I decided to cut short my tour of the United Kingdom by taking a ferry from Newcastle to Amsterdam. I took a train from Glasgow to Edinburgh, and then on down towards Newcastle. I would like to come back to Newcastle, when I have more time, but for now I am just passing through.
The ferry to Amsterdam was pretty exciting (for a one who enjoys slow travel). It leaves in early evening and gets in to the Netherlands the following morning. When you buy your ticket, you automatically get a bunk in a cabin, so it’s like transport and accommodation all rolled into one. You wake up in a new destination and you have the bonus of feeling refreshed once you get there. That makes this a great option for budget travellers, although I did discover that it is even better value if you travel in pairs and can get someone to share the cost of your cabin.
Sex and Drugs
Most people immediately think of “liberal pastimes” when they think of Amsterdam, The city is well known for allowing the sale of certain drugs (mainly marijuana) and for legal sex tourism. In the same way that Liverpool makes a big deal out of the Beatles, Amsterdam makes a big deal out of legalised drugs and sex. Although the city’s tourist board has allegedly been told to play these things down, they are still pretty much right in your face. On certain streets you can’t help but glance an eyeful of scantily clad women, whichever direction you choose to look in.
I, of course, elected not to indulge, but it is impossible to write about Amsterdam without at least acknowledging this important aspect of the city.
Free things to do in Amsterdam
In my hostel I met a bunch of travellers who were interrailing around Benelux and trying to do things on the cheap too. We decided to team up and find some fun but free things to do in Amsterdam. They had heard about a space called the EYE Film museum, which is a celebration of audiovisual materials. You can get these little pods and watch films/videos in them for free. Although the videos that we saw were mainly in other languages, we were able to get hold of some English language stuff to listen to.
We also went to the Waterlooplein Flea Market to have a look at some of the quirky second hand things that stallholders were trying to sell. One of my new friends was persuaded to buy an old military-style trench coat which went all the way down to the floor. It seemed like a great idea at the time, but I’m sure that she will regret it once she realises that she will be stuck with a heavy coat for the rest of her time travelling! A few pieces caught my eye, but I decided that I better not fill up my bag with random trinkets if I want to keep going for much longer.
We also took a trip to the Amsterdam horticultural garden, which was lovely. When my new friends suggested it, I was a bit sceptical because I thought it was a little early in the year for plant life to be active, but there was still plenty of stuff to see and do. It turns out that the Dutch are famed for their green fingers, so the botanical gardens look great all year round. They even have loads of activities for the children, if you happen to be travelling with younger ones.
The whole of Europe is pretty well connected by rail, so I have been considering getting an interrailing pass. The problem is that there are so many different options available that I can’t decide which the right option for me is. I’m going to speak to a travel agent tomorrow for some advice.