Hungary? No, drunk!

I have finally found some time to go through my photos and face one of the biggest first world problems I encounter almost daily: what do I Instagram? In this process of deciding how many pictures I should Instagram and what, I have begun to realise that I spent the majority of my 7 days in Hungary either drinking or eating. There was more drinking than eating in all honesty but very little else in between. Anyway, after umming and ahhing, I’ve Instagrammed the lot, and I hope that you’ll check us out here.

I don’t usually sit and watch the world go by let alone spend entire days moving from one bar to another but this time around I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my holiday. It may have been because I have been to Hungary before and did the touristy thing the last time I was there, or it was because perhaps, this time, I had company, and good company at that but in all honesty, it was a week of revelations.

When traveling, especially to fun and vibrant cities like Budapest, the flavour of the place isn’t always where the guidebook suggests. You don’t need to look very hard and in most instances, you don’t need to move very far either. In this case, the taste of Budapest is mint and coconut, and it’s served with crushed ice and a dash (or double) of rum. From the very famous ruin bars to a mates place down the road you are never short of a great place to sit, sip and enjoy.

I first went to Hungary many years ago before the idea of writing about it even occurred to me so instead of visiting the Buda Castle or stopping to awe at the Parliament building, I sat and watched the world go by. I’m not saying that you should give the tourist spots a miss, of course not. Hungary has some of the most beautiful architecture and some of the coolest buildings. The view from the castle alone allows you to soak in the Parliament building and a monstrosity known as the Intercontinental Hotel (just ignore the ugly brown and look for the old school).

Then, of course, there is the market hall and all the side streets and alleyways full of numerous restaurants and souvenir shops. So walk around, throw the map away and get happily lost in a world of architecture porn, Goulash and novelty t-shirts.

As I was dragging Alan along this time around, I thought we’d do things a little differently. I, unfortunately, can’t take all the credit for this; it was Alan’s idea, and I’ll be forever grateful to him for showing me another side of traveling. After catching up with my brother and teaching his kids how to cart-wheel, we thought we deserved many much-needed refreshments.

We visited far too many bars for me to mention them all, but some of my favorites are:
Kiosk Budapest; they do a mean pina colada with a twist.
Bar Pharma for a Gin and Tonic done old school style.
Fellini’s on the other side of the river because there is no better way to spend a day than sipping on lemonade eating langos paddling in the Danube.
And to end things on a high note, it can only be the 360 Bar for some of the most amazing views and incredible cocktails to boot.

Budapest and I are old friends, but I know that every time I pop in, it will show me a little something new to keep me interested because that’s what old friends do.

Love In The Time Of Sheep Racing

Living on Sark comes with its challenges much like living on any island that isn’t a booming tourist destination or owned by some millionaire. One of the most challenging aspects of living on an island is by far the company. With little to do and even fewer people to surround yourself with, it’s hard to find your people and even harder to find a significant other.

I went to Sark single and with every intention of leaving a single lady but as it turns out I found myself doing the exact opposite. I have indeed found myself a man… And he is a pretty decent one at that.

I’m not one for cliché stories but the way in which we met is possibly my favourite story to tell. We bumped into each other (almost literally) one very drunken night after a weekend of sheep racing.

Now although sheep racing is exactly what it says on the tin I am going to delve just a little deeper in to this island past time. As it turns out this is the biggest fund-raising event of the year on Sark. It doesn’t sound like much but when you are stuck on a really (and I mean really) small island in the middle of the English Channel you have to become adventurous with these things.

Unfortunately for me I was working the majority of the weekend and sleeping during my breaks which looking back now probably wasn’t worth missing this remarkable event. No fear though, I have been treated to the story of how Derek won Alan £2.50 on more than one occasion. So sheep racing for those who are pictorially challenged is where you do your best to strap a teddy bear to a sheep and encourage it to run an obstacle course as fast as its four legs can carry it. I’m not even joking. Check Google images if you don’t believe me, unfortunately as I didn’t attend I don’t have any photos to prove it for myself. You win some and you lose some, it’s always a gamble but for those who don’t like to throw money at beats running there are plenty of other ways to be entertained. A well stocked bar for one is always a good place to start but there are fancy dress competitions as well as other typical fete themed fun stuff to enjoy too.

So what exactly was Alan, a physiotherapist from Stratford doing in Sark for a weekend of watching woolly wildlife race? Well, he didn’t come over from London specifically for this occasion, he was working on Guernsey and when living on the islands one has to just get involved with island life shenanigans!

I can assure you that I had not expected to meet a man on the dance floor, many a cider down and borderline drunk and I am sure that Alan hadn’t expected to meet such a diamond in the rough either (excuse the cheese… and the modesty). He has believe it or not said that I am a diamond more than once so technically these are his words not mine.

We met on the dance floor somewhere between the Rolling Stones and The Fray. It wasn’t love at first sight for me, he was wearing a cookie monster t-shirt and was getting far too emotional and in to the music than my drunken self could handle but for him apparently he couldn’t keep his eyes of me (or so I’m told), and apparently couldn’t resist my epic dance moves (thank you Rekorderlig) and my cattle whistling (thank you sibling rivalry). One cider obviously led to another and before you know it I was willing to hand out my number to any stranger brave and forward enough to ask for it.

Instantly regretting my decision I prayed to the universe to have put one digit in wrong but apparently even intoxicated I’m still capable of typing. In true ‘morning after the night before’ fashion I woke up with The Fear and prayed once again to the universe that the previous night hadn’t happened. Not only did I hand my phone number out to a complete stranger I also decided that outside the church and in front of the cemetery would be a fine place to have a wee. Forgive me God; I don’t know if this is a sin!

I hadn’t foreseen that four months later we would be living together in Bangor and planning a trip to Kenya for Christmas for him to meet the family. Don’t get me wrong, getting to this point hasn’t been easy but it’s been pretty incredible.

At first I was a little skeptic, he was laying on the cheese thick and was being quite intense from the get go so of course my sober mind was telling me that all he wants to do is chop me up in to little pieces and store me in his refrigerator. Turns out he just really liked my eyes and loved me from the very first moment he set his eyes on me. I thought this kind of thing only happened in movies but like most things in my world I end up having to swallow my words.

It has only been four months but what a glorious four months it has been. I still remain un-butchered and he continues to spoil me with weekends away as well as bacon sandwiches in bed (I should say that he’s a vegetarian!)

If Sark has taught me one thing, it’s that even though you are stuck on a very very small island in the middle of a sea you never know who you will meet or what opportunities will come your way. Not only have I met some of the coolest people who know how to live island life to the fullest but I’ve also met someone who I have begun to think I could spend the rest of my life with.

I once read that you never know what comes from a few seconds on insane bravery and it couldn’t be truer. Alan has shown me what it means to be loved and to love in return and it’s because of his few seconds of courage that I now know that even with all my sides of crazy I can be someone’s whole world.

It’s been a long time coming but feeling this happy has been worth the wait. I’ve said it once before and I’ll say it again, never settle for anything less than extraordinary but most importantly never underestimate what travelling to unpopular and out-of-the-way places can do for you, more often than not it’s life changing. There really is nothing better than this in this world. True story.

Sleeping With Strangers In Saint Malo

AirBnB: Got to love it, got to hate it! Recently (or not so recently) I found myself actually in a love hate relationship with this new way of sleeping around the world. When it works, it’s really awesome and it’s such a great way to meet new people… when it doesn’t work it has you contemplating sleeping outside the station wearing all your clothes and sweating away on a train calling your sibling and asking her to bail you out of trouble… yet again!

So after Paris, plans somewhat changed and I found myself heading back to Saint Malo with nowhere to stay. With a trusty iPhone by my side I decided not to panic well too much anyway because I would surely find somewhere to stay on my AirBnB app. As it turns out I didn’t and even contacting and requesting to book every available space I was on the train with absolutely nowhere to stay.

When I arrived in Saint Malo I dressed myself in all my clothing, hid all my valuables on my person and prepared to camp outside the station until the next day where a new day meant that I would find somewhere to sleep! As it turns out I only half needed to panic. Thankfully one of the AirBnB folk got back to me with an available place to stay. There was only one small issue: it was his place and he was there.

Not one to abuse the help of strangers I jumped at the chance of having a roof over my head and prayed to the universe (I realise I do this a lot now) that he wasn’t a serial killer or some sort of traveller rapist. With very little money left to my name and very few hours left of patience and humour I jumped in to a taxi counted my pennies and spent the last of my phone battery messaging everyone I could think of the location of my whereabouts and the address of where I would be staying.

Things went from bad to worse… the house was under renovation and with only had one bedroom… this meant we would be sharing sleeping space. Again deciding that it was too late to back out now, I had no choice but to keep all my clothing on (if he was going to get me it was going to be after an epic fight with huge amounts of clothing) and crawl in to bed. In my mind I was drawing imaginary lines and telling myself that if his hands crept anywhere near that line I would be out and running as fast as my drag would let me. Unnecessary panic later my faith in humanity had been restored. He behaved and kept his hands to himself. Ok so he did sleep pretty much naked but his naked body stayed well away from the centre line and therefore well away from me. Phewie!

The next morning there was all the awkwardness of a walk of shame without any of the actual shame. With the help of sleep and daylight I decided that I couldn’t have picked a more innocent stranger to share sleeping space with and that actually in hindsight all my clothing was a little too extreme (I woke up a little more sweaty that I would have liked to and with no opportunity to have a shower). After a quick introduction to his parents… who I can imagine were a little happy to see him with an actual female we were in the car and on the way to town. He dropped me off somewhere out in the sticks but I found myself back to my station and very grateful to the kindness of strangers for taking me in and not killing me in my sleep.

AirBnB also came through for me once more and found me a better much nicer place to stay that was all mine (no sharing required). After finally feeling like life was all in order once more and with another adventure to add to my ever-growing list, I headed to the beach, picked up some cheese and baguette and enjoyed a leisurely walk in the rain. The weather stopping play, I decided against trekking to explore the old fort town s instead turned back around and took myself and my cheese home and parked myself in front of French SpongeBob Square Pants.

Although I have very little to report on Saint Malo itself I can assure you that I will be back. There was something so sweet about the people and the place: a sleepy French seaside village full of many characters and a little history too. The beach is pretty spectacular as well and if you have time then exploring around Dinard isn’t a bad idea. It may have been a stressful 72 hours but it was exactly what the doctor ordered after a very hectic few days in Paris.

Just a word of wisdom before I end… I’m not suggesting that everyone jump in to bed with strangers… It’s not the safest option and I got lucky. But saying this, don’t underestimate the kindness of strangers. Not everyone is out to kill and murder and kidnap, some just want to make sure that a lonely tired tourist has a good nights sleep somewhere warm and out of the rain. Thank you Carl, it was an absolute pleasure sharing sleeping space with you. You have restored my faith in humanity and I hope you enjoy New Zealand!

 

 

La Gourmandise Of Paris

The more I travel the more a pattern emerges from all the adventures I have been lucky enough to enjoy. From gorging on chocolate cake in Devon to pub lunches in Amesbury or ice cream in Beaumaris, I am never too far away from a good feed or a large amount of sweet goodness. Paris of course would have to be no exception. Famous for not only it’s iconic landmarks and impressive monuments but also it’s fresh bread and pastries, I had no choice but to enjoy a little of the gourmandise that the French have to offer.

“Tartelette Citron pour moi s’il vous plaît,” became my second favourite French line, second of course to “J’ai soif, une bouteille de vin rouge tout suit.” The citron tarts as well as the fresh homemade baguettes filled with all kinds of delicious Parma ham and salami were enough to have me falling in love with the city and also having to roll myself home unable to then walk up the numerous flights of stairs to my bed. Amazing food with the added bonus of some beautiful architecture and engineering, I was quite possibly in an Earthly version of heaven.

Don’t get me wrong; in between the food comas and the endless amounts of café lunches and bistro dinners I did indeed explore much if not all of Paris. Although I spent the best part of five days there I have to admit that perhaps five days is one or two too many. After eating more than enough pastry and bread and seeing most of the must see places there isn’t much left to do. With some careful planning and strategic routing you can eat and view the important things in a couple of days tops.

Those who I went travelling with are probably sick of me saying this but Paris is a city you have a cheeky affair with, not a long and happy marriage. It’s great for a weekend of indulgence or as the French put it “Gourmand” but you wouldn’t want to buy a car or a house or go shopping for curtains. At least I wouldn’t. I enjoyed my affair and I loved every minute of it but by the fifth day I was happy to be leaving.

Although all I have talked about up until this point is the food, there is more to Paris than just croissants and baguettes. From the Eiffel Tower to the Sacré-Cœur and Notre-Dame to the Louvre you could spend hours and hours standing in lines waiting for your turn to walk through the doors until your heart’s content. Admittedly I was not one of those people stood in line and I wasn’t eagerly trying to book tickets online either, although if you are interested I would suggest booking ahead because it not only saves time but it’s also a little cheaper too. I for one wasn’t going to cut in to my binge drinking time to ooh and aah at the view or stonework so as soon as I saw the length of the line, I took my photos and left soon after arriving. I know I don’t do these historic sites justice by running by them so by all means if you have some spare money and of course extra time then do try to get in, I have heard that it is worthwhile.

If walking around the city is daunting then consider the option of hiring a bike because the amount of ground you can cover in a day is crazy. If you are on the roads, keep an eye out for crazy drivers, I’m lucky to be alive but I can’t say I’m the most bike savvy person I know and your safety isn’t always someone else’s priority. If that is too extreme for you then there is always the Metro, which is surprisingly really easy to navigate. I used and abused all three modes of transport, which my feet and legs hated me for but walking around and seeing the sights of Paris was far more exciting that heading underground and missing all the best bits.

In between the oohing and aahing and the cycling and walking, grab some wine, a good pastry and park yourself in a place where the locals gather. I say this because the locals always know best and there is a reason why so many squash in under one roof. Anywhere along the river is a personal favourite and one I would highly recommend. There was music to be heard and everyone was dancing and drinking and generally enjoying life watching the world go by. Even sat in a café and taking your sweet time over lunch, you’ll get a taste of the Parisian life and you’ll be amazed at just how infectious it really is.

Although it’s a city, the locals tend not to live in the fast lane. They always seem to have the time to sip on a glass of vin rouge and there is certainly always time to catch up with friends. Never once did I see anyone rushing and even though I thought it was time for work, everyone seemed to be ordering more wine or another round of bread during weekday lunches.

If Paris taught me one thing, it’s that there is always time to pull up a chair and put your feet up. Whether it be under the arches of the Eiffel Tower or around the fountains of the Luxembourg Gardens, life is meant to be enjoyed so take your time and enjoy the sweet stuff because if you aren’t careful, the world will pass by you in a moment and there will be no time left to enjoy a good pastry surrounded by great friends all washed down with a nice glass of French wine.

The best thing about me having an affair with this city is that when my marriage with the road gets tiresome and I need a little indulgence, Paris will only ever be a flight away and it will happily welcome me back with open arms and a plate full of my favourite pastries. And although I will love it unconditionally for a weekend, there will always be something reminding me that Paris will never be mine and it was never meant to be but that won’t stop me coming back for more of the gourmandise.

For The Love Of Travelling

February the 14th, the day where many people feel the need to exchange many novelty cards, heart-shaped gifts and perfectly petalled roses with their loved ones. Or Valentine’s Day as it is better known. This year I am going to refrain from sending out my standard love notes to the inventors of cheap air travel and instead will devote my time to sharing a little love with you all.

I am making this Valentine’s Day all about where you should love and why. Not about who you should love and how (sorry to disappoint anyone looking for tips and tricks of the love trade, I am no expert in this field). Admittedly now that I look at my list, there are some rather romantic destinations in here, but I can assure you, this is purely coincidental.

Each of these countries has so much magic to offer, and I encourage you to do a little more research. From snow-capped mountains to ground-dwelling primates there is something for everyone. Here you will find the Top 10 destinations I think you should be falling in love with this Valentine’s Day. So, for the love of travelling, put down those heart-shaped chocolates, pick up that pen and get ready to fill that cheesy card with the ultimate travelling wish list.

Ireland

SONY DSC

From fun, vibrant and beautiful cities to emerald-green countryside Ireland has it all. Although I haven’t seen much of the rest of it, Dublin is a favourite place of mine, and there is something for everyone to enjoy. You really can’t go wrong. If you are looking for a relaxing weekend away or a fun fuelled few days, then Ireland is a destination worthy of a visit. Being just a stone’s throw away from the rest of the UK, you can start or finish off any European adventure here. Is there any better way of enjoying life than with some fantastic live music and the perfectly poured pint of Guinness? I think not, it’s a recipe for utter happiness.

Kenya

SONY DSC

Pristine white sands and historical coastal towns line the beaches of Kenya. From Lamu down to Mombasa you can get a taste of the Swahili lifestyle. There are plenty of secluded and not so secluded spots for you to amble your way through life. If the sun, sea, and sand are not enough for you, then you have the pick of the lot with the endless amounts of wildlife reserves dotted all over the country. Watch Elephants in Samburu and tick off all the big five in the Maasai Mara or even skip the traffic from the airport and look out for the rhinos in the Nairobi National Park. For a more up close and personal encounter, there is the David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage, and Giraffe Manor for some more intimate wildlife encounters too. If you fancy a little city life, Nairobi has a vast number of restaurants and shopping malls and even the unique curio market or two. As far as African countries go it is one of the up and coming places to see and be seen in. Don’t forget the mountain either, spend a few days and see how far you get. I hear it’s a pretty incredible experience not to be missed.

New Zealand

DSC02667

Hire yourselves a camper van and buy up all the essentials, that’s it. You really don’t need much more to enjoy this fantastic place. It seems like quite a distance for many to travel but I guarantee that it is worth it. From the North Island, down to the very south, there is much to be seen and even more to do. Bungee Jump the highest and scariest, ski the copious amounts of snow-capped mountains, ogle at the blue ice on the glaciers or just sit back and relax in the world’s most beautiful place. Every city has its must dos, and no matter what you’re into, you can always find something to entertain yourself with. Camp your way around the country and keep an eye out for the Kiwis (birds not people). This is a destination that everyone should visit at least once. It’s simply breath-taking and well worth the travelling time. Ask anyone who has been there; they can’t lie.

Zambia

SONY DSC

Some say that the Victoria Falls are overrated, and they may be, but it is still a wonder that must be seen which is why Livingstone has made its way onto this list. Not only are you able to walk along the falls, but you can also hop into a helicopter and view them from above (I hear this is incredible). For anyone feeling even more adventurous than that, you have the bonus of a bungee jump off the bridge that joins Zimbabwe and Zambia. The views from up there are enough to get the nerves racing but what a way to see the water. Take a few days and relax along the river, keep an eye out for the wildlife and enjoy the fabulous sunset cruises on offer. The rest of Zambia holds much the same as all the other African countries, but this doesn’t make it any less special. Go back in time and put your feet up. Livingstone is a place for both adventure enthusiasts and the ultimate relaxers or a bit of both if that’s what you fancy.

South Africa

SONY DSC

Sip on a Mojito on the waterfront, go swimming with sharks, indulge in the cosmopolitan life or just take a tour of the wineries and game reserves. This is Europe with an African flavour. I haven’t spent lots of time here, but after just a short 10 days it is certainly worthy of a position in the Top 10. Cape Town has beautiful beaches, enough entertainment to keep you going for a while, mountains that offer endless views and some of the best seafood restaurants I have had the pleasure of enjoying. For the more city slicker type, there is, of course, the shopping side and for those just looking for a quiet life, it has that too. You really can’t go wrong, and with so much happening outside of all the cities, it would be silly not to pack a bag, book a few weeks holiday and discover everything that South Africa has to offer.

Uganda

SONY DSC

White water raft the Nile, trek in the mountains to spot the elusive Silverback Gorillas, drive around the many wildlife reserves or just enjoy more of what the water has to offer. Uganda is a place for the adventurous. It is a real African country full of colour and chaos. It may seem daunting to a weary tourist, but there is so much on offer. Escape from the hustle and bustle of city life is never too far away. Head towards the river and discover the world that the Nile brings. There is no better way of ending an adventurous trekking trip by sipping on an ice-cold Nile Special Beer (persevere, I promise it tastes better after you have had a few).

The Netherlands

SONY DSC

I have only been to Amsterdam if I am totally honest, but my 12-hour layover was enough to place The Netherlands on my Top 10. I’m a sucker for good cheese and architecture, and this country does not disappoint. Endless canal streets are filled with impressive and beautiful buildings worthy of too many photographs. The history alone is enough to keep you entertained for an entire day. If you are feeling in the mood for something, a little cheekier then hide away in a café and munch your way through some hash brownies. Don’t forget to walk down the Red-Light District either. It’s not for everyone, but it is part of Amsterdam that just must be seen. From Waffles to wacky baccy there is so much to eat and enjoy around here, you can’t go wrong. You don’t even need to spend lots of time here either. In just seven hours I covered it all. For those wanting more time to soak it all in, venture a little further afield as there is so much more history and elegant architecture to whet any appetite. Keep an eye out for the tulips too. It’s a destination that all European adventurers must have on their list.

Hungary

DSCF1111

Much like Amsterdam I am in love with Hungary and its elegant architecture. It’s not the only thing the place has going for it, I will admit, but as I have only been lucky enough to visit Budapest I can’t tell you too much about the rest of it. There is a whole quirky side to life in Budapest that I can’t get enough of. Bizarre cafes line the streets and the endless amounts of characters that can be seen from balcony gardens are an amusement. Spend some time and do a café crawl, I can promise you that entertainment is to be had around every corner. Head up the hill to the castle as well and soak in the city views. I can only imagine what the rest of Hungary is like but with only a taste of life in Budapest I am left wanting more. Well worth it’s place on my Top 10 list.

Mozambique

SONY DSC

Although Mozambique isn’t entirely geared up for Tourists as much as say Kenya or Tanzania it is no less worthy of your visit. Up and down the coastline you have quaint Portuguese inspired towns and villages, and if seafood is your favourite food you will find more than enough restaurants to eat at. Head off the coast and explore the Quirimbas Archipelago Islands and snorkel until your heart’s content. Crystal clear waters make for excellent fish viewing and if you’re lucky you may be able to spot a coconut crab or two. Explore around because each Island has its own story and there is always some Mediterranean architecture to enjoy too. Head further inland to Taratibu and of course further south. There is plenty of wildlife to be seen along the way and more villages and towns to discover. As destinations go, it’s sweet. Swap those winter boots for a pair of flip-flops and brush up on the Portuguese. It’s paradise within a paradise and an up and coming African destination. Not to mention they do a good cocktail too, what’s not to like?

And finally,

Tanzania

IMG_20130502_094746-1

Much like Kenya, Tanzania has it all. Endless amounts of wildlife reserves, African cities, a very tall mountain and of course the odd beach here and there. Not forgetting Zanzibar that lies just off the coast. Whether you are looking for the big five or want to find out more about Five Spice, then Tanzania is the place for you. Head over to the Serengeti or the Ngorongoro Crater to watch the wildlife go by or jump on the ferry and hop across to Zanzibar. Spend some time exploring the Island and take a walk on the spice tour in Stonetown. You really can’t go wrong with a few days in this place. Just a short drive away from Arusha you can even climb Kilimanjaro for the more adventurous amongst us. With so much on offer you don’t need to spend much time in the cities but if you fancy walking away with a beautiful stone then stick around Arusha and explore the shops for some Tanzanite. It’s a beautiful blue gem that is bound to add some sparkle to your already amazing memories.

Well there you have it, my Valentine’s Day gift to you. I hope that somewhere amongst all this chaos and adventure you find your little slice of paradise. Happy travelling my fellow Nomads, perhaps see you on the slopes of Mount Cook or on a raft going down the rapids on the Nile.

Under The Red Lights Of The Canal District

I am pretty sure you can all guess where I have just been. There is only one place that is so famous for red lights and canals and I recently found myself enjoying the city for a few hours. Ok ok so I purposely planned to layover in Amsterdam as opposed to Doha, simply because my wonderful British passport (Thank you Queenie) allows me to come and go out of European cities as though I own them. I’m pretty sure my layover won’t go down in the history books for being the most epic layover ever but I definitely enjoyed my 12 hours that I had. It’s not the hardest city to navigate and with so much to do you are spoilt for choice. Sadly my student lifestyle means that these days my budget is getting even tighter so I limited myself to a grand total of €12 but I still managed to have an absolute blast. I am starting to think I am getting quite good at this travel malarkey, I even found myself guiding some fellow British travellers down the side streets and showing them the sights that this lively city has to offer. They thought I did this for a living… Of course I passed on my blog details so I hope you are reading ☺

Anyway thanks to so many suggestions from my friends I had a sort of rough idea of what I wanted to see before I arrived. I am not going to lie, in my sleepless state as I left the airplane all I wanted to do was find a bed and snooze until my next flight, to make matters worse it suddenly dawned on me that I don’t speak Dutch (lack of sleep obviously playing tricks with my mind… Dutch people do speak English too. Duh!!) Anyway after a small and really silly panic I braved the outdoors and jumped on the train in to Amsterdam Central. And how easy it was! I went to the information office, picked up a very good and easy to follow map for €2.50 (totally worth it) then went to the machine, bought a ticket and also managed to find the right platform all without speaking a word of Dutch. Some very friendly people then announced to me when I should disembark and that’s where the fun really started.
Initially I got a bit lost; I am not going to lie. For some reason I didn’t really follow the map or my sense of direction and decided that it was all about the adventure and it didn’t matter if I got a little lost, I had a 12 whole hours to spare before my departing flight! Amsterdam is laid out quite nicely, good job people who designed the concept. If you have a little common sense as well as a sense of direction there is no way you can get lost in the jungle of canals. I only used the map as it told me what the buildings were, and where the museums were. It also proved helpful in finding some hidden treasures too.

I had earmarked the most important things I wanted to do: Red light district because it’s the done thing, the DAM square, again it’s the done thing and I simply needed to have my photo taken with the large letters that everyone is so familiar with. Anything on top of that was such a bonus.
I pretty much covered the whole of the town minus going in to a few museums, largely due to the lack of funds. I spent a grand total of €12 – €2.50 on a map, €9 return train ticket and the rest on lunch. Not bad considering how much I saw really. If I had had the time I would have paid to go and see the Anne Frank house as well as the Rijksmuseum but I wasn’t sure how well I would see them if I rushed through. In all honesty unless you are in to that I don’t think you need to pay to go in. There is no point spending the few Euros when you aren’t going to enjoy the viewing. Amsterdam has enough on offer to tickle anyone’s taste buds I really do believe it is a city that can be visited on budget and in a few hours. From walking around alone, you soak up so much Dutch culture it’s almost an overload. From the ladies in the windows to the hilarious novelty souvenirs in the gift shops there is something to look at and laugh at until your belly aches.

As you all know I am a sucker for awesome architecture (told you I had to find something new to talk about) and Amsterdam definitely excels in this department. The amount of houses and buildings that held so much character was astounding. Everywhere you looked even down the little alleyways your eyes were always busy. I always tell my readers to look up when walking around, if you don’t look up when walking around Amsterdam you miss out on so much. Peer round every corner and look through every open doorway, there is so much going on you will get dizzy with excitement.
If your feet can no longer carry you around then stop in at one of the local cafes. You can smell the ones that bake the naughty brownies so if you feel like a little more excitement then pop in to one of those otherwise you will find there is food just about every other step of the way.
One of the suggestions given to me was to sit and eat waffles and watch the world go by and what the perfect suggestion it was. People watching is another big love of mine and Amsterdam is great for that too. If you find somewhere near the Red Light District all the better. I’m not saying that gawking at semi naked ladies in the window is the most PC thing to do and I am actually not sure how I feel about seeing nipples over lunch but it is a part of Amsterdam and actually quite a shocking thing to see that you can’t help but try to understand it. Anyone who has been to Amsterdam will know that there are always 2 questions people ask you when you have left: 1. Did you go to the red light district and 2. How are the hash brownies? If you don’t indulge in this naughtiness even a little, you are definitely visiting the city all-wrong.

As mentioned before there are heaps of museums to go to, and all seem pretty fair prices. It’s not far to walk between them so no need to worry about transport. There are plenty of other things to do other than walking so for those of you feeling a little less energetic have a look for the canal boat cruises that go on. For those who want to go around a little faster than walking and don’t mind some casual exercise, Amsterdam is the city of bikes so hire one out and get pedalling! Mind out for the traffic and the trams though, even as a pedestrian I came close to getting run over more than once.
I am also only going to suggest doing Amsterdam if you have over 4 hours, possibly even 5 to spare. Getting around and seeing enough things as well as getting back through the airport is risky to do it in any less amount of time. Even if you did make it I am not sure if it would be worth it. If staying in the airport bores you to tears don’t worry, Schiphol airport is actually one of the best. Loaded with shops, bars and even a museum you can’t get bored in 4 hours! I actually spent a great deal of time in the airport myself because I had heard it was one of the best.

It was an exhausting few hours to say the least and I really could have used some sleep (I had been up for nearly 24 hours) but it was so worth it. I know I say this about every place but I definitely will go back to Amsterdam and explore a little more. I still have the museums to go to and of course those brownies to eat. I haven’t seen or done it all yet… I know there is a lot more naughtiness to experience and I can’t wait for the next instalment of cheeky adventures. Plus I just so happen to know a lot of Dutch people too so next time it doesn’t necessarily have to be just Amsterdam. I for one can’t wait, have you not seen those tulip fields and the cheese market?! Told you it was awesome. ☺