Having a pilot for a boyfriend is great! Having a job that has immense flexibility for leave is fantastic. Add the two together & tada! I jetsetted off to Europe for the first time to accompany the bf, who would be training in Amsterdam, Netherlands.
Excitement aside, as we knew we were going to take lots of public transport around to save costs, it meant travelling light. & doing that isn’t ever easy for a girl now, is it? However, I persevered and with the bf’s help, managed to whittle down my luggage to a small handcarry. & I didn’t feel that I needed more on the trip! amazing.
All in all, my luggage was a featherlight 8kg, which meant it was really easy for me to lift it up the never-ending flights of stairs at the train stations of Italy (but that, I’ll talk about another time…). I might have been slightly pouty and hesitant to leave all extra stuff behind, but I certainly appreciated it throughout the trip!
Besides its fame for the red light district and the legitimisation of marijuana, Amsterdam isn’t really a popular tourist destination, so I wasn’t expecting much. So I was pleasantly surprised to see how vibrant the colours of the city were. One could tell that they really took pride in their architecture. Even in a row of seemingly homogenous houses, each building owner took the pains to differentiate his/her building differently, be it with a splash of paint or a smattering of tulips.
On a side note – friends I’ve met up with so far never fail to ask, how was the red light district, did you go?? My answer is… It’s really not what you’d expect. I have to applaud those women though, because even in winter, they’re still in bikinis, at the windows plying their trade (windows are closed of course), but they aren’t of movie-star standard… even though they come in many varieties for men to choose from. lol.
When I saw the majestic looking Amsterdam Centraal Station (bottom right), I was wonderstruck. It looked so beautiful! Orange and red seems to be a favourite colour for buildings around in Amsterdam – and the colour was still very striking. We saw various buildings undergoing cleaning and renovation to maintain the colour. The Amsterdam Centraal Station was a bustling hive of activity, with the train, tram, bus and boat public services all converging in one place.
One thing I was very amused by was their tiny little cars, which seem to be the only ones allowed on the smaller streets in the city, alongside motorcycles. They were mostly 1 seater, and when the average person sat inside, your head would touch the roof. so cute.
Similar to Venice, Amsterdam is a canal-city, with a regular, grid-like network of canals. So it’s really easy to navigate around. One simply can count the number of canals you’ve walked past, or follow the canals to get to your desired destination – which helps, if you don’t speak Dutch and can’t remember the road names.
I loved peeking at the barge like boats and got rather excited when one bridge I was standing on had to be evacuated so it could be lifted up to let a large barge go through. They do have a rather complicated traffic system of tram + boat + cycling + car network and we got rather confused at intersections because we didn’t know whether we were walking against traffic or not.
Without a doubt, the most exciting part of our time in Amsterdam was when the Dutch instructor (Andrew), invited me over for a visit to the bf’s simulators! It was getting somewhat lonely because the bf had to be away for 4-5 hours each day for his training, so I was delighted and privileged to have the honour of learning more about his work and experiencing a heart-stopping simulated flight (Andrew cut my right engine and I nearly crashed the “fake” plane).
Given that he had to be at the simulators on a daily basis, we stayed at Novotel, which was really close to the airport. The hotel was pretty great, I absolutely loved their breakfast buffet. Free flow of smoked salmon whoo!!
The dutch seem to enjoy putting unique toppings on their bread – something I’d never seen or heard of before! I brought back a pack each for my family to try.
The top right shows a picture of a fried mashed potato croquette, or “krokette”. Very different from the japanese version in that the potato inside is really mashed, fluidy potato with meat.. and you buy it from a vending machine!! A person stands behind a whole wall of vending machines frying the goods. All you have to do is pop in 2 euros so that you can open a little transparent pigeonhole that has the food on a paperplate inside. It’s apparently quite popular in Amsterdam and can be found quite easily, by the company called FEBO.
I did have a rather nice chat with a taxi driver who hadn’t heard of our tiny little Singapore before. As he drove me past the countryside, he talked about his home (similar to the cottages above) and was shocked that our houses cost so much. & that I live in a country with no winter. hahaha! With its great expanse of land, houses in amsterdam are really cheap. That said, I’d rather live in Singapore than anywhere else. Close proximity to family and friends is my ultimate joy in life (:
More about Amsterdam coming up the next post!