Damn Amsterdam

Week 10: March 24th- March 29th 

Amsterdam. The land of legal everything, fries in a cone, Stroop waffles, and lots of tulips. Two weekends ago I visited the Netherlands, and it definitely has a different atmosphere than any other European destination I have visited. A part of me can definitely see myself living in this country.
The country is so sustainable and digitally advanced. Everyone bikes everywhere, and most and if not all stores have self-service stands.
I was visiting a friend who is studying in Utrecht, a city just outside of Amsterdam. It was very easy to take their public transportation. I bought a UV chip card which I loaded with money to use the train and buses.
I arrived late at night on the first day so my Dutch experience did not start until the next day. On my first official day, we spent it in Amsterdam exploring the city centre. I finally got my picture in front of the infamous I am Amsterdam sign, which I struggled embarrassingly trying to climb.
We visited the Moco Museum to see the Banksy exhibition. If you do not know who Banksy is, he is an anonymous British artist who creates street art. He uses his art to express political and social issues. And by anonymous I mean, you can't put a face to his name. Some of my favourite quotes from him are:

"The greatest crimes in the world are not committed by people breaking the rules but by people following the rules. It's people who follow orders that drop bombs and massacre villages."

A lot of mothers will do anything for their children, except let them be themselves."

"I like to think I have the guts to stand up anonymously in a western democracy and call for things no-one else believes in- like peace and justice and freedom."
You might be familiar with his work such as the girl with Balloon, Laugh now, and keep it real. The most interesting art piece that I saw in the exhibition was the pixelated sculpture called Cardinal Sin. It is an 18th century stone piece of a priest with its face sawn off and replaced by blank "pixeled"  tiles. It was created as a response to the child abuse scandal in the Catholic church and its cover-up afterwards. The message with this piece was very clear. His words exactly, "The statue? I guess you could call it a Christmas present. At this time of year, it's easy to forget the true meaning of Christianity- the lies, the corruption, the abuse." This is definitely a controversial artwork that challenges many (source). However, my favourite piece from Banksy is definitely Laugh Now, which is a monkey wearing a board with a message saying, "Laugh now, but one day we'll be in charge." From the pose of the monkeys, you can still that they have been oppressed and treated poorly. This piece brings attention to the long-standing feud between mankind and monkeys. With this piece, Banksy brings attention to the idea of human-supremism. It reminds us that we are not the only beings on this planet smart enough to be 'in charge'. It's both terrifying and humbling.
Afterwards, we went to a 'coffee shop' in Amsterdam. It was very interesting to experience the selling and trade of legalised marijuana. In Amsterdam, there is an array of 'coffee shops' that sell marijuana, pre-rolled joints filled with marijuana and tobacco, and edibles. Canada will be legalising marijuana next year. It will be interesting to see how it will be implemented and what kind of culture it will create.
Stach - really good banana chocolate chip cookie

Later in the day, we visited the Red Light District. It was very interesting to walk through it. First off, it's not as red as I thought it would be...but other than that it's exactly what it is. A district filled with prostitution and sex-oriented business.

The next day, we grabbed breakfast at Bagels and Bites and visited Kinderdijk, the epitome of a what a Dutch postcard would look like. Kinderdijk is a village just outside of Rotterdam with a network of windmills. Serena, Janine and I decided to spend our day there and had a little picnic. We caught the sunset there, which was an unbelievable view. It was very peaceful spending our day in the town. As much as I enjoy visiting museums and churches, I find the most beautiful experiences outside with nature.
On Monday, we celebrated Janine's birthday (the big 21!) and got brunch at Ted's in Utrecht. I'm a sucker for interior design and architecture, and this restaurant's design was so fun and quirky. I really liked the ambience it created. The food was tasty too. I ordered a cappuccino with almond milk (good twist), and eggs benny on a croissant. Then I explored Utrecht for a little bit. It is a very cute city and feels like a smaller version of Amsterdam. We explored the shops there and one cool shop I stumbled upon was Hutspot.
Later that day we went to Ziggo Dome for the Boy Meets World Drake concert. I have been waiting for this day for so long. And sadly, I was let down (if you follow me on SM you'd know how sad/mad I was). Drake didn't perform that Monday night and he postponed the show to Wednesday but I was flying back to Lisbon that day....yup...SO we decided to buy tickets for the Tuesday night show hoping we will get to see him perform. On the bright side, I got to see DVSN perform twice. He killed it both times.
Tuesday, my last day in Amsterdam. I've grown to really like this city and this day made me love it. It was a jam-packed day. We bought the Rock the City excursion combo which included The Heineken Experience, 40 min canal ride, and trip to the A'DAM Tower.

The Heineken tour was a very experiential beer tour. Heineken did a very good job in making the learning process fun and interactive. Overall, I really enjoyed it.
The canal ride was a good refresher and it is a relaxing way to discover the city. I mean, I did not need to move a muscle and got to see so much of Amsterdam (double plus). The weather was amazing that day too (triple plus). All clear blue skies and the sun beaming right on your face.
The A'DAM Tower is probably one of the highest points of Amsterdam. We had a 360 view of the city from the top. Amsterdam is a really flat city. In my opinion, the view from up top was not as nice from ground level. From ground level, you can see the distinct architecture and canals of the city, which I think what makes Amsterdam unique. Nonetheless, going on Europe's highest swing was very fun. I was so excited waiting in line for it, but that instantly changed when I was sitting on the swing locked in and going up. For some reason, I had a scare for heights that moment, which I did not even know I had, so the swing experience was both frightening and fun.
Best lamb burger ever with a side of corn fritters
Then finally, the moment arrived, Drake. We finally got to see him perform that night and it was unreal. I was vibing so hard to his music. The setlist was amazing. It was a good mix of his old songs to his latest new ones. From Right Hand and Hold On, We're Going Home to Feel No Ways and Gyalchester. The show was unreal.
On my last day before my flight back to Lisbon I went to the Avocado Show for breakfast. It was a restaurant that I discovered on my Facebook feed on one of the Insider Travel Facebpagespage. I got the avocado burger and it as actually very tasty. If you're in Amsterdam and want to try this place make sure to come at an odd time or you'll be waiting in a line for an hour or so.
Overall, Amsterdam is definitely my favourite European city that I visited thus far. I can definitely see myself living here which is really cool. Thank you, Serena and Janine, for hosting me!
I would like to end this post with a John Green quote (I know..sappy...but I used to read his books all the time in high school and I have no regrets).

"[Amsterdam] has a rich history... Some tourists think Amsterdam is a city of sin, but in truth it is a city of freedom. And in freedom, most people sin."

Thanks for reading,
Sam :)