how it all began. Becky’s highlight would be seeing the ‘Big momma’s’ down the district whereas Kloe got to see the secret gardens of the nuns.

After being all-toured out we headed to a coffee shop to relax. We eventually left here and made our way to the sex museum stopping for some waffles on the way. The sex museum was the best 5 euros I’ve ever spent in my life. Walking around there with the gang was hilarious, I had head rush the whole time I was in there. Becky fell over about a dozen times and I couldn’t breathe. There is a dark room dedicated to different pictures of sexual acts and I had to leave three times to stop from weeing myself. Thinking I had my bladder under control we headed back aboard the ferry.

It’s safe to say I definitely did NOT have my bladder under control.

Legs crossed, lips clenched and ready with my game face on I nearly didn’t make it all the way. It was that bad I had to run off and use the restaurants toilet directly opposite. I cant even begin to imagine the looks I received during that boat journey home. We were all exhausted. Becky snoozed like there was no tomorrow and the others soon followed. Me, on the other hand could not. Instead I got ready for the evenings agenda – the Ice Bar.

Not such a great idea for a guy that is terribly nesh all the time. However, I soldiered on and had such an amazing time drinking Heineken and vodkas in the freezing cold room. I was frozen but I still managed to pose for this god awful picture.

Brrrr… it’s a bit chilly

Shopping around, we hunted out a place to grab something to eat. We found a cute little spot and sat outside with red blankets wrapped around us to keep us warm. It felt like we were in a Mediterranean town with all the holiday memories around us. We got the tram back this evening and ran for the ferry that was departing. As i mentioned earlier wrongthings happen to our group all the time. And this time things were no different. We all had unbeknowingstly took ourselves aboard a cruise instead of our usual ferry and therefore ended up on a different part of the river. Embarassinglywe stayed on and rode it all the way back to the start point only to board the usual ferry in due time. We were hoping for an early night but it was way past half 12 at this point so that was out of the question.

Thursday

Luckily, this morning we gave ourselves a lie in, waking up at 12pm. Eating a croissant and drinking tea in the bar downstairs we discussed the itinerary for the day. Today we decided to break off and split into two groups. Nick and Becky heading off out to the Heineken experience and the Van Gough museum. Myself and Kloe visiting the prostitution museum with all the red light’ secrets. On our walk to the museum, we stopped off and bought some sunglasses. Even if it did take us 20 minutes to decide on the right colour and frame. Then we spent a good while being lost trying to find the museum but nonetheless we did.

I found out so much more about the concept of prostitution and the red light district during my visit here. I’ve always enjoyed watching documentaries about the subject. Some of my favourites include Louis Theroux and Stacie Dooley. They each seek to find the women’s stories in all of this. Which is a story that should definitely be told and heard. It was an interesting museum to be in and, like the Anne frank museum, it featured an audio guide and had many interactive displays.

I even got to dress up.

500 euros?

A strong focus of this museum was about having their voices heard. This wall decorates exactly what the workers want to get across.

There was also a strong focus on making you aware of the risks involved within this industry. I read along the walls countless statistics about rape victims and girls being murdered within this business. it was heartbreaking to read.

But on a more lighter note – take a look into what I liked to all ‘CONFESSIONS 101′  

Amongst these, there were hundreds of other stories about people’s sex lives. Some were absolutely hilarious and some were once again really interesting. People from all over the world wrote on these confessions and me and Kloe had a little confession of our own to make.

TUT TUT… but one confession stood out fromthe rest :-

IMG_7029
“I used to judge them until I became one of them.”

This to me felt quite raw. This woman has opened up on paper in this museum highlight the necessity for the girls to be respected. A MASSIVE amen to that. – If you ever read this (Good Luck for your degree)

Feeling ‘sexified’ we headed towards a tram stop, stopping in a sex shop along the way. – Beautiful outfits and gigantic dildos – ouch!!! We took the 24 to Weteringcircuit where we would find the Rijksmusuem. Here we took our photos next to the I am Amsterdam model.

I’m on top of the world

Here we found serenity in the nearby gardens. After a full morning of walking we finally picked a spot to sit down for our lunch. Chicken Caesar salad with croutons, potatoes and egg was on the menu for today’s eat. This was a chance to unwind.  We were in the moment and calm in every aspect. The sale was amazing and very filling. Our views were even better.

After the endless bridges and canals, it was nice to finally see some proper greenery. It was my happy place. I could have easily stayed there for a whole day. However, there was a chill in the air and we thought it best we head for a coffee shop – for hot beverages this time. After a quick trip advisor search for cute cafes, we found one promising both indoor and outdoor seating. We made our way towards ‘De Laatste Krumel.’

On our next journey we walked down some really cool streets that we had never seen before and when we finally reached the destination, after getting lost (more than once) we gave ourselves a pat on the back for a good days work of exploring. Ordering our two teas to go (African Redbusch for me and an earl Grey for Kloe) we decide to sit out in their ‘outdoor area.’ The inside was fully seated and so we opened the door expecting a big seating area. We were confronted with 3 tables and 9 chairs, closely cramped next to one another. Not ideal but we made the most of it and laughed it off – only us could this happen to. Having said this, the cafe had a ‘chic’ vibe to it and was nicely decorated, even if we nearly ended up on the canal. Next to us, there was two lovely gentleman having afternoon tea and cake. Even though I couldn’t understand their conversation, due to the language barriers, it sounded very interesting. I’m nosey like that.

IMG_0236
Canal side dining for two x

Soaking in the sun we decided to get our walking shoes back on and go and meet the yin tour yang – Becky and Nick. We did miss them. We grabbed a bite to eat and headed back to the hostel for a quick rest before heading out to one of Amsterdam’s sex peep shows. Disobeying the one person in a booth policy, we split off into twos and paid our 2 euros to get an eyeful of what was going on.

Very impressed we paid another 2 euros. Despite the sexual acts going on in front of us, it was even more interestingly hilarious to see the other peoples faces in each booth watching the show. Almost all of the customers were men and after several awkward eye contacts, we decided enough was enough and by the looks of things so did the male performer (if you know what I mean.) This was probably the weirdest experience I experienced the whole trip but it was definitely worth the 4 euros spent.

IMG_0255
Get your tissues ready boys.

‘Cruising’ more and more into the heart of the red light district we stopped off at a bar and had a drink. Jupiler in my case – I think its a Belgium beer. The two bartenders on shift were also very beautiful. Once again such boys you are yet to fail. Heading back ome after a long day, we hopped on the ferry once again. The right one this time. For now it was pillow time.

Or not. In my case.

I had a total of 45 minutes sleep before waking up at 4am in order to catch our early morning flight – we have Nick to blame. For that one. Suitcases in our hands once more, we checked out after our delightful stay and headed for our final ferry journey. It was emotional. But of we went headed for the airport. After a McDonald’s, a loss of sunglasses and a Starbucks caramel macchiatos wake me up it was finally time to board our flight. Due to full capacity I had to check in my hand luggage. Even if they did come running after me because I proceeded to board with it. Sorry KLM.

Amsterdam I will miss you.

For more photos of our trip click here.

And if you’d like to read more on my adventures check out THIS. 

The lone ferret – journeys to South East Asia 

Conversing with friends over several vodka and oranges, last night ‘the lone ferret’ was greatly misoverheard (by myself) due to the powerful sound of music and chatter in the lovely land of Warrington. Whilst ‘The Lone Ferret’ wasn’t exactly what was said, it did spark an interest in my mind of those who seek to explore the wonders of life on their own. Solo. A task soon to be explored by myself this summer through South East Asia.

After constant set backs, I finally accepted the fact that I wasn’t going to be going to theatre school/ university, instead I wanted to do something that I also enjoyed doing – Travelling and Volunteering. I had my fair share of volunteering when I helped rebuild a playground for children in South Africa back in 2012. Ever since that trip I’ve been hungry for that same kind of experience when travelling. You do grow from it.

So, after weeks of searching for programmes, I eventually narrowed it down to Camp Cambodia. A 3 week programme that immerses you into Cambodia culture helping both the locals and the environment. Here I’ll be exploring floating villages, teaching in local schools and orphanages and bathing and caring for elephants as part of a conservation programme over there. The plan was to explore further a field for longer but in August of last year I received news that I had been accepted into drama school so I had to cut my adventures short.

That resulted in me opting to travel through Vietnam, north to south, for 3 weeks after the programme before heading home to make it in time for the start of my second year at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance.

(Image by Camp Cambodia)

In preparation for my trip I’ve found myself for hours on end reading blog posts on advice and tips for South East Asia. Each time I read a new post it makes me yearn to be on that plane ready for take off to my destination. I just can’t get enough. But with solo travelling there comes a fair bit of apprehension.

A lot of the stuff I’ve heard people ask is what happens if things go wrong or aren’t you scared of being on your own? It’s the fear of the unknown really. But for me I’ve chosen to view the matter as an exciting opportunity for both growth and endless possibilities. In years to come we will all look back on our lives and think did I do enough and so, with that in mind, I’m going to try my best to be open to everything.

These new experiences are what I will remember for the rest of my life and yes of course there will be the good ones and the bad ones.

BUT it’s ok to make mistakes on the road. The road is open and so am I.

I don’t want to look back on my life and say I wish I would have done this when I was younger or what would have happened if I had done this. Life is full of what if’s and if we don’t go out there a grab opportunities we will spend the rest of our lives asking these questions and that’s something I’m not prepared to do. Do not wait for that door to open, open it for yourself and create your own future by YOUR design.

This is something I’ve been putting into practice into my own life. Take this blog for example this all started because of my passion for writing and (talking about myself) jokes. But in moving away and creating a new life for myself it has been easier to talk about aspirations and dreams and my life and it’s been wonderful to see the responses that I have received since that very first post.

For a few years now I’ve been interested in yoga and recently I’ve started attending weekly classes at Laban and it’s been the best thing I’ve ever done. I always feel replenished after the sessions. Even if its not as big of a change as moving to a new city or applying for that position in work you’ve worked so hard for, you can still create your future in the littlest things in life. Just by doing something that makes you happy.

Take that time to have a break and look after yourself. Take that vacation you’ve been wanting to go on for years. Take that pottery class or photography class. Go to that audition or go to that acting class if its something you like doing. Do the things that interest you because that’s when you’ll blossom and shine.

But most importantly do it because you love it.

And that’s why I’m volunteering/travelling this summer. Because I love it. I love the people and I love knowing I can help their lives even if its just by having a conversation with someone in need. Do what makes you happy and I promise you; you wont regret it

*******************************************************************************************
Throwback Thursday: To the time where I taught these guys a few songs in South Africa 2012

And helped renovate their playground.

img_0111img_0108

Expect a few blog posts this summer as I’ll be writing from both Cambodia and Vietnam.