As I used to write trip reports about my excursions around the world on Facebook, I figured I should resume them here. They were popular there, but I hate the idea of them owning my content, so here comes a good old fashioned report on Amsterdam, 2023.
The culture of Amsterdam is quite unique, I must say. Leaning houses around curved canals, stumbling tourists both drunk and ancient, scuffling their way around the Venice of the north. And like Venice, there is a certain under current of dislike of all these tourists. The locals, I am sure, know to stay away from certain areas due to incessant British vomit. And it is true that, marching through the Red Light district on the first day we’d arrived in Amsterdam, I did indeed trod in vomit.
They need public boot brushes in Amsterdam. Boot scuffs, like you’d have outside a rural American house. Instead, they have infinity-symbol shaped urinals, where the drunks can piss while watching everyone walk by.
You really wonder about the economics of the sex trade in Amsterdam. I can confirm, having looked at the many empty windows we passed, that the actual booth itself costs 50 Euros to rent for the slowest of times, and 200 euros at peak hours. Whether that price is hourly or for the full 3-4 hour span wasn’t really clear. I figure it’s for the whole span, because we heard prices negotiated as we walked by, and they started at 50 Euros for 15 minutes.
I swear, I saw one guy agree, and then say something like “Pictures?” and she immediately refused. I expect he was a streamer. She knew immediately.
There was also a fellow who dressed like a pimp, in a shiny purple rimmed white suit. The girls all obviously knew him, because they were shaking their heads at him and waving him on as he passed.
My father-in-law discovered that if he tipped his hat to the girls, they tried hard to get him to come inside. He was their target demographic: an old American.
And then I stepped in vomit.
The interesting thing about the Red Light District is that you can find totally agreeable food and bars there. We found a fancy place at one end that had great food. And we really like how the fact that there’s no tipping means everyone in every service industry simply has the job of being friendly and accommodating, rather than each person struggling to please just one table, or so forth. it’s a team effort, and moving from one section to another is not an affront to the first waiter for losing out on a tip.
They are really trying to clean up the red light district, though. There are signs that say you cannot drink in public, and others that threaten 100 Euro fines for buying drugs from randos. Sounds more like a tax. Do you get to keep the drugs?
The last time we were in Amsterdam, it was in May of 2015, and it was fairly deserted. It was cold and dark and quiet, and the red light district was so quiet that we could just walk into the Bulldog and see their little museum about how the place sold drugs and hid it back in the day. They dropped an orange in the basement when the cops arrived, and that was the signal to close up shop.
There was a Bulldog cafe in Oakland back in the day, same brand. It never actually sold weed, to my knowledge. I only ever got coffee there.
The pot shops in Amsterdam are now limited in where they can be. They cannot be within a certain distance of schools, and thus one of the most famous shops closed. Bugger if I know which one that was.
The pot in Amsterdam sucks absolute ass. Take that info as you will… we are from Northern California, and it is to weed as Southern France is to wine. There’s not even any competition. Not even from SoCal. And Amsterdam is just dogshit weed. But it’s cute the way they sell little tuperwares of effect-less cookies, and how they have smart shops that sell Hawaiian Baby Woodrose and Morning Glory seeds as “Space Trips.”
It’s cute. In 2015, one of the smartshops I stopped in had 5-apb and 6-mapb, both of which are ecstasy analogues. They were just little vials of liquid with a label. Now THAT Was a smart shop. Not that I’d ever have gotten or tried any of this stuff. It’s a long way to go to Amsterdam to buy bunko shit. And I’ve always ever been an armchair enthusiast in this stuff, the same way I am with politics.
The real trick of our voyage was that King’s Day was next week, and that’s a big old holiday in Amsterdam. It means the town was just packed to the gills. Fortunately, we stayed at the Hotel Novotel on the outskirts of Amsterdam’s more downtown areas. It’s next to the convention center, and a decidedly modern place, where breakfast is included.
It’s actually a great option because it’s in a very quiet real neighborhood, and near the convention center, there are a alot of terrific restaurants, like Buon Gusto and Knabbel en Babbel. This is a very important thing to have, because eating in Amsterdam when the tourists are flowing freely means basically running around looking for a set of unoccupied table. It’s literally a crap shoot where you can get a beer or a toasti.
Also, get a toasti. They are cheap. you can make them at home. 2 slices of bread, 1 slice of swiss, 1 slice of ham. Then Panini that fucker. Dip it in ketchup, yum yum yum.
Also, the fries! The Dutch invented these damn things, and they have a right to be snooty about french fries. They are fucking good and thick here.
V did not try the herring. Great disapoint.
We did a lot of markets. On Monday there is a fabric and clothing market near Noordekirk. On Friday, there is a book market near the town center, in the book district. Every day, there is the Waterloopplein market and the Arnold market, though the Arnold market is just local shops with their stuff on tables outside.
The way to really do Amsterdam is to get the I Amsterdam pass. IT’s an app on your phone, and it rules. You get a bus pass, a metro pass, and museum pass all in the one ticket for a set number of days up to 5. You get cruises and all sorts of other things too. It got us into the Pipe Museum, which is spectacular, small, and hidden.
It got us onto the House Boat Museum. Into the Van Gogh, into Rembrandt’s House, and into the Ruksmuseum. It was a real time and money saver. We did this last time, too. Last time, in 2015, we stayed in Zeeburg Camp Grounds. It was super hippy and chill, with bongs in the camp restaurant. Right next to a Roma camp and the water. Really neat, actually, and a short walk to the end of the line for one of the metro trains.
This time, we did a real hotel. IT was much more comfy. We were right across from Amstel Park, where I saw a Pheasant and plenty of Coots.