The Dam is, of course, known for what? Well let’s put it this way, when I told my mum that I was visiting Amsterdam, with my fiancé, my son and his friend, her immediate reaction was, ‘Why on earth are you going there? It’s got nothing to offer but tulips, windmills, sex and drugs.’
Is this true? Well, here is my version of Amsterdam.
We left on a P&O Ferry crossing from Hull at 9.00pm. Check-in was easy and quick. I’ve done the ferry crossing previously so knew not to take in any alcohol on board but this time our cases weren’t searched. The staff on the boat greeted us and we headed straight to our cabin. The cabin is very small but equipped with all you need, toilet, shower, washbasin and bunk beds. Both myself and my fiancé knew there was no way the top bunk was being used and were quite happy to snuggle up in the lower bunk together.
I have read a lot of bad reviews about P&O Ferries but, in my opinion, it is not as bad as it’s made out. I think £130.00 per person return including transfers to The Dam is a bargain. They have three bars on the ship, each one with different kinds of music, various restaurants, a casino and a cinema. We chose to frequent the live entertainment/disco bar. The band were great and we had a few dances, possibly showing off at this point as the drinks were flowing. My fiancé did manage to catch me for the infamous jump to Time of My Life and as he slid across the floor, scraping his knee and ripping his jeans, I kicked off my shoes to Footloose.
The early morning start is 8.00am. This is when the speaker comes on in your cabin for about half an hour twittering on loudly in every language imaginable asking you to leave the boat. This is almost unbearable with a hangover. A knock on the door from my son, a knock on the door from the cabin crew and finally the knock on the door from the captain of the boat made us drag ourselves up, throw all our clothes into the suitcase and stagger, shades on, to the coach to take us to the Dam, passengers tutting as we clambered onto the delayed coach.
An hour and a half later we arrived in the heart of Amsterdam to find our hotel. I have nothing but excellent comments to report about the hotel. Hotel Luxer is situated two minutes walk from the train station and located on Warmoesstraat 11, 1012 HT which is another a two-minute walk to the canal. The hotel was in an exceptional area, was clean and, welcoming. We got a good deal through www.booking.com for one twin room and one double room which worked out at 80 euros each for the one night.
Keeping the sights of the Red Light District for later we headed straight to a Coffeeshop (note the spelling). A coffee shop in Amsterdam is as per in any country but a Coffeeshop is where you can buy any type of weed and smoke it legally. I personally do not smoke but was eager to experience what the Coffeeshops were like. However, you must be 18 to enter and they are very strict about this.
The first one we went to was situated on a side street at the back of our hotel, called Babylon. As you walk in there is a menu on the bar displaying the weed on offer along with the strength. We ordered an expresso and were let into a back room which had a buzzer system to get in and out. This room was basically where you could drink your coffee and legally smoke weed. The room had no windows but was totally chilled with Bob Marley playing in the background. However, within minutes I needed to leave. You could literally get high from the fumes as there is no air in the room except smoke. It was basically a hot box.
Although weed is legal in Amsterdam it is not legal to smoke it on the streets. However, everybody does and the smell of the green in the air is more prominent than the smell of anything else. There are also lots of bars which do not sell weed but you can freely smoke it within them. It’s completely relaxed and whilst in The Dam we never saw any trouble, probably because everybody is stoned.
Restaurants and bars are scattered everywhere. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many bars in one city. We headed for drinks in Dam Square. The sun was shining and street acts were performing whilst we sat in the sun, people watching with our whisky and wine. The prices go up quite spectacularly when in Dam Square but it’s only to be expected due to its location.
There are plenty of museums in Amsterdam but we are not really museum-goers. However, if we had more time I would have visited the Museum of Torture, Museum of Prostitution, Amsterdam Sex Museum and Museum of Hash. Next time!
Finishing off with a bit of shopping and a few more drinks, we headed to the Red Light District.
I love this area of Amsterdam it is literally window shopping for women. Eastern European young girls are poised in the windows down the canal and on the side streets, wearing next to nothing, beckoning in men to enjoy their menu of sex. On offer for 50 euros is 15 minutes of one-to-one action with the girl of your choice. On average, Amsterdam prostitutes pay around 85 euros for a small room during the day shift, and 115 for the night shift. You do the maths.
Photographs are strictly forbidden, but not one to listen to rules…
I also found out that if there is a blue light instead of a red light outside the window it means the ‘girl’ is not in fact a girl, so be warned.
We finished off our night at a peep show. You basically get a small booth with a blacked-out window and once you insert two euros in the slot (no pun intended) the window clears and there is a naked girl in the middle of the room in all kinds of different sexual positions. You get one minute to peep, then the window darkens until you put in another two euros and another and another. It’s all good harmless fun and part of the Amsterdam experience.
Day two saw us out on the streets of The Dam by lunchtime where we headed for a late breakfast in an Italian restaurant a few doors down from the hotel before heading to Rembrandt Square. To get to Rembrandt Square we had to walk through the Red Light District which, in the day, is very different to night. Instead of young girls in the windows, there are overweight (some very overweight) more mature women, some well over their sell by date, dressed in nothing but bra and panties; which makes it quite amusing.
We had been advised that there was a good Coffeeshop called the Three Storey Coffeeshop located next to Rembrandt Square. It was easy to find and on entering we ordered an espresso whilst I checked out the individual smoking rooms which as the name suggests were spread over three floors each floor kitted out with sofas and this time windows.
After finishing our coffee, we headed to Rembrandt Square. I wish I had found this little gem earlier. The atmosphere here was amazing. The square isn’t that big and is far less touristy and all around the square there are bars and restaurants al fresco with blankets on the back of every chair in case you get cold. The street entertainment was sensational and so was the people watching. The drink and food prices were acceptable and the whole ambiance was chill.
It was now time to leave to get the ferry back to Hull. This time on check-in our cases were searched and this time instead of partying all night we all headed straight to our cabins to sleep.
So, is The Dam full of tulips, windmills, sex and drugs as per my mum’s assumption? It absolutely is and I loved every single minute of it.
Photographs courtesy of Raymond Pickard