I had a long weekend away in Amsterdam for my sister-in-law’s hen do and ‘Damn!’ is exactly the word!!
I spent the weekend laughing until my belly ached, drinking far more than I’m used to, and seeing some thing that can never be unseen. Especially as during a Friday to Monday weekend, we spent most of Saturday in the red light district, absorbing the ‘culture’!
I could easily fill this blog post with comedy references and private jokes that only six people in the world would understand – we got very close, very quickly and practically created our own booze fuelled lingo, but as that wouldn’t be too much fun for everyone else, let me share with you instead, the things we did in Amsterdam to help you plan your own visit. But first I’d like to introduce you to my family…
Kelly is the bride (obvs!) in the middle and she’ll become ‘Mrs Hill’ like me in September! To the left is my sister-in-law Nicola – I went to her 5th birthday party so I’ve watched her grow up and she is our beloved ‘Auntie Nicola’ to my kids who adore her. I have another sister-in-law who unfortunately couldn’t make it to the weekend, so there are quite a few of us!
Kelly’s childhood friends, Helen and Pippa came on the hen weekend too and also Sal, another of Kelly’s good friends. Here’s us at the start of the weekend when we all didn’t know each other very well….
Let’s just say we are firm friends now. 30 minutes after this photo was taken, we were drinking Prosecco in a minibus on our way to Manchester airport at 9:30 in the morning…. Let the hen do commence!
We got a flight from Manchester to Amsterdam Schiphol airport which took approx 90 minutes, in fact, getting through security at Manchester Airport was more stressful than the flight! I was glad to have been prepared, did you see my carry-on packing tips post where I wanted to celebrate that I had managed to pack like a boss?! I was so proud of myself – I managed to sail through security with no bother at all, but some of the other girls weren’t so lucky! One of our group had the whole bag search rigmarole where the security officer paid particular attention to her hairdryer of all things! Plus a few of the girls had to discard some of their toiletries as they wouldn’t fit into the airline’s standard issue ziplock bag. Much bargaining and editing commenced (“If you share your toothpaste I’ll share my body wash”) and we were off!
From the airport, we caught a train to central Amsterdam and after that, a taxi to our apartment. We travelled on ‘planes, trains and automobiles’ in one day! We stayed at the Canal Boutique Apartments on Keizersgracht, which is in the middle of the Jordaan district, near the shopping area, “Negen Straatjes”. It is also a short walk from the Anne Frank House and Homomonument, known colloquially as ‘the gay monument’ – the world’s first tribute to gay and lesbian people who lost their lives in World War Two.
Amsterdam is a very pretty city with a network of canals and everyone gets around by bike…. Everyone! Single people, whole families, dogs and their owners, mums with babies and toddlers in a container at the front – everyone! You’d also better be alert when crossing the street as you could have not only cars to watch out for but all the bikes which come from all directions and the trams too!
We did all the tourist things, bought clogs, drank beer, visited the red light district by day AND by night (a completely different vibe each time!) Ate, drank and had fun. These girls were a lovely group to travel with, easygoing, up for a laugh and all of us just wanted to give our bride a good time.
I know you will be wondering about our adventures in the red light district? Let’s just say I can only share the PG rated version on this blog as it is a family blog! There are photos of us that I won’t post socially to respect the privacy of everyone there, and also the privacy of the working girls in the area. Tourists are not allowed to take photos of the ladies at work, there are signs on all their windows and bodyguards around too to ensure that you don’t snap them, but you are allowed to take general street scenes of the area.
The red light district is basically an area where the prostitutes in Amsterdam work, they stand in their windows and entice in the passing trade. A negotiation is made, this service for that amount, and the curtains are closed and she goes to work! We went to the museum of prostitution, Red Light Secrets which cost €8.50 per person entry fee and is a self guided tour of the history of prostitution, costumes, the ‘workshops’ they work in and the types of sex for sale (hetero, BDSM, transsexual etc).
Contrary to what I was expecting, these girls were not ‘run down’, scarred by life and oppressed women being forced into their day jobs. These women were hot! They looked great, like models – some of them, and they set the terms. Maybe I’ve watched too many movies like ‘Taken’ starring Liam Neeson, but it wasn’t like that at all. However we of course only saw the face of it – what was presented. There are of course other stories and the video below was played at the Red Light Secrets museum to raise awareness of that. I also made sure I donated some Euros to this cause – Stop The Trakffik – a registered charity that works to end human trafficking and slavery.
After our full-on day which ended in a night out where we all dressed in a ‘black and bling’ theme, the Sunday was spent doing gentler pursuits; enjoying a riverboat tour, sightseeing on a hop on- hop off tourbus and a lazy lunch by the canal at the Hard Rock Cafe served by our fabulous waiter Isaac who became the 7th member of our hen party and has promised to turn up at the wedding and jump out of the cake! Bless him, he was so excited at the thought of getting into a tulle dress and being the alternative bride but unfortunately we didn’t tell him where the wedding was so that can’t happen! It was a beautiful sunny afternoon there and we ate burgers, drank cocktails and enjoyed a free ice cream sundae each (thanks to our pal Isaac)!
This was one sight I was determined to see… The I AMsterdam sign!! Located just behind the Rijksmuseum on Museumplein, we ventured here after lunch to get some photos…. Got to be done!!
It was just 4 days that we spent in Amsterdam but it is a weekend I’ll never forget. A beautiful city (and we didn’t even touch the surface!), great girls, the drink flowing and the many laughs. Thankfully I’ll see everyone again at the wedding in just 2 months for another night of fun! This time though, as it will be a full on family occasion, it’ll be less ‘AmsterDAMN’ and more ‘AmsterGLAM’. See you then girls!