Amsterdam was the final stop on our trip before we were to head home via a route of long ferry rides and boring motorway drives. However, this ‘we’ became just me as my mates decided to fly home instead, leaving me, in a slightly broken-down van, to finish the boring leg of the journey alone. So, the night in Amsterdam was to be our last together. Not be deterred by the separation I was keen to enjoy their company for one last night and we headed off into the town centre to have a look around. Walking past the Royal Palace and wandering around the canals we somehow ended up in one of Amsterdam’s more famous districts, one with a warming glow, illuminated by red lights and full of charming people, so we thought we’d have a look around. The Red Light District is globally renowned for its nightlife with the ladies of the night being the forefront of this fame but there is so much more than lively windows and sex shops to entertain you. A wide variety of street entertainers, shops and a lot of bars are on offer to subsist off the tourist pull the area reputation brings in. Obviously, as a group of teenagers we were keen to have a mosey around and spent a fair while meandering up the small streets off the canals, interestingly taking in what was going on, either appreciating the self esteem boost of a lot of women trying to entice you inside or just laughing at some of the already enticed as they re-emerged from the other side of the window. In the next few days I ventured into the areas museum to learn more about the industry which was intriguing insight. The tales ranged from murders in the brothels to how girls used the job to pay their way through university, or how the houses operated and how the new laws had made it a lot safer industry. Having seen more fake tits than a bird museum we moved on to another legality which Amsterdam is notorious for- marijuana, and having seen one prominent feature of the city we’d thought it only to be fair to try the next. The ‘cafes’ are helpful vendors in recommending what is best and how to get the best value for money. The exceptional range from just the substance itself to cakes, muffins, drinks and brownies was impressive, as was the apparent gift shops selling anything from themed wristbands and cufflinks to pipes and bongs.
I slept like a log due to the local delicacies, with the delayed ingestion of the brownie helping me sleep extra deeply until the later hours of the morning, only waking to say goodbye to Bani and Jake for one last time, before rolling over to appreciate a few extra hours snooze. Waking up all alone was a strange feeling after travelling with at least Bani for the previous couple of months and as sad as it was, it was also strangely liberating and relaxing. I was free to do whatever I pleased, whenever I wanted and complete freedom without having to accommodate anyone else. After a merry breakfast of waffles and bacon I could roam vondelpark at my own will and plan my day with all the autonomies solo travel enables. The solitude was very welcome to reflect on the journey we had endured and to remember all the fantastic times that the group of friends had been critical in creating rather than focusing on them heading home without me. I was fortunate enough to meet up with a couple of the girls who had been in Berlin with us and decided to stop in Amsterdam as well. Georgie and Holly are as friendly and as easy going as anyone you would hope to meet, and being from the Stroud area they knew all about the recreational drugs on offer in the city. They more than succeeded in filling the void left by the guys, and offered a fresh new perspective and a welcome new dynamic, although they probably didn’t enjoy being mistaken for being homeless whilst they sat outside the van. Swapping guys for girls changed things up a bit, for example I was dragged to art collections and the Rijk museum, destinations that were perhaps not top of the guys to do lists, we even had proper meals rather than just eating of tins and living of snacks. As much as I respected the Banksy exhibit there is only a certain amount of time my attention can be focused for in such places, and I worked my way through the Rijk rather quickly. Most people seem to be dawdling around the displays at a glacial pace, at a rate which seemed would take them millennia to look at every little shard of excavated pot and read every little note from an old Lord’s maid, relative to this I felt like a museum dwelling Usain Bolt, tearing through the chambers, occasionally stopping to observe an eye-catching turret or an exuberant painting. People watching became a more entertaining entity, eaves dropping on the deep, mindful conversations of moodier looking teens who became in touch with their emotions as they conversed about the symbolism of a circle or expressed their interpretations of what the brush strokes represent. Maybe some people did have insightful understandings of Van Gough, but the majority of what I happened to hear either appreciated the shapes and liked the colours, or expressed appreciation because they knew the name. The prostitution museum was genuinely interesting with the tales of murder and the day to day routine of the window girls, but probably wasn’t the classiest of establishments to take a girl you are wanting to date. The tale of Chinese Annie’s murder isn’t exactly a romantic one.
Other than the exhilarating museum experiences and walking around the labyrinth of canals, we did pay a visit to Chaz as he was still in Amsterdam with his girlfriend. Charlie is the that guy which every friendship group has- the one who brings his girlfriend to everything. Whether it is a lad’s barbecue in your mate’s garden or a trip to Amsterdam, you can be assured his missus will be there. Obviously, Rosie is a good friend but the novelty of her participation is now an ongoing joke and we don’t even have to ask Charlie if she wants to join as we know if he’s there, she’ll mostly likely be there too. Of course, I love them really, their seemingly constant optimism and puppy like energy is great fun to be around they can bear my grizzlier puns so obviously I enjoyed chilling out with them, even if they did dawdle through museums and talk about the symbolism of circles.
*Disclaimer- Georgie and Holly are neither homeless or addicted to drugs and are in fact very fun and lovely people.